In the Pacific Northwest, with the region’s innovation-driven economy, geeks run the show.

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For too long, geekdom was assigned only to those who were off-trend and socially awkward. Today, many of its traditional symbols – sci-fi and superheroes, video games and thick-rimmed glasses – are warmly embraced fixtures of popular culture. The top-rated sitcom features physicists and aerospace engineers. This summer, Wonder Woman won at the box office, nearly doubling the gross of the latest “Fast and Furious” movie, a franchise fueled by conventional icons of cool.

In the Pacific Northwest, with the region’s innovation-driven economy, geeks run the show. Technology companies Microsoft and Amazon rank among Washington’s largest employers. Furthermore, the Employment Security Department lists jobs in tech-focused fields – including software developers, systems analysts and other computer occupations – as the most in demand across the state. If science, engineering and math are exclusively for geeks, then the geeks are getting paid.

Additionally, if a software geek hadn’t picked up the ball in 1996, Seattle wouldn’t have the Seahawks or CenturyLink Field – and the 12th Man flag would be flying over Southern California right now.

So, what does it mean to be a geek in 2017? Modern geekdom is defined by several, outstanding qualities, proving it’s a great time to be a geek.

Geeks are passionate

Summarizing a handful of published definitions of “geek”, the word describes people who love what they love, pursue it unflinchingly, and don’t care what anyone thinks about it. It takes a geek to camp out for the latest electronic gadget, buy tickets to a midnight release of a new movie, or tweak a line of code over and over to make a new mobile app function perfectly. Those are all geeky behaviors, and they shape contemporary Americana.

Geeks are creative

Statewide, geeks are discovering new treatments for disease, sustainable techniques to produce food, and efficient, renewable sources of energy. Those advances – and thousands like them – mean great things for Washington socially, ecologically and economically. Innovation Leader magazine recently named Seattle among the top-five most innovative cities in the nation, citing, in part, the Puget Sound area’s many trend-setting tech companies, start-up density and research institutions.

Geeks make the world a better place

There’s no question geeks care about the world around them. The most significant example of that is the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Started by Microsoft’s co-founder and his wife, that organization does a great deal globally, but also has invested more than $1 billion in Washington to ensure quality education for all children, reduce family homelessness, and support the state’s most vulnerable families. The Gates Foundation also helped establish WGU Washington, the only online, legislatively endorsed university in Washington.

Geeks bring people together – and it’s fun

Anime. Beer. The fashions of the Renaissance period. No matter what someone “geeks out” on, there’s an event somewhere celebrating it. Emerald City Comicon and The Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire draw big, costumed crowds each year. Coming up on September 30 and October 1, GeekGirlCon honors the legacy of women in areas including science, comics, literature and gaming. Then, on October 9-11, The GeekWire Summit takes a more buttoned-up approach, looking hard at the business side of geekdom. Despite outdated misperceptions, geeks know how to get together and have a good time.

WGU Washington is an online, competency-based university designed to expand access to higher education for Washington residents.