By DAVID MYTON
Much of the higher education discourse today is centred on the need for students to study “practical” subjects ranging from STEM to those such as accounting, commerce and business-related topics that segue into the needs and demands of employers.
And why wouldn’t it be so? According to LinkedIn the top 10 skills that will help job-seekers find work include cloud and distributed computing, statistical analysis and data mining, user interface design, data presentation, and mobile development.
And yet …
I stumbled across a story this week on Fast Company, which bills itself as “the world’s leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, leadership, world changing ideas, and design”.
Litt acknowledges he wouldn’t be in business without his background in engineering, and makes it clear he relies on skilled developers and engineers to build his company’s products.
“But the funny thing is,” he says, “I’m still hiring more humanities majors than STEM grads, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon”.
Litt notes that while tech businesses are booming, many of the jobs waiting to be filled “require broader skill sets than just great engineering chops”.
The truly irreplaceable jobs are roles that intermingle arts and science, he says.
He continues: “My employees with humanities backgrounds regularly show they’re willing to learn new skills and try new things.
“Think about the other roles that deal with developing and marketing tech products and services: Sales teams need to understand human relationships. Marketing teams have to understand what gets people excited and why.
“Internally, our HR teams need to know how to build a community and culture so the company can continue to thrive. The nuts and bolts of software development are just one small part of any successful tech company …”
Making products is relatively easy, he says, but figuring out what people actually want is far more difficult – “People will never embrace your product if you don’t understand their motivations and needs.”
A data dive into the customer base requires STEM capabilities but to actually find out what the data means requires different abilities – “instinct, critical thinking, and a deeply contextual understanding of human nature”.
This all reflects the Steve Jobs view (formed from enormous success) that for technology to be truly brilliant, it must be coupled with artistry.
When launching the iPad in 2010 Jobs declared: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.”
I think that says it all.