Brainstorm Tech Spotlight: Adam Bosworth, CTO and Founder of Keas

June 20, 2013: 11:31 AM ET

The most important thing school can teach you: to think for yourself.

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FORTUNE -- Fortune's Brainstorm Tech Conference (July 22-24 in Aspen, Colo.) regularly brings together the best and brightest minds in tech innovation. Each week, Fortune turns the spotlight on a different conference attendee to offer his or her own personal insight into business, tech, and entrepreneurship. This week, we asked Keas Founder and CTO Adam Bosworth to answer 10 questions about life outside of work, the company he admires most, and industry advice for young entrepreneurs. His responses follow.

What is the best advice you ever received?

If you don't understand something, ask. At Microsoft, whenever I didn't understand something I'd say, "I'm just a simple country boy from Vermont and I don't understand this" and an extraordinary amount of the time that turned out to be because it didn't make sense.

When I left Microsoft they gave me simplecountryboyfromvermont.com as a going away present. When I got into health, which led to Keas, I kept asking dumb questions about our healthcare system until I realized that they weren't dumb. The system just didn't make sense. It literally provided the maximum incentives for getting everyone sick and then keeping them as sick as possible short of dying. How is that a "healthcare system"?

What was the last book you read?

Salt, Sugar, Fat - Horrifying read about how the food industry has worked, much like the tobacco industry did before, to hide the huge health costs of their food while making it more and more addictive and more and more damaging to us.

What would you say to a group of young people looking to enter the tough job market?

It doesn't matter what you know. It matters who you are. At the end of the day, smart companies hire, promote, and reward employees who demonstrate five qualities:

1. Intelligence
2. Hard work and energy
3. Pragmatism
4. Excellent teamwork
5. The ability to constantly learn new skills and apply everything they've ever learned.

Pick any job you love that you think will challenge you and let you make a difference, don't worry at all about the money (plenty of time for that in your late 30's) and just prove that you have these five qualities. I hire people like this into Keas. I don't worry if they have CS degrees or a background in health. I worry about these five qualities.

What was your biggest missed opportunity?

I turned down an extraordinary offer from Mark Zuckerberg in 2007 but it was a conscious missed opportunity. I wanted to see if I could make a dent in the huge problem that our ever-worsening health habits are for our country and decided to start Keas instead.

What was the most important thing you learned in school?

To think for myself.

What has been your biggest failure?

Funnily enough, I'm going to say XML. Yes, it is a standard, but the vision of a simple easy text format for sharing data between applications across the web which is what I had in mind was corrupted by a disastrously over-complex schema language and by a failure to get it natively understood by JavaScript. In retrospect, I should have backed JSON from the start and just gotten dates added.

What other companies do you admire? Why?

I admire Google. I didn't love it there. I'm an inventor and Google is more a place for data-driven inventions by teams than individual instinct/intuition, but they continue to make impressive attempts to really pioneer from Android and Chrome to Google I/O and Google Maps. I rely on their technology everyday. I'm proud of having helped to give birth to Google Docs.

What do you do to live a balanced life?

I only work 3 ½ days a week and I take a one month vacation every year in which I go offline. No work, no work email at all. I turn off my work cell-phone. I live an extremely balanced life.

What is one characteristic that every leader should possess?

Passion both for what they do and for the people who help them do it and the people who will be helped by what they do.

Is business school necessary for entrepreneurs?

It is a hindrance.

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