[NRF] "Oh, believe me, I understand your central point. Trust me, you're
across just fine."
[JN] No, apparently I have been yet again unsuccessful in getting a simple
point across. The onus is yet again on me. Let me explain again.
[NRF] However, surely you would concede that having that business degree
Harvard would help your career. I'm an independent consultant also, and we
[JN] At this point in my career, a business degree would cause me to lose
every customer that I have, if I so decide to move to Boston/Cambridge and
abandon administration of their networks. However, if by "career" you mean
the ambition to climb some corporate ladder, then I cannot argue; but that
is entire point. Is it not?
[NRF] both know that it's not like the old days anymore when you could win
merely by demonstrating technical acumen. Surely you would agree that
[JN] It depends on the situation. I have found that I am not required to
have "college level" marketing or formal training, experience in insurance
knowledge when implementing a network for a marketing or insurance firm. I
have done so, but I have mostly been given the design input while
negotiating the project.
[NRF] winning deals these days often times means showing a client how hiring
ultimately makes sense to him, which often times means that in addition to
technical skill, it also takes an intimate understanding of business
concepts like ROI, payback period, capital depreciation schedules, op-ex,
and that sort of thing.
[JN] This has not happened in my case, although I don't deny that any
additional industry specific knowledge will be serve as an advantage.
[NRF] Which gets to a point that I've been making for awhile. In the
networking industry, if all you know is network techologies, you really
don't know much. The fact is, companies don't really care about the
intricacies of BGP, ATM, QoS, or whatnot (they may say they care, but they
don't actually care), they only care about how these things translate into
[JN] This above statement is made under the assumption that I disagree,
somehow, with a college education. If the situation requires it, if the job
position actually requires the knowledge (a questionable amount most of the
time) gained through a degree program, then I have no argument.
[NRF] The point is this. In the late 90's, you really could live just on
and tech knowledge. To do so now is to live dangerously, as all the
unemployed CCIE's can attest to. Tech skill is not enough - people need
learn how the relationship between tech skill and money. Companies will
hire you (or not) based on whether they think they will make money (or not)
from doing so.
[JN] It is fair to ask for business or management knowledge when hiring for
a management position, or a position that requires understanding of business
strategies. However, you have shot the target higher in your invocation of
"career objective." OK, I agree, (as I have not ever expressed
disagreement) that a degree from a prestigious university is perhaps the
only ticket when hopping for management position on an already fast running
train like Cisco or MS. I find it objectionable when a desktop management
position also somehow "requires" a degree. Go to biotech firms like Farben
and Amgen, and you might find yourself short of getting a dinky "desktop"
position due to "degree requirements." A practical tech cert should be
enough. If the chap then wishes to advance his career and climb up the
ladder, then who is arguing against his attainment of a degree? I don't
recall ever saying this.
Au contraire - entirely relevant. The fact is, many engineers (not all, but
many) don't want to be engineers forever. I know if I'm still schlepping
[JN] In their case, they should plan their "career" accordingly.
[NRF] And besides, it doesn't exactly jibe with your argument above that
who place an emphasis on degrees seem to suffer from a high number of
[JN] I will not go into denial and dismiss my own experience. MS or Cisco,
I have no profound knowledge of, but shops that I have been in that "judge"
their employees strictly through "credentials" suffered greatly. One
company went under and laid us all off for precisely this reason!
[NRF] Furthermore, think about what you said above. You said that companies
run more efficiently if they judge each individual by his own merits - and I
take that to mean that the company should 'de-emphasize' the importance of
[JN] Absolutely. Too much emphasis on "credentials" such as a degree is a
real market phenomenon. Too much dismissal of knowledge from vendor
certifications is also a sadly pervasive market phenomenon.
[NRF] the degree. Yet, consider the logic of this argument. If these
are really so 'efficient', then why don't they dominate the ranks of the
[JN] Au "contraire," let us reframe the question to read: "How is it that a
good many of the so-called Fortune 500 companies are founded by drop-outs,
only to be managed by upper management glorified janitors?" OK, you are an
employee that starts at 150k, but you ARE an employee. But, again, this is
irrelevant. What is relevant is that technical people are often misjudged
and underestimated, or the exact reverse, if the hiring process involved
some sort of idiotic "iron degree rule."
