“Language etches the grooves through which your thoughts must flow.” -Noam Chomsky
A recent podcast title caught my eye:
I was listening to a podcast where one of the founding developers of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, was talking about his company, Automattic, that now runs WordPress and other sites. The company has 1200 employees in 70+ countries. They are a fully distributed work environment. In the midst of this mandatory “stay-at-home” reality, the company has not been affected.
During the collapse of traditional work, WordPress is still chugging along.
(If that you can read this post and 36% of all other websites on the Internet, you can see that this statement is true. My blog is run on WordPress.)
He begins talking about how businesses need to start building a framework that is “anti-fragile” and even try to make it successful at a time like this. Those that can thrive in this situation have a moral imperative to keep working to keep the economy moving.
However, he said a surprising thing. When discussing some qualities and skills that the “Wordpress” team are looking for when hiring for this distributed work environment where there is no “physical” space to meet your coworkers, he mentioned that one of things they look for are people that can write well.
He says, “The written word is I think by far the most powerful for sharing things in a distributed organization and writing quality, clarity, and skill becomes more and more valuable I think in all organizations but the more distributed you are for sure.
Then the interviewer, Sam Harris quips, “This is going to be a windfall for all the Humanities degrees.”
Mullenweg chuckles and continues, “Absolutely. We screen for it very heavily in our hiring process. I actually don’t care where you went to college or anything like that but we do a lot to screen for writing ability both in how you apply, how we interact. We’ll hire many many people without ever actually talking to them in real time or on voice. We do it entirely through Slack and Tickets and other things to interact because that’s how we work.”
To sum up: A tech company that is fully distributed where its employees need technical skills to perform tasks is primarily concerned with the written word.
(As an aside, I know that my blog is often fraught with grammatical errors. I am not claiming to be perfect but I try to string and organize my thoughts in a coherent manner. I just don’t have the luxury to proof-read sometimes.)
As my kids get older and they have to communicate with employers or resolve issues in a professional way, they understand how the quality of communication – both written and oral – can affect the outcome of the situation. A polite and professional tone can mean a full refund from an airline that never gives refunds or an increase in pay. On the flip side, a poorly placed comma, let alone an emotionally charged sign-off, can potentially lead to a misunderstanding and a tense work environment. (True story.)
As your role in a company expands, or when you create your own business, leadership and motivation are added job skills that need to be honed. Effective communication from a leadership role can result in a successful company where people are motivated to work for a higher purpose than just the paycheck.
When you work with people or for people, and when your customers are people, you have to understand people. Humans. Humanity.
What does this have to do homeschooling? I promised posts on homeschooling and trust me, everything I talk about is in context.
If our definition of education includes preparing our kids for “work” and the “real world,” then we should know what the world of work is going to look at a decade from now, or even two decades from now. This pandemic and resulting effects on the economy and certain businesses have a lot of built in lessons.
Enter Team Humanities.
I am also Team STEM but I am first and foremost Team STEM with a HUMANITIES slant. For example, as we study geometric constructions this week, I start every class with a quote or poem that #4 and her class have to copy into their notebook before we take the compasses out:
Did you know that humanities programs are continuously being cut? Read this article.
This article is my favourite article on the Humanities as I can relate to it directly which I will touch on this week.
The humanities ARE necessary. They are the study of us. Humans and how we interact.
My economics block with a group of teens was more of a humanities class than anything else. How do we make decisions? What motivates us? How does an individual household’s decision-making process scale up to a country’s decision-making process? What do you need vs what do you want and how do you define happiness?
As you plan your offerings to the kids, I want to be the advocate for poetry, classic literature, philosophy, social and political thought. This isn’t just for teenagers or young adults. You can start early.
I will take this next week talking about ways in which we have introduced the Humanities into our learning environment. Today in my house a child just quoted Cicero while the other is copying a Mary Oliver poem. In my classes, we are always weighing individual rights versus the collective. We ask questions that can’t easily be Googled or balanced in an equation.
I have often asked myself why we can’t engage in healthy dialogue and agree to disagree but also see our commonalities – that we love our family, that we want to feel safe, and that we are all trying to figure out how to live.
Maybe it’s because we have lost this capacity to think deeply. To think for prolonged periods. To wonder without cease.
Tomorrow…I share one of my old posts when we were all confined to our house and turned to a favourite subject: POETRY.