Dr. John and Tammy Allen Lecture featuring Michael Zimm: “Bridging the Gap”
Michael Zimm of Digital Surgeons talks about the value of liberal arts and how and why he moved from becoming a professor with a PhD in Classics to a career as a digital media manager at a tech startup. Zimm’s talk is the college’s first Allen Lecture, a series of lectures from talented entrepreneurs who have liberal arts backgrounds and are sharing their experience with students, faculty and the community. https://cas.unl.edu/allen-lecture-series
icon search Searchable Transcript
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
[00:00:05.460]Well, first of all let me just say good evening, welcome,
[00:00:09.510]thank goodness it's not raining right now.
[00:00:11.610]We're very, very happy about that
[00:00:13.510]after the excessive rain we've had.
[00:00:15.880]But I really want to welcome you tonight
[00:00:18.030]to the Dr. John and Tammy Allen lecture
[00:00:22.460]at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[00:00:24.880]I am Dr. Beth Theiss-Morse,
[00:00:26.580]the interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences,
[00:00:29.720]and I'm just thrilled to have everybody here tonight.
[00:00:32.800]Tonight's event is the first in a series of lectures
[00:00:36.080]that will bring talented entrepreneurs
[00:00:38.510]who have liberal arts backgrounds
[00:00:41.390]onto campus to meet with students, faculty,
[00:00:44.680]and people from the community.
[00:00:47.470]We'd like to take this opportunity,
[00:00:49.220]just to start off with, to thank Dr. John
[00:00:52.350]and Tammy Allen for their generous support
[00:00:55.890]for the college's partnership efforts,
[00:00:58.370]which include a whole bunch of things,
[00:01:00.440]but especially tonight for their support
[00:01:02.970]for the lecture series.
[00:01:04.690]Our collaboration ensures that the college's
[00:01:07.380]liberal arts students and faculty
[00:01:09.920]have the opportunity to engage with and talk to
[00:01:13.700]and learn lessons from other liberal arts people
[00:01:17.720]who have gone on to be a success in life,
[00:01:20.200]and so we're thrilled to have this opportunity.
[00:01:23.520]Dr. John and Tammy Allen
[00:01:25.900]began their education in liberal arts,
[00:01:28.180]so hence their interest in the College of Arts & Sciences,
[00:01:32.240]and then they went on to get degrees in medicine
[00:01:36.080]at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
[00:01:39.180]As an aside, I'm very pleased to note
[00:01:41.090]that Dr. John Allen is an alumnus
[00:01:43.950]of the College of Arts & Sciences here at UNL.
[00:01:47.520]The Allens are accomplished entrepreneurs
[00:01:49.750]and their foundation in liberal arts
[00:01:52.280]has led to incredible success
[00:01:54.557]and a philosophy of lifelong learning,
[00:01:56.680]something that we very much appreciate
[00:01:58.737]in the College of Arts & Sciences.
[00:02:00.930]Please welcome to the stage Dr. John and Tammy Allen
[00:02:04.000]as we give them a token of our appreciation.
[00:02:23.645]A gift for you.
[00:02:25.326]Thank you so much.
[00:02:26.159]Thank you very much.
[00:02:42.570]Hello, I'm Dr. Dan Hoyt.
[00:02:45.140]I'm the interim associate dean
[00:02:47.520]for Research and Partnerships
[00:02:49.010]in the College of Arts & Sciences
[00:02:50.640]and I have the privilege tonight of introducing
[00:02:52.930]our guest speaker, Dr. Michael Zimm.
[00:02:57.120]Dr. Zimm received his PhD in Classics from Yale University
[00:03:01.890]and used the research skills and knowledge that he developed
[00:03:05.370]and writing skills that he developed in this context
[00:03:08.340]to move into the world of writing, working in digital media.
[00:03:14.620]He became the manager of the digital media
[00:03:19.370]project at Digital Surgeons.
[00:03:21.200]I'm not sure I'm saying it exactly right, but--
[00:03:26.510]And he's written quite a bit about the experience
[00:03:29.780]of moving from training in classics into the digital world,
[00:03:34.150]and the work that he's written has been published
[00:03:36.520]in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Wall Street
[00:03:38.720]Journal, and Inside Higher Education amongst others.
[00:03:43.900]I'm very privileged to have the opportunity
[00:03:46.480]to introduce Dr. Zimm to talk with you about his experiences
[00:03:51.110]and how and why he moved from the classics
[00:03:54.050]into the world of high tech.
[00:03:59.496]Thank you so much.
[00:04:05.780]Thank you all for having me.
[00:04:07.720]This is my first time visiting Nebraska
[00:04:10.370]and there are all sorts of stereotypes
[00:04:12.350]about Nebraskan hospitality, I'm , it's all true.
[00:04:17.070]It's really remarkable,
[00:04:18.270]especially coming from the Northeast
[00:04:19.240]where people don't quite have your warmth.
[00:04:22.030]I also want to send my thanks to Doctors Allen,
[00:04:25.522]to the family, because they endowed this lecture series,
[00:04:30.170]and it's really about not just the value
[00:04:31.003]of the liberal arts in today's world,
[00:04:33.640]but job opportunities for that,
[00:04:36.370]which I think is one of the most important questions
[00:04:38.220]facing the liberal arts today.
[00:04:40.870]Where I think we both share a common bond as well
[00:04:43.020]is that our background in the liberal arts gave us
[00:04:46.960]the confidence that we can take on any challenge.
[00:04:50.840]How that fact pertains to them, they'd have to speak to.
[00:04:53.910]Today I want to talk about how that pertained to me
[00:04:56.430]in my own story and where I am today and how I apply it.
[00:05:00.290]But I guess to frame this,
[00:05:02.430]I want to begin with one fundamental question.
[00:05:06.370]Why would someone who wants to pursue a career
[00:05:09.490]at a tech startup decide to study the liberal arts?
[00:05:15.340]Even before I got the invite to come and give this talk,
[00:05:18.660]I've been thinking about that for a long time.
[00:05:23.840]In today's talk, there are gonna be four parts to it.
[00:05:28.150]Part one, I want to discuss how I got into liberal arts,
[00:05:31.920]particularly how my passion in Greek and Roman history
[00:05:35.210]and, yes, ancient Greek and Latin, arose.
[00:05:38.670]Part two is gonna discuss my transition from an academic
[00:05:41.620]life into where I am today, into digital marketing.
[00:05:45.750]In the third part I want to discuss briefly
[00:05:47.590]some opportunities for partnership
[00:05:49.110]between the liberal arts and the private sector.
[00:05:53.630]And in part four, I want to also give advice
[00:05:55.990]to the business community on why,
[00:05:57.840]particularly the tech community,
[00:05:59.370]why they should recruit liberal arts undergrads.
[00:06:06.550]So where do I begin?
[00:06:09.650]Let's start about 17 years ago.
[00:06:12.010]When I was an undergrad, like many of you,
[00:06:15.070]I did my undergraduate degree in New York University.
[00:06:18.510]I was a history major because I loved history,
[00:06:21.500]I loved studying the lessons of the past.
[00:06:25.360]The problem was, for the first three years,
[00:06:26.610]I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with myself,
[00:06:28.790]which I'm sure many undergrads here hear.
[00:06:30.610]What are you gonna do with that degree?
[00:06:31.940]How are you gonna market it?
[00:06:32.870]How are you gonna use it?
[00:06:34.200]And the advice I got was probably similar
[00:06:35.830]to advice that many people get, study something marketable.
[00:06:40.370]Do something that can get you a job.
[00:06:44.252]But I fundamentally took issues with that
[00:06:46.080]because I wanted to determine what is marketable.
[00:06:50.320]I don't need someone to tell me what I can do with a degree.
[00:06:52.680]I felt like that was always a very
[00:06:53.610]unimaginative answer to receive.
[00:06:55.890]I'll determine what is marketable
[00:06:57.350]and I'm gonna use that for my own
[00:06:58.880]career goals, whatever those may be.
[00:07:01.950]The transform moment in my undergraduate career
[00:07:04.510]occurred when I spent a semester studying abroad
[00:07:06.410]in Florence in the spring of 2004.
[00:07:10.420]So I've just aged myself, I go back a way.
[00:07:14.210]And for some reason, I decided to take a trip,
[00:07:17.210]in Easter of 2004, this would've been in April 2004,
[00:07:22.370]I took a trip to Sicily.
[00:07:25.240]I went to the, ancient and I said,
[00:07:26.910]this ancient city that I've heard of called Syracuse,
[00:07:29.220]I want to visit it and see what it's all about.
[00:07:32.670]At one time Syracuse was the most powerful city
[00:07:34.830]in the western Mediterranean,
[00:07:36.380]and I heard there was some really interesting ruins there.
[00:07:40.360]And when I went, I visited the great Theatre of Syracuse,
[00:07:43.960]which you can all go, if any of you happen to be in Sicily,
[00:07:46.210]I strongly recommend you go visit it and see it to this day.
[00:07:49.755]And I sat in the theater
[00:07:50.840]and I remember it was a beautiful spring day,
[00:07:53.600]the smell in Sicily is so powerful.
[00:07:56.060]It's just the smell of almonds, of lemons.
[00:07:58.910]It really touches all the senses.
[00:08:01.120]And I sat down in the theater, where the plays of Aeschylus,
[00:08:03.640]the great Greek Athenian playwright,
[00:08:06.150]Sophocles and Euripides were once performed.
