Thursday morning, students attending IMTS 2014‘s Smartforce Student Summit, were fortunate enough to hear a keynote address from FIRST® Vice President, Mark Greenlaw. FIRST® was founded in 1989, by inventor Dean Kamen (who also gave an address later in the afternoon), to inspire student’s interest and participation in science and technology. Greenlaw himself has had an inspiring 30 year career in technology and is an excellent role model for students on just how successful they can be in STEM based industries.
Greenlaw introduced the students to the “Hedgehog Concept” from the management book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, by author Jim Collins. The “Hedgehog Concept” could apply to almost all arenas in life, but in this case Greenlaw used it to help students figure out how to be successful in STEM based careers. The “Hedgehog Concept” asks these three questions– What lights your fire? What could you be best in the world at? What makes you money? According to Collins, at the intersection of these three questions, is what you should be doing for a living. Greenlaw walked the students through each of these questions to help them figure that out for themselves.
What lights your fire?
What lights your fire, or rather, what are you passionate about, is the first question students need to ask themselves. Greenlaw explained to the students that thanks to the democratization of technology, it is now easier and more affordable than ever for students to try lots of different STEM fields to see what sparks their interest. There are low-cost materials like 3D printers created by companies such as 3D Systems, and websites like Maker’s Shed (which is where we got our awesome smartforce prizes!) for low cost kits and materials. There are free online resources like YouTube tutorials and Code Academy to walk you through instructions. “Try many, many things,” Greenlaw encouraged the students, “until you find yourself with flow.” Flow, he explained, is what some people might call “being in the zone” or a feeling of being so intensely focused that what you’re working on doesn’t feel like work.
What could you be best in the world at?
Next, he went over what it takes to truly master a skill in order to be the best– whether that’s within a class at school, a robotics club, or a full fledged career. According to Greenlaw, it only takes one thing, and that thing is time. He quoted the Macklemore song “10,000 Hours,” about investing 10,000 hours to master a field, per Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers.
“If you’ve found ‘flow’ its not a chore,” he encouraged the students. He also explained that many colleges, including the prestigious MIT, now ask for a digital portfolio from engineering applicants because they too want to see that students have put in the dedication and time investment.
What makes you money?
This is the easy part. Greenlaw explained to the students that when you find a career that you love, immerse yourself in it, and become skilled in your field, the money comes naturally. Great advice from a wonderful speaker! Thank you so much for joining us, Mark Greenlaw!