American companies are obsessed with hiring Harvard grads and Wharton MBAs. This is true of the tech industry, even extending into startups, driving entry-level top school CS bachelor’s degree grad salaries into the six figures in the Bay Area.
Everyone agrees that better talent leads to better outcomes. But are the most highly academically-credentialed among us the most talented?
Certainly a higher percentage of graduates from the best schools are very talented, but today great people from other backgrounds are relatively undervalued by comparison to Ivy Leauge grads. For someone in charge of recruiting, it’s a lazy heuristic to “only hire from top schools” — and one that will put you in fierce competition with pretty much every well capitalized competitor out there.
Steve Jobs was a Reed College dropout. Some of the best hires we’ve ever made had terrible paper credentials.
Ammon, a brilliant engineer who ran Justin.tv’s video system and went on to co-found the Socialcam spin-off, came from a “terrible school” by his own admission. Later, when Socialcam grew to over 100 million users, he and one other technical founder scaled the infrastructure alone.
Jacob, our designer and first hire at Justin.tv, now Twitch’s director of product, hadn’t finished college in New Mexico and had almost no web design experience. He turned out to be one of the most versatile designers I’ve worked with; over the past seven years, he’s worked on visual design, user experience, and front-end implementation, often playing a role that would have been three jobs at another company.
Speaking as a graduate of one such institution, top schools teach you credentialing and ladder climbing. If you’re lucky, you might learn how to create a financial model or craft a solid argument.
They don’t make you a great UX designer or programmer. Your passion for learning and gaining more and more experience are what make you great. The nights you stayed up until 5 a.m. coding make you great. Your love of building things makes you great.
I want to hire hungry creative kids that want to step up: the best programmers from shitty schools and wannabe designers who dropped out of film school. Network engineers who started off as college dropouts but figured it out from years of on the job experience learning to be the best. Dev Bootcamp grads without any experience but who have spent every day and night the last six months programming.
I don’t give a shit where you went to college as long as you’re talented.
Justin Kan is the CEO at Exec, a venture-backed startup based in San Francisco. His previous startup, Justin.tv, pioneered the live-streaming video space and gave rise to lifestreaming and the first crop of web video stars. This post originall appeared on the Exec blog.