“Lookin’ for Hires in All the New Places,” an article by E.B. Boyd in the November 2011 sample issue of Fast Company caught my attention when I was flipping through the pages. The article describes how instead of seeking and hiring college graduates or Ph.D.s, the option is to hire techies who have been self-taught.
“Silicon Valley companies have notoriously strict hiring standards for engineers. They want grads from the country’s top computer-science programs like Stanford’s and MIT’s or people with sparkling resumes and deep experience,” writes Boyd. However, start-up and small technology companies are also interviewing and hiring individuals who have not graduated from college (maybe not even high school). Instead, these candidates for a position are found to be qualified because they have spent time teaching themselves how to code.
The article contained an interesting insight from Roy Bahat, the President of IGN Entertainment who is very open to hiring the self-taught employee. Bahat asks: is software a science or should it be seen as a craft or an art—implying that someone would use their natural talents and experiential learning. Not everyone is a craftsman or an artist. But those who are given the chance to learn on their own in order to meet the requirements of coding at a technology company are being taken seriously in part because interviewers realize that they are passionate and committed to doing work on a par with colleagues who have initials after their names.
As an educator, I don’t think that everyone needs to or should attend college. There is evidence that you don’t really need to go to college to be successful in your field. For example, in a sidebar in Boyd’s article there are a dozen images of very successful people who have dropped out of college or high school and gone on to stellar careers. Some of the people profiled include Steve Jobs who dropped out of Reed College when he was 18 in 1972, Bill Gates who dropped out of Harvard University when he was 19 in 1975, and Lady Gaga who dropped out of New York University when she was 19 in 2005. Walt Disney didn’t make it to college; he dropped out of high school when he was 16 in 1918.
As I mentioned in my previous post “The Learning Organization,” I was a guest speaker for second year graduate students at Columbia University’s School of Social Work on Wednesday. It was a wonderful experience for me and the feedback I’ve gotten from students and the instructor tell me that sharing my consulting experience and tips on organizational development was well received.
When the instructor and I were getting ready to go out into the cold air, she thanked me again and I said, “You know, I have never taken a management class.” The irony is just that I’m a trusted adviser and coach, I teach in the Management Department at the Zicklin School of Business.
When I was a temporary secretary at Lazard Frères & Co. in the early 1990s, I went to an open house at the Stern School of Business at New York University to see if an M.B.A. was for me. After attending and learning the cost for a part-time program, I decided that working at Lazard was the business school I could afford. After I left, assignments and consulting work at other businesses including Merrill Lynch & Co. and Allianz Dresdner Asset Management, non-profits, etc. taught me more than a classroom could have done.
Don’t overlook opportunities to succeed as a technology engineer even if you don’t have a college degree. There are companies out there looking for your self-taught skills.