Courtesy author, blogger and friend Ben Casnocha, I read this piece by James Kwak on Peter Orszag moving to Citigroup after resigning as Budget Director under Obama administration and the rant goes like this.
“This is the mindset of the ambitious educational elite: You go to Harvard (or Stanford), maybe to Oxford (or Cambridge) for a Rhodes (or Marshall), then to Goldman (or McKinsey, or TFA), then to Harvard Business School (or Yale Law School), then back to Goldman (or Google), and on and on. You keep doing the thing that is more prestigious, opens more doors, has more (supposed) impact on the world, and eventually will make you more and more famous and powerful. Money is something that happens along the way, but it’s not your primary motivation. Then you get to Peter Orszag’s position, where you can do anything, and you want to go work for Citigroup? Why do our society and culture shape high-achieving people so they want to be executives at big, big companies that are decades past their prime? Why is that the thing people aspire to? Orszag wanting to work at a megabank — instead of starting a new company, or joining a foundation, or joining an NGO, or becoming an executive at a struggling manufacturing company that makes things, or even being a consultant to countries with sovereign debt problems — is the same as an engineer from a top school going to Goldman instead of a real company. It’s not his fault, but it’s a symptom of something that’s bad for our country.”
Here’s my take –
Terrible cliche. I see it as way too presumptuous of the squeaky critics that ordain a simplistic linear transition from domain knowledge to industry vertical, depriving the candidate of the range of options before him.
If it’s the creative mind of the engineer that is being seen as having been manipulated by the lure of a fatter wall street pay check, it’s the very original creativity of that mind choosing with little external prompt to apply its potential in a disparate dimension to experience a radically innovative if not a revolutionary outcome. After the meltdown, perhaps it’s a bit too off-putting to recognize the contributions of financial engineers in developing exotic derivative products like the ABS, CDS and so on, but let’s not forget that what caused the crisis was not the genus of these products, but its specie that got grossly misunderstood, misapplied and miscarried. Not in the least when the very products helped raise a significant portion of the billions of dollars for funding scientific and industrial research by the world’s major corporations that sustained several manufacturing innovations.
It’s ok to trim the flab, but don’t chop off the muscle that holds it together.