The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World

The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World

By:  Scott Hartley

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“Scott Hartley artfully explains why it is time for us to get over the false division between the human and the technical.” —Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and author of Change by Design

Scott Hartley first heard the terms fuzzy and techie while studying political science at Stanford University. If you majored in humanities or social sciences, you were a fuzzy. If you majored in computer or hard sciences, you were a techie.

While Silicon Valley is generally considered a techie stronghold, the founders of companies like Airbnb, Pinterest, Slack, LinkedIn, PayPal, Stitch Fix, Reddit, and others are all fuzzies—in other words, people with backgrounds in the liberal arts.

In this brilliantly counterintuitive book, Hartley shatters assumptions about business and education today: learning to code is not enough. The soft skills—curiosity, communication, and collaboration, along with an understanding of psychology and society’s gravest problems—are central to why technology has value. Fuzzies are the instrumental stewards of robots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. They offer a human touch that is of equal—if not greater—importance in our technology-led world than what most techies can provide.

For anyone doubting whether a well-rounded liberal arts education is practical in today’s world, Hartley’s work will come as an inspiring revelation.

Finalist for the 2016 Financial Times/McKinsey Bracken Bower Prize

A Financial Times Business Book of the Month

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780544944374

  • ISBN-10: 0544944372

  • Pages: 304

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 04/25/2017

  • Carton Quantity: 1

Scott Hartley
Author

Scott Hartley

SCOTT HARTLEY is a venture capitalist and startup advisor. He has served as a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the White House, a partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures, and a venture partner at Metamorphic Ventures. Prior to venture capital, Hartley worked at Google, Facebook, and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. He is a contributing author to the MIT Press book Shopping for Good, and has written for publications such as Inc., Foreign Policy, Forbes, and the Boston Review.Hartley has been a speaker at dozens of international entrepreneurship events with the World Bank, MIT, Google, and the U.S. State Department's Global Innovation in Science and Technology (GIST) program. Hartley holds an MBA and an MA from Columbia University, and a BA from Stanford University. He is a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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  • reviews

    “You can’t build a wall to keep the robots out. That doesn’t mean we’re doomed. Scott Hartley does a masterful job going beyond the headlines to explain why the future needs engineers as much as it does philosophers, and why the two need each other.”—Ian Bremmer,president of Eurasia Group and author of Superpower 

      

    “This terrific book clearly articulates the importance of the liberal arts in our technocentric world, a view I have long supported. In the end, technology is about making the lives of humans better, and, as the author argues, it is the humanities and social sciences that teach us about the human condition and how it might be improved. A delightful read!”—John Hennessy, Chairman of Google, Inc. and President Emeritus of Stanford University  

     

     “Scott Hartley artfully explains why it is time for us to get over the false division between the human and the technical. If received and acted upon with the seriousness it deserves, we can anticipate real benefits for business and society.”—Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and author of Change by Design 

      

    “Scott Hartley’s timely and thought-provoking book is a refreshing and important voice in the era of major technological transformation and advances in our world, led by Big Data, AI, Cloud, genomics, etc. As nature has evolved our brain to be capable of logical reasoning as well as emotional feelings, artistic expressions, and remarkable intuitions, human civilization has always evolved and benefited from the coevolution of arts, literature, engineering, and sciences. Humanity has begun the era of intelligent machines and genomic wonder tools. It has become more urgent and imperative that humanistic thinking and values can help guide the way technologies are designed, experimented, deployed, and communicated. From digital humanities to humanistic technologies, human wisdom should be all in when it comes to designing and defining our collective future. Students, parents, educators, policymakers, CEOs, and entrepreneurs should all read this book.” —Fei-Fei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab 

      

    “For generations, leadership has been viewed as an art form, refined and perfected by a healthy dose of ‘fuzzy’ liberal arts education. But in the tech-heavy world of the twenty-first century, traditional leadership preparation needs to be leavened by STEM. As Scott Hartley brilliantly illustrates, a ‘fuzzy-techie’ partnership is a prerequisite—not just as a guide for governments and businesses in meeting existential challenges but also as a foundation for emerging leaders; they, not machines, will be the keys to solving the greatest problems of the new century.”—Daniel W. Christman,lieutenant general (ret.) and 55th superintendent, U.S. Military Academy, West Point   

      

    “Great book for all. Blows up the false dichotomy in education between tech and liberal arts. This book shows that not only can both coexist; it is dangerous if they don’t both exist side by side in an integrated manner. They make each other more effective. Scott has done an excellent job of making his argument with facts, illustrative case studies, and well-reasoned solutions. An important and enjoyable read.”—Bill Aulet, author of Disciplined Entrepreneurship and managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship 

      

    “Silicon Valley is founded on strong engineering cultures, but the biggest challenges of the coming decades will lead Silicon Valley to partner with those who best understand our humanity. Many of the greatest companies are built by fuzzies and techies working together—Scott makes a compelling case that important data and information are increasingly generated by machines, but the wisdom of humans is required to build this data into the knowledge that runs our civilization.”—Joe Lonsdale,cofounder of Palantir 

      

    “In this book Scott Hartley succeeds better than anyone I know in articulating the indispensable role a liberal arts education plays…One of the impacts of technology has been to democratize freedom scholarship and passion. Scott Hartley lays this out in plain language that a liberal arts education trumps early specialization in STEM subjects.”—Temba Maqubela,headmaster of Groton School 

      

    “I am a ‘fuzzy’ venture capitalist who owes a successful life in Silicon Valley to the ‘techies.’ Scott Hartley has brilliantly described the magic that is created when these two tribes work together. His insightful book shines a bright light on this rarely analyzed but highly productive relationship.”—Bill Draper, co-chair of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and author of The Startup Game: Inside the Partnership Between Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs

