The title of my speech was "Our Frontiers". I began with my personal journey from high school to Silicon Valley, how I grew up while amazing technological frontiers were discovered and settled, and how those new technologies changed our culture forever. I spoke about the frontiers we are beginning to explore and how the next generation has a lot of fun problems to solve. At the foundation of the speech, I emphasized the importance of a "learner" mentality, how being a "good student" is not necessarily a life long skill, and how Google has changed everything in education.
Here's the text of the speech, formatted as mental bullet points. When I gave the speech, I wandered from the text pretty liberally. Pardon any grammar mistakes; this text was not intended for print. The accompanying images are snapshots of the slides I was displaying (many of the slides were looping movies).
(all images and movies from Pixar films and press material are Copyright Disney/Pixar)
I’ve now gotten to see this awesome building twice now, and I’m still blown away by what you guys have. I’m so pleased to see how things have changed not only in the facilities but in the way you guys are learning.
STORY SO FAR/ADVICE & INSPIRATION:
I want to share a bit of my story so far - my career, what I’ve learned, the technical frontiers I got to settle growing up. In so doing, hope it provides a little advice and some inspiration for what’s coming next.
TECHNOLOGY CAN CHANGE THE WORLD:
Now a lot of this speech is pretty techno-nerd centered. But you guys know better than my generation how much technology can change the world. So you’re all going to be involved, whether you’re engineers, artists, lawyers, business managers, thinkers, or teachers.
As a student at MICDS, I was naturally good at the maths and sciences. Did well in humanities but had to work hard at it. I was good at doing homework, taking tests, writing papers. I was the Valedictorian. I had great teachers and credit them for my ability to critically think, use logic, appreciate art, work hard and act morally.
TO BE HONEST:
But to be honest, I don’t remember many of the details of the tests I took, papers I wrote, or homework I turned in. More of what shaped me as a person and what I remember more vividly happened outside of the classroom. Tennis. Football. Mock Trial. TEAMS. The Voice. Greenleaves.
GETTING THE GRADE:
I was also misguided in thinking “getting the grade” was my mission in school. I was wrong.
After MICDS, I went to MIT (math and science). You might have thought I went to MIT because it was a big name school but it was mostly because I saw a Nova documentary about MIT Mechanical Engineering sophomores building robots in a machine shop. It blew my mind that you could build robots, out of metal, in school. I’m so impressed by STEM and what you guys are already doing in high school.
COMPUTER SCIENCE in 2000:
When I started my career as an engineer, I knew it was either between mechanical engineering or computer science. Now keep in mind that I started as a freshman in 2000. This was before the first bubble popped and it seemed like computer science was a golden ticket. So I chose Computer Science (famously known as Course 6).
GENIUS & GRADES:
Deep into freshman year, I soon discovered what genius was, and I wasn’t it. I got decent grades (in large part from a good high school education). But I found the geniuses of MIT didn’t really care about grades. It was a sobering moment of clarity some late night during my sophomore year, when I realized I should prioritize my learning over “getting the grade.” I had a mission from then on to think of myself as a learner, not a student.
STUDENT VS. LEARNER:
And here’s how I defined it. A student is good at playing the game, taking the tests. A learner determines how they want to grow as a person. A student gets validation from grades, which max out at “A”. A learner gets validation from improving, and you can never stop improving. Being a student ends when you graduate, being a learner is for life.
As at MICDS, I was as involved with projects outside the classroom at MIT. I loved team atmospheres and self driven projects. And so I found myself at times having to choose between spending a few more hours on a problem set to get a better grade, or to spend more time on something I could learn outside of the classroom.
Here’s one of my favorite example. MIT has an eighty year old tradition that at the end of your sophomore year, your entire class buys a class ring. It’s this obnoxious ring you see here. The thing is, in the engineering world, it’s the most recognized piece of jewelry. And every class assembled a committee of 10 students to design the ring as a representation of that class’s uniqueness. Some details of our ring design include:
- a book facing outward to represent the start of open course ware.
