If you only knew Java

Images-1  Last night I was speaking with a man whose son just graduated from Stanford Law School.  30% of the graduates from last June do not have jobs yet.  30%.  I mentioned this to Fred last night and he said "if they knew Java, they'd have a job". 

So, 30% of recent graduates from Stanford Law School have $250K in debt not including their undergraduate debt if they have that too and are not making the salary they need to pay it off.  What does this all mean?  Certainly Stanford Law is one of the finest institutions in this country to go to if you want to be a lawyer.  Does is mean that unless you plan on being the top of your class, don't bother.  I am just guessing that class standing is important here but perhaps I am wrong.  Does the 30% without jobs happen to fall in the bottom category?  Maybe or maybe not.  But, were they all cut out to be lawyers or were they just interested in making money?

Unemployment is hitting some pretty high numbers in our country right now.  Obama is working on a strategy to create jobs.  What type of jobs?  The younger people seem to be interested in finding jobs or careers that truly appeal to their sensibility which in the long run is a very good thing.  They are also looking at the companies that are hiring and the industries that are growing.  Many of them are in the tech industry. 

I believe we are going to see a fundamental shift in employment and education based on where our country is going economically.  We are not going to be building new cars.  Like the music industry, the book industry and the media industry has seen, you have to change with the times.  Holding on to business ideals of the past no longer work in this new landscape.  Money that was made in the past, deals that were done in the past and the way people consume their products in the past is over.  Everything is changing and perhaps everything that you learned is irrelevant.  This week McGraw-Hill sold Business Week for a mere $2m.  A magazine that at one point was certainly worth a helluva lot more than that.  Not even sure why Bloomberg, who bought the publication, bothered buying it.  Like new musicians being found on MySpace and Gourmet being closed, well, that defines the times.

People are going to start assessing does it make sense to go to Stanford Law School and put myself in $250K of debt.  Should I go to Harvard and put myself in $200K debt or should I go to a state school and spend a total of $60K over four years instead.  Who and what businesses are going to be supported by the Government to employ the millions of out of work autoworkers?  How can we retrain these people into new fields, how can we think forward to creates businesses that will be around for years to come without creating another 50 year old work force that will have to live on unemployment 20 years from now?  Who is smart enough in the Government to really see the future and how we need to start turning around the ship?

Learning how to write Java is just the tip of the iceberg but certainly it would be a step in the right direction. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. kirklove

    I’d take it one step further. If I had a child and he came to me in say his junior year of high school, I’d probably say,”Why go to college at all?” Even for me, who graduated 20 years ago as an advertising major, I found that I learned more “real world” skills in the first two weeks on a job then I did my entire college career. And I’m certain that wasn’t the case for me alone. In fact it’s probably the norm.Three caveats though: The social aspect of college, the transition phase from early adult to kind of a real adult, and networking. All important for sure. However, you can get the same three by say starting your own business and actually make money instead of going into debt. I’d fully support that for my child. Hell, I’d save the 200K for college education and be an angel investor in their company instead.

    1. Gotham Gal

      It depends on the kid. Those three caveats… the social aspect of college,the transition phase from early adult to kind of a real adult, andnetworking are pretty important. In Israel, they join the army and then goto college afterward. The most important piece is really the transitionphase, IMHO and then the social aspect. Maybe college should be 2 yearsinstead of 4?

      1. JLM

        Maybe they should go into the Army for 2 years and then go to college?

        1. Gotham Gal

          I have always thought one year of work for our country, be it Army or fixingtechnology issues in schools or building housing or repairing roads would benot only an asset to our country but a real community builder/learningexperience. Give back for one year.

          1. JLM

            I would like to think that Americans who are appreciative of the great benefits we all enjoy by being citizens of the greatest country in the world would want to both “give back” but also invest in the future.Most Americans begrudgingly pay taxes thinking they have discharged their duties of citizenship, perhaps vote with an informed mind and may serve in the country’s armed forces thereby covering themselves with the faux hero worship of an otherwise indifferent populace — we need to do more to deserve and express gratitude for the blessings of being an American.Our democracy will only be as “perfected” and only endure as long as we educate our young and nurture its existence. That requires a huge investment in citizenship.

          2. Gotham Gal

            I couldn’t agree more. Paying taxes, giving back, etc…we all need to domore and certainly express gratitude for being an American. I just don’tget the people that complain about paying taxes. You get what you pay for.