[NRF] Fortune 500. If such companies are really run so efficiently, then it
should be no problem for these companies to compete with and destroy the
corporate dinosaurs that use business practices of yesteryear. The free
market is Darwinistic in that it dictates that more efficient enterprises
tend to live and less efficient ones tend to die. So why haven't all these
"individual-oriented" companies taken over the ranks of the top companies in
[JN] OK, Adam Smith, we get the idea of "progress" and the "looming danger
of corporate asteroids." Understood. Yet, generation after generation, the
industry leading founders of industry leading corporations seem to be
dropouts or teen-age self-taught hobbyists, hackers. The later "Harvard
graduate" just licks their feet, under the company ages like bad wine, and
turns either into a slow-motion "blue chip" or just fades away in mergers.
Sure, I am making generalizations to make moot points, but, then again, so
[NRF] I'll put it to you in even more stark terms. Take your argument to
logical conclusion. If you truly think that corporate America is really run
so inefficiently because it doesn't pay enough attention to individual
characteristics, then perhaps you should start your own company that does
precisely that. If your ideas are correct, then your company will enjoy
unusual success because it will be better run than those other companies and
you'll be a millionaire.
[JN] Interestingly enough, however "I dare you"-like your challenge is,
there are those who take that challenge in earnest. I would be very
surprised to see business degree holders at ISPs trying to configure core
[NRF] In this thread, I have not attacked certification.
[NRF] The problem with certification is not the certification itself but
easy-money mentality that it has engendered. Far too many people see
[JN] Agreed there. The mid 90's MCSE hype was entirely based on that, but
the same argument is being increasingly when it comes to degree programs.
There is the up-and-coming slogan of "employee factory" in reference to
universities. Many a good writer has protested against the
"employee-oriented" curriculum of any given university or college. It is
also very easy to get a degree as compared to 20 years ago, and the
standards are falling fast. Degrees are, therefore, also seen as "a means
to get higher salary," and it is less the case that a degree program is seen
as a means to enrich one's self and increase one's knowledge. Those days
are apparently gone. Therefore, your apparent idealization of the degree
and its merits are only enforced by iron-clad "requirements" within the
corporate world, but this is the case only on hiring day. Subsequent shifts
in the market will again show that garage hobbyists and hackers will become
founders, again having another generation of Harvard business graduates
licking their boots. Corporate Darwinism is a cruel phenomenon indeed,
where personal initiative is still the reigning king.
[NRF] Again, I fail to see that it is out of bounds to the discussion, for
fact remains that not everybody is going to be happy with being the tech guy
[JN] See the desktop tech requirement example above. I don't speak of high
career ambition at this point. Yes, I agree that the terms are entirely
different when one is aiming to climb up to upper management, and I will not
argue one bit that a degree program (preferably from a prestigious
university) is virtually the only ticket up. I have never argued against
[NRF] And even in lines of your argument, I would argue just the opposite of
you said - that it is precisely the companies who overrate the value of
certifications that suffer from much more lack of professionalism than those
companies who overrate the value of the degree. Overrating anything is
always a bad thing, but the dangers of overrating certs seem to be worse.
[JN] Agreed, but unfortunately the trend is definitely to the disfavor of
the cert and to the favor of the degree. Propaganda and myth is dictating
market hiring decisions either way.
[NRF] Want proof? Look at the dotcoms and their brothers, the New-Age
high proportion of which were populated by certified college drop-outs and
also suffered from a pernicious lack of understanding of business practices
like proper finance/bookkeeping, proper HR policies, proper decision-making
processes, and in short a complete lack of proper professionalism. All you
have to do is go to www.fuc*edcompany.com and you can read story after story
of dotcoms who handed out paychecks that bounced, that violated Federal
notification laws regarding layoffs, that bought goods from suppliers and
then welshed on payment, and in short suffered from chronic cases of the
very lack of professionalism that you claim they should be immune to.
