IBM CEO Ginni Rometty: Focus More on Skills Than Degrees

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that tech firms should focus on hiring people with the right skills, whether or not they possess a college or graduate degree.

“I think businesses have to believe I’ll hire for skills, not just their degrees or their diplomas. Because otherwise we’ll never bridge this gap,” she said during the Jan. 22 session, according to Gizmodo. “All of us are full of companies with university degrees, PhDs, you’ve got to make room for everyone in society in these jobs.” (We’re presuming that Gizmodo transcribed accurately, although her comments are a bit of a mess; for example, she might have meant “full of people” instead of “full of companies.”)

By “gap,” Rometty meant the broad swaths of the global population that risk being left behind by evolutions in the lightning-fast tech industry: “With the new technologies that are out there, I think there is a huge inclusion problem, meaning there’s a large part of society that does not feel this is going to be good for their future… Therefore they feel very disenfranchised.”

Back in 2016, IBM told Quartz that some 10-15 percent of its new hires didn’t have college degrees. Many of those non-degreed tech pros worked for the company’s cloud-computing division. However, it still requires degrees for certain jobs in sales, marketing, and technology.

Other tech giants have seemed publicly amenable to hiring tech pros without degrees. For example, Laszlo Bock, former head of Google’s hiring, once told New York Times columnist Tom Friedman that the company was happy to hire certain people who didn’t go to college: “When you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people.”

While de-emphasizing degrees as a perquisite for hiring may prove beneficial to tech professionals who have pursued unconventional pathways, it places that much more weight on your skills; unless you truly can do the work at hand, companies won’t consider your application.

Tech pros recognize that they need to boost their skills. In an anonymous survey of Dice’s readership, some 29 percent said that “Learn a new skill” was their top professional goal for 2019, followed by “Find a new job” (27 percent) and “earning the ability to work remotely” (18 percent). The good news: If you have the right skills, many companies are happy to hire you—even if you don’t have a degree.