Playing With Technology
Joanna Bloor : Founder of JoannaBloor.com
Sponsored by Serendipity
I get to travel the world and tell people why they're awesome for a living. How did I get here? The answer might surprise you; my career path manifested through playing with technology.
My grandfather was the first person to show me that technology could be more like play than work. He was a civil engineer through training but had a passion for photography. He combined the two by using mathematics to take invisible photos of glass objects. Line up the light perfectly, and the glass object seems to disappear. Science + art = magic. Rules + breaking the rules = you create something new.
These ideas planted the seed of risk taker in my pre-teen brain. I started to look for opportunities to play on the skinny branches of life. I had no idea how much it would prepare me for what happened next. Everything I knew in life was turned upside down when my parents announced we were moving from England to Texas. I was fifteen. I was moving from a school that can only be described as Hogwarts without boys or magic, to Friday Night Lights. Do you want to learn to be a good risk taker? Take everything you know to be true and throw it out the window. The experience was both terrifying and amazing at the same time, and it changed me forever. My list of life equations just got bigger.
- If you choose to be friends with people, then you should reach out. Not the other way around. Friendship is your job.
- Raising your hand in class might mean you won't make you one of the popular girls (true story), but it will mean you get your questions answered. Don't be afraid to look a little stupid.
- Take on the hard projects. Not only do you learn more but completion feels SO much better.
After High School, I headed to University to study Chemistry. Combining materials at their base level to make new things certainly sounded like science and art, I thought I'd get to make magic again. Looking back at this time in my life, I realize now that while I had mountains of science in my life, the art was missing. I was lost. For several years I stumbled around failing (I thought) at almost everything I touched. What I know now is I needed to be a failure for a while. I needed to learn how to get back up because failure would happen again. The science/math equation from that part of my life. One I hold to this day
It's when you're lying on the floor crying so hard that stuff is coming out your nose that the interesting things start to happen. The key then is to look up from your wallowing and see the opportunity.
The opportunity for me came when swimsuits and computers were a regular part of my life. Again, I was working in the world of fashion (art) while playing in the world of the internet. It was 1994, and the majority of Americans weren't on the "web." This combination of interests landed me an interview for my first .com job at a tiny startup called Citysearch. Citysearch loaned me to Cars.com, which turned into Ticketmaster. The first sales VP from Citysearch lured me out to San Francisco and OpenTable. My introduction to technology went from interest to a profession, which allowed me continued to take opportunities to combine art, science and build new things. In almost every company I've worked for When I didn't understand a particular technology, I'd befriend someone who knew more than I did. I'd ask them all sorts of crazy questions and try to explore how I could combine my ideas with theirs. All my life lessons, take on the hard projects - don't be afraid to sound stupid - remember it's about relationships - and yes even - it's ok to cry, uncovered a career path that wasn't in any book or given to me by any manager. It crafted a diverse understanding of technology that couldn't be explained in a classroom. It was this unique and very personal set of skills and background that meant I was uniquely qualified and confident when I went to interview for my last technology role at this (at the time) early-stage startup called Pandora. This role was my dream job; I got to combine technology and art in ways that I could never have imagined.
But that was my last job. And I promised to tell you how I got to have a role where I get to tell people why they're awesome for a living. My career path took another right turn, a turn because I went back to playing with technology and art. I started a little side project where I combined podcasting, with 3D printing, and a weight loss goal that lead me to the TED stage in 2016. A conversation in line with a TED attendee (I told my line-mate she was boring) had her bring me into work with her team less than six weeks later. It was at that workshop that I realized I had an unusual ability to articulate why someone was awesome, in a way that was unique, authentic and compelling to that person. It shouldn't surprise you that this is what I do. Because what you do (the science of you) and who you are (the art of you) is what makes you uniquely magic.
My curiosity about science hasn't waned. I'm currently auditing an MIT course on Quantum Physics. Most of what they're saying at the moment is going right over my head. I'm feeling stupid. Eventually, however, the concepts and applications of quantum physics will start to make sense. I talked about some ideas in the car with my Uber driver just this morning. Quantum computing and how it overlaps with humanity. So the new equation that's forming in my head?
The lines between technology and humanity are beginning to blur in ways we couldn't consider before. So if that's true, what is humanity? Who are we in this new technology powered world.
I’m a big believer that women naturally bring duality into their world. You’re mothers and executives, strong and gentle, the list could go on. My story and subsequent career path is one of duality, what’s yours?