- The LINEAR comet streaking across the sky.
- a gathering in front of our main building to mourn 9-11.
The committee designs the ring, organizes this big premiere party and then a delivery party. It takes up the entire year and is a tremendous time sink. The experience shaped me as a leader, as a follower, as an artist, as an accountant, and as a salesman. But there were many times where I prioritized ring comm over a problem set or test, and my grades suffered. I wouldn’t have done it differently.
My senior year, while finishing my Computer Science degree, instead of taking the expected lab courses, I took Sophomore Level Mechanical Engineering followed by Design and Manufacturing 1 (famously known as 2.007), and I got to build my robot.
LEARNER MENTALITY PAID OFF:
And it was in part because of my Computer Science work but also because of the CAD work I did during my Mech E class, I landed a Technical Director internship at Pixar. The folks at Pixar loved that I not only knew how to code, but I loved design, loved art, and did the unexpected.
NOT STAY FOR VERY LONG:
I also never expected to stay at Pixar for very long. Most classmates were spending 2 years or less at their jobs post college. But I told myself that as long as I was learning, was growing, I should stay. And I was lucky enough that over a 10 year career, I was growing.
When I first started at Pixar, I was put onto the original Cars.
I was a wide-eyed intern, excited about working at Pixar and ignorant of what seemed easy and what seemed hard. The studio was starting to use a technology called ray tracing, a technology I had just studied at MIT.
REFLECTIONS, SHADOWS, AND LIGHTING
I designed a new tool for managing the reflected and shadowed light on the cars and scenery. I was given way more responsibility than I should have been.
I helped develop the technology behind all of the desert vegetation in the movie. We needed to fill a scene like this with hundreds of sage brush and each sage brush was represented by half a million curves. Computers today couldn’t handle that kind of complexity let alone back in 2004. So we came up with a clever trick that would melt away curves depending on the screen space the sage brush took up. You only needed the half a million curve complexity when the sage brush was up close, and you could get away with a much smaller percentage of the sage brush only took up a few pixels on screen.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DEEP END
The beauty of a learner mentality is that you’re not afraid to dive head first into the deep end. Seeing if you can swim is part of growing, and so even if you flail at first, you’re still learning.
On Cars, I had learned how lighting worked and on Wall•e, I was interested in how you defined how surfaces responded to the lights.
So I joined the crew early to develop the realistic look of all of the surfaces.
I then went on to define and paint the materials on the main character Eve. I was excited that as a math/science nerd now creating art at one of the most prestigious studios in the world.
ANOTHER DEEP END
This was a radically different challenge than the computer science problems I used to solve. And once again, thrown into the deep end, I loved the chance to see what I could do.
Luckily, I had dabbled in graphic design (The Voice, Greenleaves – my high schools weekly news magazine and literary magazine), and taken photography with Fred Nelson.
REQUIRED CODING AND DIGITAL PAINTING
I was working as peers to Technical Directors who graduated from fine arts colleges and had portfolios good enough to get into Pixar.
EVE WAS DIFFERENT
But Eve was different than the other robots. Her sexy, futuristic look required a lot of new code to be written to get her subcutaneous glowing and so I was the right casting.
ENGINEERING BRAIN FUSED WITH ART BRAIN
And I enjoyed the feeling as parts of my math brain started fusing with my art brain. I came to realize that what I had been doing up to this point, coding could be an art in itself. I continued working with the characters team to develop and paint the materials for all of the Axiom robots, and the humans.
You’re watching some test renders I made when developing Eve’s technology. She worked by having two shells, an inner and an outer shell. The shells capture the light hitting her thick skinned surface and then using a technology called voxel filtering, I blurred the result, faking how light would bounce around in an iMac like material.
Eve’s serial number is my birthday.
COMPUTERS AS A PAINTBRUSH
You guys are growing up during a time where computer literacy is so much more important to get anything done. A computer is a tool to make doing anything easier. Whether you’re a software developer, a fashion designer, an artist, a business man, a lawyer, a politician - you need to understand how a computer can be used as a tool. Even if you don’t code to get something done, the exercise of teaching a computer how to do something helps you understand a topic better.
