Saturday, March 30, 2019

Degree Or Skills ?

Every skill you acquire doubles the odds of success. It is your skill not your degree, that helps you achieve your goals.

Mark Zuckerberg learnt programming the same year I did. 1990s. Maybe even later. Today, I have a degree, he doesn’t. Yet, see where Mark is and where I am. 

His father taught him basic programming and later hired a software developer to train him privately. He started writing software when he was in middle school. His friends created the design of games and he used to code them. While kids played computer games, Mark was the one, who created them. In his high school years he built a music player which would track the listening habits of its users. So much so, that by the time he started studying at Harvard, he was already a programming prodigy. In January 2004 when most of us were busy studying for getting good jobs, he started writing code for facebook and launched it in a month in February. Subsequently he dropped out of Harvard to pursue his passion and complete his project.

It is evident from his story that Zuckerberg had the skills in him and since his early years, he had been polishing them. This is exactly why at the right opportunity, he gave up on his degree and propelled in the direction of success. – Skills not Degree.

The story is not very different in the case of Bill Gates who wrote his first software program at 13. It was a tic tac toe program that allowed the user to play against the computer. In those times one had to purchase computer time to use them. His mother bought computer time with the proceeds of the school sale, and Gates took keen interest in programming. Gates was so clever that he hacked the system for getting more computer time. It was at that time that he studied the source code of the programs that ran on those systems. He was eventually hired to fix those bugs. He was so proficient in programming that he was the fastest coder of his times. Time waits for no one, whether you have a degree or not. Thus he dropped out of Harvard after 2 years of college when he realized that this was the right time to start and focus on his business. – Skills not Degree.

It is because of the skills these people have nurtured that they have been successful. Not having a Degree has not been a deterrent in their success.  A degree is as important as the intent and caliber of the person using it, since u need to prove ur skills anyway. Look at some of our history – Arjun, the most skilled archer he was, did not have a degree in warfare. Yet he was the most accomplished warrior of his times. Dhanvantari, the god of Ayurveda, did not have any medical degree, but he was the one who brought out Amrit – the nectar of immortality. He brought and spread the practice of Ayurveda to the entire world.

The beginning of awarding of degrees can be seen when The University of Italy, regarded as the oldest university in Europe, conferred the first  the degree of Doctor in law and medicine. In India it came when Lord Macaulay introduced English education in India, so that they could create a class of anglicized Indians who would serve as cultural intermediaries between the British and the Indians. Eventually this grew into the education system of today. 

Let us glance at those who dropped out of college and are successful now, like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates and many others who were offered honorary degree by Harvard and other ivy league colleges. Accepting honorary degrees, which are non-functional, only demonstrates that degree is more of a collectible item in their possessions.  The influential and rich are offered honorary degrees for huge sums of donations or favours. In the Indian context, many actors and actresses including Amitabh Bacchan and Shahrukh Khan were awarded Honorary degrees from multiple universities.

On the other hand, The failure of the engineering ecosystem is a clear proof that only getting a degree is not the solution to the unemployment challenges of the country. There are 3500 engineering colleges in the country, which means about a lakh and a half - students graduate every year – most of who do not have the skills to be employed. This is such a disheartening figure. As of now, there are about 800 universities38,000 colleges and 12,000 stand-alone institutions in India, which push our young generation into the market. Degree may bring about a mental satisfaction of qualification to oneself and parents but it is no guarantee of the success of the individual in his field. What they do not realize is that without the skills needed to perform your duties, you will be fired from a company which hired you, because you will not be able to deliver. This is the precise reason why several rounds of interviews are conducted even before shortlisting a candidate for a position.  We see people dropping out of college and getting successful, and they did not really care about the degree that they were pursuing due to their parents’ wishes. They dropped out because they were looking at a much bigger picture of what they can achieve in their business. And this achievement of wealth creation has not been a function of what degree they acquired or left behind.

Similar was the case of Rahul Yadav of who did not complete his Engineering degree at IIT Bombay. He was asked to take down, an online question bank of old exam papers that he created at IIT Bombay. In the process of building, he had learned programming, which enabled him to subsequently design a series of Google applications. Rahul dropped out of college in his final year. In 2012, he along with eleven other classmates co-founded, after they had a difficult time finding accommodation in Mumbai. He came up with a new venture related to virtual, augmented reality, and interfaces. – Skills not Degree.

I cannot end without mentioning about a fellow Agarwal, Ritesh Agarwal the founder of Oyo who did not even pursue studies after his school. He founded oyo at the age of 19. Earlier, he used to sell SIM cards in his hometown in Odisha which is known is known to teem with Naxalite activity. Today, one of the world's biggest investors, Masayoshi Son of Softbank, wants to partner with him to help OYO Rooms with its foray into China. He is a textbook example of lack of formal education being no prerequisite for big success. He is a dropout, which made him eligible for the Peter Thiel fellowship for $100,000. – By the way Zuckerberg was also supported by Peter Thiel in his early days.

“Thiel’s fellowship pays kids a stipend that liberates them to work on ways to improve the world, rather than loading them with debt. They get mentorship, workshops, connections to resources, and an alumni network without a formal alma mater.” The world today is recognizing the fact that the best ideas and businesses do not come by getting a degree.

Skill is an abstract term which cannot be evaluated on bits of paper. It is a broad spectrum of qualities which is groomed within the individual and nurtured through the repeated practical implications in life. Every degree holder is not necessarily skilled - A complete dumb individual cannot qualify, even after attaining the degree. Thus without skills, even with a degree, one cannot attain success in life and skills thus turn out to be a necessary and sufficient condition for achieving success.

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