Paul Graham, a successful serial entrepreneur and my biggest idol, just published another thought-provoking essay – After Credentials.
Interestingly, he was referring to a New York Times article on Korean education system. Having grown up in Korea till 16, I had experienced it myself and am in complete agreement with him. I was an odd kid in Korea. I didn’t like following those customary rules just because they had been practiced for many hundreds of years. I hated cramming and being judged by test scores. And it’s so true that a college degree plays a large role in one’s career and life in Korea. Since graduating from college is pretty much guaranteed, once you get in, you are set. Therefore, there is a lot of emphasis in GETTING in to a college, no matter what you major in. So, it’s safe to say that most kids do not major in what they wanted.
Korea is a country RULED by large companies: Samsung, Hyundai, etc. They employ 100’s of thousands of people and venture into all kinds of business, from cars to hospital, theme park, and consumer electronics. Working there means job security, so many college graduates want to work there. Thus, just like what Paul said, credential and pedigree matter A LOT. Also personal connections. It’s sickening.
It’s one of the reasons why I like the US and the Silicon Valley. Like I mentioned about Obama, it’s the land of infinite possibilities. I’ve worked at many start-ups, and I know that all of them were filled with people from all different backgrounds, and that included educational background. Once you leave your first job, you are judged on your skills, not where you went to school. It’s so true for engineers and also sales folks. Even in the Silicon Valley, the larger a company is – like Intel and Cisco – the more your credential and pedigree matter.
Raising two kids, I think about what values I bestow upon them. As an Asian, and perhaps the way I was raised, I highly value education and have been sending them to a private school. But as I also grow older, I wonder if it’s so necessary. Of course education is important, but I am not sure if sending them to a private school is necessary. Because, there is so much more important than just learning – creativity, positive attitude, ingenuity, etc. I really want my kids to understand that there are a lot more things valuable than good grades. I want to encourage my kids to be entrepreneurial, try new things, and not be afraid of failures. Do your best and don’t worry. I hope my parents could have taught me something different. I don’t blame my parents at all, but I can’t help but to imagine how things would have been different if I were taught different values.