April 27, 2023
31 min 58 sec

Skills vs Qualifications

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What can land you your dream job and an attractive pay package? An enviable degree from the top college in the world?

Or all the experience you've acquired on the job that can never be replicated in a classroom?

And what should recruiters value more?

Debkanya: 0:11

Hello, welcome. For all of us here at Tydy, it's Tea Time. I hope everyone's got their cup of tea, coffee, bourbon, whatever. I've got mine. Our topic today is skills versus qualifications. We are going to talk about what is more important is it to have the right skills or is it about having the right degree? And also I think we should look in from the perspective of what do companies look for when they're hiring, what is more important and what kind of, maybe what guarantees success? We are gonna break this apart little by little. Let's keep it healthy. If anyone has very strong viewpoints, we usually do. What's more important skills or qualifications?Soumya: 1:02

Not getting to that answer right away, but both have their pros and cons, right? For me, when I think about it, skills, at least a good 10 years ago, when I did my graduation, I knew how important that post-graduation was. I know how much my parents pushed me for it. They said that you are not going to climb up that corporate ladder. You're not gonna do good if you don't have that post-graduation. And I think I didn't go ahead and do it. I tried preparing for uh, MBA, but then I quit that and all of that. But I always, for I think the good first five to six years carry that thing that because I don't have a postgraduate degree, it's going to affect me in some way. Thankfully it hasn't, until now, it hasn't. And I think the world has changed a lot since then. Because of the startup culture and everything that's skill based hiring and everything has come in. It wasn't the same when I was trying to get my batch of you know, students that we were trying to get everyone placements. Having a post-graduate degree mattered a lot then, but I think times have changed now.

Pooja: 2:13

I, I actually fall in that category of people, because most of the people around me by the time I was in college were I've only done gone up to my undergrad. I haven't done a postgrad or anything. And at that time there were a lot of people around me that were also not, it wasn't a thing, there wasn't a necessity to do a postgrad. It could have been just the field that I was in. Of course, that varies a lot too. Depends on what you want to study and what you want to do. But for me personally, I have been subconsciously I guess just focusing on the skills I haven't studied for over six, seven years now, and I don't even know. Still, I do want to today a little bit, maybe get another diploma or something like that, but as a qualification need, I feel like skills for me are a bit more important than qualifications at the moment.

Debkanya: 3:13

The funny thing is for me, if you'd asked me the same question, say maybe 15 years ago, then I'm kind of giving away my age. But if you asked me the same question 15 years ago, I would've said qualifications really matter a lot. But to your point, Soumya, I think things have changed considerably in today's world. And I'd like to think it's gonna keep changing it's gonna weigh more heavily towards people who are lifelong learners versus people who've just spent those three to four years getting that degree or the many thousands of dollars getting that degree. So I think that's where I'm at, but, that does not mean that the degree doesn't count for anything. I think the degree is still very important. Whether it is undergraduate level, I think up to a certain point, at least that degree is extremely important. And then after that, it's all about skills that you've adopted or picked up while doing your degree and then going forward in life, all the skills that you keep. Like I said, are you a lifelong learner? Do you have other skills that are required to be successful. That's where I stand.

Pooja: 4:28

I mean, It still worries me also. Just having an undergraduate does bog me down a little bit. I do want more under my, you. To have more of those qualifications for sure. Because it definitely is very beneficial for your career growth. It's not that you, you can sure just keep rising up with your skills, but having qualifications cuz it's a much broader learning tool as well. Skills are just, I can just do a course to learn, I don't know Photoshop, and that's a skill I picked up. If I wanna do an entire design thinking course, sure, I can find that online as well. But to have that certification in hand definitely holds value.

Debkanya: 5:18

You're talking about that stamp, that authenticity stamp.

Pooja: 5:21

Yeah, it does. It does yeah play role for sure,

Kiran: 5:28

I, um, very vividly remember this. In my 10th grade I said I will never do a post-graduate cause it's an absolute waste of time. And I've kind of stuck to that ever since. I obviously didn't do my post-graduate. I started working 20 years ago. And I don't think there's ever been a reason why not having a postgrad has not given me a specific opportunity. I've worked in three continents. I don't think it matters. And today, as an employer, as a founder, as an entrepreneur, I would never hire someone for their qualifications over their skills. I would never hire anyone for their qualifications over their ability to learn like what you said, Debbie. And I feel um, the more qualifications you have, the less interested I'm gonna be in you.

