A little over a week ago I had the good fortune to attend the MIS Department Chairs/Program Directors Conference at the University of Texas Dallas (MIS stands for Management Information Systems and is the acronym commonly used to represent the field that applies technology solutions to business problems).
One of the sessions I attended was an industry panel that focused on emerging trends in information technology and the resulting implications for MIS programs. The panelists were well-known CEOs and managers from major organizations such as Microsoft, SAP AG, and JC Penney. They talked about hiring today’s students and attributes that were important criteria for identifying the leaders of tomorrow. Venkat Kolluri, CEO of Chitika, said he looks for students that know how to ‘get stuff done.’ He used the analogy of Astronaut versus Astronomer and suggested today’s business firms need more Astronauts. He wanted student hires that were willing to get in the middle of solving problems and not just observe and describe what was out there.
This got me thinking about my best students over the years. Many of them grew up on family farms in Western Kansas. Mr. Kolluri may have been on to something with his observation. Perhaps many of these students were strong because their formative years were spent solving problems with whatever was available. My wife and I grew up in rural communities and know many instances of farmers making do with very limited resources. In other words, barbed wire and duct tape solves many problems.
Although modern corporations are not hoping that their new employees will solve problems with barbed wire and duct tape, they do appreciate problem solving skills and the ability to ‘get stuff done’. Kolluri said the person he hires won’t be saying, “I want to be a manager someday.” Instead, he or she will be say, “I like to get stuff done!”