life as a series of balancing acts
Techie vs. Fuzzy
The world is what we think it is. It changes when we change.
Some things can only be understood backwards.
I am a young female engineer in industrial automation. An interesting artefact: women and men in the STEM profession (science, technology, engineering, math) are equal in number and remuneration throughout the country. I am part of an innovative team developing software and electrical control for flexible automatic manufacturing systems. My work can be classified as pioneering.
“I want to work with people, not machines.” — I say during the first in my life and, due to the entrepreneurial career that followed, last for now real job interview. A clear discontent with my tech career, which is suffocating the longings of my heart for a career in humanities.
I follow my heart in complete disregard to certainty and conformity. I leave a just started PhD career and jump into the unknown driven purely by intuition and against all rationale.
The either or mentality.
One of the biggest impediments to our personal and professional growth is thinking and acting as if we need to make a choice between two opposing concepts and identifying one of them as hurting us and the cause of our problems.
That is what I did back then. Tech is keeping me away from the world of humanities where I belong- I thought, and I need to run away from it. On one side, that was a great decision for me. Driven purely by intuition, I started an amazing part of my life which helped me thrive and feel alive. On the other hand, by making a choice that involved complete rejection of the alternative, maybe I missed some amazing opportunities that were not so Black and White and were uniquely mine.
We use such thinking to simplify into black and white our complex and multicoloured reality. We seek simplicity because complexity overwhelms us. We are also encouraged by our surroundings to perceive the world as a choice between democrats and republicans, the red and the blue sports team, Brexit and no Brexit. However, unlike in a sports game, where one team wins and one team loses, in real life nuances matter.
“There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” H. L. Mencken
Believing that we are choosing between two opposing opportunities (in my case fuzzy and techie career) obscures the reality of the challenges we face and reduces the abundance of choices we have. It also prevents us from making a choice that is authentic for us.
Simplifying life to a few choices is important. I am not advocating that we consider the abundance of opportunities on every choice we make. Vice-versa, we need to keep our life as simple as possible when it comes to trivia choices.
Yet, when it comes to making big life choices, we need to live in a multicolored rather than a Black & White reality. In such complexity, we need a navigation system that helps us create a future that resonates deeply with who we really are, the human systems we are part of, and the world we want to live in. Such a navigation system for great decision-making involves our values, intuition and inspiration.
The journey from either-or to plus-and.
I have borrowed the terms “fuzzy” and “techie” from Scot Harley- a venture capitalist and best-selling author of the book: The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World. Originally these were university terms with “fuzzies” being students of the humanities and social sciences, and “techies” - the students of the engineering or hard sciences.
“Finding solutions to our greatest problems requires an understanding of human context as well as of code; it requires both ethics and data, both deep thinking people and Deep Learning AI, both human and machine; it requires us to question implicit biases in our algorithms and inquire deeply into not just how we build, but why we build and what we seek to improve.” Scot Harley
I am a believer that, thanks to the advancement of technology, humanity has a chance to solve some of its toughest challenges. I am fascinated by how technology augments opportunities and provokes us to expand our human capacities. I am also certain that our common future depends on how we lead, work and learn today, and that by learning to hold opposite perspectives, we find fresh solutions to our most tough challenges.
One of these opposing perspectives is the division of fuzzy and techie. The truth is that the competencies and opportunities we associate with these fields are not really separate or really opposite. We are all a unique combination of fuzzy and techie qualities and experiences. The trick to being successful is not to remain stuck in who we are and instead to:
- continuously expand our perspectives to what seems to be contradicting to ours viewpoints and undesired skills sets.
- develop the capacity to team up with people that complement us, people that are so different from us that even irritate or frighten us.
I find that the easiest way to expand our perspectives is to keep an open mind, become aware of how we feel when we face diversity and follow this famous saying:
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Carl Jung
Next time when you find yourself irritated by someone for being “too techie” or “too fuzzy” or frightened by something new and unfamiliar , remember that it’s not an either-or, it’s a plus-and solution. Instead of getting irritated or simply rejecting what you don’t understand, or you don’t feel comfortable with, ask yourself:
- What can I learn here from what I perceive to be an opposite perspective? How can that help me expand my perspectives?
- How can I create conditions for perceived as opposites realities to work in harmony instead of against each other?
And here is the opportunity:
If we can stay with the tension of opposites long enough — sustain it, be true to it — we can sometimes become vessels within which the divine opposites come together and give birth to a new reality. — Marie-Louise von Franz
Then, we have a real chance to create results which according to Steve Jobs’s famous speech can “make our heart sing” because we have successfully married technology with humanity.
The world is what you think it is, and it changes when you change. Byron Katie