Your Talent Hero: Riley Maguire

rileyRiley Maguire is Chief Operating Officer at The Mad Video (Discontinued 12/31/2016). Previously, he worked as senior strategy associate with StepOne Ventures and was also managing director for the Jóvenes con Futuro program. He has also served as an assistant professor at the University of Navarra, and marketing director for AFA Press. Originally from San Francisco, Riley has been involved in the international tech sector for several years and enjoys working with European startups and fostering an entrepreneurial culture.


Every digital hero starts with a small first step

Think of some of the common things you use on your computer or mobile phone every day: browsers, web pages, email, text messaging, etc. Have you ever thought about how someone came up with an idea for things like this?

Your first thought might be that the idea started with some computer programmers, or nerds, locked in a room, programming all night. Or maybe it was some engineer in a lab somewhere working for a large corporation.

These first thoughts might lead you to believe that the people who come up with these ideas are “professionals” and already very successful and important. But, every idea starts with one simple thing. It doesn’t matter who is involved or where it comes from, an idea always starts with trying to solve a problem.

Problems happen in the real world, and they come in all shapes and sizes. For example, finding a way to turn in your homework assignment you wrote up on your home computer may be a small problem, but people recognized that and came up with thumb drives, hard disks, and printers. Your teachers also may see a problem in organizing all these printed assignments that students turn in. They might also want a more convenient way to grade and give feedback. That’s why someone came up with an idea like MyBigCampus.

When people wanted an easy way to talk online, we got Skype. When it was hard to find something on the Internet, we got search engines like Google. When we wanted to find where we could buy something online, we got Amazon and eBay. Looking for an apartment was always tough, and then a guy named Craig came up with a way to list them online and called it Craigslist.

An idea is like a two-sided coin. On the one side is the problem. On the other side is the opportunity that the problem presents. You have the incredible ability to recognize these problems and look at them as opportunities. That’s the secret to how today’s big tech companies got started!

In my case, I love watching travel documentary videos online but I was always wondering where the places they went to were, and how I could see them on a map. That was the problem. The solution? Adding tags to videos with information like location. I can pause the video, click on the tag, and know exactly where the video was taken. That’s what The Mad Video does!

Everyone who reads this blog post has the talent to recognize problems and see them as opportunities. What small problems have you had in your day to day activities? What would you like to work better?

Being a digital hero allows you to think about the next step: trying to solve these problems. That is where technology comes in. And before you say, “but Riley, I don’t know much about technology,” let me let you in on another secret: you don’t have to. You just have to be familiar with the basics. Many big CEOs don’t do anything related to programming or tech. Because they lived through and understood a problem, and worked on a solution, their familiarity and vision is often more valuable than technical ability.

So, while you are still in school, you have two homework assignments. The first is to get familiar with the tech basics that you’ll use at home and in the classroom. The second is to think about some kind of problem you’ve had recently. Then try to think of how it can be an opportunity. Remember, problems can be very small and often hard to realize. Maybe you need help with your homework? Maybe you don’t have a place to lock your bike? Maybe you keep forgetting passwords for things online? Once you start identifying problems, you can think of very creative opportunities and solutions that come from fixing them!

Got a problem you would like share? Congratulations! You’ve just taken your first step as a digital hero.

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Bill is an eLearning Coach helping to facilitate meaningful integration of technology to enrich instruction, engage students & develop 21st century skills. He is dedicated to enthusiastic, dynamic and technologically rich teaching as a means of creating and nurturing a lifelong love of learning in children. He has over 15 years of classroom experience and was the 2006 Outstanding High School Educator for Vanderburgh County. Currently he is a doctoral candidate for a Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology degree with an emphasis on integrating technology, learning, and psychology. Bill maintains an active presence as presenter on the eLearning Conference circuit. He has a supportive wife Jeneen and wonderful son Zander.

169 COMMENTS

  1. An issue that I have is trying to having ideas for writings I have, I try to get ideas for writing with listening to music and looking through old writings. And I’m in sixth grade and I think that there should be a creative writing class and club for aspiring authors and writers, A lot of people think that I should get a publisher and I don’t know what publishing companies to look at! So when I’m at least 18 I’ll probably have my first book out! And I hope that’ll happen!

  2. Hey I am in sixth grade i would like to know what is inside the computer that makes the courser [mouse] move and what makes the courser click on the sites and make it show up as it does. I think we should learn this probably when we are 15 or 16 or perhaps in high school as a freshman or a soft more.

    • Great question and this is the kind of curiosity that helps people find what they are interested in.

      So, this probably started with an idea that someone had: to use something like a mouse, and to make a cursor on the screen mimic it, so that people could click on things around a computer screen (or interface).

      Computer mice are now way more developed (or they don’t even exist anymore with laptops) but the original idea was to make a plastic thing with a rubber ball inside, which would move some sensors, which would relay that info to the computer screen.

      Much more detail here – http://computer.howstuffworks.com/mouse2.htm

  3. I’m in sixth grade at Helfrich Park Stem Academy. What I would like to learn to do on the computers is to make electronics.

  4. Hi I’m in the 6th grade before I graduate high school I would like to learn how to make electronics and when I am 16 is that to old or young

  5. My problem is i have to charge my computer all the time, because the charge wont stay in. I could fix this by getting a solar powered computer

    • A solar powered computer would be awesome! Hopefully in a few years, that will be a reality. For now, the solar panel would cost more than a new battery. If you take your current battery to a place like Batteries Plus, they can repair your battery so that it holds a charge longer pretty inexpensively. I am with you on the solar power sure would be nice. Thanks!

    • Yes! That’s exactly it! It’s great that you recognize the problem (the charge won’t stay in) and can think of opportunities (solar power) – that’s exactly how great ideas get started!

  6. Hi im in 6th grade and before I graduate high school I wanna learn how to work the tools and apps. What class would I have to take to learn this?

    • Hey Tyler, if by tools and apps you mean the stuff that makes apps work, you need to learn about what they call computer programming (which is really just a fancy way of writing things in languages that computers can understand). You can start with the basics – something like what makes a web page work – on many services like codeacademy.com. With webpages, for example, the code is written in a language called HTML, which is pretty easy to pick up.

    • That would be cool wouldn’t it? This is a good thing to think about – what kind of opportunities or new things would you be able to do with them? Answer that question, share that with your teachers and maybe it’ll help them make a decision on bringing them into the classroom!

    • There is a lot of demand for computer repair workers. Have you looked on YouTube for “how to change a video card” or “how to add memory to your PC?” That would be some basic things you could start with help from your parent. Check it out. Thanks for the comment.

  7. An issue that I have that needs to be solved is my money problems. I am always asking my parents / family for money and I don’t like to. So the other day I had went online the other day and my mom helped me fill out an application for Subway down the street from where I live at. I am old enough to have a job and I may not get enough hours but at least I will have a job that will pay me!

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