Street Smarts vs. Ivy League

There is a craze for graduates of ivy league institutions all over the world. In India, IIM grads are offered fantastic salaries even as they launch their careers. An onlooker may wonder, are they really worth the money they get paid? What real experience do they have? Admitted, they have a more hands on, practical education than most mortals receive in other educational institutions, but is the difference so great as to warrant such a huge initial pay package?

Many people feel that the guy who has come up the hard way, with grass root experience, would be the better bet. Because this guy has faced actual problems, under real stress and deadlines, and has come through and grown. So it is assumed that such a candidate would be a much better suit for the senior positions that are offered to the IIM and IIT types.

The truth, as usual, would lie somewhere in between the two extremes. Undoubtedly, the IIM’s produce some real talent but it is also because the material that goes in is very good in the first place. It is not clear how much difference the system actually makes to the student as compared to the degree and reputation of the institution itself!

Many good companies have been set up by graduates from premier institutes but we still have hundreds others which were founded by those with a more humble educational background.

Investors are more eager to fund an IIM or IIT pass-out than someone from a more ordinary college anyway. The institution itself gives the candidates more exposure and a better platform to present themselves and their concepts. Yet can it be denied that once the real hard work begins and you come face to face with the real life challenges and the pragmatic solutions that will help you survive and thrive, you start looking for a guy with experience?

I hear that a lot of startups are now seeking experienced candidates to head up senior positions. They want someone with experience, with a proven track record! I hear that many IIM grads are refusing lucrative campus offers and wish to launch their own start-ups! And who do they seek to enable them to succeed? People with experience!

The CEO may be a young lad in his late twenties or early thirties but his senior staff is often older than him. It is not necessary that older people think in set patterns. I have interviewed scores of young final year students and was shocked by their closed minds. I have met many older veterans who still think like ‘young’ people are reputed to think; willing to challenge assumptions, willing and able to think out of the box.

It is a mistake to approach the task of recruiting senior staff with stereotypes in your head. You need to gauge each candidate on merit. You need to develop better and sharper methods of screening candidates so that you do not miss out on a great talent simply because your filtration system was old fashioned!

Beware the street smart who rests on his laurels. Beware also the ivy league grad who struts only on the basis of his ivy league degree but has nothing to show for it. Always look for the hungry man; for the woman with a fire in her belly. Look for the learner, for the one who loves challenges, who often takes the hard path simply for the fun of it. Do not be impressed only by the glamour of the winner but also seriously consider the one who has failed often, but at different things! It is often in the frequent failing man that you will find a real diamond.

After all, all that anybody needs is a chance. A chance to show your mettle; to make a difference and to make a mark.


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