Less Accountants, More Developers

There’s a growing disconnect between our educational system and the real world. TechCrunch recently ran a piece detailing how Peter Thiel, the Facebook investor, thinks we’re in a “bubble” of higher education. I think that for the most part, Thiel is right: the “funnel” of higher education is broken, and it’s producing a major distortion in our job market.

I have a niece who’s in the process of applying for colleges. She’s a very intelligent young woman with a love of math – and she told me she wants to be an accountant! She thought that this was the best application of her passion.

I told her about how she might want to look into being a developer – it’s a lot of logic and math. She objected – “computer programming” was boring and nerdy (I was going to say something about accounting at this point, but I let it go!), and certainly not something she wanted to do.

I mentioned that I place developers at companies all the time, and a lot of them are what a teenager might call “cool”: bit.ly, Stardoll, RGA. I talked to her about how developers at these companies aren’t relegated to a corner in a basement – they’re treated like rockstars with great pay, a fun work environment, and lots of leeway in how and when they work.

This was like a revelation to her! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. You’d think there was some conspiracy in high school career departments to make development work sound like programming punch cards to fed into vacuum-tube mainframes at IBM.

The world has changed. Computer geeks are the cool kids in the office – Fred Wilson recently wrote about how tech startups deck out their office amenities better than a Four Seasons. Silicon Valley is on fire right now.

We need more computer science majors to maintain the innovation that we’re known for as a country. It has to be apparent at the high school level that “computer programming” is a huge, diverse field with interesting problems to solve.

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