Want to Get Ahead? Better Get Your Geek On

Last Updated Apr 13, 2010 3:39 PM EDT

Bill Gates and Steve JobsJesus was a geek. That's right. Didn't he say, "Blessed are the geek, for they shall inherit the earth?" What? He said "meek," not "geek?" Really? Well, I'm sure he meant geek.

What, you doubt the gospel? Well, get this: just about half - nine, to be exact - of the 20 richest people in America are geeks. And most of the rest are either named Walton, Mars, or Koch, so when the old money's gone, they'll all be geeks.

And we're not just talking about Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and the Google twins - Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Have you ever heard Warren Buffet speak? He's not a techie, but he's still a geek, a financial geek. Why do you think he gets along with Bill Gates so well?

The most accurate definition of geek I could find was from Urban Dictionary: "The people you pick on in high school and wind up working for as an adult." So true.

Whatever the definition, geekdom transcends gender, geography, and generation. Geeks can be your employees, your peers, your manager, even your CEO. Having spent much of my career in high-tech and Silicon Valley, I've worked with thousands of geeks. Some folks, including my wife, think I'm a closet geek, but I don't think so. Okay, maybe.

Anyway, if you want to get ahead in this world-gone-geek, you'll need this indispensable guide:
10 Things You Need to Know About Geeks in the Workplace

  1. Geeks are natural networkers. Geeks love to network with like-minded folks; physical presence is entirely unnecessary. Social networking was no accident. It was, in fact, invented by geeks.
  2. Geeks can survive outside of Silicon Valley. Thanks to WiFi and broadband, geeks can now live, work, and even thrive almost anywhere.
  3. Geeks aren't all techies. It may have started in high-tech, but geeks are spreading into all kinds of disciplines: media, finance, entertainment, even marketing (gasp!). It's not their fault; blame it on the Internet and Steve Jobs.
  4. Geeks love responsibility. They really do. Give them lots of responsibility and watch them go to town. Just check in every so often to make sure they're not building a handheld brainwave scanner on the side.
  5. Geeks collaborate. It's a popular myth that geeks are loners. So not true. They collaborate quite well but don't have a lot of patience for wasteful BS like poorly-run meetings and marketing fluff.
  6. Geeks make great entrepreneurs. Why? Because geeks get funded. VCs love geeks. Why? Well, many, if not most, VCs are geeks too. Duh.
  7. Geeks can make great managers and leaders. Just make sure their metrics are clear. If their goals and compensation aren't precisely aligned, there'll be hell to pay.
  8. Geeks are loyal. They tend to view the entire job search and interview process as a huge pain in the butt that wastes valuable time that could otherwise be spent designing something cool.
  9. Geeks are very, very opinionated. And they're not shy about expressing their views, either. Engage them in debate if you dare, but you'll probably lose.
  10. Geeks can be unusually susceptible to conspiracy theories. I don't know why that is, but it's true. It only affects certain geeks, though. Maybe they have trouble accepting the intangible, who knows.
No matter what Jesus meant, if you want to get ahead in the modern business world, you better get your geek on. Just don't overdo it. Geeks can smell a fake light years away.

Image: CC 2.0 via Flickr