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Revenge of the Nerds: Why techies make great CEOs…

Walking into a room full of people dressed in costumes would be normal if it were Halloween.

But it wasn’t the end of October. It was Labor Day, and I found myself surrounded, not by kids, but by grown-ups dressed in medieval garb and Batman outfits and more. Everyone from E.T. to The Incredible Hulk was there.

Welcome to Dragon Con, the world’s largest gathering of die-hard science-fiction, gaming, and fantasy fans from all over the world. Hatched in 1987, Dragon Con has grown to more than 80,000 attendees that take over four hotels and nearly every street corner in downtown Atlanta once a year.

Activities include everything from playing Dungeons and Dragons with 1,000 of your closest friends to participating in “Klingon Karaoke.”  Fantasy fans and gamers young and old flock to discussion groups and seminars on topics like “Space-Based Solar Power” and advanced puppetry. And that’s just on day 1.

The term “nerd” has been used the describe those of us who are obsessively into non-mainstream activities like those offered at Dragon Con.   We are mostly introverts except when we are with our own.  We like technology and science, and yes, we can be a bit quirky when it comes to social interactions.

Taking on the label of a nerd in high school or college is something most of us tried to avoid. Especially as a kid, being nerdy carries with it sometimes severe social repercussions, especially if young nerds are teased and even bullied.

Today, being labeled a nerd is becoming less derogatory.  In fact, as technology has become more central to nearly every aspect of life, being a nerd has proved itself to be quite advantageous. We tend to have a combination of computer skills and creative skills that are more relevant than ever.

In the business world, it turns out that the characteristics that nerds get ridiculed for as kids are the same traits that make them some of the best entrepreneurs and CEOs around.  The unparalleled success of people like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg prove that being a nerd can be a business asset.

In fact, there is an argument to be made that nerds are more likely to be successful in their careers than their cooler counterparts.

There are three nerdy qualities that translate into business leader success:

  • As I was reminded at Dragon Con, nerds tend to live and breathe their passions, sometimes to a fault. Whether it’s role-playing games or Star Trek, true nerds go all in.  This is the same kind of dedication and passion that entrepreneurs need for success.
  • It takes real courage to be different. Most of us have a natural inclination to try to fit in.  But being different in business is what drives innovation.   It takes courage not to follow the crowd – the same courage it takes to disrupt an entire industry.
  • Technology focused. It may be a stereotype, but it’s true – we nerds love technology. Our interests in video games and sci-fi translate to a tech-oriented mindset that has become a mission-critical part of nearly every company.

There are of course plenty of “cool” kids who have these characteristics as well.  And coolness and nerdiness are not mutually exclusive. But we nerds often take them to another level, which is what many companies need.

So, if you’re not a nerd, it’s never too late to learn. A trip to Dragon Con next year might be in order.  It may not be everyone’s idea of professional development, but the creativity and dedication you find there might ensure that you live long and prosper.

JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba. A Nashville custom software development and IT support company.  Visit www.atiba.com or www.atibanetworkservices.com for more info.

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