It’s a shame be­cause I’ m not spe­cial. Ev­ery­one can go out been ex­posed to i t i n the same way there could be school on en­tre­pre­neur­ial work­ing i n the tech sec­tor. It’s j ust nuts how dis­parate i t i s and how hard i t i s to to these i ndus­tries

Af­ter the prob­lems a col­umn with he wrote New Zealand’s out­lin­ing ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem got the on­line world buzzing, 18- year- old Wil­liam Reynolds j our­neyed down to Welling­ton to ex­plain to the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion why new tech­nolo­gies, l i ke AR/ VR, AI and blockchain need to be cov­ered off i n the cur­ricu­lum, so more kids are bet­ter equipped for the changes ahead. And now, he’s tak­ing the path l ess trav­elled and i ntern­ing at tech com­pa­nies around the world rather than at­tend­ing Univer­sity. Here, he dis­cusses why he wants more kids to have the op­por­tu­ni­ties he’s cre­ated for him­self.

R eynolds is a re­cently grad­u­ated Auck­land stu­dent who pro­voked an on­line dis­cus­sion about what needs to change in New Zealand’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem ear­lier this year. His opin­ion piece, which was pub­lished on Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tral and ti­tled ‘One stu­dent’s open let­ter to ed­u­ca­tors: please pre­pare us bet­ter for the real world’ de­tailed why more stu­dents need to be in­tro­duced to tech­nolo­gies that are dras­ti­cally al­ter­ing the world as we know it, such as blockchain, AR/VR and AI.

“There’s so many ex­cit­ing tech­nolo­gies that are go­ing to change our world, and po­ten­tially change the next 30 years more than the last 200,” Reynolds tells Idea­log. “Nan­otech­nol­ogy, VR, AR, ro­bot­ics, drones, AI, self-driv­ing cars. Anti-ag­ing is a se­ri­ous thing, there’s a good chance you and I are go­ing to live to 110 or 120. We could be in a fly­ing car in a few years – in Hong Kong they’re tri­al­ing fly­ing cars next year. There’s a good chance some hu­mans will be on Mars in the next 30 years. We’re shown none of it [in school] – just the tra­di­tional path­ways and that’s it.”

Though Reynolds is equipped with a deeper un­der­stand­ing of these new tech­nolo­gies than most of his peers, he says the path he fol­lowed to get to this point was not the norm. At the ripe age of 18, he has al­ready in­terned at in­vest­ment com­pa­nies, tried his hand at start-ups, and won a trip to San Fran­cisco with five other Young En­ter­prise stu­dents. As well as this, when he wrapped up his time at Saint Kentigern Col­lege last year, he headed straight over to Sil­i­con Val­ley to shadow the CEO at Swyft, a re­tail au­to­ma­tion com­pany, and fol­lowed this up by in­tern­ing at Auck­land-based pay­ments com­pany Genoa­pay over the sum­mer.

Reynolds says his pas­sion for the sec­tor was kick­started when he was 14 and read a book about in­vest­ing. He started do­ing his own school­ing in his spare time in ar­eas like fi­nance, in­vest­ing and psy­chol­ogy, and ended up stum­bling into the start-up scene through Ice­house events and on­line con­tent from Sin­gu­lar­ity Univer­sity.

He’d oc­ca­sion­ally spot an ar­ti­cle in the NZHer­ald about new tech­nolo­gies, he says, but at school, he didn’t hear any­thing about the likes of nano-techol­ogy, blockchain or AR and VR – some­thing he con­sid­ers a cru­cial gap in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. He says what in­ter­ests him the

most about the tech sec­tor is the abil­ity to cre­ate huge change and get scale and speed and im­pact with the rapidly de­vel­op­ing new tech­nolo­gies.

And while Reynolds says he hasn’t ac­tu­ally done any­thing yet, his mo­ti­va­tion to make some­thing of him­self in the tech sec­tor sets him apart from the crowd. He has had peo­ple tell him he’s “lucky” for the op­por­tu­ni­ties he’s re­ceived, but says it’s just a re­sult of the ef­fort he’s put in to carv­ing out this path­way for him­self.

“It’s a shame be­cause I’m not spe­cial,” he says. “Ev­ery­one can go out and do this, and if they had been ex­posed to it in the same way there could be an­other 50 peo­ple from my school on en­tre­pre­neur­ial paths, or go­ing out and work­ing in the tech sec­tor. It’s just nuts how dis­parate it is and how hard it is to find peo­ple my age ex­posed to these in­dus­tries.”

He says changes to the cur­ricu­lum don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to fo­cus on en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents into the tech sec­tor, as ev­ery­one has dif­fer­ent pas­sions, but they need to be shown the im­pacts of new tech­nol­ogy and how it is shak­ing up dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries across the board.

For ex­am­ple, he says those that are go­ing into the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion need to know the ef­fects of AI and how it will hold stores of in­for­ma­tion, rather than stu­dents need­ing to mem­o­rise many text­books.

“There are also eth­i­cal ques­tions about AI, and they don’t have a voice in that be­cause a lot of them don’t know it ex­ists be­cause they haven’t been ex­posed to it,” he says.

“My ar­gu­ment is give stu­dents a cou­ple of hours ed­u­ca­tion on these tech­nolo­gies, so when they go to univer­sity, they’re aware of it. It’s not a call for them to be­come an en­tre­pre­neur, it’s a call to show us the tech­nolo­gies which are go­ing to shape all of our lives. Ev­ery­one needs to know how their fu­tures might change.”

As for Reynolds’ fu­ture, in­stead of tak­ing the usual step of go­ing to Univer­sity af­ter high school, he’s de­cided to spread his time work­ing in tech com­pa­nies across sev­eral dif­fer­ent coun­tries to get on-the­ground ex­pe­ri­ence.

He’s ticked off work­ing in Sil­i­con Val­ley, is work­ing in Lon­don cur­rently, and plans on head­ing to Asia next.

“I think I could learn more by my­self, so I’m go­ing to go shadow and learn from some of the world’s best lead­ers. Not just peo­ple skills, but op­er­a­tional skills – like build­ing a com­pany at a world class level,” he ex­plains.

“I want to get deeper into the tech­nolo­gies that are go­ing to change the fu­ture, like blockchain, not just the hype ev­ery­one hears about.”

For now, he says he’s fo­cused on learn­ing and soak­ing up the in­for­ma­tion like a sponge.

“That’s par­tially what’s scary about my fu­ture – univer­sity might play a role, but I’m not sure what. This year is about find­ing what op­por­tu­nity in tech ex­cites me most, or that I want to go and solve. All I know is that I’m a prob­lem solver, and I want to start a com­pany around that.”

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