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How to Hire the Next Steve Jobs

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The Wall Street Journal’s  Future of Data: Encoded in DNA describes a project running at Harvard that is using DNA as a storage medium for digital information. The project team translated a book, a text on genomic engineering no less, into actual DNA.

DNA is a genetic recipe made of four distinct codes. The codes are perfect for recording binary code, or the ones and zeros that form digital information.  The scientists in the Harvard study took the digital encoding of the book, and created actual strands of DNA that hold the book’s encoded contents. 

This article was both interesting and inspiring; the merging of science and engineering may well be the future of data storage.  To me, this wasn’t a surprise, true innovation often comes from outside an industry;  from professionals who are able to see things a little differently than individuals entrenched in a particular field.  When you’re in a jam, little fresh perspective goes a long way.     

Let’s say that you’re running an electronics company that is designing a new product. You start interviewing candidates with extensive experience designing human/electronic interactive devices. Somehow, a young woman with no formal education slips through the HR screener. She tried college, but dropped out after six months. This woman tells you that she really likes to learn, and even though she dropped out of school formally, she spent a lot of her time auditing creative college courses.  Her favorite audit? Calligraphy.

I’m sure you’re onto me now. I won’t go into Steve Jobs’ India travels, or his passion for Zen.

Would you interview someone like that? What if you did interview them and you really had a good feeling about them in your gut – would you have the courage to take a on a non-traditional hire? 

I don’t know if I would, but it’s worth a real think.

A few years back, Forbes Magazine wrote a piece titled How to Hire Outside the Box. The article portrays the experience vs. fresh perspective dilemma quite well. Employees with traditional backgrounds are predictable. You pretty much know what you are getting. Are you looking for predictability? 

If you’re looking for a game changer, a non-traditional hire might be worth the risk.

Whether you are a business owner or an employee, take notice of the Data Storage DNA breakthrough. We are no longer in an economy where just knowing about your area of specialty – even if you know this area really well – is enough. 

You are your own brand. The wider your knowledge base, the more attractive you are to potential employers/business partners.