A meditation for technical geniuses

A quick diversion from studying to comment on a phenomenon I’ve witnessed at least a few times.

Imagine a brilliant technical prodigy, fluent in several programming languages, adept at statistical inference, capable with all manner of machine- and deep-learning procedures. They don’t work for google, but they are still pretty good. You ask them for help figuring something out in excel, or pulling together a report from a SQL database, which ends up being…beneath their abilities…and they let you know this. If they help out, they do it begrudgingly. There is a bit of an edge; they want to make it known that they think you should know how to do this yourself. They will stoop down to your level for the time being, but while implying you should be able to handle this trivial task. If you can’t handle this simple thing, what can you do?

Is this familiar at all? Maybe you’ve witnessed it, or maybe you’ve been the prodigy. In either case, here’s a few quick thoughts to meditate on – a set of workplace virtues of sorts which may help ground and orient your interactions.

Take a stance of solidarity with your coworkers – you’re all swimming in the same fishbowl. See others’ challenges or goals as challenges or goals you share. Solidarity is effective at creating strong and harmonious human relationships based on long-term commitment to common objectives; it elevates you above the rational self-interested individualism of calculating and acting according to your own personal advantage.

Cultivate a forward-moving energy and focus it on solving those shared problems, not on undermining or sassing others. Properly focused energy can animate your work; we should exhort others to cultivate it as well and hold up exemplars of it to ourselves and each other.

Help out your colleagues because it is virtuous and “good for the soul.” You will feel good doing it, because helping others is the essence of your species-being and so a good in itself.

Embody the disposition to properly direct your own decision making and to be virtuous in self-activity. Autonomy elevates and empowers you; heteronomy lowers and demeans you. If you cannot direct yourself in a simple coworker request for help even in a technically uninteresting task, then you are not ready for autonomy and self-direction.

People don’t bring the same things you bring to the table, but it does not follow that they don’t bring anything to the table. Assume everyone brings something which you do not – can you get a meeting with a decision maker at a prospective client company? Are you aware of new IFRS-17 standards and what is needed to implement them? If everyone had the same abilities as you, then there wouldn’t be a compelling reason to have you there.

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