I am S-M-R-T! Or, Cracking the code on Google’s ‘diversity problem’


I was at lunch with a co-worker when this subject came up in our conversation. We were talking about projects, ideas, the money and minds behind such endeavors, which of course led to the subject of education.

I got to thinking about today’s education system (being that I just started my MBA program, the topic is fresh on the brain).

Despite the fact that education is getting exponentially more expensive (I mean, ONE book alone for a class I’m currently taking was more than $300), availability of schools and programs is better than we’ve EVER seen. Of course we know that technology plays a huge part in this accomplishment.

Prospective students who would have otherwise been challenged by the distance of a dream school are now that much closer thanks to the Internet. Veterans coming home from the Middle East or even just leaving the service in general, have plenty of money and options for post-secondary education. We’ve seen some relevant reform as far as loaning and student indebtedness goes. But the fact remains that if you really WANT to go to school, you can whether in person, online, daytime or after work.

After I finished my Bachelor’s (earned and paid for courtesy of Navy Tuition Assistance), I had the luxury of exploration after leaving the Navy to find out what I really wanted to focus on for grad school studies. In the meantime, I decided to focus on getting my first post-Navy job and using my time wisely to ensure I found the right program in which I could fully commit and see through to completion.

Fast-forward to earlier this week. I have a cool job that gives me the freedom to master my professional development and include the schooling for which my ten years of naval service is funding. I’m also in the final week of my current set of classes pursuing an MBA. I’m glad how things turned out for a former collegiate dropout who once upon a time had time management issues. But that’s also because I WANTED to learn from my mistakes and made every effort to do so and clean up the mess I made in my late teens.

My educational experience is somewhat hybrid, which is particularly fitting for a guy who sits comfortably between two generations (X and Millenial, respectively). My degree programs were a mix of traditional in-class courses and online courses. I found myself more comfortable taking certain kinds of read-only courses in an online environment (like world lit or sociology, for example, where the format was read, quiz, write a paper, read, test, for which a classroom setting wasn’t needed). I love that technology enabled me to start my program while I was serving in the Middle East, and then continue when I moved back to the states. What I also love are schools that embrace this changing educational environment. There were so many schools to choose from when I was selecting an upper-level undergrad program and I was faced with a similar number of selections for my MBA program.

Now my point in discussing this…

I came across an article on LinkedIn from Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President, People Operations at Google entitled, “The Biggest Mistakes I see On Resumes, and How to Correct Them.”

Now, Google is a company I watch as far as employment opportunities go if only because during my job search, I did submit several applications for communications-related positions and for every one in which I was passed over, a piece of me died especially considering that Google had recently announced its diversity challenges (like, really? A gay Hispanic war vet? You really can’t get more “diverse” than that – but I digress).

Needless to say, when a senior VP from Google takes the time to enlighten the masses, I stop to see what he or she has to say. In the case of Bock, his offering was neither ground-breaking or insider revealing, BUT if the leader of the department that oversees hiring for one of the biggest and most successful companies in the world says these are things HE has seen, then obviously they are things worth noting.

As the article title suggests, Bock points out repeated mistakes with applicant resumes, five specifically. All common-sense bullet-points, but still very sound advice in which he explained, “The toughest part is that for 15 years, I’ve continued to see the same mistakes made again and again by candidates, any one of which can eliminate them from consideration for a job.”

While any job recruiter would have similar advice (and some do as I’m lucky enough to have some talented and hardworking recruiter acquaintances in my network that go out of their way to make sure my material has always been spotless), what adds weight to Bock’s advice is as I quoted earlier, his 15 years of experience in which he likely zapped mistake-ridden resumes like an endless round of Galaga.

Just as I neared the end of his last point, one in which he expresses the near impossibility of attempting to get away with lying on a resume, he makes one pointed statement that throws what would otherwise be a very good write-up into a political toilet:

“…sorry, but employers don’t view a degree granted online for ‘life experience’ as the same as UCLA or Seton Hall…”

I actually had to READ that several times. The reason this stuck out so harshly was because this wasn’t the first time I had heard this coming from someone in a position to hire people.

I was quickly reminded of a reserve Navy captain that was a member of my transitional assistance program class (a week-long course the Navy sends you to as you gear up to leave the service) that said pretty much the same thing Bock said in his article.

