Saturday, August 2, 2008

Googley Advise from a Cool Cat

Cool Cat Teacher Vicki Davis highlights a post from the Official Google Blog on what they look for in an employee. The Google post encourages students to Major in Learning. Their priority is people with good non-routine problem skills. They identify five factors that they look for, including analytical reasoning, communication skills, experimentation, team players and passion and leadership. While my four person development team is in a significantly less competitive environment than Google, the skills listed in the post are no less important in my hiring decision.

For me, this demonstrates a move away from a mass-production, process-oriented environment to a more open, agile workplace marked by projects and a shifting business environment. Life simply doesn't come at you in a nice, predictable pattern anymore. (Did it ever?)

In her post, Vicki goes on to pose the question "what does majoring in learning look like"? Not being a teacher, administrator, or even parent I've tried to steer clear of the "how" question and limit my advisory board/bored comments to the "what" and "why" questions. At the risk of crossing that line, let me take suggest three "what's" that a person majoring in learning must have:
  • an understanding that school is a subset of learning, and not necessarily the most important one. As a result, these people will have the skills, tools and attitudes necessary for continuous life long learning (both professional and personal). This also means that you don't have to go to college to major in learning.
  • an appreciation of the fact that knowledge has a shelf life. New learning sometimes adds to our understanding and sometimes replaces it. Majors in learning don't confuse certainty with correctness.
  • the confidence to get things wrong in a safe and appropriate setting. Getting things wrong is a necessary component of getting things right, so those majoring in learning are allowed to get things wrong without penalty. Still, it is important to demonstrate "right" most of the time (new software release, brain surgery, etc), so the major in learning knows how to use prototypes, test environments, pilots and sabbaticals to be wrong safely.
I'm sure Vicki would love to hear any ideas you have.

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lgrt said...

As an employer... I want employees who Majored in Learning... who doesn't? What I look for is someone who learned how to learn. To me that does mean a collage degree or a significant work history showing they have taken on more complexity and have solve difficult problems through their own ingenuity. What the degree is in... not so important as the demonstration of inquisitiveness and an ability to take calculated risks. (I said calculated, it is after all my live they are risking)

Starting out... expect to show that ability to learn over and over... no matter the formal eduction, you have a lot to learn. My team is designed to teach new people how we do it and the new guys job, learn... understand why we do things in an order and how... than explain your ideas to make it better.