Thrive in Tech with a “Useless” Degree

in Blog
August 31st, 2016

Human in Suit

George Anders, writing for Forbes, recently examined a peculiar phenomenon– tech companies hiring non-engineers in order to accomplish goals they would otherwise not be able to.

If you’ve used Slack’s team-based messaging software, you know that one of its catchiest innovations is Slackbot, a helpful little avatar that pops up periodically to provide tips so jaunty that it seems human.
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Such creativity can’t be programmed. Instead, much of it is minted by one of Slack’s 180 employees, Anna Pickard, the 38-year-old editorial director. She earned a theater degree from Britain’s Manchester Metropolitan University . . .
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What kind of boss hires a thwarted actress for a business-to-business software startup? Stewart Butterfield . . . the proud holder of an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Canada’s University of Victoria and a master’s degree from Cambridge in philosophy and the history of science.

“Studying philosophy taught me two things,” says Butterfield, sitting in his office in San Francisco’s South of Market district, a neighborhood almost entirely dedicated to the cult of coding. “I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings. And when I studied the history of science, I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true–like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces–until they realized that it wasn’t true.”

In fact, he points out, there may be more non-engineering jobs that arise from new tech companies than engineering ones:

Think of the ways the automobile revolution of the 1920s created enormous numbers of jobs for people who helped fit cars into everyday life: marketers, salesmen, driving instructors, road crews and so on. Something similar is afoot today.
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2022 some 1 million more Americans will enter the workforce as educators. Another 1.1 million newcomers will earn a living in sales. Such opportunities won’t be confined to remedial teaching or department store cashiers. Each wave of tech will create fresh demand for high-paid trainers, coaches, workshop leaders and salespeople. By contrast, software engineers’ ranks will grow by 279,500, or barely 3% of overall job growth. Narrowly defined tech jobs, by themselves, aren’t going to be the answer for long-term employment growth, says Michael Chui, a partner at McKinsey Global Institute.

His findings help shine on a light on the fact that studying the humanities (maybe even Philosophy in particular!) today can be very good for your long term job prospects.

Read the full article on Forbes