As much as it can be uncomfortable to be the “odd man out”, I think it actually leads to benefits in many situations.
When I was at university for my undergrad, I found it quite cosmopolitan (and it was compared to the small town in Northern Ontario I grew up in). Next door to me were students from Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Bangladesh. Some students from Toronto would laugh at me and say they looked around campus and saw nothing but white faces, but I delighted in the exposure to new ideas and cuisines.
I really noticed that all the people from overseas could date as much as they wanted to. When you have a campus full of Canadians, I guarantee there are going to be a certain number of people interested in Afghani, Chinese or Bengali people, and then you have a lock on the market!
I experienced this personally when I was teaching in Taiwan. Any Taiwanese woman who liked white guys had slim pickings (so they even had to consider ugly guys like me).
I’m sympathetic to people who are uncomfortable being the object of attraction based on their race, but a date is a date. As they sing on Avenue Q: “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist“.
John Reed writes about this topic in a broader context than race or dating. He makes the wise observation that none of your co-workers will be impressed that you’re a doctor when you’re working at a hospital (there are lots of doctors running around). Other university professors won’t be amazed at how smart you are (there are a large number of smart people drinking coffee on any university campus) and none of the other mechanics working at the garage will be singing your praises because you can change an oil filter by yourself.
He suggests that you work in a field where your abilities are valued, but rare. I had this experience where I worked at a couple of publishing companies on short term contracts (doing web development). Their staff could barely use office and were wildly impressed by anything we created. The downside was they wanted to pay wages closer to publishing industry wages instead of computer industry wages and it could be annoying having to explain things over and over to people who clearly didn’t get it (some of whom were making big decisions that would impact the project).
I think a good way for a techie to slip up the ranks to upper management would be to focus on a non-software or hardware industry. Keep getting experiences in that industry, and keep looking for promotions (even if you have to move companies to get it). There won’t be as many people competing for the CTO position (compared to people gunning for the COO or CEO positions). Your blend of industry experience and technical knowledge will be rare and valuable.
Conversely, I certainly was never the star at software companies I’ve worked at. However, I’m able to present ideas in written or verbal form better than the average computer nerd. After I went to a conference at a startup I worked at years ago, I wrote up a brief overview of the sessions I attended and the vendors I talked to and sent it out to everyone at the company (with the idea that it would give them a feel for the “buzz” at the conference). I got compliments on it from the receptionist up to the CEO (who told me that even if my programming skills were no good, there’d be a place at the company for me given that I could write something like that).
At the time I was perplexed. Long term readers are probably just as confused that anyone would compliment me on my writing skills. It wasn’t that the writing was particularly gifted, it was the blend of being able to understand the nuances of the technology industry, and convey those in writing that was rare, and therefore valuable.
Do you work in an area where your talents are rare? Could you move to an area where they’d be valued but scarce?