I’ve decided to share a short story that I found to be a catalyst for reflection and appreciation:
A few months ago, it was decided that the solar car team leads would be going on a weekend canoe trip to Algonquin for “team-building.” We finally embarked on the trip during the August long weekend with about twelve members of the team, including most of the team leads and our managing director, Zhe Gong.
After settling down in a campsite on the first day, Zhe and I set off across the lake to gather some firewood from deep in the forest. On our way back, we were accosted by a man and his family whose campsite was near the lake. His young daughter took an interest in us, and as Zhe and I toiled away, her shrill voice floated across the lake:
“What’s five times seven?!” his daughter demanded to know. The two of us burst out laughing, and I replied, “Thirty-five!” as Zhe simultaneously said, “I don’t know!” The girl was thrilled, and demanded more.
“What’s thirty-five times two?”
“Seventy,” we called back.
“What’s seventy times five?” “Three hundred and fifty.”
“Twenty-five times twenty-five?” “Six hundred twenty-five.”
This poor little girl’s mind was being blown. She and her family watched two young men paddling with a canoe full of logs, phones or calculators nowhere to be seen, correctly answering what she imagined to be ridiculously difficult math questions. She was done playing games; it was time to end this once and for all:
“What is five million times five?!” she screamed. Amused, we replied, “Twenty-five million.”
Now it was time for the father to take a stab at stumping us. After a few questions, it was finally our reply of, “Five thousand one hundred and eighty four!” that was met with a “Jesus! How are they doing that?!” and we knew that to that family, we seemed to be wizards.
This experience made me realize that something I consider mundane (the ability to do mental math) was viewed as wizardry. I stepped back further and considered that my “wizardry” came from what we achieve here at Blue Sky. Arthur C. Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” At Blue Sky, we are constantly pushing to develop technology and techniques for making the future a reality today, and that is an act of magic.
The entire ordeal was met with a few chuckles, but further consideration really made me understand the magnitude of our work. We were given the title of “wizards” for the wrong reasons, but it has certainly resonated with me as a hard truth. Time and time again, through all the self-doubt and crippling defeats, working with Blue Sky requires me to roll up my sleeves and conjure up solutions. Blue Sky has empowered me to build a better and brighter future by repeatedly telling me, “You are a wizard, Kevin.” And much like Hogwarts was for Harry, I can safely say that Blue Sky is my home.