Microsoft's behavioral scientist Matt Wallaert – Coding isn't the only skill needed in tech

What is a behavioral psychologist doing at a technology company?
Matt Wallaert, behavioral scientist for Microsoft, didn’t plan on leading a team of scientists dedicated to understanding how you interact with technology. In the beginning of his career, he was on a path to teaching college and researching human behavior. However, during graduate school at Cornell, he was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and went on to build two successful startups, Thrive (acquired by Lending Tree) and Get Raised. One might think that after these experiences, he could sit back on his accomplishments and enjoy life. Not this guy. He has more energy than a double espresso.
While building and selling a company brings you certain skill sets, Matt shared that he wanted to continue to work in an area meaningful to him while making a difference on a global scale-and landed at Microsoft.
At Microsoft he created Bing in the Classrooms , a digital literacy program that puts hardware in the hands of students and provides teachers lesson plans to help their students expand their knowledge via online search in a safe/ad-free/private environment.
During our coffee chat, Matt and I discussed the skewed perception that one must be able to code in order to be an impactful part of building great tech products.
“We have this vision of tech companies with coders in a dark room typing,” Matt said.
While he does encourage all generations interested in entering the industry to at least give coding a try-it’s not the end all, be all, skill if it doesn’t fuel your passion. Just one of many skill sets found at tech companies include art and graphic design. Matt shared that Microsoft employees thousands of graphic designers to help make their products aesthetically pleasing.
Whatever your skill might be, his advice was to continue to build your talents that are meaningful to you.
“While I work with a lot of coders, and I can code, I don’t code on a daily basis. My skill sets are working with people, relating to people, and how they interact with technology…and figure out what they need to help create new products.”
Building great tech products requires people with a diverse set of skills that, in the end, could change the world, help others or educate our children.
“The most powerful thing we build, we build together,” Matt stated.
Need some more inspiration, watch Matt’s TEDx talk below: