In today’s increasingly technological landscape, the demand for quality computer programmers and engineers increases day by day. While such a demand suggests the need for more students with STEM educations, experience is proving the opposite for the Wall Street Journal’s David Kalt, who now sees liberal arts graduates as the hottest commodity on today’s job market — a good sign for Christendom’s recently graduated Class of 2016.
Kalt, who is the founder of Reverb.com and the former CEO of optionsXpress, has been in the business of recruiting the top programmers in the world for the past decade. Initially, he believed that men and women holding computer-science and engineering degrees were the best possible candidates for such positions, but the tech teams he eventually built revealed something different.
“Looking back at the tech teams that I’ve built at my companies, it’s evident that individuals with liberal arts degrees are by far the sharpest, best performing software developers and technology leaders. Often these modern techies have degrees in philosophy, history, and music – even political science, which was my degree,” says Kalt.
“How can this be? It’s very simple. A well-rounded liberal arts degree establishes a foundation of critical thinking. Critical thinkers can accomplish anything. Critical thinkers can master French, Ruby on Rails, Python or whatever future language comes their way. A critical thinker is a self learning machine that is not constrained by memorizing commands or syntax,” continued Kalt.
Kalt is quick to point out that tech companies still need formally trained engineers as well, but they need to be complemented by figures with a liberal arts background, who can “see the forest through the trees” and be more effective leaders in the process.
Liberal arts graduates are able to bring this unique perspective to the table, thanks to their more well rounded curriculum. While a specialized education will focus only on what is contained within that degree, such as engineering or computer science, a liberal arts education will delve into the history, philosophy, and arts that shaped Western Civilization — the very elements that brought about technological innovation in the first place.
“Liberal arts degrees encourage a well-rounded curriculum that can give students exposure to programming alongside the humanities. Philosophy, literature, art, history and language give students a thorough understanding of how people document the human experience. Technology is a part of our human experience, not a replacement to it,” says Kalt.
“While [I’ve] hired many computer-science majors that have been critical team members, it’s non-computer science degree holders who can see the forest through the trees. For example, our chief operating officer is a brilliant, self-taught engineer with a degree in philosophy from the University of Chicago. He has risen above the code to lead a team that is competitive globally. His determination and critical-thinking skills empower him to leverage the power of technology without getting bogged down by it. His background gives him the soft skills – the people skills – that make him stand out as someone who understands our customers and knows how to bring the staff along,” says Kalt.
The soft skills that led this self-taught engineer to becoming a chief operating officer lie at the very heart of the Christendom educational experience. Over the course of four years, students learn the knowledge that shaped Western Civilization, found in the works Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, and more, giving them the abilities to think critically and creatively — both integral to becoming leaders in any field following graduation.
To read the entirety of Kalt’s article, please visit The Wall Street Journal.