Regarding graduate school, Penelope Trunk, a famous American career adviser, says that people should avoid it. This is what she says about people who went to grad school:
“Most people who went to grad school did it to prolong adolescent needs for grade-based approval. (Note: This analysis comes from writers at the Chronicle for Higher Education.) This is because the grad school model is generally outdated for today’s workforce, and high performers see this before they enroll. But people who are scared of trying to hold their own in the workforce see grad school as a way around the inevitable difficulties of finding a job one enjoys.”
And you know what? She is right. I know it because I went to grad school.
Though I acquired excellent high order thinking skills, it was frustrating to be in a work sector that doesn’t support intra-preneurship, and in which, because of matters of time and hierarchy, it is impossible to climb the ladder as a result of your achievements.
Another thing Penelope is right about concerning grad school is that some students are there because they want to finish just to get the title, but they already know they won’t stay in Academia.
They went in because they were interested in deepening their knowledge on a certain topic, or because they didn’t know what else to do, but once they realized that wasn’t what they wanted, they decided to stay because it was too late or because they didn’t want to be seen as quitters.
However, what I think Mrs. Trunk is wrong about is when she says that start-ups shouldn’t hire people with graduate degrees.
She says that:
“It’s likely that if a person attended graduate school, he will have a hard time translating his strengths into strong workplace performance– especially at startups.”
Similarly, in an article in Inc., signed by Steve Blank, the Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur recognized for developing the Customer Development methodology that launched the Lean Startup movement, he says that when the National Science Foundation invited him to teach entrepreneurship to a group of scientists, he was skeptical. In his own words:
“I agreed to participate but was skeptical. Successful entrepreneurs… move fast. Could a group of scientists, who tend to operate at a far more methodical pace, ever really get it?”
However, he continues:
“As it turned out, the team already had the most important things they needed to get started: their research and some ideas about how it might be commercialized. I simply asked them to test those assumptions by talking to as many potential customers as they could. …I call this customer development, but the lab rats immediately recognized it as something else: the scientific method in action.”
When I read Steve Blank’s article I said to myself: “YES!” Because that’s exactly what I thought when I took his course in Udacity on building startups.
It’s true that there is a gap between science and start-ups, a gap mostly recognized by scientists that, like myself, felt frustrated during grad school by the lack of initiative and Academia’s aversion to change.
But it’s also true that these scientists have great abilities and are looking for a work environment in which they can thrive by applying all their innovative self-driven initiatives, a startup environment.
In conclusion, Penelope Trunk might be right about some things she says regarding grad school, but in some others she’s wrong.
Another thing she does wrong is to generalize across grad school. She never mentions what she thinks about ‘hard’ science grad school, and if her opinion about why startups shouldn’t hire people with graduate degrees also applies to people with scientific degrees like myself.
I think it doesn’t. And it seems that Steve Blank and I agree on that.
What do YOU think?
*Este post fue originalmente publicado en mi blog en Workfolio el 21/03/14 con el título "Why Penelope Trunk is right and wrong regarding graduate school".