8 minute read

Why we hire weirdos – and you should too

“Hire smart people and get out of their way.” At Gitwit, we hire super smart people for sure. But we don’t adhere to this aphorism, because we always make sure we get into each other’s way—by questioning, challenging, and building on the insights and ideas coming from widely diversified viewpoints and capabilities.

Why we hire weirdos – and you should too

As we begin ramping up for another round of hiring in 2023, our teams have been reflecting on what makes good hires, and how we source the very best candidates.

Ultimately, much of this reflection roots back to the very reason we exist:

Gitwit is built to be a serial innovator: we apply our team and process with repeated success to any industry, any size, any problem, any point of entry.

Simply put, in order to continue innovating across domains, we must source hiring candidates from diverse professional backgrounds to help us challenge assumptions and expand the diversity of approaches we deploy in our consulting, marketing, and digital product engagements.

David Epstein’s Range underscores the value of working with generalists:

Breadth of training predicts breadth of transfer.

That is, the more contexts in which something is learned, the more the learner creates abstract models, and the less they rely on any particular example. Learners become better at applying their knowledge to a situation they’ve never seen before, which is the essence of creativity.

― David Epstein, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

To this end, you’ll rarely see us post jobs requesting degrees in specific fields such as Management or Communications. Rather, we keep an open mind to individuals with a deep-seated curiosity for finding the best problems and a track record of aggressively pursuing collaborative solutions.

We lovingly refer to ourselves as Gitwit’s “Nitwits,” recasting a put-down as someone who approaches their work with intentional naivety and a beginner’s mindset in order to see and do in new, unexpected ways. 

Our current band of Nitwits is, of course, composed of many individuals with a strong background in business, marketing, design, and product development. But our team now includes former physicists, investigative journalists, biologists, and mechanical engineers who each bring unique perspectives, helping us diversify and strengthen the questions we ask, our ideation processes, and ultimately deliver better results for our clients.

We asked a few Nitwits to share how they’ve used their past experiences to inform their current work at Gitwit.

Alyssa Rodriguez

Evolutionary Biologist turned Content Strategist

In nature, innovation is required for survival. Species are always in an evolutionary race to adapt to their environment and competitive pressures—constantly one-upping other species’ newly evolved traits in an endless loop until someone fails to keep up. Biologists refer to this as the Red Queen Hypothesis.

But as an evolutionary biologist, I learned that some of the most valuable innovations for survival are actually based in storytelling. As a researcher in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I studied the relationship between plumage coloration and stress hormones in wild tree swallows. In these birds, I suspected coloration might be a signal trait—a characteristic or behavior that’s evolved to communicate something that ultimately benefits the signaller. 

In other words, nature’s marketing.

Poison dart frogs offer a useful example of nature’s marketing. Their bright coloration evolved as a signal to predators of their toxicity. As predicted by the Red Queen Hypothesis, predators then co-evolved a cognitive bias that discourages eating brightly colored prey. Today, many non-toxic frogs market themselves by donning the same bright coloration as their toxic counterparts.

So, whether your innovation is a genetic mutation, B2B SaaS, or anything in between, nature taught me that how we communicate about an innovation is, in itself, an opportunity to innovate. Knowing your audience and delivering the right message, at the right time, and in the right places is essential for survival.

Amanda Turk

Mechanical Engineer turned Head of Learning

As an engineer, I loved working on automotive systems because of their complexity. There are dozens of systems and subsystems, all influencing each other. You have to constantly keep the big picture in mind while working on individual parts, carefully designing them to fit and work together when integrated into the final vehicle build.

My favorite part of any project was the design phase. This is where I got to think about the relationship between the concept we wanted to bring to life and the individual parts required to build it. What pieces were needed and how would they fit together so that they functioned in the right way? When could we use off-the-shelf parts and when did we need to fabricate custom parts? How would we go about fabricating them? 

It was my job to ensure that the overall vision flowed down into decisions about small details and, conversely,  to construct a “big picture” by piecing together individual parts. I developed the ability to look at a pile of parts on the table and visualize the machine that they might build.

These skills have proven just as valuable in the business world as they were in engineering. At Gitwit, we talk a lot about keeping the “why” of every project front and center—letting it influence every decision we make, from our choice of language to our choice of next steps. We also work to develop overall strategies based on smaller evidence-based insights. At the start of a project, we conduct a thorough discovery process to extract important insights, which can then be pieced together to define a problem that needs to be solved or a story that needs to be told.

Spencer James

Astrophysicist turned Head of Analytics

I love learning new things. During my previous career as a research scientist, I was constantly faced with unsolved problems. This often meant adapting existing methodologies or developing completely new approaches to solve problems. A large part of doing that meant learning new tools or techniques, like when I was investigating exploding stars.

During my time at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, I had the opportunity to learn about theoretical plasma physics from some of the preeminent physicists in the field, but I oftentimes had to then translate the mathematical concepts and techniques into something that a computer could understand and simulate at scale. It was a necessary part of my research into nonlinear dynamics of turbulent plasmas. As a result, I became quite adept at teaching myself how to teach myself. I wasn’t completely aware of it at the time, but I was developing the mindset and ability to rapidly assimilate information and apply it quickly to solve problems.

At Gitwit, we often encounter unique problems or industry verticals that require us to add a new tool to our toolbox in order to solve them. Being able to quickly learn, adapt, and invent new methodologies to solve problems is crucial to rapid innovation in today’s world.

Austin Boardman

Human-Environment Geographer turned Data Analyst

I’ve always been interested in the science of where. As a biologist for the National Park Service, I spent years surveying Yosemite for endangered species and researching why animals survived in certain habitats. Then in grad school, I traveled across Colorado, New Mexico, and the Oklahoma Panhandle, interviewing over a hundred ranchers to understand why invasive plant species popped up in some places but not others.

Great geographic research employs a mixed methods approach—that is, merging both qualitative and quantitative insights to arrive at a triangulated truth. For example, my invasive plants research was informed both by ranchers’ accounts of their land management history, plus machine learning analysis of drone imagery to measure species composition on their ranches.

Similarly, our work at Gitwit rarely utilizes just one research method. Rather, we might dive into sales data, conduct customer interviews, and run structured marketing experiments all with the goal of finding hidden truths about consumer behavior.

Kassie McClung

Investigative Journalist turned Market Researcher

The type of work that excites me most centers around research and storytelling. Market research and investigative journalism have more in common than you might think.

As an investigative journalist, I spent almost a decade interviewing people from all walks of life, deciphering complicated topics, digging through records and data to spot hidden trends, and ultimately translating those learnings into stories that mattered to people.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, I reported on access to COVID-19 tests in the state and how practices aligned with federal CDC standards. The reporting process involved gaining a deep understanding of those federal standards, determining how agencies were testing people, and why testing for the virus mattered. It was vital to learn about people’s actual experiences. I interviewed several doctors who sought to get patients tested, patients themselves, laboratories who processed COVID-19 test samples, and state officials. The day after the story was published, several health departments in the state changed their policies, allowing more people to get tested. 

At Gitwit, I use similar approaches and skills every day. Whether it’s learning about a changing industry, discovering what consumers care about, or uncovering what businesses need, a deep understanding and ability to spot meaningful trends that often go overlooked is vital to creating work that can ultimately impact the lives of millions.

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Dan Fisher is a co-founder, principal, and strategist at Gitwit, as well as a professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Central Arkansas.