Monday, March 10, 2014

No Tests, No College-Level Education: Google's "ability to learn"

Jobs are hard to get by, seriously! The U.S. where the demand for workers is shrinking and the supply keeps on growing, nothing feels more terrifying than diving into the job market after graduating from one of the most expensive schools in the country. Good thing I'm going to grad school, at least I could wait a year or two before getting wet. But then again, another financial crash might occur and I'm sure as hell going to get a PhD. For better or for worse, most of us will have to find a job one day, whether it is to achieve our aspirations or just sustain ourselves in this increasingly unaffordable world. Trust me, when you have more or less lived on a concrete island that has managed to squeeze out a large amount of residents due to the cost of living, you have a newfound appreciation for long-lasting, well-paying work. 

Ironically, Millennials, the rising generation that has begun to flood the workforce, is known for having a sense of entitlement. Members of Generation X hesitate on giving Millennials a chance due to these stereotypical attributes, even though, like other generations, it is full of heterogeneity. A choosy generation, Millennials are also perceived to only covet certain opportunities. So, how does one attain their dream job, especially with tons of preconceived baggage placed on their shoulders? 

For the past few months prior to receiving those lovely and somewhat miraculous acceptance letters, I felt so nervous and tense that I began surveying the job market. Availabilities are hard to come by, not to mention its superfluous requirements. However, seemingly experience is a key factor. But before I could get to the bottom of the problem, my issues dissolved and I felt at ease.

On February 22, 2014, The New York Times published an op-ed on How to Get a Job at Google. As a leading tech company, Google is known for its state of the art campuses and attractive office culture. So, it isn't surprising to see that many of my friends are applying to this organization. With any application, be it the Common App or a job application, generally we value our grades highly, except if you went to "eccentric" institutions, such as Sarah Lawrence, where grades are replaced by evaluations. Yet, in recent years, the idea of quantifying a student's worth and ability has gone somewhat out of style. A few days ago, the president of Bard College made the bold statement that the "SAT is part hoax and part fraud" on Time Magazine. The pinnacle test for any student who plan on studying in the U.S., the SAT is the king of the quantification of intelligence, tenacity, speed, and "academic talent". 

Nevertheless, in the New York Times article, Adam Bryant, the senior vice president of people operations at Google, announced that the company has found that the G.P.A., another commonly used predictor for success, is not accurate criteria for hiring. Furthermore, the organization has deemed test scores worthless because both measurements do not predict anything. Instead, Google looks for general cognitive ability in the form of the ability to learn. Leadership, humility and ownership, as well as expertise were listed as other important factors.

Although, I felt a sensed myself smiling whilst reading the article, I realized that these qualities were less distinct and easily achieved as a good GPA or an A+ on a test. Somewhat arbitrary and culturally sensitive, these characteristics require a degree of intuition that I have only, truly seen in the theatre. At the very beginning of sophomore year, I sat in on a few hours of auditions because I had been an assistant director for that year's production of Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine

As the minutes passed by and we saw more and more actors, it was becoming increasingly hard to choose. The majority seemed prepared, experienced, and talented. And although we were able to shorten the list by matching the actor to the roles available in the play, we were still left with a handful of choices. During callbacks, I bit the top of my pencil, wondering who the director will pick. A good friend of mine, whom I trusted, he asked the actors to read a part of the script and then gave directions, before letting them repeat the performance. At the end of the evening, I realized that the director was not looking for mere talent and passion, but also the ability to listen and learn. To be able to understand comments and translate it into a performance were key in securing a comfortable work atmosphere and a smooth show. 

"Being able to learn" is as ambiguous as the word "good". It takes experience and a bit of trial and error to know whether or not we are good at learning. Additionally, one's performance will vary based on the instructor as it relies heavily on this interaction that between the instructor and the student. Unfortunately, in this day and age, due to technological advances that have created diminished our ability to listen, lack of time to take a moment and understand, as well as an increasing sense of independence that inhibits us to take proper instructions, many of us are unprepared to learn how to learn. And this truly terrifies me! Imagine living in a world where our surrounding prevents us from gaining pertinent skills for success. 

On the one hand, I want to free my thoughts by ignoring the facts and convincing myself that "the ability to learn" is exclusive to Google. On the other, I want to jump into a much more frightening notion, which questions the importance of a college-level education. Clearly, this isn't a simple piece, because although it warrants urgent questions, it is not as simple as it seems. Somehow, I have a feeling that we are supposed to go through the fire and burn ourselves along the ways. I just hope that we don't get toasted alive and we come out knowing how to make effective remedies for our issues. 

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