Advice for folks in tech who are at the beginning or middle of building their careers: Focus on weak ties. Once you’ve got let’s say ~100 diverse relationships within the tech community you’re probably a single hop from most people you don’t already know.
When you reach that point I think what really benefits you — in terms of new ideas — and expanding your perspective, is accessing new talent pools. This means to spend time with extremely impressive folks in industries outside of pure tech. I’m talking about the one percent of the most talented people in their industry, not yours.
From my experience you’ll find that many of them are open to chatting because they’re happy to talk about what they do and want to learn more about technology.
So the quid pro quo is that you go to their office, or set up a call, and say “Hey, if you’ll give me 20 minutes to talk about what you do, I’ll share some ideas and trends about where tech may be impacting your industry.”
When working at Google, the benefit of a google.com email address — which meant that basically anyone I contacted would at least open my message to see who from Google was reaching out to them. And, man — I reached out to a lot of people.
For example, Joe Quesada, then Editor in Chief of Marvel comics. Basically I found Joe’s email address online and emailed him — maybe twice before he responded :)
The offer was this: “Hey, I’m really curious about what your job looks like and how tech is changing the comic book industry. If you’ll meet me for coffee in NYC and tell me about your life and your gig, I’ll rap with you about what’s going on in tech on the West Coast.
Also, I’m happy to serve as someone who can connect you with people inside Google if you have questions down the road about things that Google<>Marvel might want to do together.” He was game and it was a really unique conversation about art, commerce, fandom — and so much more.
So go reach out to folks in whatever industries fascinate you. You’ll learn a ton, perhaps hear ideas that spur you to new thoughts and you’ll definitely emerge with a set of relationships that help put you at the crossroads of talented people across industries.