02 Apr Enterprise Strategies Welcomes Evangelist in Residence Adam Burton
“A journey of 1000 miles begins with 1 step.” – yes, but it won’t end until 1000 miles later (that’s the part they never tell you!)
I consider myself very fortunate. Unlike so many people who search their whole lives, I always knew what I was born to do. I was born to work with technology. I have always loved technology. The funny thing is, it took me years to understand why.
At the age of 10, I often skipped school and rode my bike into town to the local K-Mart. That store had the only computers available in my small town. There I would stand, sometimes on top of a milk-crate, until either the store closed or my mother found me – whichever came first.
I didn’t know how to program so I would teach myself from books or magazines. Sometimes I would save up enough money to buy one. Other times I “borrowed” them. What an awkward conversation that would be in Juvenile Detention. “What are you in for?” “Grand Theft Programming Manual.” Most of the time I would memorize as much as I could and try it out later when I snuck back to the store.
Back then, technology to me was like combat – Mano a mano or maybe mano a keyboard. Can I bend this system to my will? Machine code is always perfect; it always did what it was told; you just had to be smart enough to know what to say. So I pushed myself to see what I could do.
But it took me a long time to realize something more fundamental. Technology was not just the solitary pursuit of programming perfection. What called me to technology was that with enough passion and intelligence and sleepless nights, I could change the world. Technology is the American dream, in electronic form, where anything is possible. And like America, the greatness of technology is in its people and its diversity.
At some point, late in my college career, I realized I chose the wrong path – I mean I really missed the boat. Somewhere back in Ohio, there is a guidance counselor on his yacht from all the money he took from the Electrical Engineering lobby. Engineering wasn’t right for me because it didn’t involve people enough…or in my case, at all. 97 required credit hours and not room for one Humanities course in three years? It was like I was being punished.
Don’t get me wrong, being an Electrical Engineer is challenging, demanding, necessary and useful. Part of me still enjoys it. I mean what’s not to like about Flemings Right hand Rule where you can solve magnetic field problems and make shadow puppets. But ultimately, what I love and what I spent the rest of me life doing, was watching the intersection of technology and human interaction.
Since then, it has been an exciting journey. A journey that crossed three continents, traversed academia, management consulting, a Fortune 100 and two start-up firms. It spanned the roles of designer, programmer, evangelist, technologist and teacher. I have degrees in Computer Science and Philosophy and a Masters in Informatics specializing in Human Computer Interaction. I spent years as an instructional designer and application architect with Fortune 500 clients producing over a dozen software titles and hundreds of hours of E-learning. I’m currently an architect aligned to Enterprise Content Management for a Fortune 100 company. I struggle everyday with how to use technology to give people insight and wisdom about their data and the world it which it lives.
With all that said, the goal for my upcoming posts are the same goal I set for myself almost daily. I want to bring different aspects of the world together and make a compelling case for rethinking it. To turn data into wisdom, I’m pulling from all available sources: professional experience, life stories, academic training, developments in science and psychology, pop culture, books, video games and, in a pinch, I’ll resort to Calculus or asymptotic notation.
Maybe it all sounds a little crazy, haphazard or a little disorganized, but guess what? Your employees are already there. Your employees are connecting to their technologies and their digital life in almost inconceivable ways. Their digital world extends into the work-place whether we want it to or not. Information about their world and their job are covering them in floods of unstructured data and torrential downpours of ones and zeros.
But we humans aren’t bit-sorters. We can’t process all that data. We don’t even bother. We make sense of it all in the context of a social group that helps us find our way, by defining what is important, by setting social norms, by encouraging and rewarding behavior and by providing access to tools which help.
Well, that’s it for the introductions. I can’t wait to continue our conversation. But for now, if there are no questions, place your tray table and seat in their upright and locked positions. An attendant will come by to collect any last minute items you may have. When we reach cruising altitude, I’ll turn off the fasten seat belt light at which time you are free to move about the cabin.
Adam will be posting to the Enterprise Strategies blog weekly. If you would like to be notified of his posts, please Subscribe to our Newsletter.