The Relevance of Degree and Certification

A degree, or certificate, is given to someone who has pass a certain program. It certifies that the holder of the certificate has fulfilled the criteria stipulated in the degree or certification program. For example, a certificate of attendance given to someone who has attended a training, or seminar. A bachelor degree is given to someone who has passed a study, battery of test and final thesis. Other certification program require someone to take one or more tests, and meet passing grade before the certificate is awarded.

One thing that a degree or certificate don’t say is how the holder will do in the real world.

A PMP certified Project Manager knows how to deliver a project according to PMI Standard. However, it tells nothing if the Project Manager able to negotiate a change request for the benefit of the business, or able to handle a meeting where the CIO of the customer is enraged. Personally, I’ve seen a CIO making comment to a PMP-certified Project Manager: “I don’t understand what is in your slide, or what you are trying to say to me.”

A fresh graduated, certified medical doctor might have all the knowledge to cure people. However, does he/she has the skill to show empathy to terminally ill patient and family? Or understand the environment he/she operate at to understand whether a 3 different lab result of urine that showed different bacterial presence indicate an urinary tract infection, or contamination of the sample?

So, the question, is certification or degree still relevant in the business world? Is it still relevant to pay someone solely based on the certificate under which his/her name is written, or the degree that he/she hold?

I will give another example before answering the question: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, all never graduated from university. Yet, they are all successful to change people’s live, and in the process, earned a lot of fortune. I don’t think they have a certificate in Project Management, Cisco, Microsoft, or other major certificate that is highly sought after. This itself proves that the certification alone is not the the only factor in determining success in business.

Yet, there are also many people with university degree, has also become very successful. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started a successful company called Hewlett-Packard, which now become HP and HP Enterprise. Larry Page & Sergey Brin holds PhD and University Graduate. Both launched a very successful search engine called Google.

So, to answer my question, certificate or degree is no longer relevant in business world. It might be necessary, or might not be necessary, but it is no longer the only important factor, not even the most important factor.

And then, should we reward and promote someone solely based on the certificate or degree that he/she hold? Well, if certificate or degree is not relevant, why should it be the only factor?

My answer to the question: if you are running a university, then please go ahead and score people based on tests, exams, and certification.

But if I’m running a business, I would rather reward and promote people who bring more money, improve the cost structure, bring more customer and keep the customer happy, rather than rewarding and promoting people with long list of certification and degree.

What about you?

HP Inc and Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Today mark one of the biggest event in tech industry: the split of HP as we know it into HP Inc and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The event is so big that it probably only rivalled by the merger of HP and Compaq back in 2001.

And today, as the company start to operate as 2 different entity, also one of my saddest day. Being part of the company during its glory days as it recover from 2001 dot com bust, I can’t help to think and reflect my 8 years tenure of then a great company.

I started HP in late 2000, only 1 year after I graduated. HP back then was a different company. We embrace risk, and encourage innovation to meet customer needs, and focussed to get the job delivered to customer. Even and after Compaq merger happened, things were pretty much the same.

For most analyst, HP downfall started when HP decided to buy Compaq. But for me, it is all started when Mark Hurd took the helms. The reason is simple: aggresive cost cutting has hurt HP innovation. As Apple evolve PC market into mobile, and as Amazon and Google innovate Data Centers into Cloud, HP was busy making sure that the bottom line is in order, without any concrete plan to evolve the top line.

I wrote once that you can only skimp so much before you get sick. Even as a company. And HP fell sick during Mark Hurd’s tenure.

Then I left HP during Mark Hurd’s tenure. Watching HP from outside is even more a sad story. HP continue to starve for innovation, yet getting wrong medicine by acquiring companies. To see HP buy Palm as futile attempt to get into mobile market, only to kill it later. And having Leo Apotheker’s limbo leadership that make HP downfall even faster. Admit it, having 3 CEO in 1 year is not a good sign for a company.

I was hoping that someday I will get the chance to turn HP over, to come back as former employee who still live and breath the HP Way. Not as a CEO, but maybe a practice lead. But I think the hope is gone, since the company is now split into 2.

So, what is my hope for the new companies?

I certainly hope that HP Inc will be able to maintain its leadership in printing and imaging business. To evolve to 3D printing maybe? I certainly hope that the company will embrace The HP Way, to promote innovation, to embrace risk. Besides, it is what left from HP that I knew.

As for HP Enterprise, to be honest, I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I guess, and I really hope that I’m wrong, the company will be split further, or sold and merged to other company.