My nephew is thinking about majoring in computer science at my alma mater, the University of California, Santa Cruz. But it’s very hard to get accepted into the program. I guess he could always earn a degree in something else and then lie on his resume like Yahoo’s CEO Scott Thompson.
Apparently, you can become richly rewarded for it.
College kids have a tough time today, more so than their parents did. Competition has never been more fierce. Not only are high school kids learning stuff I studied in college, but colleges themselves are under severe cutbacks and thus turning away qualified students.
Amidst these hard times, tech luminaries such as Bill Gates have been calling for colleges to step up STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) courses to help America compete in the global economy. Computer science is one of the more important ones.
It’s widely known that STEM graduates have a higher earning percentage, yet American universities are failing to produce enough STEM graduates. Let’s be clear – again – that Yahoo’s Thompson is not among them.
Over the years, Thompson claimed to have earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Boston-based Stonehill College. The latter proved not to be the case. Thompson had been lying on his resume.
My nephew’s father, my older brother, holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in systems science from the University of California, San Diego. I talk to my nephew often because he stresses out too much about his chances of getting into a computer sciences program.
This tremendous burden to make America competitive in technology rests on the shoulders of kids like my nephew. Will they rise to the challenge? Or will they lie down like Thompson?
Lying on your resume about your college degree breaks a sacred covenant we’ve made with our children about the value of higher education. College is about caffeine-driven study sessions, perseverance to push through hard times, one eye always on the goal. In return, the degree will help jumpstart your career, and you’ll lead a more fulfilling life.
But we tell our kids that there are no short cuts – unless you’re Scott Thompson. In the saddest of ways, Thompson has taught our kids the real-world value of higher education.
Lesson one: A computer science degree doesn’t matter in the job, otherwise he would have been exposed years ago. It’s truly amazing that none of his superiors became suspicious. Maybe managers of technical people or companies don’t really need to know how technology works or the theories behind the science.
Lesson two: No one really cares enough about college to actually do a background check. It took an activist shareholder to blow the whistle. Executive search firms, hiring managers, HR departments and even the media all failed to make a simple phone call to Stonehill College to check on the legitimacy of the computer science degree.
What’s worse, Thompson might get out of this unscathed. Yahoo initially tried to brush off the lie earlier this week, calling it a “mistake.” After increasing pressure, Yahoo said it would review the matter.
Yahoo had hired Thompson earlier this year with a total compensation package pegged as high as $27 million. And that, kids, is the biggest lesson of all.
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.