Resume Lies Have Longer Shelf Lives Than Degrees

Agenda-Setting Financial Insight.
May 4 2012 12:07 PM

Resume Lies Have Longer Shelf Lives Than Degrees

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Which way to the truth? Hedge fund Third Point accused Yahoo’s new chief executive, Scott Thompson, of embellishing his educational record.

Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Yahoo’s chief executive, Scott Thompson, claimed he received degrees in accounting and computer science. Sadly, the second major was an embellishment. It’s easy to understand the temptation in Silicon Valley’s engineering culture to gloss up your geek credentials, even if tech degrees are quickly outdated. Or at least, it’s easier to understand than Yahoo’s explanation that this was an “inadvertent error.” But the bigger lesson to learn here isn’t a new one: dishonesty has a stubborn longevity. 

What’s sad is that in the tech world, performance usually trumps educational pedigree. The world’s biggest tech firm, Apple, was started by a man who studied calligraphy and dropped out. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg never finished Harvard University. Perhaps the tech world just loves the notion of a socially awkward hacker over a suit with an accountancy degree. 

Thompson’s embellishment may not be as grave as those from former president of software group Lotus. Jeff Papows claimed to be a black-belted former naval aviator orphaned at a young age. Nor is it as egregious as the Radioshack boss who six years ago fibbed about graduating from bible school. But Yahoo is a troubled company trying to win back the trust of its shareholders. Evidence of deceit, no matter how inadvertent or seemingly harmless, skewers that objective. 

Read more at Reuters Breakingviews.

Robert Cyran moved from the London office to New York, where he covers global technology, pharmaceuticals and special situations. Rob began his career at Forbes magazine, where he assisted in the start-up of the international version of the magazine.

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