Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

If you think that a Harvard grad is smarter than you, then you’re actually pretty stupid.

Thoughts on a recent job listing I stumbled upon.

Did I read that right? A Bachelor’s Degree from a top university is a qualification to work for your company?

These were my thoughts when I read this job opening write-up a few days ago.

So, I shouldn’t apply to your company today if I didn’t make the right choice of where to attend college a decade ago? So, everything I’ve learned thus far means nothing unless I’ve learned them on a particular campus? All of the ideas and talent that I bring to the table are obsolete unless they come out of the mouth of a Harvard graduate?

Ironically, that sounds pretty damn stupid. It probably sounds stupid because it is stupid, and if you think that a Harvard grad is smarter than me, then you are pretty stupid too. Hear me out…

Last month, I wrote an article about diversity and how we all win when more diverse companies exist; not just the newly hired female employee. It sparked an interesting conversation between Ty and I, about the essence of genius and how off our society’s intellectual standards are from the true nature of it. We tend to measure genius in numbers, like IQ and GPA, or rankings like what number your university is on a list of “top” universities. Our school papers even get graded on a scale of 1–100%. All our lives, we are shoving ourselves into these numerical boxes and we’re told that these boxes reflect how smart we are, and more discreetly, we’re taught that they reflect how valuable we will be in society.

Think for a moment, however, if maybe we’ve got that all wrong. Maybe intelligence can’t simply be measured numerically. Maybe true intelligence is… smarter than that system. Maybe the person who never went to college is better suited for your job opening over the graduate from a top university. Maybe the true measure of genius isn’t a number; maybe it’s an experience.

If intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge, then by definition we all are intelligent. We all have learned a lot throughout our lives, whether they be from textbooks, from our parents, from reading other peoples body language, or from our mistakes. We learn every day from the world around us, and we apply that knowledge in a myriad of different ways, but just because some people didn’t graduate with a particular GPA from a particularly ranked university, we shove them into low-paying jobs as if the only thing they’re capable of doing is following directions. This system seems fundamentally broken.

If you don’t think it takes intelligence for a black male child growing up in poverty to adapt to his environment enough to survive and make it to his 25th birthday without ever having gone to prison, then, my friend, you are in fact the stupid one.

If you don’t think it takes intelligence for a child rape victim to heal her own wounds and survive another ten years after her attack while maintaining normal behavior, then you are indeed the stupid one.

If you don’t think it takes intelligence for someone who grew up with a discouraging bi-polar parent to graduate from their public school, get a full-time job, and obtain their associate’s degree at the same time, then you are an idiot.

And if you think it takes more intelligence for the son of an affluent family full of Harvard grads to follow in his dad’s footsteps, then there’s no hope for you or your stupid company.

Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely things that a Harvard grad knows that I don’t, but there are also things that I know that a Harvard grad doesn’t, and who’s to say which experience is more valuable?

Surely, all Harvard grads do not have rich dads. I’m not saying that Harvard grads don’t come from a diverse set of backgrounds. What I am saying, however, is that the company that only wants applicants who graduated from a top university is completely missing the mark. That’s the equivalent of having a dozen geniuses standing in front of you and saying

“I only want the geniuses that wear glasses.”

The things I’ve learned, can’t be summed up in a number, and there’s just no way I could say that I wish I would have stopped taking piano lessons, and instead gotten into coding at an early age, so that I could have been good enough to get a full scholarship to Harvard by the time I was 18, so that I could apply to your stupid job listing at age 25.

There’s no way I would’ve known ten years ago how life-changing it would be if I focused less on creating a reality show for my friends in high-school, and more on getting great grades when I was 15 years old. I was way more concerned with the really important stuff, you know, like being popular, and getting rid of my acne.

There’s no way I would trade in the experience of going to an HBCU (historically black college/university) where I felt what it was like to be in a racially-irrelevant environment where race wasn’t a daily topic, where race wasn’t a thought when the teacher failed you for “no reason,” and where the racial barriers never stopped us from just seeing everyone for who they really are. I take this experience with me as inspiration for the environment we should be aiming to create throughout the world — a world where race is highly respected, yet also irrelevant, but this mindset, this unique experience is not valued just because it wasn’t had on a particular college campus.

We’ve got to stop shoving ourselves into these numerical boxes that say more about how prepared our parents were than about how intelligent we currently are. The other day, I said,

I never knew how important the decisions in my childhood were until I became an adult.

But I know now, because like I said earlier, we all learn new things every single day.

I am a genius, and so are you. You are the only genius in your life. You are the only one who was given the environment that you were, with the cards that you were dealt, and made it to adulthood in the way that you did…and you’re still learning, every single day.

You went through shit, and that shit made you a “better” person, sure, but in reality, it made you a more intelligent person. It made you smarter, and you continue to get smarter every single day. You have years worth of primary research and you are the expert of the life that you’ve lived.

I’m not saying that there aren’t things that a Harvard grad knows that you don’t, but I am saying that there are also things that you know that a Harvard graduate doesn’t and who’s to say that their experience is more valuable than yours? You are a genius too, remember?

You’re a goddamn mastermind. Fuck what the numbers say.

Oh, and fuck that job listing.


— I’m a coder, designer and podcast host