Changing the World from Silicon Valley

November 4, 2014 • The World at Yale • Views: 723

By Hannah Flaum

“If the world were perfect today, what would we have already done?” That’s the question Scott Cook likes to ask his team when he wants them to think of new ideas. Questions like that are normal in the tech world, according to Cook, founder of the $25 billion software firm Intuit, and Rick Levin, former president of Yale and current CEO of Coursera. The two CEOs were co-hosted by the The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and HackYale on October 13 to speak about the ability of the tech industry to “change the world.”

scott-cook

Scott Cook. Source: Forbes.com

Cook, who worked at both Proctor & Gamble and Bain Consulting before starting Intuit now believes there are many paths that can change the world. The tech sector, though, has a remarkably immense capacity to change the world and to provide services and information worldwide like Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, Jeff Bezos and Amazon, John Chambers with Wikipedia, and so on. In tech, people can choose a cause they believe in, have a successful career, and make a difference. Levin highlighted that the reason he believes the tech sector does so well in the employment market is because of the attractiveness of the mission and goals of tech companies. However, Cook did admit that law, medicine, investment banking, consulting, and other more traditional career paths Yale commonly promotes do have a good safety net and can prove to be rewarding. Ultimately, people tend to have different goals in life. Tech today enables people to build something tangible and to pursue their passions whereas investment banking and consulting, for example, are geared more toward servicing corporations. In terms of career paths for undergraduates weighing their opportunities now, Cook strongly recommended that students choose first jobs based on where each student can learn and absorb the most by doing hands on work. Consulting and investment banking, often do provide practical, profitable training and education, but the tech sector certainly offers similar opportunities. As for deciding where to work in tech, Cook explained that there is no single entry point: developed, established companies may be right for some whereas growing companies are a better fit for others.

Hannah Flaum is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. She can be contacted at hannah.flaum@yale.edu.

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