Debkanya: 6:26

Oh, really? You have to go and take it that far?

Kiran: 6:29

Yes, a hundred percent.

Debkanya: 6:30

You have a PhD. I'm not interested in you.

Kiran: 6:33

I think so. At least in the space that I operate in there may be relevant requirements for a PhD in another space. But in the space that I've operated in all my life, the more qualifications you have, the more blinkered you are. Your thought process is very systemic. Your thought process is very linear and it does not lend to a person who can actually take on more than they're supposed to.

Debkanya: 7:04

I want to dig deeper into that. So basically you're saying if somebody is really qualified and has found that and especially if you're talking about somebody who's gone on to do say, for example, a PhD, right? There's, you've picked a subject and you've really decided that this is what I want to specialize in. Yeah. You would not be interested in hiring such a person for your whatever you're hiring at. But then would it also, isn't that a generalized view that this person would be blinkered? Because at the end of the day, some of the most cutting edge research usually comes from people who've dedicated their lives to say one subject, right? So if you want a specialist to join you, maybe it's the qualification that does count because this person is really like I said, dedicated his or her entire life to this one thing. He or she may not be great at other things like say for example, teamwork, but really knows the subject. So how do you then weigh what's more important?

Kiran: 8:06

As I said, my caveat was fundamentally in the spaces that I've worked in. I'm not doing satellite building or anything else that requires very specialized skills or qualifications. I think the problem for me and this is based only on my 20 years of working, is that everywhere I have seen someone who has joined the corporate workforce with a ton of qualifications behind him or her. There is that inability to collaborate, like you said, but that also lends itself to a very big conundrum is that those qualified people expect to be at a managerial level. They're not necessarily the doers who will kind of grow through the ranks and build their capability from that perspective. But. They want to be. And again, these are generalizations, but I'm allowed my generalizations based on my experience. These people are the ones who want to potentially be managers but will make terrible managers because they just don't have that understanding of what it takes to really, as I said, go back to my second point, which is rise through the ranks. And so I feel for those reasons loading yourself with qualifications is actually a negative rather than a positive in the field that I work in.

Debkanya: 9:37

Okay. And we have a comment from NPA who agrees, I think with you, Kiran, and she says the less you know, is probably, I'm assuming she means the better. Do you agree, Soumya and Pooja? That you know, the more qualified you are, the harder it is for you to be part of your, the company's growth story, for example.

Kiran: 10:01

No let me qualify before they can actually comment. The reason I say that is if you look at a linear path of two different people. One who's gone down the path of qualifications, has a bachelor's degree undergraduate, then goes on to do a post-graduate, goes on to do a PhD. There are some people who just love learning and education, so they'll kind of keep building on those qualifications. Versus in that same time period, the other person has started working and building him or herself up through the ranks from a corporate structure perspective and understanding what the nuances of working with people actually means, right? Versus having spent time in a classroom. So that, I feel is a huge disadvantage for the person who spent time in the classroom because they have not had that same experience that the other person has, who has spent time working with others, collaborating, the politics, all the nonsense that goes on in the workplace. Dealing with all of that and understanding how to kind of navigate yourself through the entire organization, to position yourself. All of those learnings happen during your early years in the workplace. And so if you're talking about two different people, both born at the same time, but go through two different paths, that is fundamentally the problem.

Soumya: 11:25

Yeah, I think I hear you, Kiran, but I wouldn't completely agree in that sense. I think it's also a reflection of how it is, how it was rather in the society where we really gave a lot of credit to people who probably passed out of these branded educational institutes, right? Those real big brands. And I think it all comes from there. Once you are out of that college you naturally expect to start at a managerial level. That's the kind of course that you end up taking, and I think that influences a lot of our perception. But, I feel like exposure, whether that comes from starting your work early by probably finishing your graduation, starting your work, or whether you get into a college that gives you exposure, I think where that exposure comes from also can be important.

Kiran: 12:19

I don't think that college can give you that exposure, which is similar to the workplace.

Soumya: 12:24

Which is interesting. Is that a failure of the education system or are you saying that colleges just can't give that to us?