After Wall•e, I joined sets as the technical lead on Up and continued growing. I started working with rigging, programming how the world moved, and how to define surfaces on objects that weren’t characters. By this point, I had successfully jumped into a few deep ends and so I was eager to experience as much of computer animated movie making as I could. I wanted to keep learning.
Alright, so I had dabbled in characters, sets, how things moved, how things looked, and how light bounced off of them.
HAIR AND CLOTH IS DIFFERENT
It turns out that how hair and cloth moves on an animated character is a different skill. It requires a mix of understanding animation, physics and fashion.
On Brave, I helped design the hair and cloth simulation system that was used to give life to Merida’s hair and dress.
On Monsters University, I helped setup the technical pipeline, how the asset based departments (characters and sets) feed the shot based departments (animation, lighting, and rendering). I also helped redesign the lighting/surface interaction model (similar to the work I did on Wall•e).
After MU, I had seen a lot of the technical parts of movie making, seeing how both characters and sets were built and moved and seeing how those assets were lit and animated. But I also realized I was starting to recycle through projects, I had already helped develop 2 similar lighting models on Wall•e and MU, and I was worried that this was just the beginning of lapping myself.
7 YEAR ITCH & BECOMING A LEADER
I was also approaching my 7th year, and right on cue, was beginning to feel the itch. There was one more thing I realized I wanted to learn from Pixar. How to be a good leader.
GLOBAL TECH SUPERVISOR ON THE GOOD DINOSAUR
So for the last three years up until the end of 2013, I was what we call a Global Technology Supervisor on a movie called The Good Dinosaur. I was in charge of all of the technical pipeline and tools we needed to build to make a Dinosaur film, managing a team of about 18 engineers and artists at its peak.
LEADERSHIP AS A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Because I approached leadership as a learning experience, I found joy in making mistakes and admitting to what I didn’t know. I adapted to what my team needed instead of trying to conform them to what I wanted. And I learned one of the most important things a leader should do - trust your team.
Something as creative as a Pixar film is made because of over 400 individuals putting pieces of their genius into the 90 minutes of movie. You just can’t make something as great on your own. It’s an important lesson to realize what you’re good at, what you’re not good at. What the people around you are good at and how they can complement you. And it’s important to put your trust in that they are good at something. I remember reading an article from a mentor back during college that said there are many kinds of intelligences beyond what we gauge with IQ. Artistic intelligence, athletic intelligence, empathic intelligence, musical intelligence, social intelligence, spatial intelligence. And if we consider all of these intelligences, over 80% of the world population can be considered a genius. Trust your team mates, even when they fail.
PIXAR MISTAKES & TRUST
One of the shocks to a lot of new hires at Pixar is that a lot of mistakes are made on the way to a Pixar film. I’ve seen a lot of bad Pixar films. If you create an environment where your team feels like you trust them even through failure, they will rise to the responsibility you give them. And if they do fail, consider it another opportunity for both of you to learn how to do better the next time.
I had an amazing team. The core of my team is pictured above. They did amazing work. But the story for The Good Dinosaur fell flat near the finish line and Pixar decided to reboot, an audacious move that only Pixar would make. Most studios would finish it up and release it to try and recoup the money already spent.
But this also put into perspective that as ready as we were to make a Dinosaur film technically, The problem of how to make computer animated films technically has kind of been solved. The problem of good story telling is the continuing challenge.
I’m a technologist, a futurist, a learner. And when it hit me that computer animated films were a mature industry technically, I realized I was plateau-ing in what I could learn. And at just short of my 10 year anniversary, I left paradise to find my next frontier.
Now as you can imagine, this was a hard decision.
COOLEST PLACES TO WORK
I was going to leave one of the coolest mid sized companies in the world, making one of the most recognizable products in the world, with personally over 9+ years experience of making computer animated films.
But I also realized that if I was going to be a pioneer, it wasn’t going to be at Pixar. And so I pivoted. A scary move considering that I would probably have to jump into another pool entirely. Was I too old to learn how to swim again?