[00:08:11.090]And I looked at the theater and I knew it was a ruin,
[00:08:14.370]it wasn't being taken care of,
[00:08:15.680]yet I was in awe of the beauty
[00:08:18.180]and wonder of this seemingly decrepit theater.
[00:08:23.670]By chance, a few months earlier, where I happened to live
[00:08:25.650]at that time in Central Florida, I had driven by a Kmart.
[00:08:28.870]How many people who know what Kmart even is?
Okay, yeah, so.
[00:08:33.370]They used to be at one point almost as common as Walmarts.
[00:08:36.720]But I drove by a Kmart that happened to fall into disrepair,
[00:08:39.410]went out of business, as many would eventually,
[00:08:43.040]and within two years it looked like a piece of rubble
[00:08:47.790]that was just an eyesore on the highway.
[00:08:51.107]And I asked myself why is it the Greeks,
[00:08:53.880]and Romans for that matter, could build these theaters,
[00:08:57.330]and they fall into disrepair and yet I'm still
[00:08:58.800]in awe of them over 2,000 years later,
[00:09:01.630]yet we build buildings and then after a short time,
[00:09:05.320]they look terrible, they ruin our neighborhoods,
[00:09:08.900]and I said there is grandeur here, there is beauty.
[00:09:12.600]I want to study the Greeks and the Romans,
[00:09:14.600]I want to know everything about them.
[00:09:17.020]And I started to dive deeper and deeper into the history
[00:09:19.540]over the course of that summer
[00:09:20.930]and developed an utter fascination
[00:09:22.350]with Greek and Roman literature,
[00:09:23.920]Greek and Roman philosophy, and Greek and Roman history.
[00:09:31.600]The problem was I didn't know Greek or Latin.
[00:09:34.470]I knew I wanted to get a PhD.
[00:09:36.580]All the undergrads here are probably ahead of me,
[00:09:38.240]'cause I was almost done with my undergraduate career
[00:09:40.530]and I didn't know what to do with myself
[00:09:43.180]but I just knew I wanted to get a Classics PhD
[00:09:45.257]and I wanted to be an educator,
[00:09:47.010]I wanted to be like a professor,
[00:09:47.857]and I wanted to take the lessons of the Greeks and Romans
[00:09:50.910]and apply them in today's world
[00:09:52.800]'cause I thought that the lessons I was reading
[00:09:54.960]from the works of Plutarch, Thucydides,
[00:09:56.520]and Herodotus, they have value today
[00:09:59.067]and I wanted people to be able to take that
[00:10:00.780]and use it in the private sector.
[00:10:02.380]I always had that vision for myself.
[00:10:05.260]But I didn't know any Greek or Latin
[00:10:06.850]so I went home that summer, I got myself a Latin book,
[00:10:10.260]and I taught myself intensive Latin just through a textbook.
[00:10:14.820]But I wasn't good enough to get into a PhD program.
[00:10:17.250]So I graduated, wasn't sure what I wanted to do with myself,
[00:10:20.360]and I enrolled in UCLA for a year
[00:10:22.070]and did a post-baccalaureate program in Classics
[00:10:24.760]and intensively studied the language for one year.
[00:10:27.730]And I applied to grad school saying, okay,
[00:10:28.917]I'm gonna get in, my career is all set.
[00:10:30.770]Everything's gonna be very linear, it's gonna be great.
[00:10:34.090]My first big hurdle, I got rejected in 2006.
[00:10:38.380]And over the course of my travails
[00:10:39.580]trying to get into grad school,
[00:10:40.830]I realized that I had several values that I discovered
[00:10:47.010]that are worth their weight in gold in the world today
[00:10:50.070]but I didn't realize how much value
[00:10:51.063]they were actually worth at the time.
[00:10:53.610]And that was my first interaction with grit
[00:10:56.440]'cause I got rejected and I think a lot of people
[00:10:58.150]would've given up at that point, I said okay,
[00:11:00.790]I just need to learn more Greek and Latin.
[00:11:03.450]So I moved to Israel for three years
[00:11:05.523]and did a master's at Tel Aviv University
[00:11:08.470]studying Greek and Latin for three years.
[00:11:11.940]And in 2007, I got rejected,
[00:11:14.890]and once again in 2009, I got rejected,
[00:11:17.980]which is demoralizing, three successive years of failure.
[00:11:21.840]And I failed, without question.
[00:11:24.650]But I didn't give up and I said
[00:11:26.680]I knew at that time I had this thing called grit,
[00:11:29.110]I'm not gonna give up yet, I know it has value,
[00:11:32.030]I'm just not entirely sure what that value is.
[00:11:35.530]And as I read more and more Greek text,
[00:11:38.280]I realized I had something else
[00:11:40.210]and that was an unquenchable curiosity.
[00:11:45.270]Curiosity is worth a lot.
[00:11:47.210]Curiosity is the doting sibling of innovation.
[00:11:51.260]Great innovations and discoveries are made
[00:11:53.330]because people are simply curious.
[00:11:55.350]Being curious for the sake of being curious
[00:11:58.070]is often a trait that I look at when I meet
[00:11:59.760]new people and I can figure out
[00:12:01.030]whether or not they have something unique.
[00:12:03.000]Do they ask questions just for
[00:12:04.300]the sake of asking the question,
[00:12:05.420]or do they wanna learn just for the sake of learning?
[00:12:08.700]That was a second value that I learned at the time.
[00:12:11.900]And as I was reading those ancient texts,
[00:12:14.070]I became quite comfortable
[00:12:15.240]with not getting a straight answer.
[00:12:17.440]We know often in our world, someone reads something,
[00:12:20.050]and they just wanna know what's the answer.
[00:12:22.580]I became very comfortable with saying
[00:12:24.380]I don't know the answer.
[00:12:25.510]It could be this, it could be that.
[00:12:27.470]That could be one way of interpreting this political event
[00:12:29.530]in 425 in Athens, this could be another way
[00:12:31.880]of interpreting that political event.
[00:12:34.720]But regardless, I was okay with that
[00:12:37.470]and ambiguity is one of the,
[00:12:39.470]we're taught so many skills in school,
[00:12:40.957]and we're often taught that if we learn something,
[00:12:45.958]it will have a one to one
[00:12:46.990]linear correspondence to what we do.
[00:12:48.620]It's not really how the world works.
[00:12:50.380]I sort of hypothesized that at the time,
[00:12:52.910]but now that I'm in this startup world, it's very true
[00:12:55.453]because you're constantly dealing with ambiguity.
[00:12:58.280]And in situations where, what's the answer?
[00:13:00.320]I don't know.
[00:13:01.320]Let's test this out, let's try that.
[00:13:02.960]But if you're looking for a very straight playbook,
[00:13:05.430]that's not existence as I understand it.
[00:13:09.610]And finally, in the spring of 2010 though,
[00:13:11.293]I got into grad school at Yale
[00:13:15.070]and I thought it'd be smooth sailing at that point.
[00:13:19.100]I spent six years structuring my PhD,
[00:13:21.670]and it was my first big interaction
[00:13:24.100]with what I call project management,
[00:13:25.520]'cause that's really what a PhD is.
[00:13:27.590]Usually though when you do project management,
[00:13:28.880]you do it on a much smaller scale,
[00:13:30.170]you do it the one to two months to maybe a year or two.
[00:13:32.240]With a PhD, it can be a six year process
[00:13:33.653]and you have all these milestones you have to hit
[00:13:36.980]like you have to pass your qualifying exams,
[00:13:39.540]you have to pass, your prospectus has to be approved.
[00:13:42.930]As I was going through each one, I sort of made notes
[00:13:45.260]to myself, okay I'm hitting my milestones,
[00:13:48.470]I didn't think it was possible to really plan something
[00:13:50.390]that takes six years but it was a very rewarding
[00:13:52.700]experience being able to pull that off.
[00:13:56.150]And by 2016, so what about 12 years since I
[00:14:00.647]had sat in that theater in Syracuse,
[00:14:03.140]I at last I walked across the PhD stage
[00:14:05.950]at Yale and I received my doctorate.
[00:14:09.400]Unfortunately, I also didn't have a job.
[00:14:12.890]So the joy of getting my PhD
[00:14:15.260]was unfortunately counterbalanced
[00:14:16.670]by what seemed like unemployment at that time.
[00:14:19.700]My ambitions came to a screeching halt.
[00:14:23.730]There were a couple ways I realized
[00:14:25.220]I could handle that adversity,
[00:14:28.040]one was you just keep on trying, you apply in the academic
[00:14:31.730]job market again, you try to get another
[00:14:34.150]tenure track job, you apply for postdocs.
[00:14:36.520]I said I can do that but I don't think
[00:14:39.840]that's a good use of my time, of my earning power,
[00:14:42.270]and my wife, who works at Yale now, she had a very good job
[00:14:45.970]and at the time I had a one year old son,
[00:14:47.890]I didn't want to uproot them,
[00:14:49.540]I didn't want to do that to my family.
[00:14:52.120]And I said now I'm gonna make a career transition.
[00:14:59.170]I was a Classics PhD, and when I first got advice on it,
[00:15:03.290]I was asking people what should I do?
[00:15:05.010]What should I do with myself now?
[00:15:07.870]One of them, the two most common answers,
[00:15:09.800]go to law school, which is basically
[00:15:11.390]kicking the can down the road,
[00:15:13.490]or become a high school Latin teacher.