  2. germainsteven

    Are you really sure that the transition/social phase is even that important? I think you may be clinging to that as the last rationale since you have eliminated/minimimized the other possible reason, skill building. First, I would argue against the social aspect unless you believe that four years of behavior that (were it not or the fact that is happening on campus rather than in the world world) would be considered alcoholic. This behavior is accepted and supported by peers and administration. Lip service given to counter measures. On the teaching side – don’t get me started. After four years or so most college teachers are doing it by rote, burnt out, pressured to publish and zero training or interest in the art of teaching, of loving a subject and getting inside he heads of students so that they learn to love it too. That is (very) rare. No the reason parents want their kids to go to college is because the alternative, growing up now is neither encouraged, modelled or applauded. Think about this – such a small thing – not going to college could turn out to have disproportionate impact on the rest of life. Doors that (stupidly) may not open to you without the (meaningless) degree. The degree route however, always provides at least some added options. In the age of restraint (when the kids are now in their 30’s, and the illusions of groovey internet, blogging, alternative, entrepenurial pipe dreamt jobs with a capital “J” that never materialized becomes a reality – maybe being able to get a teaching job, or go to Law School, or get a Masters in Public Health or become a drug rehab specialist will beat changing bed pans during the week and driving a taxi on weekends to afford the mortgage. That is why college exits and why it will continue to exists – to maintain a very viscous class structure – its chicken and egg thing – did college make the rich man or did the rich man make the college. In any event, If you are middle class you go to college to maintain or advance your status and job prospects – it is as complicated and simple as that,

  3. CCjudy

    its not Java thats key to getting work or a gig in the Bay Area CA – its the language for web development especially ROR Ruby on Rails or Ruby and ajax of course. The key is web development or writing display software. The schools in CS program probably have not adjusted to the change. These are difficult times where things are in the process of changing and its a watershed time…

    1. Gotham Gal

      Agreed. Things are changing quicker than the education world which not only provides tools but moves at the speed of a tortoise.joanne [email protected]

  4. Jill Stern

    I might sound like a contrarian to most NY City parents, but I would not be disappointed if my kids did not go to college. I am not a fan! Only time will tell!

  5. Name

    Did Fred mean Java or JavaScript or both?

    1. fredwilson

      it was just a metaphor, it’s not about Java per se. it’s about coding skills.

      1. Timothy Post

        With the advent of a multi-language (i.e. non-Roman characters allowed) web now a reality, I would also add that in addition to programming languages a young person should have some proficiency in foreign languages (ideally, Mandarin Chinese).

        1. fredwilson

          Yes. Absolutely

        2. Gotham Gal

          Agreed. Many schools in NYC are offering Mandarin.

      2. frankbruno

        You are right, it is still possible to get a job as a patent lawyer with an EE or CS background. Also, a PhD in small molecule biology doesn’t hurt.

  6. skysurfer172

    I just spent this past weekend with friends, all living in NYC or Brooklyn. We are all in our mid-to-late thirties, all college graduates. Sitting around a table in Provence en Boite on Smith street Sunday afternoon, every person at the table is either under-employed or unemployed through downsizing. These are smart, ambitious professionals, but, not one of them are in IT. I was the only coder in the group, the geek they all call when they want to buy a new computer or have issues with their current one. I also was the only one at the table who moved from one full-time job to another without any hiccups or period of unemployment. Now they ask me how hard is it to learn Java, PHP, Flash, etc. It’s good to be a geek and I think it will always be financially beneficial to be a geek.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Geeks, at the end of the day, rule the world. Nice story.

  7. kenberger

    Love this theme and thesis: we started a company around it (outsourced development shop doing Ruby, Java, and other technologies).”Step in the right direction” is correct: forward thinking.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks Ken.

  8. maverickny

    It’s a lot more complicated than just programming skills though. Not every one is a geek or nerd who enjoys coding. I learned to program at college, but it’s not something I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing.It’s also not just the law students who aren’t finding jobs – a quick check of friends with graduating kids found 70% have yet to find a job across the arts, sciences, liberal arts and law. Even the engineers were struggling.Sometimes having the persistence to keep going helps – it took me 13 months to get my first real job post doctorate back in the 80’s and it seems things haven’t changed much since.My advice to kids would be to hang tough and keep networking hard. The ones who work the hardest have the most luck.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I completely agree Sally, it is a helluva lot more complicated. I hope theones that work the hardest have the most luck!

  9. Steven Kane

    i agree with this directionally — CS degrees are very practical, and programmers have very marketable skillsand by no means do i think we need more lawyers!but i think the post is a little too gloomy.we are living in a raging raw recession. but just cause things are so crummy now does not mean they will remain so forever.so i have a hard time imaging that having a degree from stanford law will not soon revert to being a very very precious thing, and highly highly marketable — and even, in the long run, over the course of entire career, of greater value (economic and social) than the typical CS degree, whether BS or MS or PhD, who, after all, is increasingly being disenfranchised by the race to the bottom — dirt cheap technology labor in china, russia, vietnam, etc etc etc