The Right People

Grades in school are arbitrary and meaningless. Ok, not really. Grades provide a great opportunity to find out who is willing to work incessantly at a task without question (in case you can’t tell, I don’t have a high opinion of the traditional educational system). Here’s the thing, I’ve seen idiots get perfect grades and geniuses fail classes. The system isn’t doing what it was intended to.

Side note: I’m not disparaging a college education. A quality education holds its own unique set of values. And I certainly would prefer my surgeon to have studied a bit.

I think that the degree requitement, however, is killing innovation in American business.

“Entrepreneurs ask us all the time how we figure out the valuation of a startup company. Most VCs suggest that this is a very mysterious art. But actually it’s quite simple: To determine the fair value of a startup company, multiply the number of engineers by $250,000, add $250,000 for each engineer from IIT, and then subtract $500,000 for each MBA.”

Guy Kawasaki

I fell victim to the same problem. In high school, I had terrible grades. I failed out of calculus (which I was mysteriously put into after barely passing trig with a D), I got a D in most of my required classes, and I had to go to adult school to make up the “F” that I got in US Government, which was a required class my senior year.

In the same breath, I scored a 1340 on the SATs (The 1600 point version), I rank in the top 3% of HTML5 and CSS coders in my area, and I have an IQ of 140 (unofficially, I need to take a proctored test to be official). I have no college degree, only a few credits for a few basic classes. My “Intro to HTML” course was taught by an active member of the W3C, whom I had to correct when he made several errors while teaching the class that he insisted weren’t errors (despite the fact that they didn’t work right). I learned what I know from playing with code and reverse engineering websites.

I’m not telling you this to brag (no, really, I’m not!). I’m telling you this to illustrate a point. We’re told our whole lives that our grades denote our intelligence. Many of us were ridiculed and belittled as being stupid for having low grades. I’m proof that grades are not a sign of intelligence, and there are hundreds of thousands of others like me.

I want to, with this article, encourage the business owners reading this that hiring shouldn’t be based on grades or degrees, but on the ability to do the job. Talent is widely available and at potentially greater skill levels if you remove the archaic requirement of a degree. I also want to encourage job seekers out there. Your skill-set is worth more than you’ve settled for in the past. Degree or not. If you have the abilities that the employer is looking for, don’t undervalue yourself.

Vivek Wadhwa shared an email he got in response to his Washington Post article about the evils of the GMAT. He’s a fellow at the Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, so he has a bit of insight on the subject.

Image by Sean MacEntee

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About the author:

Michael McNew
Web developer, marketing innovator, technology enthusiast, and founder of Visceral Concepts, Michael McNew has developed a passion for delivering value to small business, turning his creativity towards image and reputation building for small business owners.