[00:15:17.290]Utterly safe advice, utterly respectable advice,
[00:15:22.100]and utterly unimaginative is the way I saw it.
[00:15:25.750]There was no vision there, it was all very trite
[00:15:29.060]as I saw it when I got that advice.
[00:15:32.120]And I said no to the advice I was getting
[00:15:35.690]from family, from loved ones who had my best interest
[00:15:38.270]at heart and when I looked around, for a series of reasons,
[00:15:42.030]bit complicated to go into it right now,
[00:15:43.420]I got fascinated by technology.
[00:15:45.520]New technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality,
[00:15:49.310]mixed reality, blockchain technologies,
[00:15:53.060]cloud-based softwares, it all fascinated me.
[00:15:57.450]At the time I realized, well if I've used my knowledge
[00:16:00.300]to get really deep into Greek and Latin for years,
[00:16:03.830]and for those of you, anyone here who's never studied
[00:16:05.880]Greek or Latin, they're very intense langauges.
[00:16:09.170]It's almost a misnomer to call a computer language
[00:16:11.020]a language 'cause that implies that a human language
[00:16:14.030]is logical, they're actually not.
[00:16:15.460]So ancient Greek is unusually,
[00:16:18.190]is a very complicated language and I knew,
[00:16:21.680]whether other people knew that or not,
[00:16:22.810]that if I could conquer this, I could conquer everything.
[00:16:27.410]It can't be too complicated.
[00:16:29.840]And at first, everyone said Mike, you're not gonna enjoy
[00:16:34.640]a technology company, you don't have the background.
[00:16:38.100]You're not a coder or designer,
[00:16:40.170]I was like that's exactly why a technology company wants me.
[00:16:43.390]How many classicists do you meet at a technology startup?
[00:16:46.900]They're rare, you never meet them, to be honest.
[00:16:48.610]I think I'm one of the only ones,
[00:16:50.040]there are a couple out there but there aren't
[00:16:52.070]that many so that'll make me a novelty.
[00:16:54.280]To any curious organization,
[00:16:56.500]they're gonna just simply wanna have a conversation,
[00:16:59.130]find out well what is a Classics PhD
[00:17:01.410]because 99% of the people on the planet,
[00:17:03.090]especially outside of the university,
[00:17:04.020]have no idea what Classics is but that's an asset.
[00:17:06.880]If you frame it right, it is a tremendous asset,
[00:17:09.640]or as I had it in my disposal
[00:17:11.420]whether or not other people realize that or not.
[00:17:15.150]And I realized that I did the math in my head,
[00:17:18.380]well the chance of me getting any one job
[00:17:20.380]are quite low, but statistically if I play the numbers game,
[00:17:24.350]I'll eventually get something, they're quite high.
[00:17:26.420]It's the same strategy I use for dating.
[00:17:28.820]You ask out a lot of people, eventually one will say yes
[00:17:33.046]and that person's my wife, to this day.
So, there you go.
[00:17:36.763]Play the numbers, it'll eventually work out in your favor.
[00:17:41.640]And as I started to reach out to companies,
[00:17:44.270]I was often hearing crickets, I heard nothing.
[00:17:46.600]'Cause I was applying online, I was very naive,
[00:17:48.870]I was like huh, I'm not hearing anything.
[00:17:51.230]And I knew the risk HR is filtering me out.
[00:17:54.230]And I understood why, because they probably have software
[00:17:56.520]that says you need to check off certain skillsets.
[00:17:59.980]Well Greek and Latin was not one of them.
[00:18:02.410]They weren't asking for that.
[00:18:04.090]And I was getting filtered out of the system
[00:18:06.350]so I said okay, I'm gonna circumvent the system.
[00:18:09.820]Ignore HR and just reach out directly to CEOs
[00:18:12.630]and to hiring managers, get their emails and contact them.
[00:18:16.120]And, if you can't contact them, then just show up
[00:18:19.250]and say I'm here, do you wanna talk?
[00:18:21.220]Which led to some really interesting encounters.
[00:18:24.800]And as I was exploring, I did get down at points
[00:18:27.990]'cause sometimes you hear crickets,
[00:18:29.540]but again I knew like I'm eventually gonna get something,
[00:18:32.070]I'm gonna bring value to some place.
[00:18:34.310]And one day, as I was driving along I-91
[00:18:38.100]which is one of the main highways that goes
[00:18:40.010]through New Haven, Connecticut, where I live today,
[00:18:41.930]and it goes from New Haven all the way up to Canada,
[00:18:45.560]I went by this building that said Digital Surgeons.
[00:18:48.540]It looked very cool.
[00:18:50.640]I had no idea what they did.
[00:18:53.800]Which is fair 'cause they had no idea where I did, either.
[00:18:56.160]So, I knew we were gonna have an immediate bond.
[00:19:01.280]And I sent an email to them saying hey,
[00:19:04.100]I'm a liberal arts PhD, I'd love to find out what you do.
[00:19:08.550]And I don't know.
[00:19:11.300]I didn't really know anything, actually no,
[00:19:13.210]let me be careful, I didn't know anything about marketing,
[00:19:15.980]zero, let alone digital marketing.
[00:19:18.410]I'm fairly certain that everyone in this room,
[00:19:19.700]at that, if going back a few years,
[00:19:21.950]knew more about marketing than I did,
[00:19:23.640]it just wasn't even part of my vocabulary,
[00:19:25.280]I didn't know what it was.
[00:19:27.770]And I said um, I sent an email and before I knew it,
[00:19:31.670]a couple days later, this CEO, whose name is Pete Sena,
[00:19:35.420]he sent, I got an email saying our CEO Pete Sena
[00:19:37.780]would like to meet you so I said okay,
[00:19:39.667]he said come in the next day and I wasn't sure
[00:19:42.580]what I was gonna talk about and I said the normal thing
[00:19:45.740]to do, if there's a normal thing,
[00:19:47.470]would be to read about what the company does and to learn
[00:19:49.760]about marketing, that's not how I operate though.
[00:19:53.840]What I know really well is I know rhetoric.
[00:19:56.620]I've studied it for years and I know that rhetoric
[00:19:59.280]is powerful, rhetoric is how you control a crowd,
[00:20:02.590]rhetoric is how you communicate
[00:20:04.150]with people, figures of speech.
[00:20:06.750]And the Greeks and the Romans, the best.
[00:20:10.070]The best at persuasion, I've been studying this for year,
[00:20:12.090]if you read the speeches of Cicero,
[00:20:13.880]you're gonna very quickly pick up on all these
[00:20:15.630]rhetorical techniques for connecting with an audience.
[00:20:18.900]So I said that's what I need to channel
[00:20:21.000]in the 24 hours I have right now
[00:20:22.430]at my disposal before I meet him.
[00:20:25.110]Because I want to be unapologetically me,
[00:20:27.200]I'm not gonna be anything other than me.
[00:20:30.400]And one of the most powerful figures of speech is metaphor.
[00:20:33.690]We think in metaphor, we do not think
[00:20:35.940]in terms of complicated language,
[00:20:37.400]we think in terms of simple language
[00:20:39.097]and if you really want to connect with someone,
[00:20:41.100]always use the metaphor rather than
[00:20:43.670]complicated language to express an idea.
[00:20:47.370]And when I got in, I sat down and Pete asked me
[00:20:52.690]why do you wanna go, like I don't even know
[00:20:54.530]anything about academia, why would you wanna go
[00:20:56.890]from academia to a tech startup?
[00:20:59.570]And what, what, why?
[00:21:03.090]And I told him about the quilt of knowledge.
[00:21:04.807]He was like what's the quilt of knowledge?
[00:21:06.460]And I said well there's this quilt of knowledge,
[00:21:08.420]and on that quilt are individual tiles,
[00:21:11.270]there's a tile for computer science,
[00:21:13.110]there's a tile for classics, there's a tile for history,
[00:21:17.240]each one of those tiles represents
[00:21:18.840]a particular domain of knowledge.
[00:21:21.380]And from my perspective as an academic,
[00:21:24.920]I was getting very very deep into the threads
[00:21:27.520]of a particular tile and what I always wanted to do
[00:21:30.560]was to find ways to move from one tile to the next
[00:21:34.750]and find ways for them to interact with each other
[00:21:36.700]and to show their value, that really it's all one,
[00:21:39.200]these are not, these tiles all connect in their own way,
[00:21:41.270]it's one big quilt when you stand far enough back
[00:21:43.170]and that everyone should be studying different parts
[00:21:45.690]of the tile rather than just focusing on one.
[00:21:49.170]And I want to take what I have learned
[00:21:52.180]and apply it at a company like yours
[00:21:54.250]and talk to coders and designers, show them why
[00:21:56.540]they should care about Greek and Roman history
[00:21:58.730]and find ways to drive value.
[00:22:01.110]And then, for the rest of the talk, I went on about
[00:22:04.640]the origins of Greek tragedy and the god Dionysus.
[00:22:08.870]And, after 30 minutes, Pete said I have no idea
[00:22:15.650]what you'll do here but man, do I see a why.
[00:22:19.970]He says you're one of us, I was like am I?
[00:22:22.327]He's like yeah, you are.
[00:22:24.140]I was like I don't know what you do,
[00:22:25.495]he's like it's okay, we'll figure that out.