FRIENDS AND FAMILY SURPRISED
My friend’s and family were surprised I was leaving Pixar. It’s so admired. It’s so successful. Why would you leave?
DON’T LET OTHERS CONTROL YOU
One of the things I’ve discovered by being a learner is that your reasons should be your own. The strongest motivation you should have is making yourself better. If you make decisions based on other’s expectations, you’re letting others control you.
LOVE FOR PIXAR
Now I continue to love Pixar, and a good part of who I am was shaped by being there. I consider it like my graduate school.
When I left Pixar, I started thinking about frontiers. One of the things I loved about Pixar is how it overcame a lot of pessimism in the 1980s and 90s to make something so great, and universally appealing. Pixar was such a pioneering company, that even today, many movie goers think a computer animated film was made by Pixar. And when I heard stories of Pixar’s early days, I realized how much I wanted to be a part of that.
So I started to think about the culture changing technical frontiers I got to watch growing up as they were discovered and settled.
I started learning computers with my Apple SE. Having a computer was a luxury in the 80s but soon became a necessity by the late 90s.
I saw how companies like SGI that sold powerful professional grade computers for $50,000 became obsolete over the course of a few years as you could by almost equivalent systems for $1000.
I grew up using America Online.
I saw the rise of email.
56K baud rate modems were the fastest you could get. It took several minutes to download a still image.
Quake (the first good networked multiplayer) blew our minds.
Google was this experimental site coming out of a Stanford PhD research.
Now, high speed internet is everywhere.
How we watch TV and movies has changed.
Information is instantaneous and thanks to google, easier to find.
I remember when facebook was called thefacebook.com and only MIT and Harvard students could use it.
Sites like pinterest, facebook, quora, blogger - all changed how we stay in touch, and how we express ourselves. Your online persona is a large part of who you are.
The release of the iPhone, launched in 2007, marked the moment where everyone started wearing a high powered computer on their body.
In only 8 years, you’ve seen the rapid raise and saturation of “app” markets. The mobile movement also brought a shift in software design in which products no longer need to be fully featured packages. The consumer is okay with buying a small app for $5 or less if it did one thing and did it well.
Business models of a few guys coding in a garage became that much more sustainable.
Okay, so what’s next. There are a lot of exciting technology frontiers I see over the horizon.
Things that my generation read about in science fiction novels or watched in futuristic movies are close to being here and it’s really exciting. You’ve got a lot to look forward to as the next generation.
SAMPLE OF FRONTIERS
The following is a a sample of those frontiers I find exciting. One’s that I think will cause the kind of cultural changes I got to see growing up.
These will change how you go about your day, how you interact with other people, what you take for granted, and how you learn.
With the smart phone, pretty much everyone has a computer on their body. And yet we are just starting to see interesting new ways of extending that computer.
Wearable electronics are definitely in the hype right now, especially with the release of the Apple Watch.
ROOM TO THIS FRONTIER
But I think there’s room to this frontier beyond watches and fitness trackers.
IMPROVING THE INTERFACE
I believe the next leap forward is improving the interface to these computers we have in our pockets. It’s pretty cumbersome to have to pull out this small screen and operate it using a thumb. What if you could build an interface that’s integrated stylishly into your clothes. Why can’t I have touch pads on the outside of my pockets.
NOT JUST FINGERS
Why do our fingers have to be the way we interact with our computer? What if we could get input through other actions we make. Where we look, our body posture?
You might have noticed I’ve been advancing the slides with my hand. I’m wearing a development version of a cool product called the Myo. It listens to the muscles down my forearm to know what hand gesture I’m making. I think this is the very beginning of tech like this.
The cool thing about wearable electronics is that it’s a hardware problem, software problem, a social engineering problem, and a fashion problem.
Did you guys see the video from Amazon about Air Prime, where they suggested that in some years from now, an automated drone could deliver your order in a matter of hours.
