Nice Guys Finish First

The Facebook post reads: “Was accepted to become a monk at Wat Phra Kaew, the most esteemed temple in Thailand.”

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Dave Fontenot has been one of the most influential people in my college career. He’s been a friend, a colleague and a mentor for me and about 5,000 other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students from colleges all over the country. Dave has turned himself into a brand by simply being one of the most loveable people in the tech industry. And now was his time to leave. His job was simple: make yourself known, befriend the brightest minds in CS and offer them what they lack the most – communication skills. Dave was a hackathon enthusiast. He loved the atmosphere that came with it: the long hours of brainstorming and the new friendships made through the shared hardships of creation. His love of people brought the community together, a community that was now losing one of its founding members. Dave needs more than just one community. He needs to spread his love across the universe.

The comment reads: “Like this if you were fooled.”

This was possibly one of the best April Fool’s pranks I’ve seen in ages.

But what if it wasn’t a joke? Perhaps the community’s loss of such a genuinely extraverted person would’ve taken its toll. It is important to note, however, that Dave is not the only one who’s capable of having such an effect on the tech industry.

Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. And another handful of extremely talented young people living in tiny San Francisco apartments are currently working towards a brighter future. All of these people share a similar journey. They’ve managed to break out ofbn-is344_genhac_p_20150602152627 the stereotypes imposed on them by their profession and transcend into the entrepreneurial leaders of tomorrow. These stereotypes have stemed from the theory of evolutionary psychology and insist that a typical programmer is limited in his social capabilities. But being a successful techie is not just about the amount of time one spends behind the computer learning the ins and outs of the Internet.

We might ask why is it so common to see the tech community misrepresented by the traditional stereotypes of a nerdy programmer? Why do women cringe at the thought of a blind date with a software engineer? According to evolutionary psychologists, there are two traits of an ideal husband: money and power (in both physical and economic sense). Being one of the most profitable industries of the twenty-first century, the tech industry has spit out a fair number of ridiculously wealthy people basking in the shimmering sunlight of our praise and admiration.

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So if they are all capable and most of them willing to provide us women with the resources we need to successfully raise our offspring, why are we often so repulsed by the idea of ending up with a techie?

Evolutionary psychology claims that our poor programmers, who generally posses a type S(systematizing) brain (as opposed to an empathizing one), have trouble being the compassionate partners that women look for. The notion that men working in the tech industry are incapable of being a caring and a loving partner has been supported throughout the past few decades since the inception of the “tech bubble” (To find out where this stereotype might have stemed from read this). Women are taught to “deal” with the men in the industry from a young age and become convinced that discrimination in the field of tech is a mundane phenomena. Surely, this seems like a problem that remains unsolved, right?

Perhaps the situation is not as black and white as it seems. Perhaps the programs focused on getting more women into STEM are still basing their curriculums on outdated beliefs. Perhaps we ought to think about how the economic growth of the tech industry has shaped the type of person who now thrives in it. Tech is expanding into other parts of our economy, into industries like medicine and food production, into businesses that require not only clever algorithms, but human applications. These industries work so closely with the daily issues that humans face, that it is impossible to succeed in them without knowing how to empathize with people.

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Dave is just one of many community-oriented people in the tech industry. In my short two years of navigating the tech community around the Bay Area, I have been lucky to meet the minds that I believe will change tomorrow. I’ve met college dropouts. I’ve met competition winners. I’ve met hackathon planners. And every single one of them has proven to be as intelligent as they are kind, as curious as they are caring.

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