A few weeks ago, a teacher friend of mine asked me to come to school with her and talk to her students for Career Day. I had 20 minutes to explain to 7th graders exactly what it is I do, and then hopefully get them excited about whatever it is I decided to tell them.
I made a really stupid move while prepping, though: I imagined myself at 13 years old, and I came up with all the stuff that would have impressed me back then. For context, when I was 13, I did not have a cell phone (no one did!) and the coolest “tech” thing I interacted with was my extended AOL Instant Messenger profile. Note: my signature AIM font/color combo was Comic Sans, yellow text on red background. Ouch. Simply put, I was not exposed to the wealth of design sophistication that many young people know today.
When I chose examples of what we do at NogginLabs, I went for the visually stunning. I wanted to blow these 13-year-olds’ minds! And when the time came for me to click through and demo some of our greatest simulations and gamified content, I thought, yeah, they are going to love this.
So here’s what actually happened: They didn’t hate it. In fact, they reacted quite positively. But they’re used to stunning visuals, intuitive UI, and any other bell and/or whistle you can think of. They encounter these things every single day in a number of mediums. I could sense their impending boredom. On the spot, I decided to re-route my entire presentation. In an attempt to give them a taste of my day-to-day at NogginLabs, I began talking about the importance of teamwork, communication, and feedback. Together, we critiqued some of their favorite websites and then returned the focus to the NogginLabs courses I’d previewed earlier.
And they loved it! 13-year-olds love judging stuff, so it’s a wonder why I didn’t think to lead off with this activity. They were most impressed that I get to work with a designer to make things look beautiful. They also thought it was cool that I get to work with programmers so I can actually make my ideas come to life. They were totally into the execution side of my job, as opposed to the finished product that we usually showcase. I guess that’s the point of a career day: Show others not only what you do, but how you do it.
After my presentation, a student approached me and told me that my job is now her dream job. She couldn’t believe that there’s a place where she can combine her love of writing, interest in games, and general knack for creativity—and get paid for it! I know that the demos themselves might have interested her in some way, but I can’t help but think the details of my day-to-day work life is what really sealed the deal.
Kids know when something looks cool or feels cool, and they will always be the first ones to call out authenticity, or a lack thereof. I think NogginLabs passed their test—as a company that makes great products as well as the someday-home of many future e-learning developers.