[00:22:29.090]He says I'm gonna give you an assignment.
[00:22:30.580]I was like what's the assignment?
[00:22:32.240]And he says I want you to do a website audit
[00:22:37.170]of one of their clients and I'm to be
[00:22:38.410]a big e-commerce brand, now I'm fairly certain
[00:22:40.750]that he was trying to beat the system of Google
[00:22:42.690]'cause when I Google website audit,
[00:22:44.030]I had no idea what it was.
[00:22:46.170]And I asked him for clarification,
[00:22:47.610]I was like what's a website audit
[00:22:48.690]and he says you have a PhD in Classics, figure it out.
[00:22:52.540]Okay, and then he's like and by the way,
[00:22:54.100]in the tech world and the startup world,
[00:22:55.490]things move fast so you have about 24 hours.
[00:22:57.640]I was like okay.
[00:22:59.460]So I went home and once again, I said,
[00:23:00.980]I looked at the company and it's amazing
[00:23:03.370]how valuable writing is a skillset in our world today.
[00:23:06.760]You're in a university right now so you're surrounded
[00:23:08.810]by great writers, rest assured when you go into the world,
[00:23:11.620]you will see that writing is an in demand skillset.
[00:23:14.940]It's very hard to come across it
[00:23:16.520]'cause I've seen Fortune 500 companies have websites
[00:23:19.070]where I have no idea what they're talking about.
[00:23:21.250]How could a publicly traded company
[00:23:23.240]have a website where the language is that bad is beyond me.
[00:23:27.170]But that's the world that we live in.
[00:23:28.377]And I went in, I had no idea what this company did.
[00:23:31.860]And what I did was I said well I've read lots of Thucydides,
[00:23:36.960]lots of Tacitus, was a Roman historian,
[00:23:40.130]lots of Cicero, lots of Demosthenes,
[00:23:41.870]so I'm pretty good at rhetoric at this point
[00:23:43.347]and I know the value of anaphora,
[00:23:46.283]assonance, asyndeton, these were all
[00:23:48.530]powerful rhetorical figures of speech.
[00:23:50.600]And if you don't know what they are,
[00:23:51.480]go take a rhetoric class 'cause they're
[00:23:52.730]very cool and they're very powerful.
[00:23:55.290]So why don't I use that to come up with
[00:23:58.210]my own interpretation of what a website audit is
[00:24:00.860]'cause clearly I'm not getting, Google has failed me.
[00:24:04.480]And I spent 24 hours giving a list of recommendations
[00:24:08.170]of what I thought a website audit was.
[00:24:12.020]And a recommendation for how this company,
[00:24:13.873]this powerful e-commerce company,
[00:24:15.900]could improve their web presence.
[00:24:19.720]I got that back and literally 24 hours later,
[00:24:22.930]my apartment was burglarized, which was very depressing.
[00:24:26.520]I remember, distinctly remember coming home,
[00:24:29.330]my laptop was gone, pictures were gone,
[00:24:32.170]and I was dealing with the insurance company,
[00:24:34.770]I almost forgot that I had sent this back to Pete.
[00:24:38.070]And while I'm dealing with the insurance companies,
[00:24:39.600]I get a phone call and I answer, I'm like hello,
[00:24:42.190]he's like hey Mike, this is Pete.
[00:24:43.850]I was like oh, hey Pete, and he's like,
[00:24:45.370]he's like how are you doing, I said I'm not
[00:24:46.670]in a great state of mind here,
[00:24:47.870]my apartment was just burglarized.
[00:24:49.970]I'm not, what's up?
[00:24:52.120]And he's like oh, I'm really sorry to hear that.
[00:24:54.550]And he said, listen I just want to tell you,
[00:24:56.530]I read your website audit, this is awesome.
[00:24:59.410]We could use someone who knows Greek and Roman history.
[00:25:02.300]Come here, come join us 'cause you didn't know
[00:25:06.300]anything about digital marketing but you
[00:25:09.390]gave me this, and this is better than a lot
[00:25:10.920]of the stuff I see from digital marketers.
[00:25:14.720]Come here, come join us, come work for us for three months,
[00:25:19.690]if after three months, Pete says,
[00:25:21.197]like if after three months you hate me,
[00:25:22.300]I'll help you find another job.
[00:25:23.940]I don't think you're gonna hate me,
[00:25:25.380]I think you're gonna love me,
[00:25:26.213]I think we're gonna do wonderful things together
[00:25:28.200]but you are one of us.
[00:25:29.650]I was like well what will I do?
[00:25:30.580]He's like that's not as important,
[00:25:32.050]we're gonna figure that out, we'll figure that out together,
[00:25:34.060]we're a startup, he says we have to, we're always growing
[00:25:37.080]and we have to figure out new revenue sources
[00:25:38.470]so come here, we'll figure that out.
[00:25:40.690]I was like alright.
[00:25:42.230]And so I get there and as we're talking,
[00:25:45.560]I was like we need to figure out what you're gonna do
[00:25:47.820]'cause we do have a bottom line.
[00:25:50.820]And what do you like?
[00:25:51.653]And one is I told him about was I said I love history.
[00:25:57.350]What history is is taking data
[00:25:59.810]and you synthesize that into a narrative.
[00:26:02.330]So if you can take data, whether it's from 5th century
[00:26:05.020]Athens or from 1st century BC Rome
[00:26:08.670]and synthesize that into a coherent narrative,
[00:26:11.430]then I can do it with website analytics,
[00:26:13.340]that was my assumption, at least, at the time.
[00:26:14.320]I was like well, I look at data and what I've been doing
[00:26:17.910]for years is really just creating a story about that
[00:26:19.807]and he says okay, let's do,
[00:26:21.715]you're gonna do that for clients.
[00:26:23.972]And he's like through analytics.
[00:26:24.805]What are analytics?
[00:26:26.080]He's like I'll show you.
[00:26:27.910]It was very much a handholding process
[00:26:29.900]for about six months where I did make mistakes,
[00:26:33.590]I deleted some folders I shouldn't have,
[00:26:36.060]we were able to recover the client, don't worry
[00:26:38.420]but that was the kind of process it was training me.
[00:26:42.630]And over time, I got very interested
[00:26:44.984]something called search engine optimization,
[00:26:46.810]that is the science of how one ranks on Google
[00:26:50.500]'cause Google is just based on all sort of different
[00:26:52.450]algorithms that rank a website based on different features.
[00:26:55.660]And if you know them, you can help
[00:26:57.870]a company improve its digital presence.
[00:27:01.580]And then the other thing that I took upon myself
[00:27:03.620]was to become the digital media go to guy
[00:27:06.170]in our company, the digital media manager.
[00:27:08.420]It didn't exist when I came but I realize
[00:27:12.000]that being a startup was not that different,
[00:27:14.290]in many ways, than being in academia
[00:27:16.190]where you're constantly, no one really tells you
[00:27:19.470]what to do, you just know you have to make money.
[00:27:22.290]You have to create value.
[00:27:24.330]It's like when someone comes up with a research paper,
[00:27:28.000]no one usually tells them what to do,
[00:27:29.610]you have to figure that out for yourself
[00:27:31.180]and then come up with something that's valuable
[00:27:33.340]after that research experience.
[00:27:36.080]And for me, I went through the company and saw that,
[00:27:39.763]I looked at areas where I thought that the company
[00:27:41.690]could grow just based on where the revenue was.
[00:27:46.470]And that's where I am today in the company
[00:27:48.960]is a digital media manager, I work with things
[00:27:50.900]like Google AdWords, that's the advertising system
[00:27:54.390]for Google, most people do not know this
[00:27:56.060]but 90% of Google's revenue comes from their advertising.
[00:28:00.420]And very few people have asked me
[00:28:01.440]how does Google make money?
[00:28:02.273]They're gonna just throw up their hands?
[00:28:03.520]It's through this incredibly complicated
[00:28:05.110]something called the Google AdWords system
[00:28:07.160]which I work with.
[00:28:09.070]I am privileged to work with the people that I work with
[00:28:13.080]in my company today, being in a tech startup
[00:28:15.960]transformed my view of the liberal arts and its value.
[00:28:19.070]It didn't negate it, it's helped me reimagine it.
[00:28:24.040]Not a day goes by where I don't get an invite
[00:28:26.290]to discuss something with the ancient world.
[00:28:29.620]Our creative director, James Dowd,
[00:28:31.930]we just finished covering Greek history
[00:28:33.480]over 20 lunches and god knows how many beers.
[00:28:39.540]One of the best coders that I know,
[00:28:42.230]his name is Jake Burden, he is a philosophy major,
[00:28:45.850]he's a phenomenal job of script developer
[00:28:48.570]and, in our spare time, we don't talk about business,
[00:28:51.710]we talk about philosophy, he love when we talk about Plato
[00:28:54.480]and we talk about life and I asked him once,
[00:28:57.130]I said do you regret majoring in philosophy
[00:28:59.710]because allegedly that's not that valuable of a major.
[00:29:03.890]And he says first of all, I don't need to major
[00:29:06.420]in computer science to be a great coder,
[00:29:07.930]he's like I just do it on my own
[00:29:08.820]and I'm, he just he loves hacking.
[00:29:10.830]But he feels like this helps me live a good life,
[00:29:14.650]studying philosophy and I apply it every day.
