Thursday, 24 July 2014

Not a country for college drop-outs

In the past few days, some Italians were busy in one of our national hobby: storm in a teapot. Italians love it especially at this time of the year, something to fill our days before we go on holiday and/or the Serie A begins again.

What was it about?
The digital agenda and its new director.
Two years ago I was wondering about the digital agenda and its advantages over a plain weekly Moleskine, just to realize it was something different, it was a set of policies and activities at EU level to help and strengthen digital technologies so that companies and individuals can benefit from them.
As usual, nothing has changed in the past few years, but a new director has been appointed recently and an article hinted that she didn't have the right profile because her UK degree was not valid. A whole lot of discussions on different topics was born as a side effect: whether she's got a degree or not for Italian standards, whether she was the best choice or the best political choice, whether it makes sense to require degrees with "legal validity" as a job requirement, etc.
It's not that I don't care about the matter itself, but I believe that we need more than a digital agenda to help Italy emerging from the digital ice age it's deeply stuck into; what interested me was something a bit closer to home.

If I were to apply for a job like the one I'm doing right now in an Italian company, I probably wouldn't succeed in it.
Why? First of all, I'm a woman and Italy is a country where sexism is at its best on the workplace.
Secondly, I have no engineering, informatics, scientific, whatsoever university degree.
I have 10 years of experience and I know I'm good at it, yet this wouldn't matter.
Because the "piece of paper" is more relevant than your abilities and experience.
Somebody with a uni degree but unable to write a mail even under dictation would be more considered than me for the same job, in spite of my resume. It's sad but true: when I talk about it with my non-Italian colleagues, I try to explain it and don't sound to bitter about it; but at the end I do sound upset about the whole system and most of the time my colleagues look at me with skepticism written all over the face. What can we derive from this, aside the fact I can't multitask?

I'm not saying that degrees are not important: laying on a surgery table, I bloody well hoped the doctor operating me had the right degree and knowledge to fix my health problems.
But when it comes to other jobs and other positions, I'm not so sure that the stamp of approval of one university should have the priorities on some other elements. Experience is one key element, your personal abilities come in to play as well. Choosing a manager is not just about finding the guy with the right technical profile, but more importantly finding the person that knows how to "manage" a team and the people it's made of (I guess that's where the word comes from).

Italy might or might not have a new director for its digital agenda, but it doesn't truly matter: as long as you don't change the basis you're operating upon and you start creating a system that truly rewards merit and abilities, you're basically building a skyscraper over quicksands, seeing it being swallowed and than just move a little bit over in the quicksands to start again.

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