Recently, whilst in the mountains of the Italian Dolomites, I stayed at a working cattle farm where the owner spoke no English, and I somehow spoke even less Italian.
After silently showing my partner and I to our room, I expected an awkward display of the one Italian word I know on my part to express my gratitude and a bemused stare from the owner at best.
However, he pulled out his phone and began speaking long Italian prose directly to it, to which it immediately replied with perfect English that breakfast was served at 7am the next day, there was a coffee machine down the hall and to have a pleasant stay.
That translation app had managed to bridge a seemingly insurmountable gap, and create a feeling of camaraderie between an awkward 27 year old tech worker whose already subpar social skills were being further suppressed by carrying 50 lbs of luggage and a 65-ish Italian mountain beef farmer, something that previously would only be achievable by about 4 bottles of wine and an unspoken agreement to not talk about the 2021 Euro Cup final.
At that moment, I was transported instantly back to my days learning to code for the first time in 2018, with my roommate's dog helping me simultaneously work on my multitasking skills by thwacking a tennis ball against my leg with a suspicious level of accuracy.
Leafing through my Coding for Dummies book and creating my first “hello world” projects, I felt like I was tapping into this other world, seeing through the veil and discovering what I was truly passionate about: building digital experiences.
I began to see inefficiencies in the way I was doing things like budgeting my money, inefficiencies that code could fix.
So I started building things that helped me, like a budgeting app and a to-do list app. And I realised that tech held the power to improve the way we do, well just about anything.
After that, I began to use my skills to try and help teammates at the marketing agency I worked for, desperately grasping for any chance to utilise my new skills.
I wrote a series of scripts for our Google Ads accounts that stopped campaigns from overspending, and upon leaving my position to join a tech company, one of my teammates reached out to thank me for building something that made her working life easier.
I still have the screenshot of that message saved on my phone, and I look at it whenever I get sad or demotivated.
The ability to build a digital product, be it several lines of spaghetti Apps Script code or a fully fledged translation application, that makes someone's life easier or better or unlocks their potential to achieve more, is the reason I love tech.
Tech gets a bad wrap at the moment, rightfully so, including by me.
A lot of products and innovations on the market serve to increase the power and control of a few select people, or actively or passively deteriorate the users mental health.
But that potential to build something great is still there.
There are countless engineers and entrepreneurs out there, working insanely hard to produce products that will make the human experience easier, more fulfilling or even just more interesting (shoutout to anyone who worked on the Skyrim game, that should be in the Louvre).
The troubles arise when focus from these pioneers turns inwards. How can I get rich? How can I increase the stock price of my company? How can I attract more investment?
But at the core of it, tech can be about doing things better, faster and more efficiently than we could ever before.
I often quote movies when trying to make points, which is undoubtedly the most fun thing about me, and not a thing that people ever get annoyed by or something I should speak to a medical professional about.
My point can be best summarised by Michael Fassbender playing a laughably jacked version of Steve Jobs when he said:
“The most efficient animal on the planet is the condor. The most inefficient animals on the planet are humans. But a human with a bicycle BECOMES the most efficient animal.”
That ethos is what I love about tech, and I hope to play my part in building the digital bicycles of the future. I also hope the phrase “digital bicycle” didn’t completely ruin the sincerity of that moment we were having, but you can’t win them all eh?