Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Sergey Brin

Soft skills? Broad learning skills: Bye bye STEM skills?

Google finds STEM skills aren’t the most important skills


  • Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

Washington Post column on research done by Google on the skills that matter most to its employees success. Big surprise: it wasn’t STEM. The Post writes:

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both brilliant computer scientists, founded their company on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology.

Google originally set its hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities.

In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998.

Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the 8 most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.

The 7 top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills:

Like being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Those traits sound more like what one gains as an English or theater major than as a programmer.

Could it be that top Google employees were succeeding despite their technical training, not because of it?

After bringing in anthropologists and ethnographers to dive even deeper into the data, the company enlarged its previous hiring practices to include humanities majors, artists, and even the MBAs that, initially, Brin and Page viewed with disdain.

This is consistent with the findings of the employer-led Partnership for 21st Century Learning who describe the foundation skills for worker success as the 4Cs: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.

And the book Becoming Brilliant which adds to those four content and confidence for the 6Cs.

And consistent with the work on the value of a liberal arts degree of journalist George Anders laid out in his book You Can Do Anything and in a Forbes article entitled That Useless Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket.

It’s far past time that Michigan policymakers and business leaders stop telling our kids if they don’t get a STEM related degree they are better off not getting a four-year degree. It simply is not accurate.

(Not to mention that many of their kids are getting non-STEM related four-year degrees.)

And instead begin to tell all kids what is accurate that the foundation skills––as Google found out––are Not narrow occupation-specific skills, but rather are broad skills related to the ability to work with others, think critically and be a lifelong learner.

The kind of skills that are best built with a broad liberal arts education.

The Post concludes:

No student should be prevented from majoring in an area they love based on a false idea of what they need to succeed.

Broad learning skills are the key to long-term, satisfying, productive careers.

What helps you thrive in a changing world isn’t rocket science. It may just well be social science, and, yes, even the humanities and the arts that contribute to making you not just workforce ready but world ready.

Note: About time students takes seriously the importance of general knowledge in everything they undertake. Most important of all is to learn designing experiments, developing the experimental mind that does Not come naturally, but with training.

Google finds STEM skills aren’t the most important skills


  • Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

A Washington Post column on research done by Google on the skills that matter most to its employees success. Big surprise: it wasn’t STEM. The Post writes:

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both brilliant computer scientists, founded their company on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology. Google originally set its hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities.

In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998.

Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the 8 most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.

The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Those traits sound more like what one gains as an English or theater major than as a programmer.

Could it be that top Google employees were succeeding despite their technical training, not because of it?  After bringing in anthropologists and ethnographers to dive even deeper into the data, the company enlarged its previous hiring practices to include humanities majors, artists, and even the MBAs that, initially, Brin and Page viewed with disdain.

This is consistent with the findings of the employer-led Partnership for 21st Century Learning who describe the foundation skills for worker success as the 4Cs: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.

And the book Becoming Brilliant which adds to those four content and confidence for the 6Cs.

And consistent with the work on the value of a liberal arts degree of journalist George Anders laid out in his book You Can Do Anything and in a Forbes article entitled That Useless Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket.

It’s far past time that Michigan policymakers and business leaders stop telling our kids if they don’t get a STEM related degree they are better off not getting a four-year degree. It simply is not accurate.

(Not to mention that many of their kids are getting non-STEM related four-year degrees.)

And instead begin to tell all kids what is accurate that the foundation skills––as Google found out––are Not narrow occupation-specific skills, but rather are broad skills related to the ability to work with others, think critically and be a lifelong learner.

The kind of skills that are best built with a broad liberal arts education.

The Post concludes:

No student should be prevented from majoring in an area they love based on a false idea of what they need to succeed. Broad learning skills are the key to long-term, satisfying, productive careers. What helps you thrive in a changing world isn’t rocket science. It may just well be social science, and, yes, even the humanities and the arts that contribute to making you not just workforce ready but world ready.

Note: About time students takes seriously the importance of general knowledge in everything they undertake. Most important of all is to learn designing experiments, developing the experimental mind that does Not come naturally, but with training.

 

Not Even the Feds Could Stop it: Company set out to change the genetics game

By filling a plastic vial with saliva and mailing it to 23andMe, customers could decode the DNA embedded in their 23 chromosomes

Not long ago, 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki was watching her daughter compete in a swim meet near their home in Palo Alto, California, when she realized her mother, Esther, whom she’d expected to see there, was nowhere in the crowd. Worried, she phoned. “Mom, why aren’t you at the swim meet?” she demanded. “I’m in Amsterdam,” her mother crowed. “They want me to change education!”

Najat Rizk shared this link

Mouna does it ring a bell?

Anne Wojcicki set out to change the genetics game, until the FDA got in the way.
inc.com

Wojcicki tells this story to explain something most people don’t typically grasp. Yes, until a few months ago, she was married to Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google and one of the icons of Silicon Valley. But when it comes to locating the wellspring of her entrepreneurial drive, her ex comes in a distant second to the woman known to generations of students as Woj.

