Friday, December 05, 2008

Raising a Compassionate Geek

Amidst the chaos of students readying their collection of engineering contraptions based on ancient Chinese technology, Kristen found me and put a copy of ParentMap into my hands. "The story on the Dalai Lama starts on 42," she said as I started to thumb through the pages.

The story wasn't about the more general relationship between the Dalai Lama and his native Tibet. She had read an article I'd written about Small Person's encounter with His Holiness last spring and wanted follow up on what sort of lasting effect he and I had noticed since then.

The educators at Seattle Country Day School get it - science and technology are important, but these are not the only keys to success. Learning how to collaborate with others and to see the world from more than one point of view are important too.

I see this pretty clearly when I'm coaching geeks. When technology professionals have more than sufficient technical skills but still aren't achieving all that they want, we often discover that the missing ingredient is further development of their (sometimes neglected) soft skills - collaboration, compassion, and building strong working relationships.

Small Person is most definitely well-rounded in that respect. As innovative as he is, and as good as he is at building things on his own, he also shows a talent for working well with others, listening to differing viewpoints and integrating them with his own ideas. I have no doubt he'll go far.

As a parent, I encourage that balance because I see how much it helps my clients. It is important to play to our strengths, and it can also be a good idea to take another look at areas we may have dismissed in the past as unimportant and consider the possibility that there may be some value there too.

What role does compassion play in your work and life?