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What Was Your Major and Does It Matter Now?

If you’ve been reading much of the news about the recent Equifax data breach, you may have seen someone asking whether the Chief Information Security Officer is actually qualified for her job, based on her undergrad degree being in music.

As others have pointed out, what her undergrad studies were probably didn’t have much to do with whether she was qualified, because the technology she was responsible for in her current position didn’t even exist when she went to college. The hoopla, however, is somewhat informative in terms of showing us how many people haven’t figured out that the world has changed.

The logic of their argument seems to be that she went to college, studied music, then got a job in tech later, and isn’t qualified for it because she doesn’t have the college credentials. This line of thinking ignores two things though.

  • It ignores the reality of technology:

Technology is constantly evolving, and is constantly being improved upon. Let’s take even a typical 35 year old with an undergrad degree in computer science who graduated at 25. How “qualified” is that person to work with current technology? The tech they studied to earn that degree is at least 10 years old now. What relevance does it even have? The answer to whether the person is qualified has little to do with what their college studies included, and has everything to do with what they’ve done in the ensuing 10 years.

Have they worked in technology, hands on, with some of the same tools we want to hire them to work with? Have they continued to educate themselves on the various tools and our industry? Or did they get their degree, go work in something completely unrelated and now want to come back without having been involved in 10 years? There’s a huge difference between those two things.

  • It ignores the reality of adult life:

As adults, we are constantly learning. The idea that education stops once you complete your schooling is absurd. The idea that in your early twenties you have all the tools you will need to excel in your career is absurd. The idea that this is what you are going to be doing for the next 40+ years is absurd. Once upon a time, I was an Accounting major. eDiscovery wasn’t even an industry when I was in college. How do you think I got here? By continuing to learn and develop new skills throughout my life. That practice eventually led me to develop new interests in technology, law, teaching, etc. I’ve had some great opportunities to do different things that I could never have imagined when I was in college because the opportunities didn’t exist yet!

I’m not trying to talk anyone out of going to college and being degreed, but the reality of adult life is that degree is only as good as you continue to be going forward, and if that degree is in Philosophy because you just loved studying the topic, and now you want to work in an industry that maybe pays a bit more lucratively, don’t let the fact that you didn’t study it in college stop you from going forward and learning everything you can now.

Heck, we have enough of a shortage of qualified cybersecurity experts as it is, let’s not discourage adults who are out of college from trying to learn the skills and make it even harder to fill that gap!

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