You know Chad. Every business in America has one.
Chad is the nice-looking, smiley, firm-hand-shaking, future C-level executive-to-be at your office. Chad is smart, but more than that, he has that “it” factor that propels him to the front of any promotion process. When you think about Chad, he seems more accomplished than pragmatically productive.
I am no Chad. I tried but have fallen short. I’m OK with it, mostly because after my wife and I started having kids, I realized I could set out to provide some lucky corporation a future Chad of my making. Yes, I’d raise my kids to be witty, quick, effective communicators who weren’t afraid of the big stage or bright lights. They would be built to dazzle any high powered, future boardroom – just like Chad.
Fifteen years into this parenting thing, though, my kids are no Chads.
Not only are my kids are not exuding the skills required, COVID-related changes to corporate America have me thinking that the Chad I knew in my young career will require a makeover to sustain his seat at the top.
The company I work for, like many, has been closed its offices to in-person working since mid-March 2020. Working remotely has ushered in a different skill set required to collaborate. While I talk to communication with colleagues via the phone, email and daily Zoom meetings, we are far more isolated than before. I had better get used to the isolation as many workplaces may have employees permanently work remotely as they harvest the productivity gains of employees’ evergreen availability and the savings on office space costs.
While I enjoy this new work-from-anywhere phenomenon, Chads may not. After all, there are no golf outings for them to rub shoulders with other C-level guys. Fewer opportunities exist for them to deliver a rousing lecture about next quarter’s sales outlook. Gone is their chance to leverage their off-the-charts charisma to make an executive-level first physical impression for new employees. Corporate Chads have been relegated to working in the connected-but-disconnected world where, to my chagrin, my kids feel most comfortable.
Will a nerd rule in a remote work culture?
Chads might find it strange that my kids:
- Rarely communicate with friends outside of group chats
- Only try to impress each other by shooting meaningless selfies back-and-forth via SnapChat
- Find normal curiosity – like asking a teacher for clarity after class — a waste of their time
- Would rather perform a Google search than ask another human for assistance
- “Socialize” in the isolation of their rooms via gaming consoles with (mostly) strangers
- Place far more value on the result (i.e., the letter grade) than the process (learning a concept by understanding test materials)
- Have no idea of that the “it” factor is — only surmising that “it” must involve the number of followers one has on Instagram
Instead of lamenting my inability to mold my children into a Chad, maybe their nerd view of the world, way of communicating, and flexibility in handling a global pandemic will redefine the successful professional of the future.
Might this be a real life “Revenge of the Nerds”?
If there is existential risk for the traditional Chad, should parents stop badgering our kids about their lack of social skills? In a world that requires more technical prowess than intrapersonal skill, should we care about kids’ communicating via choppy texts, selfies and cartoon emojis?
While I see the balance of technical and social skills to be shifting, I’m not ready to write Chad’s eulogy just yet. I still place value on my kids’ ability to have healthy relationships with people around them. We shouldn’t take for granted that our kids know how to foster traditional friendships. They are not around each other much anymore. More than ever, I’m pushing hard for my children to stay involved in activities outside of school. After all, activities are the only time our children are without a connected device during their waking hours from middle school on.
I’m learning to turn my attention from building Chads to re-emphasizing the importance of befriending humans in the world of IBM Watson. I struggle, though, with helping provide appropriate balance between technology and social skills.
I want my kids to have good, deep friendships with people around them. I want my kids to navigate rooms of strangers. I want my kids to use technology to bring this vast world closer. I want them to be as happy in public arenas as in their bedroom sniping strangers on Fortnite.
I’ve come to the realization that my kids won’t be Chads. That might not be such a bad thing.
Maybe kids, in general, are nerdier now. That said, I’ll stop short of saying that nerd qualities – like perceived social isolation and lack of charisma – will prevent them from becoming a solid contributor in their chosen field of work. Our kids may be successful because of (not despite) the things we worry most about: lack of face-to-face connection, inability to speak publicly, and more interest in virtual relationships.
We are living in a “Revenge of the Nerds” re-boot – one making today’s nerd tomorrow’s Chad.