So let me breakdown all the things that are wrong with this type of thinking because this may very well solve a large chunk of the “WHY?” portion of Google’s diversity problem.

With regards to what Bock said specifically, no, there are no such things as degrees solely based on “life experience…”

There isn’t.

BUT there are schools that award credit as such. Schools like University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s University Without Walls distance learning program, have as part or their program, a portfolio building and review process (things we ALL have to do professionally anyway as part of, wouldn’t you know it, GETTING HIRED) that will result in the awarding of credit based on the scope of the work you present as part of your real-life endeavors. But that only grants partial degree-plan credit; the rest still has to be learned in a class (in person, or online), as any other college program would require.

My own undergrad school, University of Maryland University College, takes the training and school I had already completed in the military and grants credit that way.

So even taking programs like these out of the picture, you still had credit by exam (CLEP, course challenges, etc.…) where you can take your “life experience” or prior exposure to subject material, challenge a course, take a test, and get credit. Needless to say: ANY BILINGUAL PERSON WHO TESTED OUT OF FOUR SEMESTERS OF LANGUAGE COURSES WAS GRANTED CREDIT BASED ON “LIFE EXPERIENCE.”

So excuse me for pointing out the obvious, Mr. Bock, but there is nothing wrong with earning credit for things you’ve already worked on, studied, learned, or applied in life. Nothing.

Degrees earned non-traditionally are on the rise as a result of the direness of the economy

It doesn’t take a brainiac to see that non-traditional adult collegiate programs are the rise because people need to work, raise their families, make a living, but that shouldn’t keep them from pursuing educational goals. This is the case for a lot of minorities and lower income prospective students.

Technology, for what it’s worth, has greatly advanced the way in which we can receive valuable information and an education. AND even the most prestigious of private schools and state school systems are embracing this by increasing the number of programs available outside of their traditional campus offerings.

Let’s consider the recent news Google itself released with regards to its diversity numbers. Some serious conversation resulted from these numbers. Lacking on the employment side were pretty much every currently recognized minority, but more specifically African Americans, Hispanics and Women.

Bock said with regards to it’s diversity (or lack thereof):

“We’re not where we want to be when it comes to diversity. And it is hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts.”

Bock’s statement in his LinkedIn article makes it easy to believe that if the leader of the department in charge of hiring is making an assumption about the types of degree-awarding schools from which minorities tend to gain their education (link courtesy of US News & World Reports’ diversity school rankings all of which are schools that offer Bachelor’s degree or higher distance learning programs), then it’s safe to assume such thinking is passed down to the people at Google who do review applications. Because really, do you think a senior VP is actually looking at resumes at this point?

Anyhow, ignoring potentially awesome candidates based solely on the source of their education and/or degree hurts a company’s bottom line, period. And it’s doing so for Google when it has to publish biting self-analyzing reports about how it’s lacking in a cultural diversity.

I will grant that without access to a report about where Google’s employees and recent hires earned their degrees, a lot of this is speculation — so I’m going solely off Bock’s own public statements.

I’m not going to turn this into a “this school’s degree is better than this school’s degree” platform because such arguments are petty. No instead, I’d like to offer that schools are held to the same standard as other schools in their region through an accreditation program. ALL members of the respective awarding authority derive accreditation requirements, and as such, to receive the award, a school has to meet those standards, period. Not only that, but there are even checks and balances amongst the accreditation bodies. Yes! Accreditations for the Accreditors! So when a program like National University’s Masters of Business Administration is accredited by the International Assembly of Business Collegiate Education (IABCE), it is held to the same standard as a school that is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), Harvard for example, because BOTH accreditation bodies had to work for their acceptance into the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

But now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty. My point is that what was once considered a “gold standard” no longer applies in today’s world because society and technology have advanced our way of thinking and the way information is shared and taught. If schools have the foresight to embrace this change, develop programs around it to meet the needs and challenges of its prospective students, then…


So Mr. Bock, if “employers don’t view a degree granted online for ‘life experience’ as the same as UCLA or Seton Hall…” then perhaps you should lead the charge in getting away from this archaic line of thought because chances are, your team has probably missed a few quality candidates because of it.


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