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August is always a bit of a slow month. Everybody - and I literally mean everybody - runs on some form of Island mode. And I wonder how we managed to slow a whole world down for a whole month. In France, August is a dead month. Paris, a city normally vibing with energy, full of people, is basically empty. Nobody expects anything to move forward, because even if there's a chance that you meet a person that is not on holiday, you don't even entertain the thought of meeting that unicorn. In September, when everybody is back from their time off, we start anew.
Everybody thinks of New Year as the natural point for a new start. But September is actually more of a new starting point. Of course, when I was a pupil, it's obvious because with every new school year you start with a blank sheet, waiting to be filled with knowledge and grades. But also later, when I was not in school anymore. The summer asks us to take a break, take things slower and let things be. We can't really fight it. In September, when the temperatures start to cool down and we are actually able to have a straight, non-sweaty thought again, we can also start our boosters again after a long relaxing break.
So this edition is sent to you fully aware that it might not be your current priority, that it might not meet your current flow or that it just isn't even recognised just until the release of the next edition. Which is a cool thought for me, because then my island vibe meets your new energy. And I love to see what comes out of that energy mix!

What we wrote

Proud to be a Generalist

Proud to be a Generalist
When I sent out my last editorial newsletter I got a feedback, that really surprised me. One of the readers was telling me that he admires me for what I do. He cannot imagine how I manage doing all of the things I do. To be honest, I don’t always know either. So I can reassure you, this will not be a listicle with the 10 best tips on “How to do more in less time”. I am really not qualified for that. Tell me about a new interesting TED talk and I’ll be out, lost in a rabbit hole of talk after talk for the next hour(s). But the feedback itself got me thinking. How *do* I do all this? 

I admit, I do a lot of different things in my day. My calendar is blocked with consulting, coaching and mentoring, translation, writing and editing an online magazine. Other people spend a lifetime studying for and dedicating their lives to one of these things. I however, when done with all this, take active part in several networks and I host a podcast. And when I’m done doing all that I sit down, read books and saved articles and I watch a considerable amount of Netflix. So, does my day have more hours than the days of other people? Am I super smart and genius level able to focus? Am I running directly into a burnout? Or do I just scratch things on the surface and claim that I can do all this?

None of these points are true. Point partially made above, TED talks is the kryptonite to my focus management. I’d just say I see the whole topic differently. My answer to the question what I do is not consulting. What I do is helping people sleep better at night. My tools for that are consulting, coaching, writing and all the other stuff. My main occupation: I have to fulfil a mission.

I can be pretty persistent when I want to know and solve something. Lucky for me I found my “something”. I love tech. Not on a deep DIY level. I can’t build my own computer. Although, to be fair to myself, if given the time and resources to completely dive into it, I could probably easily learn it – persistence, again, being the key. I just love debating all the ups and downs the tech world offers us. After all, that’s why I created this magazine.

So give me a drop of a tech discussion and I will dive into the argument, the facts regarding it, the discussions around it, and all the facts around the discussion. I will not emerge from the depths of it until I have found everything (which rarely happens, because when have I ever found a topic that has a research end?) – or somebody brings me distraction pastries. Sounds like a joke? It isn’t. It really is a thing! Ask my room mates.

I have one particular focus on what I want to know and solve: What does it take to make tech accessible for everybody? How can we include everyone who wants to join the party? What are the pitfalls we need to consider? What are the exciting things that get lost in the fog of what’s out there? I rarely miss jumping on a conversation and discussion about it and I can’t keep my hands off books about that topic. In comes: my mission.

There’s one “problem” with this focus: It is really, really broad. Where does digitalization end and societal change start? The lines between these things shift and blur more and more each day. And because “people”, opinions switch every day. So where does my passion project end? Short answer: it doesn’t. It’s basically unsolvable. So I need to spread out my energy and focus on many different topics. And sometimes, that means acknowledging that I can't know about something just yet. But in the end, I have the overall knowledge in so many fields that I can build bridges and connections basically between anything. Don’t believe me? Again – ask my room mates.

Here’s where it gets tricky to explain the concept of a generalist to a hardcore specialist. Because if you believe that an opinion can only be viable if you spend a considerable amount of research, time and effort on it, how can you grab the idea that I know just enough about it to build the connection to another topic?

