Author Archives: Amarendra

Teamwork in Education: A critical factor for success

[3 mins Read]

It’s no secret, Teamwork is considered a critical factor for success in any profession – corporates, startups, NGOs – you name it. However, when it comes to the current education system, it does not emphasise teamwork. Instead, by design, our schooling and university education system develop individuals with certain skills. No doubt, individual capability development is genuinely required, but it should not be at the cost of learning how to make a collective impact.

Humans are the most advanced species primarily because we can cooperate and work together at a scale that no other species has demonstrated. We carry teamwork in our DNAs; our forefathers did teamwork as hunter-gatherers for thousands of years. So, it’s a pity that we designed our education system to suppress this gifted ability.

In the past 200 years, we have seen unprecedented development in technology, inventions, and overall our understanding of the world. Communication and digital technologies worked like gasoline on a fire. The exponentially increasing knowledge made it impossible to do any development without teamwork. Unfortunately, when it comes to our education system, apart from some areas in research studies, our education system from schools to colleges has primarily focused on developing an individual’s abilities and capabilities. 

For example, let’s take a look into the superstar technology of our time, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and what it takes to create an AI application.  AI draws it’s foundational strength from Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science. This foundation helps to develop efficient tasks and algorithms. However, when you see from an AI product perspective, the contribution of the foundational part is hardly a quarter of the whole. 

Apart from the core algorithm, an AI product needs connectivity to the data sources, a platform to host the program and run, a user interface, a disciplined way to develop the product, aka DevOps. And apart from all these technical needs, an AI product needs to be clear of any data privacy issues and any inherent biases that might creep from the AI product’s decisions. Considering all that listed so far, it should be apparent that it’s practically impossible to develop an AI product by a single person. 

As the African proverb goes – It takes a village to raise a child. It’s no different for an AI product – here it takes a team of diverse experts. The chances that you will learn all the skills required to create a complete AI product are very thin. Success for anyone in the community can only come from developing expertise in one or a few of these topics and our capability to collaborate, do teamwork, and harness the complementary skills of other experts. 

I ranted that over the last 200 years, we haven’t designed our education system to teach teamwork. At UNP, we immensely value the spirit of teamwork. Therefore, we emphasize on opportunities to learn and practice cooperation and teamwork in all UNP courses, even for those courses we design with our partner institutes.

Employers are taking less cognizance of College Degree

[4 mins read]

When asked whether he considered which college a job applicant attended while evaluating a prospective Tesla employee, Elon Musk said, “There’s no need even to have a college degree at all or even high school. If somebody graduated from a great university, that may be an indication that they will be capable of great things, but it’s not necessarily the case. If you look at, say, people like Bill Gates or Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, these guys didn’t graduate from college, but if you had a chance to hire them, of course, that would be a good idea.” 

Elon Musk is not alone. Serial entrepreneur Kunal Shah who founded two successful companies – Freecharge and CRED, said in an interview with Your Story, “I’m a Philosophy major, I can’t care about other people’s degrees. One of our senior leaders hasn’t even done graduation. The best degree that person has is 10th pass,” 

The hiring process of big corporations is changing as well. In 2017, IBM’s vice president of talent, Joanna Daley, told CNBC that about 15 percent of IBM’s U.S. hires don’t have a four-year degree. She said that instead of looking exclusively at candidates who went to college, IBM now looks at candidates who have hands-on experience via a coding boot camp or an industry-related vocational class. 

Employers are looking for evidence of ability rather than just a degree. This trend is about to catch fire especially in the services sector like Information Technology, Analytics, Finance, etc. where job opportunities may not always require a formal college degree. Also, in terms of job opportunities in these industries, demand outpaces supply so employers are looking at candidates who demonstrate some background, knowledge, skills, and experiences right after high school. 

Computer Science is already an integral part of today’s middle/ high school curriculum and we are now seeing Analytics / AI being introduced as well.  Children are exposed to basic financial and quantitative literacy at home and school which lays a strong foundation for a career in finance.  Infinite resources available for online/self-learning, the scope for practical/ applied experiences, etc. are proving very effective in preparing students ready for jobs right after school.

Nevertheless, college degrees will remain relevant for those seeking careers in deep science, research, etc.

At UNP, we foresee changes in the education system. It’s getting apparent that a college degree comes with a high cost, but it’s getting sidelined by employers. As a result, the education and skill development systems are evolving towards decentralized, tailor-made, and demand-driven arrangements. Also, to keep up with the fast-changing skill demand – learning, upskilling, and reskilling will be a continuous process. As a result, we all will eventually move from a college degree followed by a lifelong career to a career of continuous learning and working simultaneously. 

If you are in the space of coding, Data Science, AI, etc., your GitHub profile, interactions in StackOverflow, etc., will be valued more than any degree or certificate. Behance sets the precedent in the design world, where hiring is done based on the Behance profile of the candidate instead of a degree or certificate.  You might be wondering how to manage several proofs of ability and place those in front of a prospective employer? Worry not. Technology like blockchain will help tie all the discrete pieces of evidence in a secure and tamper-proof way. 

At UNP, we actively work on understanding the upcoming skill demand and anticipating the changes required in the education system. Together with our partners, we are working on curating the right upskilling programs to prepare you for the job market as well as be ready for the future.