Kiran: 12:31

They just can't because it's not the way it works. An education is you sitting and learning right? Now yes, they will try internships, interspersing classroom sessions with going and doing an internship for a month or two. It's just not the same. Because you are there for a specific period, maybe two months, three months, whatever it is from an internship perspective, but you're not really understanding the corporate dynamics and the corporate world is a beast, right? You really need to understand the dynamics of this beast in order to navigate it. And so would you rather spend time understanding that during the formative years of your career? Or would you rather spend time building up your qualification Lego stack and hoping that you can jump the line?

Soumya: 13:24

Right, which is interesting that you bring this up, but what if in the hiring stage itself, our first barrier is that. Like having an MBA, if that shows up in the job description, then no matter how much I want to have really just jumped into a career after my undergraduate, I may not be able to access that.

Debkanya: 13:46

No, I mean to your, exactly what you're saying, right? Like the recruitment machinery, so to speak so far. Things are changing. I think we are all acknowledging that things are changing, but so far the recruitment machinery has always been skewed towards that degree. It kind of automatically, because it companies decided that the degree is required, therefore the degree is valued. It's that much harder, like you said, to get that. And we are taking it a step further behind actually. Because it's not about the overqualified, it's about the qualified. It's even about the basic degree right now because you have more and more people like the conversation is shifting towards creating a more equitable, a more level playing field within the workplace, right? If I, say for example, did four or five Google courses or Coursera courses or Udemy courses or what have you, will I be considered for the same job and as qualified or skilled to do the same job as say someone else who's done a Masters in the same thing from a known college?

Kiran: 14:50

I think that's a really important nuanced point. And the reason I say that is because unfortunately, most educational institutions fall way behind what corporate reality is on that particular day. And the point I'm trying to make is you may still be reading and learning about the five Ps with Philip Kotler and whatever else it may be in the marketing and management world. But in the real world, a manager is struggling with understanding how to work with a hybrid workforce today, right? And how to drive efficiency with people who are not at the workplace, in the office in front of you, and spread across different regions. The education system will never be able to catch up to the current reality of the corporate world. And which is why I think, again, those qualifications start getting outdated so quickly. It's like a car, the moment it comes out of a showroom, it's price decreases by 50% the moment you pick it up and drive it out. So it's the exact same thing, primarily because you'll never be able to have the education in a college which teaches you what the current reality of the corporate world is. Even if you have guest lectures coming from the corporate world and giving you a one hour kind of lecture.

Debkanya: 16:14

I have a point to make to that, but I'll come to it in just a bit because we have a comment which says there is another aspect to your point, and this is to you, Kiran, the executive MBAs have kind of added that dynamics to learning. Cause that is for people who are already working. What's your take on that?

Kiran: 16:30

Again, I, my, my whole point is very simple. You can go and do an executive MBA, but what is it really solving for you from a workplace scenario perspective? Is it helping you become a better manager because it's telling you how to manage hybrid workers today in 2023? Or is it giving you knowledge about the five Ps like I said, which is Philip Kotler's seminal bible for marketing and management. If that's the case, I don't think the executive MBA is gonna help. Because fundamentally that is not something you will use on a daily basis in your work. And this is me talking from my 20 years of experience, which may be very skewed, may be very different from other people's experience, but this is just my experience. It does not help. And so rather spending time working and building yourself up there is a much better value add.

Debkanya: 17:30

We were talking about brand name universities and your Ivy Leagues and all of that. And I think I agree. Soumya, you said this, is it about the education system in general or is it about education at large? I think education at large is extremely important no matter where you get it from. Whether you get it from a college or you get it at the workplace, like you're saying Kiran. But one thing that educational institutes, especially, case in point, executive MBAs do for you is give you a ready made network. And I think that is a huge gift in itself. Because the minute you've done your Masters or whatever it is from a Harvard or an IIM or an IIT, suddenly you are amongst a group of people who are automatically set up for success. Let's put it like that who have all all the chips in their corner already. That advantage you won't get. Sure it depends on your personal skills as a networker, right? But you won't get that at the workplace.

Kiran: 18:28

Yeah. So a very good friend of mine who went to one of these Ivy League colleges, when I decided to start working, he comes back after year one and he tells me Kiran, this is a $250,000 cover charge for a party, right? So it is basically a party because in a party you will meet people and you will start making new acquaintances and you'll start building that. But you're not getting much else out of it. The network is phenomenal and if you are good at kind of building on it, then kudos to you and that's what you're paying for, to your point. But it's not really the qualification. So what would you pay that for? As long as you can pay it, it's for that network that you're gonna build, which will hopefully kind of help you grow in your career over a period of time. Rather than the actual lesson that you learned in that particular college.

