Stayin' alive

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Don't let him eat your brainpower! (Photo courtesy Daniel Hollister via Flickr)
Don't let him eat your brainpower! (Photo courtesy Daniel Hollister via Flickr)

A creative technologist's guide to surviving the zombie apocalypse (and your job)

Since George Romero’s creation of "Night of the Living Dead" in 1968, the modern concept of a zombie apocalypse has been around, frightening moviegoers and sci-fi fanatics worldwide. But as a creative technologist (CT), I am sad to see how small a role technology plays in these doomsday films. Thus, I decided to share five lessons I’ve learned from working as a CT that can help, whether fighting off a mob of zombies or a mob of clients.

Lesson One: Become a hoarder

Start stockpiling all the materials and items you may require. Think "I Am Legend." Between food, supplies to board up his house and even bombs to plant as a protective barrier, Will Smith is nothing short of prepared. Hoarding allows you to stay agile and build contraptions quickly. Not having the correct supplies = wasted time. Wasted time = no hideout for your loved ones or, in the case of advertising, no time to sell an idea in to your client. Many of the items we build in the Martin Agency Lab are based on trending topics in social media and thus are time-sensitive. They need to be built and presented quickly to the client. Waiting a week or two for a part from China can be an idea-killer. Or in the case of a zombie apocalypse, a real killer.

Lesson Two: Have a plan, a creative plan

Now that you’ve collected your supplies, you need a plan. No matter your role, it’s important to be as creative as possible. For example, if you are in charge of collecting water, you need to plan out the quickest and most creative means of transporting, testing and sanitizing the water. Or, for example, if you are Shaun in "Shaun of the Dead," you could get creative and throw records at the zombies in an attempt to decapitate them. As CTs, we often present some creative and crazy ideas to our clients. A robotic cookie bag for Chips Ahoy! or a high-fiving machine for the agency to enjoy. Both required a creative plan.

Lesson Three: Use your time wisely

Whether prepping for a client meeting or holding off a horde of zombies, time is not your friend. But if you’re prepared (Lesson One) and have a plan (Lesson Two), you will be forced to make far fewer sacrifices. As a CT, spare time is rare. So, when it comes along, I teach myself how to use a new gadget or programming language. One of my favorite ways of choosing a new device to learn is visiting Adafruit.com, SparkFun.com, SeeedStudio.com, Microcenter.com or RobotShop.com and going through their "New Arrivals" sections. It’s also great just to know what’s out there for future projects. And just think what Rick Grimes could have done in "The Walking Dead" if he had taught himself how to build a robot prior to an invasion. 

Lesson Four: Karma’s a bitch

If there’s one lesson you should learn before the zombie apocalypse (and before entering the workforce), it’s that karma’s a bitch. Let me explain. As a CT, I am pulled in on a variety of projects and work with people across all departments. I work long hours when needed, always contribute when asked and always, always have my coworkers’ backs. Then, when it’s time, they always return the favor, whether it be supporting one of my harebrained ideas or giving me that last, sacred can of Spam in an apocalyptic situation.

Lesson Five: 'Make and break'

The last, but most important, lesson to learn is "make and break," a term we coined here at the Martin Lab. In essence, it’s our mantra, our reminder to not be afraid to dive in, to try new building techniques and programming languages. And, more importantly, to not be frustrated when it breaks and/or doesn’t work the first time, but to learn from what broke, and make it better. In fact, we like to think that if it didn’t break the first time, we didn’t try hard enough. And if you didn’t kill the impeding zombies, you might want to try again.

As CTs in a world increasingly driven by technology, we must constantly practice our craft. We must learn to be designers, user experience experts and craftsmen. We must continue to make, break and push the limits of what we can accomplish both as technologists and as humans in general. Because only then will we survive in this digital era as well as the impending zombie apocalypse.

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