People Who Can Bridge the Gap

In John Markoff’s profile of Andy Rubin, the Google engineer designing their smartphone, there’s this quote:

“Today Silicon Valley is full of ‘network-effect entrepreneurs,’ but Andy represents a generation that is equally comfortable with a soldering gun, writing software programs or designing a business,” said Steve Perlman, another former Apple engineer who was a co-founder of WebTV and a handful of other technology-oriented companies.

People who can bridge the divide between brilliant technologists and savvy businesspeople are extremely valuable.

My old mentor and teacher Anthony More once told me that if I could "speak the language" of the smartest geek and the smartest businessperson in the room, I’d be a rare and cherished asset.

Although I can’t do that yet, I have a related ability that’s helped me in social situations in college. Having once been a jock who played competitive AAU basketball in gyms and towns where I was the only white guy, I feel like I can have a conversation or build a relationship with the athletes here easily. Similarly, I can have a conversation or build a relationship with the ultra-nerd who wants to talk about a pet intellectual interest.

Regardless of context, range is a useful skill that all "connectors" have in order to bring diverse people together.

(thanks to Nitin Julka for the pointer)

4 Responses to People Who Can Bridge the Gap

  1. This is a really insightful post. It’s something I’m striving towards too (from a similar angle, actually – I was both a maths geek and a 1st team basketballer in high school and college).

    (Though note that the basketball achievement is less of an accomplishment since I’m UK-based!)

    One thing that I have noticed is that it sometimes feels as though you have to disavow one part of your personality to get along in the other area. Actually, though, the older I get, the more I feel that both bits are actually appreciated by the other group.

    Love your writing by the way – I’ve been lurking here on your blog for a while without commenting.

  2. Jeremy Welch says:

    What a great post, Ben.

    I only recently realized how I bridged gaps from jock to emo kid to student body president in high school, and now musician to entrepreneur to bookworm/geek to social animal in college.

    I learned from a friend of mine how useful this is when trying to connect people.

    Despite the fact that we have Facebook to connect us online and help find new connections, the human mind is a much sharper tool and can make much quicker connections.

    But the human mind is limited in its ability to sort through information, and extremely limited in its ability to remember lots of information.

    Solution? Use facebook as a foundation to keep up to date with people and interests, and then connect people through live human interaction.

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