A message to this year’s high-school graduates, specifically to those awesome grads from the Cannon School in Concord, NC

First off... congrats. You made it. It isn’t easy.

And whether you’re bound for a 4-year college, trade school, or even a gap year (“not all those who wander are lost…”), I want to pass on a piece of universal guidance that you probably haven’t heard yet.

Nay…. not a piece of universal guidance. A universal challenge:

Take the next four years to future-proof your life and career. Learn to code and design software.

Do your thing

Study Philosophy. English. Economics. Biology. Education. Sanskrit. Whatever gets your blood pumping. Challenge yourself in the humanities. Travel abroad. Learn how to learn. Study hard. Write wicked long papers. And have fun (but be safe).

And while you’re enjoying that glorious mind-expanding post-high-school/pre-real-world experience… carve out time to ensure you learn how NOT TO BE just another passive consumer of technology. “Software is eating the world” you’ve probably heard people say. Practically anything you do in the future will be influenced by on-the-screen technology. And you have an exciting four year window to actually learn how to make those radical apps you’ve been playing with the past 10 years. A four year window to learn how NOT to subject yourself to the whims and interests of the code literate, but to chart your own course.

I want you to learn how to be a creator. Take a computer science elective. A design course. Anything your college offers that will show you how that stuff on the screen actually works. Go to the library (yep, that place), plop down at a carrel (you’ll learn about those), and rabbithole online about “product strategy”, “rapid innovation”, and “minimally viable products.” Find somebody in your dorm who knows a thing or two about software to teach you a thing or two. Then go teach someone else. Nobody there to help you? Go to places like CodeAcademy.com, Udacity.com, Coursera.org, or TeamTreehouse.com, and get your learn on, online.

Code something. Anything. Go through the process (it’s supposed to be intimidating). Screw it up (inevitable). Learn from it (also inevitable).

Even if you do this for a few hours a month, every month, for four years, the return will be multi-fold: you will have learned an awesomely practical and artistic skillset. you will have an enticingly impressive story to tell when you apply for a job after college.

I’m a sales person. I hire people. I work with other people in marketing, HR, tech, operations, finance… and they hire people.

I'll let you in a secret that is consistent across every one of our teams: we want people who know how to create software.

By the time many of you graduate from college in 2019 (for you victory-lappers, 2020…), not knowing how to write software will be the professional equivalent of not knowing how to read.

Granted, technology creation is my profession. The situation might not be that extreme in other industries. But this much is true: the imperativeness of knowing how to create—not just "use"—technology is increasing with every passing year.

So whether you go into business, teaching, nonprofits, law, medicine, politics, breakdance-fighting, whatever... even passable software code literacy will separate you from the pack.

Whatever industry or profession you enter, there will be a major gulf between:

  1. The people in charge with all the money and power; and
  2. Those crazy whizbang ambitious pie-in-the-sky technology-driven ideas sitting on their executive innovation whiteboards.

You can be the bridge between those people, and those ideas becoming real. You can be that individual with the reputation for being indispensably helpful. You can be the hero.

If you want to be a captain of industry, or if you just want have a really, really interesting and interdisciplinary life and career (and maybe make some decent money), learning how to code and design software is a smart move.

So do it because it’s life-practical. But also do it because it’s creative-fun. It’s math meets philosophy meets art. I think. Full disclosure I’m just now really starting to learn (so, if you DO ignore this for the next 10 years, just know it’s never too late to start). I’m taking video-based tutorial classes on www.bitfountain.com and I’m picking up bit and pieces from the creative technology masterminds here at Skookum.

Take it from somebody who knows (a 30-year old political science major who now sells software for a living) — if you do nothing else in college, find a way to become technology literate.

English majors are cool. English majors who write code are cool AND employable.

If you have questions about how to act on this advice, give me a holler — 704.930.7476.

Congrats again. And good luck.