There is no dearth of aspirants who put value in education at the top Global Universities. A university degree is your passport to a decent job and therefore all good things in life. However, not many who enter stay attracted towards completing their education. Being a drop out from a top ranking university is as respectable, or perhaps, more respectable than completing a degree. How, one wonders, the college drop-outs have been able to create that image about themselves. Thanks to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg!
A typical drop out profile is that of a high achiever, who has the ability to enter a top University, is high on ideas and has ability to execute it. They do not then put much value in their education at the University as much in the right partnerships and right timing. Dropping out may not be so much a trend in itself but has worked for those who have dared. None of these people, who dropped out to set up Microsoft or Apple or Facebook, would have done any better if they sat on the idea till the completion of their degrees. These entrepreneurs who also, in a way have been game changers in Silicon Valley have created an acceptance for the actual grey matter, rather than having it on paper.
While it is easy to believe that degrees may not matter so much in Silicon Valley, but the fact is that they do. Hiring professionals look for sound background in academics and degrees that can validate the potential of the candidate. Had it not been so, Scott Thompson, the recently hired Yahoo CEO, would not have been on his way out, perhaps. The controversy regarding a fake degree in Computer Sciences cannot yet be validated for Thompson, however there is enough controversy around it to brush it aside. One thing is certain while not having a degree works, having a fake one does not.
It may also be a point that while the entrepreneurs are respected whether drop outs or degree holders, there may not be a flourishing job market for drop outs, especially in times of recession. There is one man who is trying to change that thinking in Silicon Valley. Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist, is encouraging drop outs to do what they like, rather than continuing their degrees. Thiel, through his foundation, has chosen 24 people under 20 to take 100,000 USD each for their dream start up. His move may be controversial in a sense that it is provocative to mull on a degree 's worth. This almost goes in to suggest that the degree's have indeed lost their value. Theil also thinks that just like other bubbles, this is almost like a higher education bubble, where most degrees or degree holders may be overvalued
The thing to remember is that if you have it, it will show whether you take a degree or not and if you do not, then a fake is only going to land you in trouble. There is no doubt that there are serious fault lines between what degrees are supposed to deliver and what entrepreneurs with or without degrees are offering to the world. Is that an excuse enough to shun the degrees altogether. Probably not.. ... And the drop outs may have done exceptionally well in tech world, not in every field. This is why Thiel is not focusing only on tech undergraduates. Probably, he is funding an experiment of the sorts to see if drop outs in every sector are as promising, be it pharmaceuticals or energy.
Better known News Corps' lesser known division IGN is hiring programmers only on the basis of their aptitude. They are willing to train those with or without degrees to see if they have it in them. That is what matters to the CEO of the IGN as he is unwilling to hire specifically a doctorate if a young kid can do the same work. Well, we may be coming a full circle from putting value on education to putting value in aptitude. However, one thing that is an undeniable truth is that education now a days is not limited to colleges and universities. The exposure levels of the next generation come from technology and the level of education that Internet has been able to achieve is tremendous. It is also at a fraction of the cost of what Universities charge. So, why would someone pay to learn what you can get free of cost, if learning is all you are interested in.
So, can degrees be written off? May or may not be! Degrees may still matter overall, but the tech world may define a new trend in hiring where it is more your ability to do what you are supposed to rather than hire people with heavy baggage of degrees. However, if the formal education that comes from going to a University is matched by self learning, degrees have to evolve to remain in fashion. If this happens, tech world will lead the way. However, one thing to remember is that if the degrees remain in vogue, it is best never to fake it.
Follow Preetam Kaushik on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kaushikpreetam