[00:29:18.420]Another one of the great coders, his name's Adam Sofer,
[00:29:20.790]he's a training musician, a musician
[00:29:24.370]who decided to become a great coder afterwards
[00:29:27.180]and he is now he works with Ethereum development,
[00:29:30.350]he's a blockchain developer which is very comp,
[00:29:32.520]it's a very complicated form of computer programming.
[00:29:36.040]But what all the people have in common in my company,
[00:29:38.350]including the CEO to the account managers
[00:29:41.470]to the designers is love of knowledge
[00:29:43.900]just for the sake of knowledge.
[00:29:45.620]And not necessarily demanding what you might expect
[00:29:48.220]perhaps from someone who's more of a linear mindset
[00:29:52.410]of well how's this gonna make me money?
[00:29:54.150]Sometimes great ideas come from the conversations
[00:29:56.990]about history, about literature.
[00:30:00.250]And from that, we create value.
[00:30:06.040]And even now, as I look at the tech world,
[00:30:08.000]I'm not a day goes by, not a day goes by
[00:30:10.893]I do not learn about some entrepreneur,
[00:30:13.190]y'know, again, if you ask most people,
[00:30:14.690]and this was my perspective before I went to tech,
[00:30:16.920]what's the background on all these tech entrepreneurs?
[00:30:19.300]You immediately assume a software engineer,
[00:30:21.070]that's sort of the perception we have in mind.
[00:30:23.700]But let me just rattle off a few names
[00:30:25.850]to give you a catalog of some of the people
[00:30:28.140]that are great tech entrepreneurs today
[00:30:31.160]that do not have tech back,
[00:30:35.540]they have liberal arts backgrounds.
[00:30:37.260]Stewart Butterfield, the founder of Slack,
[00:30:40.060]the fastest growing B to B enterprise software company.
[00:30:44.560]He has BA in Philosophy then he got his MPhil in philosophy
[00:30:48.380]from Cambridge University, he did not go into academia
[00:30:50.320]'cause he was told there weren't that many academic jobs.
[00:30:53.470]But he then decided to start a startup
[00:30:57.450]and he is one of the most successful entrepreneurs
[00:30:59.620]in the Valley today and they say if you go
[00:31:00.760]to a Slack boardroom meeting, it's not unusual
[00:31:02.980]to listen to them talk about Plato and riff on that.
[00:31:07.370]Reid Hoffman, the COO, the Chief Operating Officer
[00:31:10.510]of Paypal, he then became the CEO of LinkedIn.
[00:31:15.820]Everyone here should know what LinkedIn is.
[00:31:18.050]And he is a philosopher by trading.
[00:31:20.160]He says he's actually just an applied philosopher,
[00:31:21.930]that's how he describes himself.
[00:31:25.250]He created a powerful company
[00:31:28.340]with his liberal arts background.
[00:31:30.320]Alexa Hirschfeld, who went to, who got a BA in Classics
[00:31:36.020]and is the co-founder of Paperless Post,
[00:31:37.960]which is an e-card company.
[00:31:39.810]So everywhere I looked, I realized that in the tech world,
[00:31:41.830]and I sort of had this hunch, that people there
[00:31:43.900]are interesting, they're gonna appreciate
[00:31:45.840]someone like me and my liberal arts background.
[00:31:48.510]And that hypothesis has only been proved true
[00:31:51.270]as time has gone on and I consider myself
[00:31:53.710]incredibly fortunate to be a part of a company like that.
[00:31:56.800]And all of the skillsets that I cultivated,
[00:31:59.700]which at the time I didn't realize what their value was.
[00:32:03.300]It's value only became apparent to me once I went
[00:32:07.340]into the tech world where the value of curiosity.
[00:32:11.030]Being curious just for the sake of being curious
[00:32:13.030]and not as asking what's your ROI of that curiosity?
[00:32:15.920]What's the return on investment there?
[00:32:17.920]Curiosity just for the sake of curiosity
[00:32:19.950]can lead to amazing innovation.
[00:32:23.300]The value of grit, that's a tough one
[00:32:26.490]to for HR to filter for.
[00:32:31.500]I was talking to my COP about it,
[00:32:33.030]he still has no idea where they had to,
[00:32:35.140]how do you find people that have this quality called grit
[00:32:38.140]because it's incredibly important,
[00:32:39.750]especially when you're working late nights
[00:32:41.090]and you're trying to push through a project,
[00:32:43.090]that is worth its weight in gold.
[00:32:45.630]And three, being comfortable with ambiguity,
[00:32:48.840]being able to say wait this is one answer
[00:32:52.350]and that could be another answer
[00:32:53.490]and that could be another answer
[00:32:55.160]because in the world I'm in today,
[00:32:58.090]there often aren't straightforward answers.
[00:33:01.030]Let's try this as a solution and it doesn't work,
[00:33:04.480]you don't just give up, they're like okay
[00:33:05.387]and we can find something else.
[00:33:07.500]This could work, that could work.
[00:33:10.190]Let's test it out and see what happens.
[00:33:12.480]So I've learned quite a bit about how those values
[00:33:17.150]can drive growth for a tech startup.
[00:33:22.140]For the students here today, I know many of you
[00:33:24.900]probably get advice from your parents
[00:33:26.940]on when you study something marketable.
[00:33:30.460]I live in a world where what it means
[00:33:31.869]to do something marketable almost means nothing.
[00:33:34.600]'Cause everyone has an unusual background.
[00:33:37.070]But those are people I like to surround myself with
[00:33:39.790]at this point 'cause I get so many good ideas from them
[00:33:42.600]and we are growing something special together.
[00:33:48.830]I would encourage, I want to give some advice
[00:33:51.970]to the professors here, too, because I know
[00:33:54.490]there's so many attacks on the liberal arts today.
[00:33:57.930]I'm sure there are calls to cut the liberal arts
[00:34:00.810]here in Nebraska, there are calls for it across the board,
[00:34:03.630]doesn't matter what university you're at,
[00:34:05.020]whether private university or public university.
[00:34:08.900]Build connections with the private sector.
[00:34:12.110]Reach out to local startups, reach out to them.
[00:34:15.780]Tell 'em, like hey just build that connection,
[00:34:18.690]say hey I just want to have a conversation with you
[00:34:21.290]and could you find a potential internship opportunity
[00:34:24.530]for a student of mine?
[00:34:26.840]Because I feel like, especially for businesses,
[00:34:28.700]I don't know if there's anyone with a business community
[00:34:30.020]here but when I was beginning my search to leave academia,
[00:34:34.100]one of the best pieces of advice that I gave
[00:34:36.180]was someone says Mike, you don't want a job.
[00:34:38.850]I was like I don't, they said no you want an internship.
[00:34:40.543]I was like what do you mean?
[00:34:41.470]He said you need to get professional experience,
[00:34:44.600]that's your passport into the business world today.
[00:34:48.270]Because it's so risky for a business just to hire someone
[00:34:51.060]right out of the gate, no matter how many,
[00:34:53.670]no matter how qualified they are for the job,
[00:34:55.880]takes about three to six months to find out
[00:34:57.520]whether or not someone is a secure hire.
[00:35:00.200]Again, they can check off every box on the wish list,
[00:35:04.180]then they go there and for whatever reason
[00:35:05.310]it doesn't work out, so for businesses,
[00:35:08.440]if they can be incentivized, in a way,
[00:35:11.050]to hire someone and perhaps get a tax credit,
[00:35:13.700]maybe get a tax credit or a tax deduction,
[00:35:15.460]whatever it is from the state for hiring a liberal arts
[00:35:19.600]undergrad for a summer internship, that will one,
[00:35:23.920]the business can give the, it can solve some pressing
[00:35:26.540]business need for them.
[00:35:28.430]Two, it allows them to test out a candidate
[00:35:30.310]'cause if they like you after three months,
[00:35:32.160]I got news for you, they're not gonna let you go,
[00:35:34.300]they're gonna want to hire you full time.
[00:35:36.220]And three, it's a great opportunity
[00:35:38.400]for professors and the university
[00:35:40.500]to build relationships with the local community.
[00:35:43.800]Especially at Digital Surgeons, the co-founder
[00:35:47.310]of Digital Surgeons along with the founder, Pete Sena's
[00:35:49.380]co-founder, Dave Salinas, they were very strong believers
[00:35:51.900]in local startups and local businesses.
[00:35:55.010]We're sick and tired of hearing about
[00:35:56.540]everyone going to New York, Boston,
[00:35:59.520]or San Francisco to start a company.
[00:36:01.960]Think about it, you have all this great talent here,
[00:36:04.870]all these great minds yet it's almost a tease.
[00:36:08.240]After four years, they often tend to leave,
[00:36:09.770]they tend to go somewhere else.
[00:36:11.690]What if there's a way to capture that talent here
[00:36:14.220]and keep it to help one, it's great for the local economy
[00:36:17.210]here in Lincoln, we sorta think this way in New Haven,
[00:36:20.140]creating a startup culture to help grow the New Haven
[00:36:23.120]community but also the Connecticut economy.
[00:36:25.990]But it'd be a great way to try and keep someone here
[00:36:29.640]after they graduate and retain it
[00:36:31.200]and help grow the Lincoln economy.
[00:36:33.730]Particularly through technology startups
[00:36:35.930]'cause I have already looked online,
[00:36:37.130]I can tell you have your tech startups here
[00:36:39.350]but how many people here have actually reached out
[00:36:41.210]to those businesses and say hey,
[00:36:43.400]I have a student who's a great writer
[00:36:46.330]and I've looked at your website and it's awful.
