Why recent graduates are the best generation yet! Posted at 0:00, Tue, 13 October 2015 in Industry Insights

I was lucky enough to be invited to present to a group of Masters and PhD students at Melbourne Uni last week about careers in data science in the context of digital transformation. With the increasing competition for placements in academia as well as the pressure this puts of people who have already spent close to a decade in institutions, I wanted to offer some insight into other ways their careers might unfold. Australian Data Science needs the kind of intellectual horsepower some of these people could bring, whether that be to start-ups or enterprise employers.

What I didn’t expect was just how different these people were from what I was expecting. This is a different generation from when I was at Uni and they’re going to blow our minds and make the world a better place. Here’s why.

The current generation of graduates have grown up in the digital world and they are extremely familiar with open source software and finger-tip answers to any question they can ask. Knowledge isn’t a commodity anymore – it’s free. For example most people are polyglots – sure they have their preferences for programming but they know categorically they can learn anything new they need to on stack overflow or just by googling it.

They commodity they deal in is imagination. If you can dream it, you can build it, so it’s imagination that is closely guarded and personal. On everything else, such as how to bring dreams to life, they collaborate. They expect to do things for free as well, for the betterment of communal knowledge. Is that altruism? Possibly. It’s just as possible they will reap a reward from that at some stage whether they know it or not.

Overwhelmingly this generation doesn’t care about title or career progression. Perhaps that’s the fact they’re only just starting out as professionals, but all the conversations I had centred on just wanting to build something amazing. They want to work together to build something that no one else has thought of before, or something that has been thought of but ruled out as impossible. So their journey is one of learning, not one of status or title. They will measure their career success by results, not dollars or titles. My message was that Data Science was a good place to start down that achievement path and I think they generally agreed.

Leaving a legacy
Ok not every graduate has the self-belief that they will change the world, but many of these PhD and Master’s graduates genuinely do believe they will. These are the people who will solve our climate problems, or send us to a new planet, or make significant steps towards world peace.

I was reading recently that astronauts often come back from space with amazing vision for humanity. Even if they were deeply patriotic before they left there’s something about the miracle of looking down on our blue planet in the middle of nothingness that makes people abandon nationalism and become dedicated environmentalists. Many of these graduates must have had the same sense of transcendence because they are totally driven to change the world and leave humanity enriched as a result. And that makes me grateful to be alive.

If anyone is interested in my slide deck from that talk, you can find it here.

The MitchelLake Group is a global executive search and talent acquisition firm dedicated to helping great ideas succeed. From start-ups, to scale-ups and multinational brands we supply talent for innovation to some of the most dynamic organisations on the planet. We seek to be transformational, not transactional.