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Scott Belsky, Part One

Published 5/4/2015

Scott Belsky is the VP Products & Community at Adobe and cofounder of Behance. Scott is also a successful investor in major tech companies such as Periscope and Uber.

Scott and I talk about the fundamental nature of creativity, why he created Behance, staying focused, the value of formal education, and what he wishes more people would ask him. Finally, at the end of the second part of the interview, Scott shares specific advice for developers who are wanting to work better with visionaries. Enjoy the interview!


Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea my name is Jonathan Cutrell and today I am interviewing Scott Belsky Scott co-founded Behance back in 2006 and he served as the CEO until Adobe bought Behance in 2012 now he is the vice president of products and community at Adobe. He's also the author of making ideas happen Scott also has invested in companies like Uber or Pinterest and Parascope and He's just had a lot of experience in the tech world in in the overlap of tech and creativity So I wanted to talk to Scott because I'm really interested in how we can perceive creativity as Developers and how we can work with visionaries better as developers. So let's get to the interview with Scott Belsky Scott, thanks so much for being on the show today No pleasure, thanks for having me So People who are listening to the show most likely know about your work From Behance or starting at Behance and then They probably at some point have heard that Adobe bought Behance. Can you tell me? Why did you why did you decide to create Behance in the beginning? Well Behance was born out of a sense of frustration to the honest You know a lot of my friends were in the creative world its designers or architects or writers or entrepreneurs And I felt like you know, they always had these great ideas and then You know check them checking six things later and they would still have you the same ideas or new ideas And I felt like ideas were always replacing ideas and replacing ideas and nothing was ever getting done So the idea behind Behance was to help organize and power the creative world to To get stuff done, you know to make ideas happen with our timeline from the very beginning and And and and and and and that was sort of so be hands actually was not necessarily conceived to be a Technology company. It was actually conceived to be mission centric and medium agnostic business Meaning that our mission was to help organize and power creative people and And we were willing to do that through any medium we could whether it was a conference or a book or an online network of millions of Creators connecting with each other and and that's that's that's where Behance was born So in other words Behance is not just behance.com It's things like what eventually became action method and and all of those other pieces to the puzzle Yeah, the 99 you know to our big annual conference and thing tank the action method paper products We really if you think about it we touch the realm of paper products Conference is online like you know content with the NINU website Obviously core technology like Behance the platform and Books like my book and then I did a new book series, which you know have sold hundreds of thousands of copies now You know for creators managing a successful career. So it's you know, it's been interesting to be kind of medium agnostic Yeah, absolutely So as a developer actually one of one of the most Influential books that I've ever read on my like the most influence on my career Was actually managing your day-to-day Absolutely Him across the box great. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, not managing your day-to-day which I'm actually going to do a a giveaway for managing your day-to-day if you're listening to this episode and you share this episode via Twitter one of you who shared this Will get a copy of managing your day-to-day which I will announce later, but we'll talk about that later on But in managing your day-to-day there was there's quite a lot of talk about focus and about Frontloading your day with the work that you needed to focus on and I want to talk to you about that as well because In making ideas happen You talk about focus about self-promotion Can you talk to me a little bit about how Reactionary workflow has a negative effect on on our day-to-day work? Yeah, the is the um If you think about it, you know, this very moment. We're all being inundated with stuff We're getting text messages, voice-on messages, email messages, space-of-messages, LinkedIn messages, you know all these different sources Things are coming into us and we are especially with the connected lifestyle that we live where we're always on our devices You can literally spend all day every day pecking away at the collective inboxes around you trying to stay afloat Essentially reacting to whatever comes into you rather than being proactive and what matters most to you And as a result you're kind of living you're living other people's to-do list You know, you're you're not allocating your energy towards the things that are most important You're just kind of responding to whatever is either urgent or whatever flows to the top of your inbox So is the last thing you were pinged with and so I like to say that we've earned due to this era of reactionary workflow where you can simply spend all day every day reacting and never be proactive with anything And so I actually encourage people including myself to to spend a chunk of every day focus not on all of the inboxes of my life but rather on a list of two to three things that are most important to me over the long term And and also be willing to sit back and think and read and write about these things that are well in turn Uh in order to make progress on the things that aren't urgent but are extremely important Sure, so let me ask you this on a on a very practical and literal level Uh, when is that time for you on a day-to-day basis? Is it morning afternoon? What do you normally do? Um usually for me it's actually the evening and um because realistically I have I have kids now You know, I have dinner events or just evening events almost every night and and um and so really the the pause and the silence My day is after you know 9.30 at night when I can sit down for a few hours and uh you know and and think Yeah, that's that's great. I think I think we have a a tendency in our culture to feel like to get anything done We have to constantly be on and constantly be moving and uh and like you're saying, you know responding to that Inundation trying to stay afloat Uh, but what you what you're saying sounds a lot like kind of meditative in a way not necessarily like true meditation But having some time to contemplate and really look at the things uh that you're trying to do More from a backed-up perspective like a zoomed-out perspective Yeah, I mean, we'll say that again I was just saying that it it so what you're saying sounds like um Sounds a lot like a meditative approach to to work. So uh sure We have a lot of you know my new things that we have to respond to like you can't just turn off your email inbox and expect Yeah, your co-workers to appreciate it, but uh, but there's also a time for us to kind of zoom back Or zoom out rather and and look at our work from you know the the long perspective Got it. Yeah, no Certainly, you know and and a lot of this is discipline. You know, I think that a lot of the um, maybe one of the skills of the 21st century will be the ability To disconnect um and to have some discipline over you know the way that tech drives our lives Sure. Yeah, I