[00:36:49.200]But he can come and he can do a lot of writing,
[00:36:52.090]he can write white papers and he can find ways
[00:36:54.740]to help you improve your organic search writing
[00:36:56.710]simply through writing, it's as can be as valuable to you
[00:37:03.460]That's the reality so I'd encourage that,
[00:37:05.910]the professors try to find ways just to take some time
[00:37:09.100]and reach out to those businesses.
[00:37:11.810]And two, cultivate a LinkedIn profile and presence.
[00:37:15.680]LinkedIn is your, it's your professional footprint
[00:37:20.610]today in today's world and when I left,
[00:37:23.800]I didn't have a LinkedIn profile, I had to build one up
[00:37:27.920]but it's been an enormous tool for me
[00:37:29.850]just to connect with people, other liberal arts PhDs,
[00:37:33.060]other people that have my background
[00:37:33.893]and we connect all the time on LinkedIn
[00:37:36.750]and I built these special relationships with people
[00:37:39.090]through this, it's a great tool for building a community,
[00:37:42.110]particularly in the liberal arts to find ways
[00:37:43.940]of generating those relationships.
[00:37:49.350]And also, stay in touch with, it's a way to for you
[00:37:52.010]to stay in touch with your former students.
[00:37:55.860]If you have a student who goes off, to say,
[00:37:57.530]work in the business world or work in the tech world,
[00:37:59.850]invite them back, let ask them, I mean I was,
[00:38:03.100]I came here to talk about my own experience
[00:38:05.200]but there are many other people just like me,
[00:38:07.550]ask them to come to your classroom
[00:38:09.100]and talk about how their liberal arts training
[00:38:12.370]plays a role in their job today.
[00:38:14.800]Students will love that.
[00:38:16.110]How many students would love to hear that?
[00:38:18.340]Former majors to come and to talk
[00:38:21.980]about which their training is pertinent
[00:38:24.810]to what they do to this very day.
[00:38:27.750]I use my classics all the, it's hard to explain
[00:38:31.320]but take my word in it, I use it all the time in my company.
[00:38:33.990]They know it, they call me Professor Zimm.
[00:38:35.837]I'm the prof at my company.
[00:38:37.520]Every company should have at least one,
[00:38:39.610]probably no more than two in house classicists.
[00:38:42.760]I'm a strong believer in that.
[00:38:45.590]I get one of the most common requests
[00:38:48.030]is people love to ask me about Greek and Latin
[00:38:50.480]etymologies, that is the origin of words.
[00:38:54.230]That has value, I'll have one of my friends
[00:38:56.470]will come over and say hey we have a client,
[00:38:58.350]they have this product,
[00:38:59.183]what's a good Latin word we can use for it?
[00:39:01.777]And I go through and I think, okay, this could be good,
[00:39:04.060]that could be good, unless you think that's an anomaly,
[00:39:07.460]I want to share with you a story
[00:39:08.700]of another Classics PhD who graduated in the late '70s
[00:39:13.010]and he left academia around the year 1980
[00:39:15.850]and he decided to transition to the private sector
[00:39:18.150]and he eventually became a programmer
[00:39:20.350]and he helped build a startup which was eventually
[00:39:22.350]bought out and he did very well for himself.
[00:39:24.640]But he was telling me that during his transition period,
[00:39:28.070]this would have been, yeah, 1980, 1981, he did some,
[00:39:31.580]shall we say branding consulting using his Latin background.
[00:39:36.450]And the brand manager for who represented
[00:39:41.640]a big automobile company approached him
[00:39:45.200]and said to him hey we have this new car coming out
[00:39:48.930]and we want a cool name, could use your Latin to help out.
[00:39:53.980]Said he okay, well what's the car?
[00:39:57.180]And he said well the car is about luxury,
[00:39:59.470]it's gonna be about you should feel very safe in it,
[00:40:01.508]it's gonna be a luxury line of car.
[00:40:05.070]He said he thought about it and he said
[00:40:06.090]well there's a Latin word cura, means care,
[00:40:08.830]can also mean anxiety, and there's a preposition in Latin
[00:40:12.035]called a or ab, it means away from, absent of.
[00:40:14.700]He's like so you combine ah and cura, you get acura
[00:40:20.090]and the brand man, this manager said hmm,
[00:40:23.660]I like it but let's call it Acura
[00:40:25.600]and he's like no you're not accenting it correctly.
[00:40:28.970]But they had an argument and the brand manager,
[00:40:31.700]he won, he's like well you know what,
[00:40:33.300]sorry but Acura's gonna stick with the public.
[00:40:35.970]So that's the origin of the name Acura
[00:40:37.460]and he told me he's a bit frustrated
[00:40:38.780]'cause it only took him like two hours to come up with that
[00:40:41.340]but he didn't get any residual royalties in the brand name.
[00:40:45.520]But these are the stories you can find
[00:40:47.460]of people in the private sector today, in my case,
[00:40:51.130]of course there are non-profits, there are all sorts
[00:40:53.130]of different organizations one could join.
[00:40:55.370]My own passion are startups, that's where I love
[00:41:01.579]and that's where I love to be in and I get
[00:41:03.280]tremendous pride, I can take my education
[00:41:05.800]and every day apply it in my company.
[00:41:12.510]And I want to conclude with this,
[00:41:16.780]there's this tendency to think that data can only be handled
[00:41:20.070]by people that are data scientists or coders.
[00:41:23.660]That's actually not true.
[00:41:25.590]I think a data scientist, or a programmer,
[00:41:28.250]they might look at data and look for very clear outcomes
[00:41:31.060]from that, they're gonna look more narrowly but look at
[00:41:34.270]very actual things you can do very quickly from that.
[00:41:37.190]Someone with a liberal arts background
[00:41:38.180]is gonna look at that data and think big, big picture.
[00:41:42.050]And it's not like one is better than the other,
[00:41:44.310]you need both 'cause when you combine those two people
[00:41:47.240]together, the programmer and the liberal arts person,
[00:41:50.670]you start to get something approaching wisdom, in my view.
[00:41:55.920]And at the end of the day, you will all get advice
[00:41:59.810]but if anyone ever, if any parent or anyone else
[00:42:02.330]ever knocks your decision to study the liberal arts,
[00:42:06.000]don't sweat it and just remember that
[00:42:08.030]there's eventually a startup out there that may hire you.
[00:42:11.078]That's concluding that, thank you.
[00:42:24.366]And I'm happy to take any questions
[00:42:26.320]anyone may happen to have in the time we have left.
[00:42:30.390]Yeah, what's your name?
[00:42:32.350]Miles, come here,
[00:42:33.580]I want you on so we can get you on video.
[00:42:40.680]So what does Digital Surgeons actually do?
[00:42:46.810]We do digital marketing, we do digital consulting,
[00:42:49.150]but among the things we do, we do website redesigns.
[00:42:52.410]We do web analytics, web analytics is the practice of,
[00:42:58.550]it's the use of data, there's so much data out there
[00:43:00.960]and when you structure that data, you can figure out
[00:43:02.400]things along the lines of how many,
[00:43:03.840]how long someone's on the page for a website for,
[00:43:06.820]what is the average number of page visits.
[00:43:10.990]It goes on and on and on, it's really incredible
[00:43:13.390]the amount of data that we have out there now
[00:43:14.807]and part of what I do is actually limiting the data,
[00:43:16.820]figuring out what's meaningful and what's not to the client.
[00:43:19.700]I'm, on my end I work on the search engine optimization,
[00:43:23.240]the consulting part of the business.
[00:43:25.140]So that is, again, it's looking at the back end
[00:43:27.920]of a website and seeing, for example,
[00:43:31.550]I see here on your websites, you are lacking
[00:43:34.410]this particular feature, your website's not secure,
[00:43:37.210]it's not HTTPS, you're being penalized by Google for that.
[00:43:40.347]And the algorithms are gonna lower you
[00:43:41.930]in the search rankings, and as you know, no surprise here,
[00:43:44.710]most people, for example, I think 90 something percent
[00:43:47.570]stop on page one of Google so the difference
[00:43:50.063]between being list, being ranked number 10 and number 11,
[00:43:54.140]it's worth a lot of money to a business.
[00:43:57.160]And the way Google works is all based on keywords.
[00:43:59.550]You Google leather shoe, what's gonna show up for leather
[00:44:04.320]shoe or what's gonna show up for Lincoln, Nebraska?
[00:44:07.490]You'll see a Wikipedia 'cause Wikipedia happens to have
[00:44:09.323]a very high domain authority out there in the eyes of Google
[00:44:12.140]meaning everyone links to that website
[00:44:14.470]and therefore that algorithm, the famous
[00:44:16.440]Page algorithm developed by Larry Page
[00:44:18.640]says increase that website's presence.
[00:44:21.900]And therefore when someone Googles it,
[00:44:23.950]show them number one because again,
[00:44:25.780]most of us also won't go beyond the top four,
[00:44:29.170]the very top of the real estate
[00:44:30.950]of the search engine results page.
[00:44:32.750]So, that's a very complicated process to work with a client,
[00:44:37.050]figure out how am I gonna improve your process.
[00:44:39.720]And help you rank for the value keywords
[00:44:41.550]that are gonna make money for you.
