Red Burns, the "godmother of Silicon Alley," passed away last Friday leaving not only the legacy of NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, which she founded in 1979 and has graduated over 3,000 students, but the wisdom of having worked at a technology incubator before most Silicon Alley executives could talk.
Unlike engineering programs — or coding classes — the ITP program's "purpose was to produce people, rather than just technicians, who could use technology to perform interesting and helpful tasks," explains The New York Times's Douglas Martin in his obituary today. Despite the obsession with meritocracy — the idea that people in the tech world succeed based on their skills — success in Silicon Valley (and Alley) takes more than possessing coding skills. Burns knew that.
An interactive tools creator — she turned the portable camera into a documentary filmmaking tool — Burns had some insightful words of wisdom for the future technology creators of America in a 1994 interview with The New York Times's J. Greg Phelan. (The Q&A was conducted in the context of her NYU program, asking why students should choose to attend ITP over other technical schools.) Here are some highlights aspiring tech leaders might want to live by almost 2 decades later: