The Millennial generation has given way to Generation Z, those kids who are growing up in the 21st century. Gen Z lives in a very different world than earlier generations. Recently, I read of one girl who illustrates the upside of this younger generation. Her name is Mira Modi, and she lives in New York.
Mira was eleven years old when she noticed a problem. Adults kept talking about identity theft and other challenges they faced regarding computer technology. So she dug into the issue and discovered cyber attacks and data theft on the rise. Since screens are front and center in her life, she perceived how important it is for people to use strong passwords that aren’t easy for hackers and computers to guess.
So Mira chased down this problem and came up with an answer.
Sixth-grader Mira Modi now helps people solve this problem. According to TNW News, “[Mira] uses Diceware, a proven methodology to generate long passwords you can commit to memory easily. You can get your own by post for $2 a piece.” If she pursued this work full-time, Mira would make $12 an hour, which is more than the minimum wage in New York State.
How an Adult Cultivated a Young Leader
Mira is the daughter of Propublica journalist Julia Angwin, who authored the book Dragnet Nation. Julia invited her young daughter to join her in a project—and developed a young leader in the process. Let me review the stages in the process that we can duplicate with our students:
- She helped Mira see a reality.
While working on a book project, Julia helped her daughter discover the dangers of data theft. Mira saw first hand some of the dilemmas that come with technology and privacy. Even at 11 years old, Mira could recognize this real need in the lives of real people. This was no computer game or photo op on social media.
- She helped Mira sense a possibility.
Julia asked Mira to generate Diceware passphrases as part of her research for a book. Along the way, the idea surfaced, and the two talked it over. Rolling dice and recording the numbers popping up was random. Maybe Mira could actually do this for people, providing passwords as a service. Suddenly, the idea sparked energy.
- She helped Mira solve a problem.
Julia was able to discuss how this would actually help people deal with the issue in their daily lives. She could add value to others by using her talent and ideas. Soon, Mira was accompanying mom on trips, selling passwords to people they met. The young girl experienced the satisfaction of helping people resolve their difficulties.
- She helped Mira save a passion.
Julia could tell her daughter was full of potential, but like any “tweener,” could be vulnerable to becoming a technology addict: abusing it, becoming over-connected, and failing to utilize it well. Instead, Mira’s mother leveraged Mira’s love of math and technology and redeemed them, turning her skill into something productive.
- She helped Mira start a product.
Mira was not satisfied with the sales she made on road trips, in person. So mom helped Mira set up her own website to offer her product on-line. When an order comes in, Mira literally rolls some dice and hand-writes the passcode, sending it in the mail to her customer. Work ethic is easier to cultivate when rewards are real.
I share this story because I believe it can be repeated in a variety of ways by parents, teachers, staff and employers of young people.
- What student do you know who has a talent and isn’t using it well?
- How could you leverage their gift and enable them to serve others with it?
Great leadership isn’t about doing something great, but revealing the greatness others have inside them. This is our challenge with Generation Z.