Your Talent Hero: Riley Maguire
Riley 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.