Everything I Needed to Know, Leaping From the Pages in a Single Bound

(“In Case You Missed It Monday” is my chance to showcase something that I wrote and published in another venue, but is still relevant. This week’s post originally appeared on ITProday.org )

(excerpted and extended from the Everything I Needed to Know About IT, I Learned From Stan Lee eBook)

An observation I’m not the first person to make: a disproportionate number of folks in tech also consume, enjoy, and find joy in comic books. In fact, it’s nigh unto cliché to point out the almost automatic association between so-called “geeks” or “nerds” and comic books. Comic books have been an indelible part of geek/nerd culture since the big blue alien Boy Scout first wore his red underpants on the outside of his tights.

And whether it’s because (broadly speaking) those same geeks and nerds have an affinity for science and math, they’re drawn to the more futuristic elements of our world, or they find comfort in the consistency (if not predictability) of automata, those same folks often make their careers in tech and IT.

But why? I think there’s something primal at work for those of us working in tech, and it has everything to do with the reasons we find our IT careers so fulfilling in the first place.

Comics offer a way of interpreting the world, understanding events around us, and recognizing the moral aspect of choices. They also show, explicitly and implicitly, how these things OUGHT to be.

Critics of the comic book form are quick to call this immature, simplistic, and juvenile. They deride the utopian view of the world with its emphasis on the general nobility of humanity, people’s willingness to make good (and sometimes altruistic) choices, and the assumption folks who discover they have super-powers will immediately (and always, unless they’re slated to become a super-villain) choose to help others, even at their own expense. This viewpoint has led writers to create stories with a “darker” narrative, “grittier” characters, and heightened “realism.”

But…

Experienced IT professionals know complex problems can’t be solved until the component parts are separated out. Folks working in tech are first asked to imagine a world as it ought to be and then chart a course to get there. Sure, this “better world” is usually both limited and specific (“Can you make it so easy—and fun—to file expenses that users can’t wait to do it?”), but we’re still asked, over and over, to not only envision a better world but to provide specifics on how it would be better and how to get there.

Comic book stories prepare us for this. They provide a map for what the process might look like. They show us the value—both to ourselves and to our community—of making this kind of leap.

Beyond this, comic book stories provide metaphors and models for life lessons in a way that’s easy to accept and internalize. The Hulk shows us the importance of acknowledging our emotional state, the risk of suppression, and the power of properly channeling our emotional energy. The X-Men give us examples of how to function as a team even if we disagree with (and may not even like) each other. Characters like Mr. Fantastic, Doctor Strange, Tony Stark, and Hank Pym emphasize the way problems are solved more often by doing the hard work of research and testing than punching them until they submit.

In this new eBook, my co-authors and I offer up ways we, as IT practitioners, are better if we bring our whole selves to the office every day. We’re better technologists when we allow our past experiences—whether from school, past (non-tech) jobs, hobbies, or graphic novels—to inform our choices.

On behalf of Alex, Chrystal, Thomas, Liz, and myself, I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to read (and maybe share) this book. As the big blue flying Boy Scout might say: “Up, up, and away!”

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