LOGISTIC PROBLEMS ASIDE
This is super cool idea and, logistic problems aside, closer than you think. The advancement in battery efficiency, micro hardware, and artificially intelligent software has made it easier to make low cost, reliable, stable, easily drivable drones.
What makes air drones so cool is that they can navigate a space so easily. You don’t have to worry about rough terrain, climbing mechanics, or heights.
They’re an easy, cheap way to record from a perspective that isn’t constrained by what we can hold. Great for surveying, making films, recording history.
Also, thanks to high speed internet, we are so used to getting immediate downloads of our digital stuff, drones are a potential future in which our real life stuff can be moved around without constraints of being land bound.
DRONES WIDER IMPACT
And drones come with some really cool mechanical, hardware, software, and political problems to solve. When every person owns a drone, how do you regulate? How do you ensure people aren’t using drones for evil? Spying? Snooping? How do you make sure drone’s aren’t crashing into each other?
Robots have been in industrial and commercial use for some time now. We’ve seen robots in the home for entertainment and cleaning. Roomba, Nao, Anki
But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we’ll start seeing human-oid robots in commercial use in the next decade.
AWESOME COMPUTER CONVENIENCE MADE BETTER
The computers we use every day are an awesome convenience, and yet they are a pretty passive device with very limited ability to interact. Keyboard and mouse in, Display out. As robots get better and cheaper, we’ll start seeing more ways that computers can interact with us.
With the technical advancement in cheap microprocessing and wireless transmitters, we can start putting smarts into our common appliances. Or what is called the “Internet of Things”
You’re already seeing temperature control entering a lot of homes with the Nest, a pretty simple device that adjusts temperature based on your presence, which it knows by listening for your iPhone.
Our TVs are already becoming more aware of our presence with kinect and voice recognition.
At MIT, I saw promising tech where a refrigerator could reorder your milk when you’re low (which could be delivered by a Air Prime).
SMART PHONE WORKING WITH INTERNET OF THINGS
There are many ways a simple appliance you use on a daily basis, when connected to your smart phone, can respond in intuitive and automated ways to your presence.
Now I was tempted to put Video Games as a frontier that I grew up with, but to be honest, I think there’s still a lot of room to grow here.
GREW UP WITH GAMES
I’ve played games all my life, board games, puzzle games, video games, and PC games. I will continue to play games. My generation may be the one of the first that grew up with main stream games our entire life. I’ve seen the progress from Atari up until modern consoles and PCs.
SHALLOW FORM OF ENTERTAINMENT
Games are still considered by most as a pretty frivolous form of entertainment. But I think they can be as moving, as inspiring, and as artful as film.
LOTS OF BAD GAMES
Unfortunately, there are a lot of games out there that don’t help my point. One thing that disappointed me with video games is how under developed they are as a story telling medium.
GREAT STORY TELLING
What’s great story telling? A great story makes you feel for a character going through a journey, a period of growth or defeat. Stories we love tend to reflect something about ourselves. We feel something for the character because it reminds us of our own experiences.
A great story makes you bring your emotions along with the character. So what the character feels, you feel. Stories are told through oration, books, on stage, on the radio, on the film and tv screen. And each medium allows you to connect through different ways.
Great oral story tellers play off their audience.
Books can move as fast as your imagination.
Audio stimulates memory and encourages the mind to fill in details.
Film and TV are information rich ways to show you exactly what the story teller wants you to see.
The tech and graphics have been getting better and better as I’ve grown up, but just recently have we started seeing games that invoke emotion beyond dominating and accomplishment.
The Last of Us
HEADING IN THIS DIRECTION
Games still have a ways to go to find how technology can tell good stories. When I left Pixar, I was heading in this direction.
But I found something else that was gaining traction around the time I left Pixar. Virtual Reality.
VR’S BEEN AROUND FOR A WHILE
VR has been used in research, and military applications since the 80s. There is really cool VR out there but it would cost you 100k to buy.