Debkanya: 19:29

But I think it does give you a leg up, right? You're still talking about that fact. But it gives you that leg up because as a recruiter for example and startups work a little differently. But if you're looking at, and to that point, a lot of companies in fact have gone on to saying that we are not going to look at degrees like your Google has done that. Penguin has done that. There are quite a few others who actually come out and said that it's not about your degree, it's about the skills that you've picked up over, over the years. And that's what we are going to look at. But the reality is tomorrow if you have two CVs presented to you one from say pick the most well known, which is someone who's done. Some whatever at Harvard versus someone who's not and has probably gone straight to working after finishing school and went straight into the workplace because that's what the circumstances that this person had. What would you do?

Kiran: 20:27

Go with the others first? I'll answer. Let's ask Pooja what her decision.

Soumya: 20:38

No I'll be very honest, there would be a sense of bias that I'll notice because I'll be like, oh, this person's gone to this college, so they probably have a lot more exposure. But I'll have to check it consciously, right? I'll have to be like, okay, let me go in and do like a skill assessment if I am hiring them onto my team, let me go ahead do a skill assessment. But there is that sense of, oh, they've come from this school.

Kiran: 21:07

What exposure are you talking about? What do they have as added exposure?

Debkanya: 21:12

Mm-hmm. I think, I think one of the things that could stand in favor of the person with the high Ivy League degree is the fact that yes, of course a lot of them are expensive and you need to have the ability to pay that loan off or just pay your tuition fees. But keeping that aside, keep that aside and say let's not consider that at all. This person got in because of purely merit. It tells you something about this person's abilities as well, right? Because it's not easy to get into any of these colleges. It's a rigorous screening process. It is really difficult to crack that exam. It's taken a lot of hard work. You can shake your head, but those are facts. It takes a lot of hard work to get into some of the

Kiran: 21:54

best.. I know personally that it's

Debkanya: 21:55

not. No. So I'm, see, let's keep the money part aside right for a second, because that would be No, go

Kiran: 22:02

back to your network. Go back to your network and your connections and if you do research and go back to your network and connections point. And if you do actual research, and I think there are research papers done on this. Most people who go to a Harvard are connected to other people who have gone to Harvard.

Debkanya: 22:22

So that's what I'm saying. Let's keep that aside because there are people who go to Harvard who don't come from connected families. And those are very few, and let's not, okay let's make it even more equal in the sense, because Harvard probably is being the most sought after, is probably a wrong example, but say a known brand, a known university from wherever home country you are getting into some of these institutions are extremely difficult. You are cracking exams that and thousands of students are sitting for. You are making it to the top percentile. Okay. You are making it into the 99% percentile to actually make it past that exam. You've spent months of your life studying. That says something that, that takes a lot of determination, a lot of grit. You cannot take away from that.

Kiran: 23:09

What does that tell you about the person versus someone else who has gone straight to work? What more does this person who applied to Harvard or wherever, have more over the other person in your opinion.

Debkanya: 23:26

And that's a very, that's a very fair question and it kind of brings us to the whole equitable workplace question than we were talking about, like hiring from a more diverse workforce because not everyone has the privilege of being able to say, dedicate themselves to studying and cracking that exam.

Kiran: 23:43

That's a politically right answer. I asked you a very specific question. What do you as Debbie think the person has over the other one who went to work because you said, let's not discount the fact that they have a significant amount of experience or whatever it may be. They've gone through an exam, they've spent a ton of time studying. So what, in your opinion, does the person A, who's gone to Harvard, have over person B who has started working at that same time.

Debkanya: 24:15

It tells me something about this person's dedication to education and I, again, I cannot dismiss the fact that education in itself is important up to whatever degree you choose. We want lifelong learners, right? We all want at least within our the people I know people are constantly learning. There's no harm if you've chosen to dedicate the beginning the first few years of your life to learning and getting that degree, surely you cannot dismiss it. It takes a certain amount of dedication to do that.