There is a big pitfall for generalists in a society that is close to fetishizing specialist. We are told that focusing on one thing is worth more than knowing a bit about everything. It starts at school. What do you need to know to become . You want to be a banker? No need to know about the Arts then. You want to become an athlete? Who needs literature on the track? You want to become a physician? Why focus on foreign languages then? 

Don’t get me wrong. The world needs specialists. I’d rather have my orthopedic have all the knowledge there is out there about the anatomy of a human knee before making a diagnosis. But I wouldn’t be too mad if he told me that the problem with my knee could also psychosomatic and send me off to a therapist than operating my meniscus and then find out that my (by then missing) meniscus is not the problem.

Every once in a while, I try again to focus on becoming a specialist in one topic. But it never sticks for long. The way I learn is that I need to get to the source of a topic. I need to understand every building block of the topic and I research the hell out of it until I know. But I also lose interest in a topic pretty quickly when I get to the source. In school that’s where they got me, because most teachers never took the time to get me there - or to take me further.

If you look at my CV it looks like a representation of exactly that. No straight line. No dedication to one specific topic. In a world of specialists that asks you to prove your worth over and over again, job hunts are the worst. Hannah Gadsby, when struggling with herself, asked “What is the purpose of my Human?”. I struggled to answer that question for a bit as well. That is a big reason why I became self-employed.

But here’s where all the specialists looking at my CV are wrong: there is one combining element. I always ended up managing the IT projects, if it was my job description or not. In its broadness it is my perfect field of specialization. It’s so vast that I never get tired to dig into it. I might get tired of one specific aspect, but ever since I managed my first project I completely dove into this world. I swim a bit to the corals on the left and then I swim with the fish to the right for a bit, but I don’t have the need to surface from the waters of technology. 

Becoming self-employed accidentally was the best decision I ever made. Clients provide me with interesting problems. There is no need to desperately stay in one lane. And because of the broadness of the topic my clients even value my general overview because it allows them to put a toe in the waters themselves and measure the water temperature. I know the general dangers of the sea. I can show them the maritime maps. If they want to start diving in one specific area I can hand them off to a diver.

I promised this isn’t a “How to do more in less time” article. I can see how it looks like I broke that promise. “Just find your passion and get completely immersed in it”. In the end this is my way. It has a lot to do with how my brain works and how I gain and lose energy. For me, that means I got lucky. I can make a living with that passion – some might say obsession. So I guess what took me quite a bit to say: In the end the important part is to be happy with what we do. If we are generalist or a specialist shouldn’t matter. Who is to say, anyways? What matters in the end is that you do what you want to do in the depth, the speed, the intensity and the way that you want to do it!

Full disclosure: This piece was written in several steps. Because even when it seems all rosy on the outside, not being a specialist in today’s world can be challenging. Not having a long range of specialized certificates and a straight CV is a perfect recipe to qualify for a lot of “But” questions from people. Reflecting on that can be challenging. It makes you question, like, a thousand life choices you made on the way. Sometimes the answers come fairly easy, sometimes you have to dig a bit deeper. In the end I rest assured that I wouldn’t want to change it for the world.

