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.
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.
As we are now on the verge of U.S. Congressional ‘fast track” approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement, and simultaneously a severe challenge to the integrity of the European Union as Greece and the EU cannot seem to agree on terms to avoid a catastrophe, perhaps it is worth stepping back to consider these complex issues from a higher perspective. None of us has concrete answers. One thing is clear: the U.S. position as a global leader is under serious challenge.
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.
When I graduated from a prestigious public university in California, my future was so bright I had to […]
I had the great good fortune to know Professor John Sperling, Cambridge don, when I was an undergraduate student at San Jose State University. At that time, our campus was awash in great thinkers: visiting scholars Buckminster Fuller, Alan Watts, and a host of other eminent faculty. I knew Sperling as a friend and mentor, and worked closely with John and my friends with the SJSU student government: Dick Miner, Peter Ellis and others, some of whom went on to work with Sperling at the Institute of Professional Development and later at the University of Phoenix. My fondest recollection of John was as the catalyst for our symbolic burial of an ugly yellow Ford Maverick on the first Earth Day. John challenged us to define ourselves by what we would do to mark that day. It has become one of the defining events of the first Earth Day. But I also view John as the precursor of the current MOOC’s movement. John shook up the academic world with his revolutionary ideas about education. John created immense controversy but he also spawned significant change.