Alec Ross is one of America’s leading experts on innovation. He served for four years as Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a role that earned him a Distinguished Honor Award from the State Department. He is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and serves as an advisor to investors, corporations, and government leaders. Ross lives in Baltimore with his wife and their three young children. His book is The Industries of the Future.
Question: What advice would you give someone who wants to enter your field?
Alec Ross: You know, I couldn’t tell you how I prepared for this. I still don’t consider myself to be a technologist per se; I’ve spent the last 15 years fighting poverty. I got started as an inter-city school teacher in West Baltimore teaching middle schoolers. I went and identified portable housing work, and then I started a non-profit that was focused on technology, but for me it wasn’t about technology, it was about educational and economic opportunity. What I did is I sort of immersed myself in technology as a way of addressing those issues.
Now if somebody said to me today, “Alec, you’re 37 years old and you are doing something that is really cool that fuses technology with diplomacy and development,” that’s something I’d like to do. How do I get these technology jobs? How do I get ahead of the curve on these things? My advice to that person would actually be, don’t go get a job in the technology sector, get a job in the development world but figure out how you can apply technology in that world.
Recorded on: July 29, 2009