NOW IT’S CHEAP
But not until the manufacturing of cell phone displays and sensors has become so easy and so cheap has Virtual Reality become a consumer possibility. The Oculus Rift is the first product to show that you can strap some relatively cheap sensors and lenses onto a high resolution mobile display and get a pretty compelling experience.
CONTENT MAKERS ARE COMING
And so now that Oculus Rift has shown that it’s possible to make a cheap head mounted display, content makers are getting excited because there could be a business model behind making VR experiences.
Now I talked about how games are still on their own frontier. But VR introduces a new element on top of the ability to interact - the feeling of presence.
DREAMS INSTEAD OF SOMETHING YOU WATCHED
The experiences made for the Oculus Rift feel so different than watching a movie or playing a game, that you recall memories in the Rift like they were dreams instead of something you watched.
On the show Star Trek The Next Generation, The Holodeck was the ultimate story telling platform. A completely believable recreation of a world in which the characters that live in it, act and respond like believable characters in a setting. You’re not only telling the story, you’re living it.
When you experience VR, I think it has an effect on the brain like early film must have felt in the 1900s. One of the first films shown in a movie theater was called “Arrival of a Train” and it’s 50 seconds showing a train pulling into a station. How could a train pulling into a station be worth going to a theater? The novelty of film was so cool, that people were willing to pay a nickel.
VR IS AT THAT POINT
It’s a really cool novelty, but the potential of the medium is no where near explored. The language of story telling needs to be discovered. Is it like being on a living stage? Can you cut from shot to shot? How does composition/editing work?
And the rift is the first baby step towards this awesome medium (that we may have 100 years from now).
REST OF MY CAREER
When I found this, I knew I could spend the rest of my career on this frontier, and so now I work for Oculus at the Story Studio Team in San Francisco, where a group of ex-Pixarians and game makers are trying to write the first book on VR story telling.
When I talk about some of these frontiers, it’s easy to think about how their potential success can lead to cultural problems. Drones flying around, invading everyone’s privacy. My every move recorded on the internet. Virtual Reality addiction.
OUR GENERATIONS EXISTING PROBLEMS
But before I speak about what could happen, I wanted to point out some of the problems our generation is already facing due to social, mobile, and the internet. We are a generation that has grown up on instant gratification. You want it; you buy it; it arrives from Amazon the next day. You want to communicate with any one in the world, you can do it in an instant.
We check email, texts, twitter feeds, Facebook feeds frantically. This is a form of dopamine addiction. Dopamine is that chemical that releases when you get something, whether it be material or a message from a friend. We are so used to getting hits of dopamine so often, that we’ve gotten addicted to it.
MAKING US WORSE
So in the long run, is social and mobile making us worse as human beings?
No. Social and mobile are amazing cultural changes for us. They connect us with the world. They are sources of inspiration and teaching. They unchain us from our desks so we can experience the world on our feet.
WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY
It’s just that with great power, comes great responsibility. We have to be mindful of the benefits and the pitfalls.
HOW I DEAL WITH IT
I’ve started checking my email only three times a day.
I don’t look at my phone first thing in the morning.
I always make sure when in a meeting to keep my phone in my pocket, silenced, out of site.
I politely ask that others put their phones away while carrying on a one-on-one conversation.
DEALING WITH DOPAMINE ADDICTION
How you go about dealing with dopamine addiction is up to us all. The important part is being mindful of when the addiction is taking hold. Can you find ways to delay instant gratification?
I think with the frontiers I’ve mentioned, we’ll have to exercise the same mindfulness. If we succeed at making VR as awesome as I think it can be, VR addiction may become a problem, but I think the value of the experiences you could have in VR is worth the energy it will take to exercise mindfulness.
HOW EDUCATION HAS CHANGED
Lastly, I wanted to talk about how education has changed over the last decade in response to all of these frontiers.
ABUNDANCE AND EASE OF INFORMATION
First off, I hope you guys realize how the abundance and ease of information you have is amazing. When I was growing up, information was getting easier to come by, but it wasn’t as organized and abundant as it is now. Everything you would want to learn is on the internet. If you care to learn about something, you can go get it on your own. Google is a pretty adequate teacher.