“My mom is totally insane in the best possible way,” Wojcicki (pronounced Wo-JIT-skee) says, dressed in running shorts and hoodie at her company’s Mountain View offices.

The elder Wojcicki is hardly a technologist; she’s a longtime Palo Alto high school journalism teacher who wired her three daughters (a brood that also includes YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki) with what Anne describes as irrational optimism.

“Without a doubt, the number one thing that’s influenced me is her saying, ‘Just get it done. It’s all within your control,’” she says.

“Zuckerberg and Elon and Sergey and Larry are like her in that way–that free spirit, enthusiasm, get-stuff-done thing.” Growing up in the shadow of Woj, Baby Woj (as she’s known to her mother’s acolytes) internalized her greatest teaching: “The worst thing you can do in life is whine about what you can’t change.”

That guiding philosophy–there are no obstacles, only unexpected gifts–has been essential for the leader of a company whose path has been anything but smooth and straight. Wojcicki co-founded 23andMe in 2006.

A decade working on Wall Street as a health care analyst had convinced her that the American way of treating illness and inventing new drugs had to change. “It just felt like there was this massive amount of waste,” she says, referring to the billions of dollars the pharma industry annually plunges into drug discovery, with diminishing results.

A chance dinner party conversation with Markus Stoffel, a molecular biologist, left her thinking the solution lay in aggregating the world’s genetic data and teasing out the patterns to prevent and combat diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Wojcicki, who studied biology, had a handy template in her then husband’s company, which more or less did for the internet what she was proposing to do for the genome.

By filling a plastic vial with saliva and mailing it to 23andMe, customers could decode the DNA embedded in their 23 chromosomes.

That meant discovering everything from the existence of long-lost relatives to whether they were at risk for inherited diseases like cystic fibrosis, or genetic traits, like lactose intolerance.

As 23andMe was able to drive down the price of its tests, from $999 to $399 in 2008 to $99 in 2012, the company signed up hundreds of thousands of customers and expanded to Canada and Europe.

Customers seeking the secrets in their own genes also contribute DNA and personal information to the company’s growing database. Wojcicki believes correlating genotypes to diseases could ultimately lead to efficient, targeted drug breakthroughs.

Message in a Vial
In 2013, the FDA put a halt to the startup’s first effort to decode clients’ chromosomes as a predictor of future health.

But in November 2013, just as Wojcicki’s company was gaining momentum, she hit a brick wall in the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration ordered 23andMe to stop marketing its tests for health purposes, deeming them unregulated medical devices.

Having your most compelling product yanked off the market is the kind of blow that could easily kill a startup. Rather than panic, Wojcicki reverted to her Wall Street analyst self, gathering vast amounts of information, certain a solution was hiding in plain sight.

She held endless conference calls with lawyers, regulatory experts, pharma CEOs, anyone who might have useful insight. “That first week was like ‘Data, data, data–I need data!’” Wojcicki recalls.

The outcome of those frantic conversations was a tactical retreat and a strategic regrouping.

Conceding to the FDA’s demands, 23andMe immediately began working closely with the agency to hash out what it would take to resume selling its tests.

Meanwhile, it orchestrated deals with Genentech and Pfizer, giving them access to parts of its DNA database in exchange for upfront payments and a cut of revenue from new drugs developed using it.

The company announced plans to make its own therapeutics, hiring a former top Genentech scientist to lead the effort. In February, the FDA agreed to allow 23andMe and its competitors to resume marketing tests for autosomal-recessive diseases, which result when both parents carry an abnormal gene.

The decision stopped well short of full regulatory sign-off, but it was a promising enough omen that 23andMe was able to raise a reported $79 million funding round in July that pushed the company’s valuation above $1 billion.

As a first-time entrepreneur, Wojcicki admits she’s learned the hard way not to tackle all the pieces of a complex undertaking simultaneously. “When I look back, pacing wasn’t our strength,” she says. “I have a much better sense now of how long it takes to build things.”

Meanwhile, the challenges facing 23andMe have changed as it has grown.

Initially, the mere idea of using home DNA kits as diagnostic tools was a tough sell for many in the medical community. “The whole direct-to-consumer thing was not, how shall we say, widely applauded,” recalls board member Esther Dyson.

These days, the real question is whether 23andMe can monetize the revolution it has helped usher in. Doing so, says Gartner biotech analyst Stephen Davies, will require forging still closer ties to big pharma firms–the lumbering giants whose inefficiency spurred Wojcicki to action in the first place.

But Wojcicki’s not worried about turning into them–after all, she is her mother’s daughter. Medicine has already changed for good, she says, flashing the fitness trackers she wears religiously on her wrists.

Turns out, it was the heart-rate data from one of them, not a lab test ordered by a physician, that recently helped Wojcicki, who elliptical-bikes to work most days, figure out she was anemic and not out of shape.

“Your health care is no longer about the episodic visit to your doctor, where you have this once-a-year assessment of random vitals,” she says. “It’s about the continuous stream of you.”


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October 2020
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