Help Wanted – Generalist

I was reading an article today in the New York Times about Google taking on Microsoft. We’ve talked about how it is hard to prepare you now for an job ten years from now. There were a few paragraphs in the article that really made me think about the importance of learning 21st Century skills versus content, and how it might be hard to prepare you for a job six months from now.

Another draw is Google’s embrace of experimentation and open-ended job assignments. Recent college graduates are routinely offered jobs at Google without being told what they will be doing. The company does this partly to keep corporate secrets locked up, but often it also doesn’t know what new hires will be doing.

Christophe Bisciglia, a 27-year-old engineer, qualifies as a seasoned veteran at Google, having worked there for four years. Mr. Bisciglia has done a lot of college recruiting in the last two years and has interviewed more than 100 candidates.

“We look for smart generalists, who we can be confident can fulfill any need we have,” he explains. “We hire someone, and who knows what need we’ll have when that person shows up six months later? We move so fast.”

For all you kids who want to work out of textbooks because it will be “easier,” do you really think Mr. Bisciglia would want to hire kids because they can read a chapter and answer the questions at the end? He used Google’s 10% program to develop a class for college students to prepare them for jobs that are changing faster than college curriculum’s. The 10% program allows Google employees to use 10% of their time working on a project of their choice.

His idea was launched last month as Google’s new pilot project at the University of Washington. The class is aimed at creating programming prodigies and revamping the way colleges teach computer science.

“When I interview college students, they have a grasp of computing, but it’s fundamentally different,” Bisciglia said. The youngest of Google’s employees need months of training, he said, because what they’ve learned in school is outdated. The hope is that the class will mitigate that problem.

Remember the video I should you that said what you will learn your Freshman year will be out of date by your senior year? In some fields it seems what you learn in your senior year will be outdated.

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