A Conversation With Joe Kling

I attended the UC College of Applied Science Awards Dinner recently. Believe it or not, I suck at networking. Events like this terrify me. I mean, what am I going to say to the 800 people in the room. Have you ever felt completely alone in a crowd? How do you break the ice? So I’ll let you in on a secret, but you can’t tell anyone.

Dinner was scheduled to start at 7PM with networking time starting at 6PM. Knowing that I would only run into a few people that I would personally know or have an obvious reason to approach with conversation, I decided to arrive at 6:20ish so that I would only have to stand around looking pitiful for a shorter amount of time.

I mingled with some of the folks from the IT program. These folks are great and the students bring some completely new ideas to the table. I’m so fired up that I get an opportunity to support them. As an aside, I have the privilege to serve as a judge for the 2008 Tech Expo where the seniors in all the CAS programs show off their senior design projects. I had the opportunity to do this last year and I’m really looking forward to the event this year. It’s on May 22nd at the Duke Energy Center downtown. If you have some time over lunch or you’re downtown that day, make an effort to stop by. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. These kids are shaping our tomorrow.

I guess that brings me to my next point. Our tomorrow. Okay, so backtracking, after talking with the IT folks I ambulated the halls for a few minutes pretending I was looking for someone particular to talk with. Now it’s 6:40ish and I’ve run out of next steps. Not being able to overcome the strong desire to find a hole to crawl into, I retreat down the stairs to a remote corner of the conference center, pull out my BlackBerry, and jump into an engaging game of brickbreaker. For 20 minutes. The ultimate networking activity.

Dinner’s on so I head back up stairs for the festivities. And from here on out the night was fantastic. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a dinner at UC’s Kingsgate Conference Center, take it. The food is out of this world, and the staff truly attends to your every need. Three times I’ve been to a dinner here, and each time it has been multi-course with entrees of filet mignon, prime rib, salmon, poultry, and more. Of course asparagus always compliments the entre which proves the event is high class. Never mind what it does to you after the fact.

The evening’s program awarded students in the different colleges for their outstanding achievements. The crowning moment was the heart-wrenching honorary awards given to the parents of the recently-fallen firefighters by the college’s fire science program. The men in uniform standing side-by-side with these brave firefighters’ parents couldn’t help but generate both a standing ovation and tears. Awesome. Thank God for people who will put their lives on the lines for you and me.

The IT tables were full when I entered the dining room, so I took a seat with some of the students from the horticulture program – because we had so much in common. One of the student’s husbands took a seat next to me. I introduced myself saying that I had absolutely nothing in common with anyone else at the table. And to my surprise, he responded the same way which gave us a conversation platform for the rest of the evening. His name was Joe Kling.

Joe pointed me to a video which made me contemplate the future of communications and the skills my kids will need to be successful, or geez, just even exist in a first world economy. Here it is.

We talked about some concepts outlined in Nicholas Carr’s The Big Switch. I’ve read about half the book. So far, the concepts that stand out to me include the shift to commodity computing power as compared to the build-out of commodity electric power, amateur production and the elevation of good-enough, and the continuing shift of wealth and the increasing disparity across economic stratification. I’m not an economist, and I’m not taking a moral stand on the shift of wealth here, I’m just pointing out one of the ideas in the book that I found interesting.

Joe then pointed out the realities of some of these ideas in his own profession. For years, Joe shot professional photos for commercial purposes. Early in his career his clients paid him handsomely to create photographic effects as this all happened within the camera and film where lighting and other external variables affected the outcome. Over time the creative work shifted to post production where Photoshop and other software could quickly enhance components of a photo. Joe’s photography work became a commodity as clients would ask him to “just shoot the photos” because “we’ll do all the effects in post-production.” Guess what. Joe doesn’t do commercial photography any more.

Not only that, but Joe said he started working with Photoshop, personally, to grab some of the post-production work. Guess what. Photoshop add-ins automated much of that work, making it a commodity, so Joe doesn’t do post-production work anymore either. Joe took it one step further and said that today’s kids are inundated with sensory input from so many simultaneous sources that when he was doing post-production work there were 15 others half his age out-pacing him 10-to-1 simply because they were used to such a fast pace and being bombarded with multiple streams of information.

Joe also pointed me to the Hennegan company as an example of a casualty of good-enough and the electronic printing press, i.e. the internet.  Once the mainstay of the corporate annual report printing in a niche, high-margin business, Hennegan is now a shell of its former self as the annual report has gone the way of the dodo via the PDF and electronic publishing.

More to come on The Big Switch.  So whaddya think?  Has the shift in output and the commoditization of previously high-skill vocations affected you?  How did you adapt?


~ by Andy on May 10, 2008.

One Response to “A Conversation With Joe Kling”

  1. Yet another great post, Andy! I like how you put the personal feel into some of the stuff you write. I was surprised to read that you think you “suck at networking”… I think that is totally untrue. You are a master networker, at least in my book.

    As far as the second part of your post, I believe this change is moving at an exponential rate. I read “The World is Flat” a couple years ago, and one of its main themes was the commoditization of many of the jobs we take for granted today. It pushed for the need to retraining a portion of the workforce in preparation for this change. I hope I can help my kids move towards careers that will not be commodities in their future… I believe this will be tougher than it seems.

    Looks like I need to get a hold of a copy of “The Big Switch”!

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