The unwritten promise of a post-secondary education has been to earn a degree in an applied field such as engineering and you’ll end up with a good, stable job, but the millennial generation is finding that can no longer be counted on. I have been thinking about this issue for some time. Last year, I posted an article on this blog by Robert Reich, Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton. I was stimulated to share that article by what I was seeing with my own students from the University of British Columbia, and contrasting that with my own experience years ago, walking into my Silicon Valley dream career by sheer chance. That simply no longer happens. Grads must begin plotting out a plan early, no later than the beginning of their third year, and begin to execute on it in order to find an entry-level position commensurate with their education. Networking and cold calling is imperative, but as this article points out, even that may not guarantee solid employment.
Engineer into the Workforce presentation to The University of British Columbia, School of Engineering, 4th year Capstone Project course. November 2, 2016
My own odyssey in choosing a major and a career is probably not a great guide for today’s students. I had only a vague idea that I wanted a quality “liberal arts education,” to equip me with the thinking skills necessary to guide my career. I chose an undergraduate major in Speech-Communication with double minors in Philosophy and Photography. In retrospect, despite the disadvantages of my choice, it turned out well at that time, primarily because being able to communicate and present yourself is perhaps the most important skill in any career. Warren Buffett agrees with that. But in today’s much more competitive environment, I am sadly less confident that it would work. This is the dilemma for today’s students.
This is a metaphorical essay on personal ethics, worthy of a serious read and contemplation. When I saw the title I was intrigued but suspected it had something to do with Andy Grove’s adage, “sewage flows downhill,” which means “if anything bad happens it will eventually flow down to you.” This is about ethics. The points made here are particularly apt in light of the huge number and sheer scale of recent business frauds: the Volkswagen fraud, LIBOR, Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff’s pyramid scheme, Conrad Black in Canada, Olympus in Japan, Bernie Ebbers and Worldcom, Tyco International, stretching back all the way to Enron, Michael Milken’s junk bonds, and the 1980’s savings & loan debacle.
I noticed the following post on LinkedIn, and thought that it was important to share it. When I first came to UBC to teach Industry Analysis and Entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Management, I was struck by how utterly unprepared Faculty of Management students were to stand up and communicate their ideas. Most students used 3 x 5 cards and stared at the floor. One student, without realizing it, stood up and crossed his arms across his chest, projecting only his personal discomfort with the situation. Clearly this problem needed to be addressed. If there is one thing I have learned since graduating with a Speech-Communication degree, it is the importance of being able to stand up and communicate your ideas, what you believe, and most importantly, who you are. It is crucial to career success.
After last year’s Faculty of Management public relations fiasco caused exclusively by the Dean himself, Roger Sugden appears to have resurrected from the proverbial dead. Following the incident, many were shocked and surprised to learn that an outside consultant concluded that the Dean was not a problem. The problem in the FOM was judged to be a small clique of dissatisfied faculty members. Has Dean Sugden’s performance actually recovered and improved? Is he leading the Faculty of Management with forthright leadership? Some say that the Dean has become the invisible man, more unavailable than ever. What is your take on Dean Sugden’s job performance and his salary?
I have had sufficient time now to reflect on my unfortunate odyssey into academic politics that I can now speak about it without emotion. I came and went in academics. I now realize this was because I sorely misunderstood academic politics and that I threatened some of my colleagues with my real-life management achievements. Then the politics and backstabbing became Shakespearean. It is water under the bridge now, but that does not make my experience any less painful. I learned that I loved teaching very much. Nothing is more apt about my experience than the quote, “academic politics is so vicious because the stakes are so small,” the origins of which I explore here with tongue firmly in my cheek.
Years ago as a young buck, I sat on the university commons grass and pondered WTF it was all about. I made an immediate decision that I no longer cared what others thought of me. My mind would only be focused on things that were important to me. Secondly, I questioned the strict educational requirements for a degree and determined that I would focus on learning only from the very best professors on campus, and let the degree qualification chips fall where they may.
The University of British Columbia is following the lead of faculty and students at Harvard University, the University of California, Stanford University and many other universities across North America. Also of note, Norway’s sovereign investment fund, the largest in the World @ $1.3 Trillion, has already made the decision to divest. The current fossil fuel market collapse and likely long term instability is prima facie evidence of the need for divestment, and to prevent further increases in carbon emissions.
Dananjaya Hettiarachchi is the 2014 Toastmasters’ International World Champion of Public Speaking. The seven minutes you will spend watching and listening to him is worth it.