Coincidence? I don't think so. The bigger, degree-oriented companies may be
stodgy, but hey, at least if they hire you, you can pretty much rest assured
that you're actually going to get paid, something that seemed to be rather
hit-or-miss with the dotcoms. Professionalism, I ask you?
[JN] Experienced management especially in medium to large operations is not
ever something that I have argued against. Yet the fact remains that Apple,
MS, etc, many companies were founded by drop-outs. Every argument, or
rather, every generalization will yield a double-edge and can easily refute
itself. Therefore, I stand by my thesis that every individual should be
judged and hired according to the given situation. The alternative that
seems to be increasingly dominating the market is that of having "iron rules
of requirements of degrees" even for petty IT positions. This is a stupid
trend that prevents the hiring of many, many qualified people.
[NRF] And even if you want to restrict the discussion just to the technical
once again, I believe the dangers of being too cert-oriented are far greater
than the dangers of being too degree-oriented. Again, far too many networks
[JN] I don't agree or disagree. Apparently you have not read all the way
through my example of an efficient hiring process.
[NRF] were built out in the late 90's by certified but degree-less people,
these network buildouts were performed without so much as a nod to economic
efficiency and/or business practicality. Again, take a look at all the
new-age service-providers who are now in bankruptcy court because they built
out huge networks that hadn't a prayer of making back a reasonable
[JN] This is yet again another generalization that I can easily refute using
personal examples. Another one: I was hired by a large insurance firm whose
technical leads and CIO were Ivy League graduates (whose network was
designed and built by those Ivy Leaguers), but, even in those days of my
lack of experiences, I would catch numerous errors in design. I had no
knowledge of Cisco or Cabletron equipment, but I could easily tell that
their network was flawed from the ground up. I later found that the same
company filed bankruptcy and laid off the entire IT top management and
replaced them with individuals who were of equal rank to mine!
[NRF] Finally, I would take issue with some of your specific beefs about
I see that you say that colleges teach you outdated or irrelevant
information. But that's really neither here nor there. The point of
college is not to teach you cutting-edge information, but rather to provide
you with a foundation base of knowledge from which you can learn specific
[JN] Dear friend, the entire point is that my competitor was obviously not
in possession of those so-called "soft skills," and, due to his outdated
education, neither did he have the required "hard skills" of the day. He
had perhaps also forgotten his "soft skill" curriculum. Perhaps his
"project management" skills were also outdated, or perhaps he merely lacked
integrity as an individual. Whatever the case was, the overemphasis of his
BS degree in the clients eyes caused for a big hole on the client's pocket.
[NRF] things more quickly. You go to college not to use what you actually
learned, but to improve your entire thinking process. Carly Fiorina
[JN] And, I fully agree with you. Yes, education should be to expand, not
"glorify" one's self or merely to "ensure the fulfillment of requirements",
but I assure you, this is not always the case.
[NRF] graduated with a B.A. in medieval history from Stanford. What the
knowing about the Magna Carta have anything to do with managing a business?
[JN] Ah, but the Magna Carta is a great rudimentary document for personnel
and resources management!---:)
[NRF] That's not the point. Jack Welch had a PhD in chemical engineering
Illinois - what does knowing about thermodynamics have anything to do with
running a conglomerate like GE? Again, not the point. In fact, there are
precious few instances of people graduating from college and then actually
using in their job precisely what they learned in an actual class. Again,
that's not the point. The point of college is not to learn actual specific
things that you might use in your job, but to develop lifelong skills like
time-management, discipline, mental acuity, emotional maturity, and the
[JN] You can do that by raising a family, by maintaining a client base, by
having professional integrity in general, by having a touch of
perfectionism, of professional pride. A degree can fade, and many degrees
have in fact faded from people's minds. Those who succeed have INDIVIDUAL
qualities that enabled to USE the tool that is the degree to their
advantage. yet others are CEOs of companies they founded. Bill Gates is
the best of all examples. His individual qualities, more than anything
else, determined and determine his successes. Hey, he uses college
graduates to maintain his corporate infrastructure. Perhaps he would have
missed out on it if he went to finish his degree, or perhaps he would have
avoided mistakes along the way: All that is impossible to tell without
generalizing yet some more.
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