Have You Met… Micah Headley
Program Coordinator, AlphaLab/Software
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: Two different towns in Northeast Tennessee, neither of which you would’ve heard of. Closest thing would be Knoxville.
Q: How did you hear about Innovation Works?
A: I discovered IW on the Venture for America job portal.
Q: What drew you to work here?
A: I’ve always been interested in accelerator programs, and I’ve had a mission since I became an adult to empower businesses that can impact communities. The workplace and culture at AlphaLab and IW both spoke to those things strongly.
Q: Let’s say I’m an entrepreneur in Southwestern Pennsylvania, what can I ask for your help on?
A: If you want my help at AlphaLab, I am the snack-man. One of my many goals in life is to keep you fed, and I will stop at nothing to do it.
If you’re a random person, I’m happy to help you think through your organizational alignment. A big part of my professional experience has been helping small organizations who have an abundance of information, goals, stakeholders, and ideas find a way to aim in one direction.
Q: Reflecting on your experience in consulting and stakeholder management, what is the number one piece of advice you would give a startup?
A: I’m 23 years old, so I don’t want to be disingenuous and assume that my advice is worth any more than the Medium blog it’s posted on.
Disclaimer given, I’d say that it’s really easy to lose sight of the end goal in a small organization as you start to build structure. It’s very much the spaghetti marshmallow tower. If you are given tape, spaghetti, and a marshmallow, and are told to make a tower to hold up the marshmallow, you can’t start by building with spaghetti. You have to build down from the marshmallow.
Q: What technology/industry are you most excited about and why?
A: There’s a very popular kids game called ROBLOX that first released when I was about seven, and I loved it when I was that age. What’s cool about ROBLOX is that you can build your own games using ROBLOX’s software and publish them on the ROBLOX platform. It’s basically an early application of low-code, and what’s amazing is that though I spent hundreds of hours building pretty sophisticated things in the ROBLOX Studio, it never once occurred to me until recently that I was coding.
Trojan-horsing people into doing complex tasks in simple ways is an awesome idea.
Q: Step back to Micah at age 18, what line of work had you envisioned for yourself? How closely aligned is your current work to that vision?
A: Micah at age 18 walked into a Pitt academic advising office and, when asked what he wanted to study, said, “maybe some pre-med, maybe some engineering, maybe business. I don’t know.” To which his advisor said, “you’re gonna study business.” Micah at age 18 had no vision.
I suppose I always had an entrepreneurial itch. I used to bulk-order retro video games, refurbish them, and then sell them individually, for example, but I couldn’t and didn’t state my personal mission as formally as, “I want to empower new businesses to affect communities,” until a professor at Pitt helped me craft that mission (shoutout to Dr. Lada).
Q: What issues that face our region are you most passionate about?
A: When I was a kid growing up in super rural Tennessee, there was a lot of poverty around me. My family was relatively fortunate, but that poverty still affected me in a lot of ways. I was able to see really early how it permeates through entire communities. Many of the issues my community faced as a kid apply to several of the surrounding counties here in Pittsburgh because of the shared historical and socioeconomic circumstances of the Appalachian mountains, so those really resonate with me.
Q: Who were your influences growing up?
A: My Dad and Papaw are the two best men I’ve ever known, and I really feel like a big part of becoming better is trying to be more like them. Outside of that, most of my biggest influences have been pieces of media: the books The Catcher in the Rye and Siddhartha, the movies Boogie Nights and Moonrise Kingdom, the poem Dover Beach.
Q: Do you have a recent book, TV show, movie or Podcast that you enjoyed?
A: I rewatched There Will Be Blood recently and am now constantly fighting back the urge to speak like Daniel Plainview.
Please find me at AlphaLab and tell me your favorite movie.
Q: Tell us about your volunteer work.
A: I’ve primarily worked with my church in the past to do things for old folks, put on food drives, that type of deal. My wife and I are looking around Pittsburgh right now for where we can serve our new community.
Q: What does an average Saturday look like for you?
A: I’m typically crushing movies with my wife, maybe doing some shopping or something in the mid-day just to get out of the house, but we’re both homebodies who love film.
Q: When asked for a ‘fun fact’ about yourself, what’s your go-to?
A: That I hate icebreakers.