I came to business school because I wanted to get into high-tech.  I’ve known for a few years that  is where I want to end up.  Where else does an undercover nerd like me belong?  Where else could I get paid to think, manage, and help produce the same items that my daily life hinges around?

While visiting a bunch of schools and deciding where I would submit applications to, I was privileged to have taken part in the following conversation:

Ms. Fellow Potential MBA: So what do you want do you want to do after school?
Me: Well, I really want to get into high-tech.  I really think it’ll be the best fit for me.
Ms. Fellow Potential MBA: Interesting.  A lot of people say that, but it seems they always have a different definition of “high-tech”.  What do you mean in specific?
Me: *pauses to wonder if I’m suddenly in a mock interview* Well, you know … it’s high-tech.  Unlike low-tech.
Ms. Fellow Potential MBA: *unimpressed by my joke* Yeah, that seems to be the answer.

And this forced me to really think about this for the first time in awhile.  I had become so comfortable just saying “high-tech” and having everyone instantly assume web 2.0 stuff or mobile, that I never really thought about the phrase.  I actually remember a high school teacher warning me about this exact same thing.  People love to think of computers when they say technology … but a wheel is technology.  Hell, a rock that you mash corn with is a form of technology.

So, in order to help me with my future job search and in articulating my life goal to others, I came up with a short personal list of characteristics I feel apply to things that are “high-tech”.  I use it as a quick mental guide to make sure I don’t allow myself to sound dumb again.  I will caveat this list with it all has to do with computers, mobile devices, and the internet.  While this are a lot of examples in bio-tech or sustainability (clean-tech) that might count, I think “bio” and “clean” are better descriptors than “high”.

Disruptive

Disruptive is such a buzz word that how could I avoid using it?  Realistically, high-tech is often about doing something in a completely different way and realizing significant gains.  It’s not really about small incremental improvements (that’s what regular technology is for), but those large order of magnitude gains.  The “game changers”.

Involves an electrical current

While someone may be able to think of some obscure example that doesn’t run on electricity, generally speaking anything that I would put into “high-tech” is going to run on power of some sort.  This includes computers, laptops, phones, watches, etc.

Runs on a processor

Silicon is running pretty much everything nowadays.  I don’t think it’s a 100% requirement (there is some work in batteries that might just fall under high-tech), but generally speaking there is some type of processor that is running the show.

It’s networked

Again, not a 100% rule … but everything is networked nowadays.  While my current watch doesn’t connect to anything, I did get an MSN watch as a gift that downloaded weather forecasts for me.

Basically, I’m keeping it simple.  Outside of these 4 rules … you can run amok with whatever defines the category for you.  I think most of us have a preconceived notion when we hear the words “high” and “tech” mention in succession, and 9 times out of 10 you should just go with your gut.  But just in case some would-be MBA wants to grill your life goals … point them to this page.

– Damien Peters