Friday, May 4, 2012

Nothing Really Matters... Anyone Can See

     With the revelation by activist investor Daniel Loeb that there were discrepancies on the resume of Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson in regards to a Degree in Computer Science from Stonehill College, Loeb and many in Silicon Valley have called for his dismissal A.S.A.Y. (as soon as yesterday). However, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter that he doesn't have this Computer Science degree on his resume. 

    If it does come out that Thompson has lied on his resume in order to get a leg up on his odds for being hired to the CEO position at Yahoo, he deserves to be reprimanded for a breach of ethics. Irregardless of that point, the notion that he actually needs a degree in Computer Science to be the CEO of Yahoo is patently ridiculous. (see what I did there... with the patents... Its funny cause they're... never mind)  Just because Yahoo is considered a "tech company" does not mean that they need someone who knows how to code in five different languages and hack away at the website. Compared to other tech companies, Yahoo is in a league of its own based on its offerings as well as where it is in its lifetime as a company. 

     While founders like Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg all were Computer Science geeks, they were heads of their companies when it was starting out as just a concept in their head. At this point, they needed to be all in on the project doing the lions share of the work in order to bring their idea to fruition. They didn't have the money to hire enough engineers to do their coding for them, as they were only starting out. However as the companies began to evolve, the founders could be able to, and need to, step back into a more executive role and oversee the day to day operations of the company. Larry Paige does not go to work each day and make changes to the code underlying the Page Rank system. Instead he has a team of engineers who tweak the code, as he outlines from his role as an executive. 

    If Thompson has lied on his resume, it marks another misstep for the once proud internet company. Nevertheless, even if Thompson does not have his degree in Computer Science, it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. As the executive, he is not taking an active role in the engineering and coding of Yahoo properties and portals. Secondly, Yahoo is on the lower end of the technological spectrum, in relation to other companies of the Web 2.0 generation. Yahoo gets its main revenue from selling ads and not from some major technological prowess that companies like Netflix, Facebook or Twitter requires. Yahoo ranks close to Groupon, in that it is mostly pages linking to each other.

   All in all, Loeb will probably get his wish and Thompson will be removed from his position as CEO and Chairman of the Board. This will not be because he does not have a degree in Computer Science, but rather because he exaggerated his prowess about his knowledge of computer science. Shame, because to be the chairman of Yahoo, one really doesn't need that much in the way of a knowledge of Computer Science.

1 comment:

  1. Ed,

    I think you have a point here. I myself am a programmer at a law firm, and I don't have a CS degree, although many of my peers do. I was hired on the merits of my accomplishments.

    One thing to point out though is, if a computer science degree is not a requirement for being the CEO of Yahoo - why bother padding the resume with the false degree in the first place? Scott Thompson disagrees that it does not matter - he thought it was a credential that someone would think is important. Although he had the false degree on there prior to his consideration for Yahoo, he was still heading up large technology companies (Ebay). In other words, the fact that he to the risk to have it on there means that he thought his opportunities would be limited in some way by how others would perceive him for technology leadership roles.

    That said, I do agree that a CS degree is just one accomplishment among many that can indicate a candidates abilities on the job. In this case, Scott Thompson's falsifying it shows an insecurity about his other accomplishments being enough.

    Thanks for your post.