  • excerpts

    One 

    The Role of the Fuzzy in a Techie World

      

    Katelyn Gleason is CEO of Eligible, an innovative health-care technology business she founded when she was twenty-six years old, for which she has raised $25 million in venture capital from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in American business, including Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox, and Ken Langone, founder of The Home Depot. Before she decided to start the company, Katelyn had limited expertise in health care or in technology, and in college she certainly did not anticipate that she would become an entrepreneur, let alone a tech entrepreneur. She was a theater arts major at Long Island’s Stony Brook University, where she won prime parts in many productions, including Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. After graduating in 2008, she pursued an acting career for several years, but jobs proved elusive. She credits her acting experience with contributing significantly to her social skills, confidence, and talent for sales, which were all instrumental in launching Eligible. 

     

    In fact, Katelyn became a health-tech entrepreneur by chance. She could have been a poster child for the argument against a liberal arts education made so often in recent years; that it doesn’t prepare students for the jobs the economy needs filled. Indeed, once she determined that acting might not work out and that she should search for other work, she had no clear idea what kind of job to look for. She did know that she was very good at sales. During college she had supported herself by working as a sales director for a company that published a business directory. 

     

    Katelyn says that her acting experience helped with that work by teaching her how to be persuasive in her sales pitches, and also how to deal with the emotional impact of people telling her no again and again. Acting taught her how to quiet her self-doubt and forge ahead despite rejections. She proved so talented at selling that by the time she was twenty, she was managing a sales force of forty. As she looked for job openings in a wide-ranging job search, she was drawn to an advertisement on Craigslist for a job in sales for a web-based startup providing services for health care practices, called DrChrono. The company provides scheduling, billing, and management of orders for clinical tests and prescriptions. She knew nothing about the health care industry, but she knew sales, and she felt confident she could learn what she needed to know to get the job done. 

     

    DrChrono hired her as a contract sales person, and Katelyn began learning about health care and about building a business. She discovered that she was fascinated by the process of innovating a business and loved being part of a small entrepreneurial team. The founders also loved having her. Her sales ability was so impressive that the founders asked her to join them in pitching the company at the highly competitive contest for startups held annually by Y Combinator (YC), a Silicon Valley startup incubator. Winning startups are admitted to a rigorous three-month program, during which time YC founder Paul Graham and a team of successful entrepreneurs and investors offer guidance about how to develop their businesses. DrChrono won a coveted spot, and Katelyn impressed Paul Graham so much that when she decided to leave DrChrono, he advised her that she should found her own health-tech startup, even though she didn’t have fancy degrees from an Ivy League or stellar connections like some of her peers. 

    Katelyn still knew relatively little about technology, but she did have a clear idea for a business. She had been stunned by the inefficiencies in the way doctors’ offices verified patient insurance coverage. It was done mostly by phone and involved time-consuming paperwork, which often led to long delays and to mistakes. Quite often, doctors ended up swallowing the costs of procedures because patients didn’t actually have the coverage the doctor thought they did. Other times, patients ended up with crushing unexpected bills. She recalled, “I’d dealt with the front office, and the billing systems. There was one company everyone used called Emdeon.” But the technology the Emdeon system was built with was old, and for doctor’s offices, connecting their own data systems to the Emdeon system was expensive and time-consuming work. Katelyn had heard about another YC-backed startup called Stripe that offered an easy way for one hundred thousand merchants, from Best Buy to Saks Fifth Avenue to Adidas, to handle all the complexities of accepting payments on the Internet. She boldly decided that she would create a similar system for health care providers, a system faster and easier than Emdeon. Though she had no idea what programming would be involved, she believed she could learn what she needed to know in order to hire software engineers to do that work. 

     

    Hunkering down in her apartment in Mountain View, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, Katelyn threw herself into reading about the technology the system would require. She audited free online programming classes offered by various universities, and spent her days in the public library devouring books. She forced herself to read Apple’s software developer kit from start to finish, and asked questions she had on the developer collaboration website Stack Overflow. With that basic knowledge under her belt, she hired two freelance software engineers, and as they built a prototype, she began seeking angel investment. “As a woman with no technical background,” she recalled, “I met lots of skepticism, but again, my acting experience developed my resilience to keep forging ahead in the face of so many turndowns.” Her acting work also helped her understand how to craft a compelling story about the company, which is essential to convincing investors to provide support. “In theater, the playwright gives you the play, but you have to tell the story,” she explained to me over coffee in 2016. “I knew I just had to figure out how to tell the right story. When you start rehearsal, you’re completely lost. You don’t know the characters at all. When you start to build a product, when you start to build a company and you don’t even know what your product is going to be, it’s exactly the same feeling. You’re completely lost. I learned in the rehearsal process that if I worked hard enough, I could gain that internal clarity where I would start to take off like a rocket ship.” 

     

    In the summer of 2012, Katelyn found herself back at Y Combinator, pitching Paul Graham and team, but this time as a startup founder. She won their backing, and on the heels of their support, she was able to quickly raise $1.6 million to continue building Eligible’s product. After launch, the company took off, with a growth rate of 60 percent week over week. In 2013, Katelyn was selected by Fast Company magazine as one of its top one hundred most creative people, and in 2015, she was named one of Forbes’s 30 Under 30 innovators in health care. 

     

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780544944374

  • ISBN-10: 0544944372

  • Pages: 304

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 04/25/2017

  • Carton Quantity: 1

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