I was speaking with a professor at a university, which had an abysmal placement record. It was a touchy topic but I had to know what he thought were the reasons for a lack of placement. However, he seemed pretty unapologetic about it. He said, “It is an academic degree. What makes you think that it will guarantee you a job? Once you’re done with a bachelors degree, you should go on to work on masters degree and then a PhD. That is the natural progression of an academic degree, and not a job. If you want a job, get a vocational degree.”
I have never thought of an academic degree like this. No wonder you don’t even use a fraction of what you study at college at work. Because what you study, was probably NEVER meant to be of direct relevance to a job. In fact, if you stop as a graduate or a postgraduate, you’ve still dropped out of education, as you’ve not completed the whole academic progression! (technically, at least)
As a part of my previous job, I had the privilege of interviewing Sridhar Vembu, the founder of Zoho. Of the many things that he’s renowned for, his education program aimed at kids at polytechnic colleges and dropouts has been the stuff of folklore. When asked about the thought behind the motive, he said –
“See, there are many colleges in India that really don’t teach much. Even if they teach well, there is a disconnect between what they learn and what is really needed in today’s world. Most colleges in India are atrocious and there is not much going on in them. Most students waste time; they study for exams and are really not aware of the reality outside. Going to college and education are not coincidental. You spend 4 years in college and you might have learnt something incidentally.”
“There is a general complaint about college students in India by their employers and so every company has a training scheme of their own. But all of them wait for the students to finish their four years of college, which I think is a waste of time. What we have done is gone further and get them before this wasted time period.”
It seems like the rest of the world has started to come to terms with this as well. We know for a fact, through the Coding Challenges on HackerEarth, that there are many top techies in India, who haven’t completed their college education. Of course, many of them are from the premier institutions as well, but the point is, when it comes to a technical job, the place where you graduated from, hardly matters.
And the companies are seeing it too. There have been enough engineers over the years, who have got into companies like Google, without a college degree. In fact, earlier this year, Google revealed that they have started hiring people who have never been to college. Google’s VP for People Operations, Lazlo Bock, said, “After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different. You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently.”
“Another reason is that I think academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment. One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer. “ In fact, if you’re a programmer, here’s a post that can help you understand how you really don’t need a college degree to crack the coveted job offer.
But coming back the the insight from the professor; will the system change? I don’t know. But if you’ve got good skills (as a programmer or anything else for that matter), and no college degree, do you have a chance of getting a job?