Slashdot | Google’s Ph.D. Advantage

Interesting post on slashdot on Google’s Ph.D. Advantage. It would appear that:

Google’s willingness to let every employee spend 20% of his or her time on an independent project is a compelling motivator and that they estimate that Google has as many Ph.D.’s working for it as Microsoft, which is 30 times larger.

What’s interesting to me is that Google has a distinctive culture and everyone has felt it. It is hard to describe really, but the minute people tried to use Google, they discovered that it wasn’t just another search engine driven by business people who focused on the business case. And you know what? It has only gotten better over time. Some say that the dot-bust and generally depressing state of the industrial R&D won’t be with us for very long, that we will rebound. I think that despite everything we can think, Information Technology will still be a very good place to be just because this is what most people have trouble with: managing information and knowledge. If you work in any kind of organisation, I’m sure your days are filled with questions such as “where can I find this, who knows about this?”. I know my days are like that. That’s why I use email so much. That’s why I have a wiki, a cvs server, and a blog… and that’s why I keep on exploring new ways to manage data… because all of these techniques extend the reach of my brain and, to put it bluntly, they do make me smarter.

There aren’t too many job offers where a Ph.D. is considered a plus and unless you want a job in academia or are willing to start a company, if you want to remain in Canada, your Ph.D. might not give you a strong edge (though I don’t know for sure). A search on monster.ca reveals that there are 19 job offers in Canada with Ph.D. in the description. Not all of those are for Ph.D. holders though. For example Google is looking for a sales coordinator (Toronto) but they only mention that the founders had Ph.D.s. I’d say it is more like 10ish job offers in all of Canada.

Call me an optimist, but I think the days when business turns back to innovation for growth have to come back really soon. Google shows that an innovation-driven business can work. It can compete with the largest beasts like Microsoft, at least for a time. I want to believe in the rise of the creative class: wealth is mostly provided by creativity and creativity comes from creative people. My only worry is whether this will happen in Canada and in Montréal in particular. I just don’t know. Some people tell me that industry is really vibrant in Montréal right now. I haven’t been back long enough to know. I need to go downtown a bit more. I need to find out where the creative people are in this city.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the Université du Québec (TELUQ).

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