Meet the Lenovo employees who survived a dog attack, the hottest tortilla chip in the world, and high-velocity dodgeballs, all during business hours. For Ali Ent, Kevin Beck and Mukund Gourishankar, these feats weren’t part of their job descriptions, but they did occur at work. Ali, Kevin and Mukund signed up — willingly, we might add — to help launch a new video series called Extreme I.T., where we put their tech prowess to the test while putting them under extreme duress.
Here, Sarah O'Grady — Lenovo’s Head of Social Strategy — checks in with the “survivors” to find out what this experience was like for them.
Sarah: Hey guys, so first, a big THANK YOU for raising your hand to let us “torment” you in unusual ways. This was quite an experiment for Lenovo, especially as we looked to our own employees to help us bring the idea of Extreme I.T. to life in a different and better way. Have you ever done anything like this before?
Ali: Being attacked by a dog for work? No. Our department is known for being vicious with nerf guns but nothing compares to this experience. Luckily, I’m always up for trying something new!
Kevin: Eating lava-grade hot sauce for work? No, only on my own time before. Seriously, that stuff was so hot towards the end, I think I saw dead people…
Mukund: The closest thing that I can remember is paintball where you get hit by surprise and when you do, it cannot be explained better than the next few expletives.
Sarah: I have to say, Ali, I had a moment where I was second-guessing the plan with your video, when Voodoo the “killer dog” first arrived on set, baring her fangs. I wasn’t sure it was worth all of this to explain how Voice Command worked. But you pulled it off like a champ, and in fact, you and Voodoo became fast friends! What prepared you for this moment?
Ali: I’ll be honest, signing a liability form (with the word “death”) the week before had me a little concerned. Haha! Honestly, I have a lot of experience with dogs and I knew she was highly trained so that was all the prep I needed.
Sarah: Mukund, now that we’ve seen your dodgeball skills, are you thinking of joining a local team? ; )
Mukund: Well, one thing I’ve understood about dodgeball is that it's more fun to watch from up close. Please invite me to the next game and I will be the happy bystander.
Sarah: OK, so back to tech for a moment. I think we often assume that because we at Lenovo understand what “the cloud” is, that everyone else does too. But that’s just not the case, right? Let's take 5G - that’s a term that’s being thrown around a lot lately in the tech-sphere. But it’s a mystery to many - is it a new model of phone? Does it have more pixels? Is it available now? What does it all mean? How important is it for consumers to understand these things, given the proliferation of it in all aspects of our lives (I mean, we live in a world where your refrigerator is now tracking your food habits, so truly - allll aspects of our lives!)
Kevin: I’m a big believer in knowing “why” and “how” as opposed to just “what” There are multitudes of devices and tech thingys bouncing off of people’s eyeballs every day and deciding what is right for them is tough. Giving them the Goldilocks-level of information (not too little, not too uber-geeky) is key to helping people understand what tech can do FOR them. Which is ultimately what they want to know….
Ali: I think customers should have a brief understanding… how else would they know if they want it in their kitchen? Now, do they need to know all the ins and outs like we do!? Probably not but as a consumer, I would love knowing that the employees at a tech company understand how it all works! That’s why this was so fun, it’s the perfect amount of information, coming from the people you want to hear it from.
Mukund: I agree with your point that folks who work with Lenovo not only need to know about Lenovo’s products but also stay updated in latest-and-greatest in tech; if not have the thirst to acquire to know what's out there. We subconsciously have so many technology discussions every day - when are you expecting your package delivered? Don't worry about picking me up, I’ll Uber home. Hey, why don't you ask Alexa what a gluten-free diet is? In such an environment, when Lenovo employees know more about tomorrow’s tech such as AR/ VR/ MR & how 5G plays into it, what are the challenges of 5G? And also share the enthusiasm to learn more about it, it creates a positive association for Lenovo.
Sarah: We’ve talked a little bit about the genesis of this project, and why we want to help explain to consumers what this new technology means - and how it works - but we haven’t talked about why we decided to deliver the messages the way we did. Why do you think we chose these delivery mechanisms?
Mukund: I can pull up YouTube and look-up probably a thousand videos about 5G. I feel leveraging Lenovo employees to deliver that story lends a personal touch you don’t often see from brands.
Ali: Because it’s hilarious! Who doesn’t want to watch people falling apart!? You know, compared to watching them explain voice command while sitting behind their messy desk with bad lighting and a shaky camera. Booo to that. This was WAY more fun and engaging!
Kevin: Totally agree with Ali and Mukund. I do believe many people want to learn and to understand the tech around them. Making it interesting, funny, and engaging, as well as straight from the mouth of the people who work on it, is a great way to entertain and educate.
Sarah: What other topics do you think people don't fully understand, that we can help bring to life in Extreme I.T.?
Mukund: Music streaming tech - what's different today? Shopping online with mixed reality, cryptocurrencies vs blockchain, facial recognition tech - tomorrow’s potential.
Kevin: HDR Video, AR/VR, security, AI, and on and on. We could do these for years and never run out of topics. I’m in and up for whatever.
Ali: Honestly, anything that would allow me to swim with sharks, jump out of an airplane or get attacked by more dogs ; ) OK; for real, biometrics for security, display quality (i.e. UHD vs 4K etc.), audio and 3D (RealSense) cameras.
Sarah: Alright, be honest. Who is going to add this new skill set to their LinkedIn profiles?
Ali: Oh, it’s already included in my portfolio! Haha! I have no idea how it relates to design but I’m proud of it and it definitely generates a good laugh!
Kevin: This video is going right on top of my profile!
Sarah: You guys are the best. Thanks for being such awesome sports, and such dedicated Lenovians!
To see just how “extreme” we went with Ali, Kevin and Mukund, check out their videos, here.