Creative Geekdom

In an interview a few years ago, the interviewer asked me to list some traits by which my colleagues would describe me.  I mentioned “creative” as one of them.  As you would expect, the immediate follow-up question was to provide an example.  I stumbled and fumbled, I drew a complete blank.  The interviewer certainly thought I was simply blowing smoke, that I wanted him to think I was creative when I wasn’t.  The honest truth was that my colleagues did (and still do) call me creative, but I never looked around to see why.

So, I spent some time thinking about it – was I really creative?  I’m not sure, but at least I can think of an example or two of something creative that I’ve done.  You decide.

Flashback: Katrina had just pummeled New Orleans.  I was working as a Solution Architect for EarthLink at the time.  The project was Metro Wi-Fi (a Wi-Fi equivalent of Clear’s service model focused only in high-density urban centers), and I had just finished two large Voice over IP rollout projects.

We were all stunned by the scope of the devastation, and wondering how we could make a difference from Atlanta.  Emails started fly around with all kinds of ideas.  Mine was thus: There were no cellular or landline communications in the deepest areas of destruction and people cannot find out if their loved ones were alive.  We were attempting to sell Wi-Fi phones in the cellular market, and we were wiring urban areas with Wi-Fi access points. We had a bus equipped with a satellite dish for broadband unwired backhaul.  Let’s put all that together and drive into the flooded zones and start handing out phones.  I was working side-by-side at the time with the product VP for voice, and we very nearly pulled the trigger until we found that the bus was a thousand miles away and he could not get it redirected for another week.

Had it worked, we would have helped hundreds or thousands of people to put their family’s worries to rest.  EarthLink’s PR department probably would have made sure the company got some credit for it, though that was a very small consideration given the human situation on the ground.

We ended up going with the second option which was essentially a web-based registry of people and where they could be found.  We helped, but not as much as we had hoped.  Do you have a story of creativity?

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