Help, I've Been Nerded

Embrace your inner nerd, geek or fitting intellectual stereotype with disregard for the negative connotation.

By David Mantey, Editor, PD&D

I suppose that the hair would be parted on the other side and I’d be wearing a lavender vest rather than a kindergarten blazer featuring an assortment of arts and crafts, but the photo could just as easily come as the result of an evil motherly plot to sabotage my cool factor (pause for guttural laugh), as it did from a few minutes of Photoshop 101.

I wasn’t the victim of an adolescent prank: I volunteered to enter the nerdification process and must say that I was satisfied with the results – as much as I can with an image manipulated with virtual pomade.

Call it a marketing gimmick if you’d like, but rather than an inkless ballpoint or laminated pocket calendar, Faro Technologies was attracting attention at Quality Expo 2009 (a part of National Manufacturing Week) by pulling people into the booth with a digital camera and the eight latest additions to the nerd clan displayed on flat-screen televisions.

An unorthodox ploy, the viral marketing campaign not only had geeks lining up to join the nerd herd, it also drew their eyes to FARO’s products for 3D measurement, inspection, documentation and imaging. It had the allure of the 1980s-themed dance, but with masking tape and pocket protectors rather than big hair and ill-fitting pants.

The campaign reminded me of two things that I will now list in the least creative literary device:

  1. Nearly all successful ideas sounded absolutely ludicrous at one time.
  2. Embrace your inner nerd, geek or fitting intellectual stereotype with disregard for the negative connotation.

I often like to imagine myself in the think tank or brainstorming session when initially contrived ideas suddenly balled into an avalanche of possibility. I wish I was there when an ad agency sold H&R Block on the lime green square that is now the company’s logo, just so I could stand up and say, “Right, right … well, thank you for your time and effort.”

Of course, I would be quickly followed by a senior member of the company who waited until I finished canning my job to add, “By God, I think he/she/they may be on to something here.” For some reason, the boss’ fictitious voice always takes on a Charlton Heston-like grit when I’m narrating my own career setbacks in my mind.

If only I had the opportunity to sit in the meeting in which a group was “spitballing” and someone jokingly suggested that they nerd everyone at the show. Eyebrows raise, someone snaps their fingers and now you too can nerd yourself at I bought in, but if you know me, you understand my love for the absurd. I suppose that you may have caught on when you turned the page and noticed that my wardrobe and personal style choices had changed.

With the success of Best Buy’s Geek Squad (and its fictitious counterpart on the TV show Chuck), embracing the inner intellectual went from taboo to chic in a single selling season. Ignoring the faux uncool, because it’s now in to sport black plastic frames and a neat white shirt, I want to stress the importance of embracing, if not promoting, the oddball inside. As an outed member of those known as weird, I’m typically not one for charades, but day-to-day life was simply easier to lead when I dropped the act and realized that my days as a socially awkward full-time member of the media and part-time word enthusiast were far from numbered.

Similar to an “aha” moment, the “oh” moment stands out in your personal chronicle as the second you stepped back from the façade and celebrated your interests and strengths. I was lucky enough to pair my love for the written word with the cool prestige of the engineering community, saving myself from the deep weird beyond by a single, side-parted hair.

Sure we’ve been nerded, but we knew that long before we posed in front of a quasars and binary code. Embrace it.

What’s your take? Send you questions, comments or nerded photos to