[00:44:44.620]Where I work on, which is tricky to explain,
[00:44:48.810]is the Google advertising system
[00:44:52.160]which is perhaps one of the most complicated
[00:44:56.490]business advertising tools ever developed.
[00:44:59.430]Google developed this advertising system.
[00:45:02.210]Just to give you an idea, if you don't know
[00:45:03.630]what you're doing, do not use it under any circumstance.
[00:45:06.060]It is very easy for you to put an extra zero
[00:45:09.200]instead of five or $50, you're doing 5 $50
[00:45:11.700]and presto, a month goes by, you've spent $14,000.
[00:45:15.170]Good luck getting the money back from Google.
[00:45:17.070]It's a very complicated toolset.
[00:45:20.120]But the bread and butter, I'd say,
[00:45:21.980]is a lot of website redesigns, helping websites improve,
[00:45:24.950]making sure they're optimized for search
[00:45:27.410]along with these other features like search engine
[00:45:29.200]optimization and paid digital media.
[00:45:32.680]But I do all that there.
[00:45:33.880]But just to answer, I knew nothing about
[00:45:35.310]any of this before I joined, zero.
[00:45:38.150]But in my mindset, I said well if I can,
[00:45:40.550]I was pretty good at ancient Greek,
[00:45:41.960]I still am pretty good at it um where I left
[00:45:44.130]but if I can do that, I'm sure I can figure this out.
[00:45:52.593]What exactly, so your presentation
[00:45:54.890]is that you're a very creative mind
[00:45:58.140]and you also were willing to think outside the box
[00:46:01.480]and these were really what got you in the new sector.
[00:46:07.910]How do you think universities, especially liberal arts
[00:46:10.740]programs, could really capitalize on those
[00:46:13.670]to really emphasize creativity as well as
[00:46:16.810]thinking outside the box but through
[00:46:19.270]as part of the training, as part of the program
[00:46:21.850]rather than just creativity abroad.
[00:46:26.010]I wrote an article fairly recently,
[00:46:27.580]I think it was in the Chronicle of Higher Education,
[00:46:29.330]about a professor from I think it was a state university
[00:46:33.010]in Texas and she was thinking about that exact
[00:46:36.410]same question that you asked yourself
[00:46:38.870]and she was wondering how can I use my English class
[00:46:42.350]to build a relationship with local companies?
[00:46:45.550]And I think what she, if I recall what she did
[00:46:47.810]was she encouraged all of her students
[00:46:49.520]to take an internship but then to, I think,
[00:46:51.990]formulate the internship into a story
[00:46:54.380]which they then had to present to the class.
[00:46:56.400]And was, I think it was a great idea
[00:46:58.240]'cause it combined the potential for a student
[00:47:00.347]to get an internship and to really learn
[00:47:02.500]and to practice what they were getting from that class
[00:47:06.380]but to also get work experience.
[00:47:09.070]And for them, they themselves, to take what they're learning
[00:47:11.320]and say ah, this is what I'm getting out of the class.
[00:47:13.850]That could be one, I think, creative way
[00:47:15.640]in which professors could try and encourage students
[00:47:19.080]to reach out to local communities
[00:47:21.030]and find local businesses or local communities
[00:47:24.310]and find ways to connect the skillsets that they're getting
[00:47:27.470]in that class with those business needs.
[00:47:30.610]It's a win, as far as win, that's a win for everyone.
[00:47:33.560]'Cause we all know that oftentimes, businesses will say
[00:47:36.010]what's the value of the liberal arts?
[00:47:37.720]And that all does not come from a bad place,
[00:47:40.210]sometimes a genuine question like what is the value of this?
[00:47:42.780]It doesn't necessarily require defensiveness.
[00:47:45.250]That's a, you should hit that out of the park,
[00:47:47.690]that's a home run question, let me show you the value of it.
[00:47:51.600]You hire this person for free for two or three months,
[00:47:54.240]it's not really for free because they're getting credit
[00:47:55.700]out of it but the business is gaining as well
[00:47:58.220]and they're gonna see what they're getting out of,
[00:48:00.012]say an English major 'cause I think it's fair to say,
[00:48:02.228]and you can tell from my background,
[00:48:05.000]you don't need to preach the value of it to me.
[00:48:07.200]What I get a lot of joy out of today
[00:48:08.910]is meeting people that might be skeptics
[00:48:11.870]but then at the end, most people I know don't
[00:48:14.280]question the value of classics anymore, they love it.
[00:48:18.250]As they say, they get a free education because of me.
[00:48:30.291]What's one thing that you wish
[00:48:33.556]someone with a more typical background
[00:48:41.260]in software would take it to heart,
[00:48:47.860]something that maybe bugs you that you've seen a lot
[00:48:52.076]with software engineers or the like?
[00:48:57.260]I'm sorry, what's your name?
[00:48:59.860]I'd prefer not to say.
[00:49:01.879]Because we're recording.
[00:49:03.800]But it's a great question but here's my answer
[00:49:07.050]to that, with software engineers, I seldom encounter
[00:49:12.320]any negativity, I just tend to get a lot of creativity
[00:49:14.610]from them and curiosity, they ask me quite a bit
[00:49:19.640]about part of my renewed passion for liberal arts
[00:49:23.510]has come from these interactions with software engineers
[00:49:26.030]who just love to hear about this and talk philosophy,
[00:49:30.030]talk history, talk natural history.
[00:49:33.130]I had an entire discussion about the development
[00:49:35.760]of the whale's ear, we didn't bill a client for it
[00:49:39.640]but it was a great conversation.
[00:49:41.940]If there was one thing that they could take from it,
[00:49:46.010]is that I tell them you think in terms
[00:49:47.720]of computer languages but if you really wanted
[00:49:50.780]to push yourself, try ancient Greek or Latin or Sanskrit
[00:49:54.500]or any of these ancient languages
[00:49:56.220]because it'll actually make you rethink the entire concept
[00:49:58.760]of a language or we're increasingly thinking of
[00:50:06.360]as languages but when you study an ancient,
[00:50:09.192]a language, whether it's dead or living,
[00:50:12.380]it's very, it's a, it's an eye opening experience
[00:50:16.190]and it makes you look at culture differently.
[00:50:22.190]We had a conversation at lunch
[00:50:23.947]and just talking about the process of,
[00:50:26.910]like, automated positions, right?
[00:50:29.470]So, losing occupations to automization.
[00:50:34.200]What kind of advice might you give to people
[00:50:35.990]that are fearful that these positions
[00:50:38.230]aren't going to exist 'cause computers can run them?
[00:50:40.230]I mean, I can self prescribe myself with WebMD
[00:50:43.497]and we don't need doctors anymore, so.
[00:50:49.810]I'm more worried about the positions that exist today
[00:50:51.820]rather than the ones that are 10, rather than 10 to 20
[00:50:53.780]years down the road, the ones we don't know exist.
[00:50:57.090]A lot of the advice that I got in the past,
[00:50:59.590]and friends of mine have suffered for this advice,
[00:51:01.510]was through good intentions, they would get advice
[00:51:04.890]of study this because it's valuable in today's world
[00:51:08.290]but the reality is 10 to 20 years from now,
[00:51:10.290]we don't know what the world really needs.
[00:51:13.750]And some of my friends who made decisions based on
[00:51:15.500]what worked well in the '80s and early '90s,
[00:51:17.760]now found themselves trapped in positions
[00:51:19.040]and they are trapped due to debt
[00:51:21.120]from the graduate schools they went to.
[00:51:23.100]They've told me, I asked them would you give that advice
[00:51:24.743]that say your parent gave to you to your child
[00:51:27.000]and they said absolutely not, no way.
[00:51:29.110]Do not do that.
[00:51:30.520]I think that the world is certainly changing rapidly
[00:51:34.690]but I'm a strong believer that if you're open-minded
[00:51:36.670]and you're willing to always retrain yourself
[00:51:39.110]and take on new skillsets, then it's your oyster.
[00:51:42.810]Because I wasn't trained to do what I was doing,
[00:51:45.750]technically, the very technical skillsets I didn't know
[00:51:49.770]but I was open to taking on new skillsets
[00:51:52.000]and I'm always open to learn new things,
[00:51:55.990]For no other reason other than fun.
[00:51:57.800]And I hope in five to 10 years I'm not doing exactly
[00:52:00.100]what I'm doing right now 'cause I view life
[00:52:02.210]as just a, it's a constantly moving stream.
[00:52:05.170]It strikes me as boring for me to imagine
[00:52:07.320]myself doing the exact same thing
[00:52:08.440]I'm doing now five years from now.
[00:52:10.730]I like this form of existence
[00:52:13.260]where I'm constantly doing new things.
[00:52:15.990]So if you're open to adapting, and I really believe
[00:52:20.740]the world is belongs to those that are willing to adapt,
[00:52:25.570]you will constantly be able to do new things.
[00:52:27.667]I'm more worried about people that might train themselves
[00:52:30.760]for very set skillsets and then it's not clear
[00:52:34.440]in 10 to 20 or even 30 years
[00:52:36.260]what's the nature of that job gonna be?
[00:52:38.790]As someone who's very open to take on new things,
[00:52:41.330]I'm quite, even if my job happened to be automated
[00:52:45.000]in five to 10 years, I'll learn something new, rest assured.
[00:52:58.690]Honestly just mimicking your question, so,
[00:53:01.760]my name is Regina, I think one of the things
[00:53:05.343]that is very clear is that one of the reasons
[00:53:08.610]why you have been able to be this successful
[00:53:10.500]is you have a PhD, which by definition means
[00:53:13.990]we are extremely good at learning a lot
[00:53:16.660]of new stuff very quickly and communicating it to other.
[00:53:19.410]Doesn't really matter what the PhD is in,
[00:53:21.270]that's what the value of a PhD is most of our students
[00:53:24.550]will earn a four year degree and not go on
[00:53:29.430]so they're gonna be in a slightly different position.
[00:53:31.490]What advice do you have for those of us
[00:53:32.910]who teach undergraduates who may not go on
[00:53:36.340]to a graduate school and how to improve their outcomes?
[00:53:38.460]Is it the same advice?
[00:53:40.400]I wanna correct you.
[00:53:42.161]My PhD was a liability.
[00:53:44.650]You'd be amazed at how often it worked against me.
[00:53:47.340]I wish I just had a four year degree
[00:53:49.187]and that says I'm very proud of my PhD
[00:53:51.040]'cause of where it's a personal goal in my life.
[00:53:54.040]I was amazed at how many people dismissed me for my PhD.
[00:53:57.386]They're like uh, he lives in the clouds,
[00:53:59.340]he doesn't know how the world operates,
[00:54:01.340]he invested six years in that, no way, we're not hiring him.
[00:54:06.240]And even in my company, among us I'm still close
[00:54:09.480]but I was told that when they hired a Yale PhD,
[00:54:12.800]the reaction was oh, they're so pretentious, why?
[00:54:16.900]Why are we hiring someone like that?
[00:54:18.831]To which I say that's not me, I'm pretty down to earth,
[00:54:21.810]I'm not like that, that's not who I am.
[00:54:26.110]And my people in my company, they know that now,
[00:54:28.210]they look at me differently and as PhDs differently
[00:54:30.710]but there's certainly an assumption
[00:54:31.810]that a PhD can live, can perhaps think as better,
[00:54:35.700]he or she is better than the rest of us
[00:54:38.440]and that's not me so I feel like
[00:54:39.477]and maybe it was probably easier
[00:54:41.250]for a liberal arts grad than it had been for me.
[00:54:45.210]And just to give you another anecdote showing
[00:54:48.450]an example of a liberal arts major
[00:54:51.140]who was able to pull off a position in a startup.
[00:54:55.500]There was, I think I said this over lunch
[00:54:57.340]but I'll mention it again, there's a restaurant technology
[00:55:00.430]coming in Cambridge area called Toast
[00:55:04.390]and read a fascinating article about a girl
[00:55:08.040]who was a English major and she wanted to get
[00:55:10.940]a break into the startup world and she secured a meeting,
[00:55:14.320]I think with a manager at Toast,
[00:55:15.990]which is a fast growing, it was a fast growing restaurant
[00:55:19.250]technology company, had I think over 400 restaurants
[00:55:21.340]using this technology, but she didn't have
[00:55:23.310]any technical background and it was a company that was
[00:55:25.330]scaling so they really it was very little room for fat.
[00:55:27.970]And they asked themselves what
[00:55:28.803]are we gonna do with an English major?
[00:55:32.290]But she did something that no one else
[00:55:33.250]in the company ever thought of.
[00:55:35.450]When she secured the meeting with the manager,
[00:55:37.260]she took that morning to go around the Cambridge
[00:55:39.410]and Massachusetts area and she visited
[00:55:43.130]a bunch of different restaurants and she asked
[00:55:44.780]to speak with the chefs and said hey,
[00:55:47.040]what do you think of this technology?
[00:55:49.570]And she got their insights, she wrote it down,
[00:55:51.360]and she very quickly synthesized a PowerPoint presentation,
[00:55:53.610]all of this within a few hours, and then when she
[00:55:55.600]went into the meeting, she met with this manager
[00:55:58.003]and she said hey, I got some input about your technology
[00:56:01.140]and here are some problems with it, they were blown away.
[00:56:04.930]'Cause no one in that company had ever thought
[00:56:06.840]of asking local chefs what they think of this technology,
[00:56:09.810]their end user, no one thought about it.
[00:56:13.550]And she did that and they said within a short amount
[00:56:16.320]of time, the board said we gotta hire this person.
[00:56:19.270]And I think she's currently now the head of growth
[00:56:21.530]for the company but that being example of someone
[00:56:23.610]who, like my had a liberal arts degree
[00:56:27.200]and was able to articulate the value
[00:56:28.620]strictly through critical thinking,
[00:56:30.070]just thinking like well no one's probably
[00:56:31.350]asked that question, they probably need that,
[00:56:33.970]so let me synthesize that.
[00:56:36.460]And they clearly saw value there
[00:56:37.880]'cause they hired her quite quickly.
[00:56:42.173]There's time for one more question.
[00:56:51.178]Just for you.
[00:56:53.720]Hi, am a career coach in the College
[00:56:55.690]of Arts and Sciences so I talk about these kinds of things
[00:56:58.120]with students all of the time
[00:56:59.630]so I'm probably excited that you're here.
[00:57:02.370]We had taught a career development course
[00:57:04.110]last semester and early on in the course,
[00:57:06.210]one of our really just like bright, very accomplished
[00:57:08.820]students asked us, well what if you don't have a passion?
[00:57:15.040]And passion and curiosity, these are course words
[00:57:17.160]we use frequently when we're talking about the liberal arts
[00:57:19.340]and career development and things like that
[00:57:21.130]and she said well what if I don't have a passion
[00:57:23.050]and that sort of has kicked me off on this
[00:57:24.640]whole long sort of journey of discovering
[00:57:27.010]well what does passion mean, how do we define that,
[00:57:29.770]how do we talk about it, what is its relationship
[00:57:31.860]with curiosity and all of that so I'm just wondering
[00:57:35.080]how you might respond to that student.
[00:57:37.690]That's a tough question.
[00:57:42.570]It's interesting question I think a lot of people
[00:57:43.920]that are in the liberal arts or are majoring
[00:57:46.050]have already found that, they've already reached that point
[00:57:48.980]where they have some passion there and they're doing it.
[00:57:51.570]No one majors in Classics for fun.
[00:57:54.450]It just, or you're trying to coast, doesn't exist, okay?
[00:57:59.290]That's not why someone studies Classics, for sure.
[00:58:01.630]You're out of your mind if you take Classics
[00:58:03.310]for an easy A, it's not gonna happen.
[00:58:07.780]I think, for myself, let me reverse engineer that
[00:58:10.713]a little bit, that question, because when I left,
[00:58:14.090]some people said you're leaving your passion.
[00:58:16.240]My wife talking to her and when I said
[00:58:17.810]I think I want to leave academia, she was crying
[00:58:21.650]'cause she said I don't want you to leave your passion.
[00:58:26.020]And I said I'm not leaving my passion,
[00:58:27.840]I'm simply redirecting it and taking the passion I have
[00:58:31.350]and gonna appropriate it for some technology startup.
[00:58:34.670]That is what I'm gonna do with it.
[00:58:36.610]And it's very much, it's constantly metamorphosizing
[00:58:40.060]within the company itself where I get interested
[00:58:42.220]in new things, it can be hard for people,
[00:58:46.620]I understand, to find what it is that
[00:58:48.850]they're passionate about but the one way,
[00:58:50.890]I think the easiest way to find it is look around
[00:58:54.140]and don't stop, read, read articles,
[00:58:56.980]I'm constantly reading articles in the Atlantic,
[00:58:58.530]the New Yorker, is there any value?
[00:59:01.370]Pure interest, that's it, and finding that.
[00:59:04.810]And I constantly develop new passions through just being
[00:59:07.170]open minded enough to try different things.
[00:59:09.580]And sometimes that passion that I have now,
[00:59:11.360]it didn't exist a few months ago but I discovered it
[00:59:14.840]and passion's very much, it's a process of discovery.
[00:59:18.630]And they shouldn't feel, no student should feel like
[00:59:21.107]well I don't have a passion and therefore it's not there,
[00:59:24.190]you can often discover it,
[00:59:26.600]just be open minded and look for it.
[00:59:28.710]If it's not there right now, it's okay.
[00:59:30.670]Just keep on looking around, keep on reading,
[00:59:33.660]and you will eventually find something.
[00:59:36.426]Kinda like, kind of what you said like
[00:59:37.810]if you said passion, you kinda said passion is a process
[00:59:40.820]so it's active, it's not one static theme in time.
[00:59:44.120]It's a skillset that you use to approach
[00:59:46.105]different things that can come from life,
[00:59:48.840]so it's a very active process.
[00:59:52.040]Very much so.
[00:59:53.036]In fact, I call the CEO, I ask him what's my,
[00:59:54.773]I was like Pete, what's my biggest skillset
[00:59:55.890]and he's like your passion, Mike.
[00:59:57.720]He's like that's, like I like your passion.
[01:00:00.910]So, I just want to say thank you so much,
[01:00:03.810]Dr. Zimm, this has been absolutely fantastic.
[01:00:06.360]We have a lot of curiosity and passion
[01:00:08.760]in the College of Arts and Sciences
[01:00:10.520]and we love to have people be able to talk through
[01:00:13.470]and think through what their life is going to be like
[01:00:15.950]so thank you so much for your talk.
[01:00:18.420]Thank you for having me.
Log in to post comments