One of the fun aspects of blogging for me is getting new post ideas from discussions on earlier posts.

A discussion with Cress (still waiting for the reply, BTW) about free college and why we should offer that here, got me thinking about the assumed correlation between a college degree and success, about the amount of years getting that education and the resultant paycheck that is sure to follow.

First, some short background. My wife, a lawyer (now retired like me) has way more education than I do. Not only that but coming from an upper crust well healed family, only the best schools considered. Raised by a single mom, lower middle class, my schools were limited to wherever I could afford to get in. Her chosen occupation was, on its face, considered a clear path to success as measured by wealth accumulated. Mine, not so much. Yet, going into the marriage, both around 30, the assets combined were fairly equal.

Another measure of success is contentment in avocation, job satisfaction. Again, we are both on equal footing here, happy with the contributions we made and the path chosen.

The lesson here is that many roads can lead to success, as many as definitions individually as is how to measure that success.

Leaving out all the vocational skills that make the world go round, the plumbers, the car mechanics, the electricians, the builders, even the bridge toll takers (you seen their union packages lately?), many white-collar workers and tech workers have found success without a college degree;

Recruiting software engineers is a massive headache for both startups and established companies. For a while now, HackerRank has tried to make both applying for these jobs and hiring the right talent a bit easier. Today, the company is taking a major new step in this direction with the launch of HackerRank Jobs, a job search app that connects companies directly with software engineers who are looking for a new job.

No, not everyone is Will Hunting, but many are skilled enough and know what they want to do right out of High School. And many more can get a great head start or get career choices at their local Junior College for a fraction of the cost.

For years we have heard all the debates about whether a degree is necessary, how your local Starbucks counter guy has a B.A. is whatever (and has the student debt to prove it) but can’t find a job. I don’t want to turn this into a “Get off my lawn” post about this generation being spoiled, lazy or naive. If I put 4 years in, studied hard, and accumulated debt in the process, I would probably hold out for that “great” job as well. But do we really need to foster the notion that success and happiness in work can only be obtained with a college degree?

A buddy that I play tennis with and routinely kicks my ass, runs Children’s Hospital in Oakland. Prior to being the head guy he ran the hiring department from doctors all the way down to technicians. Of course he is well-educated but in many conversations over the years he told me that the intangibles will always win the day. Did you show up for your interview on time, how are you dressed, what do you know about the company, what volunteer work have you done, what was your home life like, show me some of your writing, how well do you  speak, how well do you work with others? It is these qualities which separate you from the herd.

I respect anyone who has put in the years for high falutin’ degrees, especially if they paid for it themselves, but that does not make them smarter, more dedicated, more driven, or more able to do the job. Many cogs turn the wheel and each cog can find success if properly applied.

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Unfortunately, many in the snowflake generation are too scared of life to get out of their dorms or their parents’ basements to go live it.

You do need a degree for some things-medicine, the law (yes, sometimes you need a competent lawyer) or engineering. What I’d like to see is students having more choice in what they get to study, without being weighed down by extra, added courses.

Judge Dredd, Pro Se

Rich, have you ever heard of a guy named svante paabo? If you’re uninitiated I’d like to tell you the little bit of history I know about him. I think you might find it relatable upon you and I discussing something relevant in your life right now. Svante is a Swedish geneticist, maybe THE single most important human being of our lifetime. He is credited with mapping the genome of the Neanderthal man, and finding an overlap between the genes of human beings and neandertals. He’s changed science and history as we know it by shedding light on what happened… Read more »

Unfortunately, a college degree is all but necessary if you want to work and advance in any kind of professional/technical services setting. Especially if you are in a business function like me (as opposed to a technical role like an engineer or analyst), the type of degree really doesn’t matter, so long as it is a bachelor’s (and in some cases for guys with long experience, some type of associate’s degree). While the value of a college degree for non-technical or non-specialized positions has certainly degraded, it is still a reasonably strong proxy for basic professional qualification – responsibility, ability… Read more »

I love it when zoom reappears out of nowhere and delivers big like this!

I love it when zoom reappears out of nowhere and delivers big like this! Right? Most of the comments are on point and this is something that I discuss with people somewhat frequently. I have a kid that is ready to make some initial decisions like “what do I want to do?” and “do I need college?” and “what kind of degree?”. In the past an AA or AS was a pretty good choice for someone wanting to gain entry into basic office work. I got a job simply because I was pursuing an AS. Now a four year degree… Read more »

So clearly, I am not against going to college.

I did not get that impression at all.

I am all for anyone going to college as long as the risk/reward is spelled out to them and they understand that there may not be a return on the investment. Your gift to your son is quite generous. I also will fund my son’s education so that he doesn’t start life with onerous debt should he decide to go to college.

Zoom, how credible are undergraduate certificates? I am not really sure, as I haven’t come across too many myself. What I would say is that if the certificate is more directly applicable to the job, I would think that would come across good enough to get you in the call-back pile. Really the key is getting in the door far enough that you can make your case to someone. Of course every job, company, and industry is different. Don’t I get any credit for flushing him out? Due credit granted. I know I’ve been out of touch for a while….selling… Read more »

Judge Dredd, Pro Se

I wasn’t trying to be condescending or rebut your post, Rich. I was just expressing how I view higher education in general. I’m really more in zoom’s camp here that there are a list of intangibles college provides that makes me believe it’s still a more superior solution to graduating high school and pissing into the wind about your future. I’ve found in my field there are artists that are just born with talent but they’re idiot savants in the workplace, they don’t have the skills or polish schooling provides to enter the corporate world. John Lassetter, as an example… Read more »


hey’re usually mediocre artists, but people who have been educated and understand things like delegation, time management, aligning creative needs to business goals, and public speaking in a corporate environment (where saying the wrong thing can get your ass fired). I guess it really depends on the field you’re in. I work in a heavily quantitative field. In my group of 14 people, 12 are from China (and the only other “non” Asian besides me is from Iran). All of them are very book smart, have some sort of advanced math degree (in some cases several) but almost all have… Read more »

Apologies Rich – I’ve been travelling the past few days so haven’t had a chance to check in. A discussion with Cress (still waiting for the reply, BTW) about free college and why we should offer that here, got me thinking about the assumed correlation between a college degree and success, about the amount of years getting that education and the resultant paycheck that is sure to follow. I certainly don’t think that University is for everyone, and always leads to success. My point was more that making education accessible for everyone has a huge benefit for a society. For… Read more »

Yeah, you and stogy, gallivanting all over the world making humanity safe, probably have matching decoder rings.

This was purely capitalism baby.


I’ve hesitated weighing in here, because I have an undecided view of the situation. I don’t have a college degree (though I did attend some college). In fact, I dropped out of high school, and only have a GED. But I do have a position that requires a BS according to the guidelines for the position. What’s interesting, is that when I applied for it, it wasn’t even an issue because of my experience in IT over the previous decade+. Now here I sit some…18 years after starting into my “career”, and I have done very well for myself. But… Read more »

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