actually have another episode of of this show where I talk about addiction Uh and then I I specifically talk about how Uh, there was a study done and Uh, that basically just counted how many times people unlock their phones and it's kind of it's kind of scary in some ways When I say scary, I mean it's it's telling that we are addicted to To the notifications and to all the things that are being pushed into our lives Listen, I mean net net tech out of tremendous amount of value in our lives and if it can help us achieve more with last time Uh, less energy, you know, it's it's uh, it's a it's a gift um, but you know like You know like all All opportunities are also responsibilities and I think sometimes Uh, you know, we've all done this you know where I get into some just mindless mode of Going going from app to app on my on my phone and it's always like I'm searching for more stimulation Which is silly You know, it's one thing to have a diligent Uh Desire to achieve something and go into a an application to achieve it like I need to buy something or respond to something or Contact someone But to just mindlessly swipe and find something and that's where the addiction certainly kicks in Sure, and it's kind of the antithesis of your you know getting things done like making ideas happen And you don't make ideas happen by just kind of swiping through applications and clearing notifications So uh So let me let me switch gears here a little bit um You also talk about destigmatizing Um self promotion and I've I've talked to the people who are listening to this show about the same concept as well I'm interested on your take on this because it's it's kind of difficult for me to kind of give myself a brand As a developer it feels kind of uh inauthentic. Can you speak a little bit to the onti the authenticity of creating a brand for yourself? Yeah, well, I mean a couple of things I would say first of all and developers know this more than anyone else that sharing is the new networking so A developer who builds his or her reputation is not so doing so necessarily by going to cocktail parties and trying to network and meet people It's typically committing to GitHub or sharing now developing open source projects and building a reputation Um, that is uh, you know where people respect you for your capability Using your skills and opportunities just kind of fall in your lab. So I think that uh uh, anyways the the technology community is ahead of the head of the ball on this but I also think that self promotion is also about curation um back in the day before Before blogs even before Twitter there were some people who had sent around these photocopied uh Compiling of articles and studies that were interesting to them. They would send us to like you know theory of a few other people Still mail um every a couple months and people get it and they read it and they find it so interesting And they'd send it to a friend who would then say oh, I want to get on the snail less and uh and that was kind of essentially building your following Curating stuff. It's interesting to you that other people will then also find interesting and follow you And as a result when you share something you're working on or some resources than you need everyone's already listening So I think we all have to consider ourselves to be curators Um of what's interesting to us and that's a very effective means of self promotion Yeah, well that that reminds me a lot uh and this is actually a good segue into another topic But that reminds me a lot of my experience in in academia um so when when a teacher In my master's program created a a rubric for that class or uh, I guess a syllabus rather for that class They would have a lot of different readings that they had curated over the years Uh that kind of backed up Whatever the thing is that they were teaching for that week And so there's there's kind of this background of like there there's a curriculum That they were pushing but we we want to push the same kind of idea of a curriculum For other people as well Maybe not with a specific goal in mind like a specific topic But rather uh what we are trying to share uh about what we do or about what we want the world to be Mm-hmm absolutely and I think that that's in sharing that you know and building conversation around that and curating around that I mean that's it's how people get to know you and respect you and you know that's that's how What's the purpose of promotion is essentially attracting opportunity right? Mm-hmm Yeah, absolutely So um Speaking of education you hold two degrees one from Cornell and one from Harvard And I talk a lot about education on the show because a lot of people are wondering whether education is worth it for them There's you know obviously there's a lot of people who are saying that it's not worthwhile or it's not worth money Um and instead to just go your own way and and and teach yourself through experience or Uh teach yourself online maybe get an online degree And I'd like to know from you somebody who has gone through kind of the opposite end of that spectrum Um, what is the value? Would you say of education today in a formalized setting? Well, I think that and the honest answer is I certainly met you know Field friendships throughout my educational experiences just as I probably would have through whatever work experiences I had Educational you know when you're going to graduate degree or something you have more time to be with people and meet more people and stuff like that Um, but I think that the in some ways You know school is a hedge Mm-hmm school is a hedge it's a hedge against not necessarily knowing where you're going to be And what's going to happen and what opportunities you're going to get and so if you want to hedge yourself you go to school And at school you'll be exposed to you know job opportunities and you'll be exposed to new new industry is and it's kind of a bridge to a question mark Um and I think that that's and and so if you're really sure about what you want to make in the world Don't go to school um But if you you know, but if you're really not sure and you're kind of You're trying to figure it out Then um You know then I think that it's just it's just a good hedge Yeah, I think that's that it's really important for people to know how different this conversation would have been Um before we had the opportunities that we have now because you're you're saying as somebody who holds two degrees You're saying if you know what you want to make in the world Uh don't go to school Which is which is totally different than this conversation would have sounded maybe 50 years ago Uh because statistically at least then Um education was almost a no-brainer you kind of have to go to school to be able to be employable But that's just no longer the case Yeah Thank you so much for listening to the first part of my interview with Scott Belsky Make sure you check out the next episode of Developer Tea for the second part of my interview with Scott Belsky And also follow Scott on Twitter Scott Belsky is his twitter handle you can find it in the show notes at developertea.com I'd like for you to send Scott a tweet on twitter and thank him for being on Developer TeaThat's at Developer Teaon twitter and you can email me or get in touch with me on twitter If you have any feedback the email is developertea@gmail.com Thank you so much for listening to Developer Teaif you like the show Make sure you leave a review and iTunes letting other developers find the show a little bit better Only you can do that because other developers are going to trust your word Thank you so much for listening to the show and until next time enjoy your tea