I got my first computer at the age of 11. After a couple of years I welcomed a dial-up gateway to the virtual world – The Internet. I typed something into the browser and got a page result in a noisy, yet pleasant to remember <56,6kbps blink of an eye. Ok, more like a dozen blinks. Exciting times! I even had a book “Pascal: Guide to the The Internet” listing the whole Internet, – all known websites in an alphabetical order with a short description about them.
So much knowledge! Instantly! Where do I start?
It was then, that I decided that each day, I want to learn at least 2 completely new things. It didn’t matter how unrelated it was to what I was learning at school at the moment, as long as I was learning and creating something new. The stuff online was rather limited comparing to today, where with abundance of information and people sharing their knowledge you can learn all sorts of skills; from Python programming to learning a Japanese art of polishing a ball of dirt – dorodango (Japanese: 泥だんご, lit. “mud dumpling”). But it was already an exciting gateway to understanding the world around us through technology.
I wanted to none of my days be the same. I wanted to see my life story unfold through experiencing different things and meeting new people. Small steps that would eventually lead to defining my purpose in life. All this travelling, backpacking, couchsurfing, moving to London to study, networking and daring to try unknown, was all, that finally led me to the idea of becoming an entrepreneur (also, because if you’re an entrepreneur at heart, you often don’t have a job that would suit you, so you need to create one for yourself or risk becoming getting fired often / unemployed for life).
Dare to be you
It’s funny how we tend to live retrospectively and selectively. Giving in to the social pressure, we create maps of actions and behavioural benchmarks of what we can, and what we are not supposed to do, thereby minimising the chance for any unpleasant judgments. We suppress our childlike curiousness of the world.
Age doesn’t act in our favour (or so do we tell ourselves). The older we get, the more ‘responsible’ we are supposed to behave. We hide our weak moments from the public as we don’t want to scare off potential clients or partners. And it seems we only get satisfaction when somebody else acknowledges and validates our existence.
But technology and the Internet helps breaking that dogma.
Take social media, for example. Social media allows us to show our creativity in a safe space, at a pace comfortable to us. You can choose to show your face. Or not. You can choose to write under your real name. Or not.
As long as the stories/pieces you share resonate with others, if they tick at least one of these three flavours:
- Did it make them feel good?
- Did it make them laugh or smile?
- Is it something that helps them or educate them?
If so, it will help build your community.
While it’s not all the Internet and the technology has to offer, social media has dominated our attention and time spent ‘on the Internet’. It is true that social media is a double edged sword. Yes, it can suck the life out of you leaving you full of self-doubt with no real friendships. Striving for those ‘like’ validations can lead to over-colouring and falsifying your real life, eventually leaving you more confused of who you are. But, if used in moderation and for good causes, social media can help find your crowd.
I’ve reached out to incredible and ambitious people active in tech. Without social media, I may have never heard of Girls in Tech NGO organisation and I would not have reached to their founder and CEO – Adriana Gascoigne. If I hadn’t done that, I would have not started Girls in Tech – Poland and London chapters, met and created a support network of amazing likeminded ambitious women. Many of them became my close friends and I finally have ‘sisters’. Initiatives like these help putting in a spotlight all women and minorities who rock in the tech sector and to create mentorship pool where been-there-done-that women (and not only) guide younger “selves”.
If not social media, I would have not met my current business partner (actually, thanks to this blog!) and we wouldn’t have started two amazing business adventures – IamIn (ok, it failed but we learned a hell of a lot) and Untrite. And the best is yet to come.
Tech is not perfect, but it’s the most meritocratic of its all.
There is of course a whole separate world outside social media. Or rather, a whole lot of unique worlds – software platforms and apps and hardware tools (but I have little to do with hardware – for this I invite you to read Kuba’s blog). There are many hobby projects of people who just want to build something, share it with the world and get the validation. Many of these projects turn so valuable that they become commercial ventures.
You can create a company from your ‘garage’ or a dorm that can become enormous. Something, which in the past required you to have tons of investment to cover e.g. cost of servers, now costs peanuts. Ok, not really, as pay-as-you-go often turns out more expensive in the long run, but I hope you get my point.
If you have an idea to solve a problem or improve people’s lives – basically, create a value, someone will want to pay for it. You can live in the most remote places on earth, but if you have something to give, you’ll be found. You can work from anywhere (although this can also create a further FOMO and confusion of where is your place on earth, but that’s a dilemma write up for another day).
Come as you are. Tech needs you.
Although I never learned to code (I blame choosing a wrong language – PHP4 – and getting discouraged 🙂 I loved the process of installing Apache servers at 14 years old and trying to code. I loved the community I built when I had decided to build The Sims fan page at 13 in MS FrontPage. Bragging a little – my site was 2nd most popular fan page about The Sims in Poland.
There are many ways you can get into tech and not be full-on technical. There is place for everyone here; creatives, philosophers, ethics teachers, academics, geeks, everyone. If we’re to make this virtual world our second world, we need to have a true representation of the diversity of needs and perspectives. Especially, when we’re on the edge of the new revolution – AI (but again, that’s a whole another subject).
I love technology for its meritocracy. If you build something people want, it doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, green, woman or a queer. They will pay for it no matter what.
Of course I’m aware that I’m quite privileged living in a stable secure country, having access to the goods and the Internet, and being able to afford it. I’m thankful for this and I only hope that soon I’ll be able to give back to the less privileged people on a wider scale, helping them make a better life for themselves and their families.
There are many more reasons why tech excites me, but it’s all those crazy, inspiring and interesting people who contribute to this incredible community which I think makes this world worth exploring.