A long time ago (May, 2012), in a meeting far, far away (the conference room at the end of the hall), two Table XI employees were whispering...

The Nerducation board filled with sticky notes

“So we were in a meeting one day and we found out Kate has never seen Star Wars.”

“No way. I don’t believe it.”

“I swear! Until a couple of months ago she thought Chewbacca was a Wrigley product.”

It’s true. Though technically a child of the ‘70s and currently the Director of Marketing at a tech company, I managed to make it three decades without seeing a single Star Wars movie. How is this possible? To be honest, I’m not sure myself. I do know that once I’d made it to college without having stepped foot in the Empire, it became a proud point of distinction, my guaranteed “gotcha” in a game of Two Truths and a Lie—I’d win every time.

Summer of 2012 changed all that.

As a marketer among engineers I’m already an outlier: my emails are more than three sentences, I express ideas through PowerPoint, and, unlike some of my quieter colleagues, I’m a full-blown extrovert. But once my coworkers at Table XI discovered this chasm in my nerd knowledge, it only deepened the divide between us. I could see it in their raised eyebrows and the slow shaking of their heads. Forget Storm Troopers, I was a cultural space invader.

So, in an effort of good faith and acculturation, over the summer I began what my colleagues dubbed my “Nerducation.” (For those who know me, the irony of this is not lost on me: I spent much of my childhood recreating Julie Andrews musicals in my basement, and my Netflix queue is full of movies with subtitles. I’m a nerd in my own right, just one of a different species.)

Woman wearing a Darth Vader maskThe whole office was invited to take part in my extracurricular assignment. We hosted movie nights on the roof of our building, complete with a 14-foot inflatable screen, Lou Malnati’s pizza, and Darth Vader helmets. And, like an immigrant studying for U.S. citizenship, I learned all there was to know about The Empire, the Death Star, and the Galaxy Far, Far Away, all under the observant tutelage of my Table XI colleagues.

Since I’m not much into sci-fi, I was skeptical about Star Wars at first. So imagine my surprise when I found myself eagerly awaiting these nights. After watching each film, a little bit of my own universe was illuminated: the significance of the Lego Imperial Shuttle that sits in our office kitchen, the meaning behind John Gore’s t-shirts, the magnitude of calling someone a scruffy-looking nerf herder. Not only was I gaining proficiency—suddenly, I was becoming fluent in a cultural conversation I never knew was taking place. Star Wars was my very own Rosetta Stone.

By August I had made my way through Star Wars 4, 5, and 6, and to be honest, the series wasn’t anything like I had expected. Spoiler Alert: Star Wars is not just a space/alien/explosion series I had censored from my youth. It’s a coming of age story about a young boy in search of his father’s approval, who at a time before therapy, relies on a little green man to help him navigate the complexities of the universe and discover his True Potential. Most importantly, and perhaps most surprisingly, Star Wars is a love story.

Table XI employees relaxing on a rooftopThis realization was perhaps the most unexpected outcome of my Nerducation. Turns out these tough, quiet developers who surround me in headphones, the ones who often point out errors and inaccuracies to each other with the subtlety of a good blaster, are actually a bunch of softies. You can’t be this obsessed with this story without having a sensitive side. Maybe my programming pals and I aren’t from different planets after all.

I’m looking forward to 2013 and the next round of movies. Our office Nerducation board is already filled with more films to add to my resume, wherein I will learn important things like the differences between “Hackers” and “Sneakers,” and how Star Trek, despite its title, is apparently Skywalker-free. But I’ve reminded my colleagues that Nerducation is a two-way street, and next year, I plan to introduce a few classics of my own. First up: Amélie. It’s a coming-of-age love story full of mystery and intrigue. I think they’ll dig that.

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