Engineers and Scientists: Welcome back!

Couldn’t help but read through the entire article on the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal: “As Riches Fade, so Does Finance’s Allure “. It talks about all the young college grads who major in materials science, engineering, computer science, math, etc. who covet wall street jobs. …for the money. Talk about a giant sucking sound out of value creation and innovation. My own son was the same way. Majored in Physics and Math in college, and then started looking for jobs in private equity firms and hedge funds.

Then…the crash came. And guess what? All these graduates are re-focusing their talent into other industries, like, for example, solar energy. Some are becoming high school math and science teachers. Some mid-career technical types who’ve been laid off from the financial sector are starting their own companies. They can certainly afford to, given the salaries they’ve been making. Here’s an interesting quote from the article about the impact of having this talent flow back into value creating activities:

“Even a modest shift of talent could have an effect on society. When smart people become entrepreneurs, they improve technology in the line of business they pursue, and, as a result, productivity and income grow…By contrast..allocation of talent to professions such as finance and law—where returns come from distribution of wealth from others rather than wealth creation—leads to lower productivity growth., fewer technological opportunities and slower economic growth.” This is a result of a study by economists Kevin Murphy, Robert Vishny and Andrei Schleifer, quoted in the article. Reminds me of a statement one of our MBA students made recently: “Rather than trading companies’ stocks, I’d like to BE the stock that others find worthwhile trading!”

Those interviewed for the article noted that being forced to think about new careers was a relief, and that moving into an innovation related role or a service oriented role was something they’d always wanted to do, but the allure of big salaries just made it too hard.

Well, I, for one, would like to congratulate all those who do make those decisions, and would like to let you know how valuable your talents are in the world of technological innovation, where you can really change the game!

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