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July 17, 2016 | Tom Ballard

Cory House urges self-assessment of your place on the technology adoption curve

CodestockBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

For nearly an hour on Friday morning, Cory House used a combination of self-deprecating humor, technical knowledge, and more recently honed presentation skills to keep a crowded ballroom of software developers fully engaged in an examination of the technology adoption curve and their place on the continuum.

The scene was Knoxville’s annual CodeStock conference, an event that has grown from a few hundred attendees to about 1,000 since it was moved last year to the Knoxville Convention Center. The ballroom was packed with people of all ages, ethnicities, and gender.

Regardless of background, everyone seemed to connect with House who used his self-admitted previous fear of public speaking to underscore the key message of his keynote presentation – make a conscious decision that is best for you rather than let others make your decision.

House provided a great context for his message by sharing some insights about himself. During most of his 15-year career as an author, software engineer and consultant, House said he had a great fear of public speaking. He decided he needed to tackle the issue about four years ago, and he obviously did so in a very successful way.

“This is my 100th conference talk,” House proudly said, garnering applause from the audience. His stage presence and comfort seemed so removed from someone who had such a fear just a few years ago.

Over the next 50 minutes or so, the Kansas City resident explored the technology adoption curve, something that resonated well with the attendees.

“We need to figure-out where we need to be on the technology curve,” he said. “Did you pick your place on the curve strategically or just stumble into it?”

To help with the self-assessment, House asked the CodeStock attendees to indicate how they would classify themselves. About one percent were early adopters, another one percent were “strategic” laggards, and the balance – 98 percent – fell into what House described as the mainstream.

Early adopters are individuals who love learning, are comfortable as a leader and risk taker, are willing to travel to where the work is, and find programming to be more than a job, actually a hobby. They like variety, experimentation, and “being a big fish in a small pond.” The downsides for early adopters are the fact that the work is exhausting, lonely and very risky.

Mainstreamers are practitioners, creators, integrators and teachers. They like to have a breadth of expertise to show rather than a specialization like the early adopters. They are not risk takers, and they like to be part of a large community of people in the same space. The downsides, according to House, are “you’re a commodity, and you’re signing-up for a proprietary treadmill.”

As far as late adopters, the group identified as “strategic” laggards, House said they are individuals who have made the decision consciously. They are conservative by nature, prefer stability and low stress, and seek a balance in their work and non-work lives. Downsides for them the perception that they are apathetic and, if laid-off, have fewer options for new jobs in the local community.

House concluded his presentation with three recommendations:

  • “Know yourself,” he said, citing one of his favorite self-assessment tools that is available free of charge here.
  • “Follow your contribution, not your passion,” House advised, underscoring the point with a quote from Cal Newport who said, “Your passion grows as you get better and gain more control. Passion is a trailing indicator.”
  • His final point was to “think financial . . . decide whether to go big or diversify,” underscoring the importance of each person fully understanding his or her needs and how best to realize them.

“I want to encourage you to be active rather than passive” in consciously deciding your place in the technology adoption curve, House urged the attendees. “Success is based on our own unique values.”

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