Soumya: 24:48

When you are talking about these really reputed institutes and not just the fact it's so difficult to get there, and I think a lot of work goes into it. I also think there's a sense of confidence that comes into the students who have been there, and I say this from personal experience of me having come from a small town into a educational institution in a large city. Plus having also worked in colleges with the students in tier two, tier three cities trying to equip them for interviews and trying to get them ready for any kind of job. I've seen that difference in how they're able to tackle these kind of life situations. When you're finally put into that situation, like you said, your corporate world is the beast, how do you tackle that? How do you tackle that interview? How do you fit into that system? Becomes much more easier for these folks for some reason than it is for people who have come from a tier two, tier three city because of, I think it's because of that exposure difference, I would say. There's one comment from RIA that says, well, education may not be the all and end all for getting a job. Education does give you an exposure and edge. Cannot generalize this for all educational institutions as well. It gives a person an ability to think beyond the obvious and question the why behind a lot of things. And these they get to do in a setup where they're not judged or appraised in a competitor setup. And there is scope of making mistakes and learning from that. Okay. That comes from an HR recruiter, herself.

Kiran: 26:25

Oh I totally disagree. I a hundred percent disagree. I have never made a hire, which has been wrong from that perspective, when I look at who I've hired, whether they're they've got a postgraduate or whatever it is, it, the extra education has never been an edge in any hire that I have made, and I've made a ton of hires in the last 20 years. The extra education has never been an edge. So again, I'm talking purely from my personal experience. I'm not saying that this is the end all and be all, but I would always prefer having learned that for myself in the last 20 years. I will today prefer someone who has worked rather than someone who has spent time capturing more and more or gathering more and more of their qualifications.

Debkanya: 27:18

What would you do Pooja, for example, right? I know you mentioned that you've done your undergraduate. Would you go and given the opportunity and say all things fall into place. Would you go and get a higher qualification?

Pooja: 27:30

Now, yes. After working for some x amount of years. For more than, yeah, about seven years roughly. Yes. Because I think being in the creative field, and having all of the exposure. I've worked in multiple companies. I've learned so much about just graphic design, and I've not, and I'm now dipping my toes into a bit of web design. I do want to, and I've personally never been good at academics. I've just never been that person who is the top of the class or any of that. So once I finished my undergraduate, I was already sure that I wanted to learn, do an internship, pick up skills on the job before I put money and time into studying something else that I'm not sure I want to even do. Like what is that skill that I want? What is that qualification that I want? And now, today there's so many different types of courses and certifications and degrees and it's so niche and it's so broad, right? Like I just couldn't tell myself that this is what I wanna study and this is how I, that path was hard for me to create at that point, and I was okay with that. And I had the support to not do further education. And I feel it did help me a lot just working all these years. But as a creative. I think it will help me get a little bit more education in learning, because it's just learning a lot more practical skills. There's, there is still only so much I can learn on at in a job. I'd be pushed a lot more if I were to do a course.

Debkanya: 29:19

that's a very good point and a very good place for us to kind of wrap up the conversation. I think we have a lot, many more things to say. I didn't even realize time is up. Thank you Karen, for pointing that out. But what you said right now about having the dedicated time to focus on building skills is something that you don't always get within the workplace. Again, it varies from what you do, skill to skill specifically if it's technical, for example. Being able to carve out that time in your work week to be able to do that's something that, you know is not always available to everyone. And I think that's a good place for us to end because maybe that's what people have to look at. Companies have to look at when hiring and when recruiting. How do you become more intentional about who and how you are hiring? Are you looking at the degree? Are you looking at the skills? Are you looking holistically at the person who's presented his or her resume in front of you? Because at the end of the day it's never apples to apples when it comes to people. It never is, right? So I think that is important and there is a lot that you will learn within the workplace and you'll never learn in a university. But then there is something that you will learn in a college that you might not get within the workplace, right? There is a environment of learning that you might not get in every workplace. Maybe companies need to change that, about how they create opportunities for learning,

Kiran: 30:42

just to end it off from my perspective I would always give more importance to someone who is doing Coursera courses through their work life. Coursera is just an example Yeah. Than spending time in inside a classroom.

Debkanya: 30:58

That's you, that's fine. And you're allowed to have that in place. And I think, again, as a company, what is important to remember is, like you said you made this point earlier degrees it's like a car. It's diminishing value over time, which is true at the end of the day that degree is going to get outdated and probably irrelevant, especially in today's world that is changing so fast. So how do you ensure that we are learning constantly and within the workplace? Again, how do you create an environment of learning? How do you keep skilling, re-skilling, upskilling your people and allowing them that time to dedicate to learning? Rather than expecting people to just do it all right, great. On that note, it's that's all from us on Tydy Tea Time. Catch us again next week with a brand new topic. Until then, it's goodbye.

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