What others wrote

No text I ever write just comes out of my brain from some form of abyss. I am not that genius creative. I read a lot of stuff that forms my opinion. Not all of it makes it into my articles. Some things are just a brain tickler. So I will share good pieces with you, so maybe they also tickle your brain.
Normally I am not super fond of listicles. Mostly due to the fact, that the people who write listicles don't really want to say something, but rather want to write anything the Google Algorithm likes. And it shows!
This listicle however is different. Because it starts with a very interesting premise: The interesting part about people and their jobs is not what they *do* - it's how they *think*! Everybody can learn facts, but our uniqueness comes from the way we work with these facts. What do we do with them? Because even the best facts are useless if you don't use them as a tool.
I am a bit unsure about my thinking type. In the morning I am 100% a soldier. During the day sometimes I need to be a psychologist, often a critic and a bit of a mathematical. When I am really in a Flow State, I am a programmer. But most of the time I am a "simple" plumber. Which makes for a super weird combination, if you read it without context. But as Scott Young writes in the end: If we want to solve complex problems creatively, we need to combine several thinking tools. Which, by the way, also is a perfect case for diversity in everything you do!
How I see it, AI is a giant philosophical thought experiment. Everything that is developed, every progress that we make with this technology, opens up a giant book with questions and no definite answers. And if there is one answer that leads us to even more questions. One aspect I think doesn't get nearly as much attention as it needs is how we see Digitalization as something intangible. It is in the "ether", where we can't touch it. And for some part that is true. We can't touch the bits flying through the cables. But when we can't touch it, it is easy to assume that it isn't "real". When it comes to input factors and results however, they become tangible pretty quickly. And the reality of it hits us pretty quickly!
Despite all the "The End is Nigh" Tales we are told on a regular basis, the machines that allegedly take over our jobs need us to function in the first place more than you might be aware of. In the end, these machines function on and learn from data. And this data has to be categorised, labelled, and defined. And this job is taken over by humans. There are some obvious ways - think of your latest reCaptcha that asked you to click all the cars. But there are also more ways. So called Ghost Workers sit in front of their computers, day in, day out and help machines learn by creating prepared data. The "best kept secret" in getting these jobs is with Amazon's Mechanical Turk - but as seems to be the rule with Amazon, workers' rights are not a value heavily lived... So that rises another interesting question: What are we willing to sacrifice for the rise of the machines?
We all have experienced first hand what "disaster capitalism" is. The surging prices for masks and hand sanitiser during the first wave of COVID-19 are *the* perfect example for that. Because what can you do?
The same principle can be seen when you talk about equality. During disasters women take the fair share of "crisis intervention", keeping a society afloat - and neglecting other areas, such as their own professional career. According to NPR, four times more women quit their jobs than men last year. This creates a vacuum - that is joyfully taken by men who want to establish the "old world order" of them taking over control. In comes: Disaster patriarchy.
The conditions of Lockdown have been a perfect petri dish to grow inequality-rising factors, such as economic and social inequalities or domestic violence. And it has shown us, that women are essential to essential services of a society. Most people in the "caring" industries - nurses, supermarket cashiers, childcare - are female. Yet when it comes to acknowledging these services society doesn't pay nearly as much effort into protecting these people.

A word from...
Stephen Hawking

"The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think" - Harper Lee
This month I want to recommend you a "light snack" of a book. I re-read "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking
Hawking wrote this book at the end of the Eighties for people who had no idea whatsoever about theoretical physics. And he really really tries to make it as understandable for everyone without a doctorate in a STEM field. Still, it's a book about the very complex topic on space and time and you can only do so much to facilitate the reading for "newbs".
So this is why I recommend you read that book when you don't have much else going on in your head. And during summer vacation, a nice beach or lake-side reading or even in your garden this year, that seems like a good place in time and space to do so!

The Good News

Think of Starbucks what you want. Can that sweet, brown-ish, drowned with cream drink in that cup still be called coffee? But what they did here is excellent! Here you can find the complete Starbucks Training Manual which consists of all there is to know about coffee! Coffee growing regions worldwide, roasting and brewing, and the perfect preparation of your favourite coffee drink! Did you know, Starbucks employees were actually trained to brew the perfect espresso even though I was never able to really get one in their stores? After reading this your Italian Coffee Bar owner will be impressed by the knowledge you got under your belt! And for all the frequent flyers in the actual Starbucks stores - the manual even includes a guide of all the weird letters that they always write on your cup! You can now enigma the heck out of the Starbucks code!
That's it for this month.
Thanks for reading the third Edition. And please let us know what you think of the newsletter so far. All feedback welcome!
We actively want to bring in colours, not just lighten the place up! We want to create the space, where ideas from other dimensions are included, where thoughts outside of the black and white realm find a touchpoint with the spectrum. We want to explore possibilities how our society can be a better one when we don’t fight the unknown but embrace it with open arms and a curious mind. It is an offer to think differently. It’s an offer for different views, opinions and insights so that the “One Size Fits All” story of technology becomes a range of various stories that show us the immense beauty of digitalization.
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