|Photo: Deborah Cronen|
If I were to have children I’d want them to be well positioned too, and the most obvious choice is to steer them towards STEM. But at what cost? Cultures are lauded by scientific advancement as well as artistic contribution: The Islamic Golden Age brought us algebra and the Alhambra. The Scientific Revolution coincided with the Age of Enlightenment. Early humans developed tools that put us on our modern path, while possessing a creative urge bequeathed in the form of cave paintings.
But forget this cultural critique for a moment and let’s get practical. A liberal arts education (studies that develop general knowledge and capacities rather than specific functional skills) can be a pragmatic means to a professional ends. Yes, I said it. Disciplines such as literature, history and philosophy can contribute to career success.
I know from experience. I am a liberal arts girl living in a tech world. Before finding myself at LinkedIn where I am responsible for driving customer uptake of innovative products and solutions, I studied Asian & Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College.
While employees must generate results, distinction often boils down to intangible competencies rather than functional skills. One can code like a beast, but can she predict market response to a new product? One can analyze data as effectively as wizards spin spells, but how effectively can she contextualize what it means? One can develop an elegant competitive strategy, but can she galvanize others to share her vision? Immersing oneself in liberal arts is an effective way to develop many essential business skills.