In Silicon Valley, this changes the rules in a few ways:
Back before the new millennium, your credentials and network was good enough to get the job - where you went to school, your GPA, the friends you made in school. Coming from MICDS, that gave you a huge boost. But now, any one can learn what it takes to be an engineer without spending a lot of money on education. And I am seeing this happen in careers outside of engineering.
WHEN RECRUITING …
When I recruit, I didn’t really care about GPA or where you went to school. If you can prove to me you love the work you want to do and do it well, that’s what counts. I especially loved to see projects completed outside of the classroom. Using your spare time to do self-motivated work is something you do if you love it.
If you want to be a pioneer, there isn’t an authority that can tell you what you’re doing right or wrong. No one’s done it before.
MADE MISTAKE OF CARING TOO MUCH ABOUT MY TEACHER’S APPROVAL
And yet, when I was in high school, I made the mistake of caring too much about my teachers’ approval. Your teachers don’t feel success by giving you an “A”, they succeed if they help make you good people.
PROPOSE A DIFFERENT WAY
So I propose a different way to think of teachers. Instead of thinking of them as your absolute authority, think of them as your much more knowledgeable, experienced and mature companions.
They help you get inspired for what you want to do.
They help you find the right questions to ask.
They help you think critically.
YOU HAVE BEST TEACHERS
You have some of the best teachers in the world at MICDS. This was made especially clear to me at MIT, where even though the professors are nobel laureates, renowned researchers, and top men of their field, a lot of them are awful teachers. Take advantage of them to learn, and don’t derive your self worth from whether you got an “A” on their test.
FORMAL ROLE OF TEACHER
You won’t have the formal role of teacher in your life past your education, but you should continue learning. I am continuously inspired by peers, veterans, and by you all. Don’t think “teachers” stop being a part of your life after you graduate. They just might not have the title.
You can’t do everything on your own.
DELEGATE, TRUST, RESPECT
And so something you can all do, whether you are an artist, a numbers person, a thinker, a social leader - everyone needs to learn how to work with a team. You need to realize how important it is to delegate, to trust, to respect others for the talents they can bring and how they complement your own.
THE PRODUCT IS NOT THE LESSON
I remember when I was much younger, I made the mistake of thinking that a team based project was all about getting the best result. But even if your final project is a disaster, if you learned anything about how to work with others for the next time, you came out ahead of the team that got the “A” because one person hijacked the entire project.
Technology and our knowledge is updating so fast that what you learn in school can easily be stale in a decade. So if you think that learning starts and stops when you’re on and then off campus, that needs to change.
WE’RE ALL LEARNERS
So I prefer calling us all learners, growers, makers. I included myself with you guys. I’m still learning just like you. In fact, I’m envious. Many of you are still figuring out what you want to be and so you get to play around with a lot of different types of learning.
Finally, the last thing I want to say about education is that we need more women in engineering.
Sadly, Pixar has a lot more men in technical positions than women.
WOMEN ON MY TEAM
I was lucky enough to have multiple women on or working with my team during production on The Good Dinosaur and it made me realize how blind we men engineers are to what a male dominated field lacks.
And Silicon Valley is waking up to this.
The most coveted recruits are competent, confident women. They are unicorns. Because of this I’m also seeing compensation packages going up for women. It’s my hope that in the coming years, we’ll see the pay differential close in all of engineering.
When I thought back on all of the frontiers I got to witness growing up, I realized how excited I am for you all. You’re going to experience an even greater leap in how technology is going to shape your lives. And in such a frontier rich age, you need to keep several things in mind:
Do what you feel passionate about. Even in spite of what others expect or what is comfortable.
Always be learning
Be mindful that with the great advancements in tech that you will grow into, you’ll also be faced with social and political problems. But putting the energy into solving these problems is worth the benefits that create the problems in the first place.
YOU ARE ALL PIONEERS
You’re all going to pioneers in some way. There’s going to be too much frontier to go around. You’ve got a fun ride ahead. Enjoy it.