Monday, March 07, 2011

Rich Kids

Cover of "Slumdog Millionaire [Blu-ray]"Cover of Slumdog Millionaire [Blu-ray]I have taken to dropping by Hacker News near daily after Fred Wilson made the point a few days ago. Today I came across this blog post.
Michael Church: Yes, rich kids already won the career game. Here’s why.: Americans like to believe that the modern workplace, like school, is a meritocracy........ Americans prefer to believe that, among those who do work, side-by-side in the same environment, it’s a fair competition. To their chagrin, they observe that their co-workers from wealthy backgrounds advance three times as fast ..... People in offices are out for themselves, not trying to preserve (or to combat) the social status quo. Rather, this is a subconscious and irresistible force, and it comes from one root cause: rich kids don’t fear the boss. ...... The middle-class kid spends the bulk of his time trying not to offend, not to behave in a way that might jeopardize the job he worked so hard to get and could not easily replace if he lost it. He doesn’t invite himself to meetings, avoids contact with high-ranking executives, and doesn’t offer suggestions when in meetings. Thanks to the fear he experiences on a daily basis, he’s seen as “socially awkward” and “mousy” by higher-ups. Nothing recommends him, and he will not advance. ...... Middle-class kids generally fuck up their first few years of the career game in one of two ways. Either they fear authority tremendously, which is crippling from a career perspective and renders them devoid of creative energy, or they show an open distaste for managerial authority, described by the wealthy as having a proletarian “chip” on one’s shoulder, and fail to advance on account of the dislike they thus inspire. ..... The rich kid, on the other hand, relates even to the highest-ranking executives as equals, because he knows that they are his social equals. He’ll answer to them, but with an understanding that his subordination is limited and offered in exchange for mentoring and protection. He views them as partners and colleagues, not judges or potential adversaries. Perhaps this is counterintuitive, but most of his bosses like this. (Most bosses aren’t assholes and don’t like to be feared, at all. In fact, they’d be happy to forget that they are bosses.) His career advances fast. ......He’s neither a cowering weakling
Larry Ellison cropImage via Wikipediawho crumbles at the sight of authority, nor an obnoxious brat whose sense of entitlement and dislike for managerial authority limit his progress prematurely. He respects others and himself and has an uncanny air of effortless “coolness” (by which I mean freedom from anxiety) that enables him to actually get things done. ....... the majority of rich kids who are well-behaved and decent are valued more highly when their circumstances are discovered. ...... This advantage held by the wealthy, more prominent on the East Coast and outside of technology, is nearly impossible to compete against in most companies. ....... I would advise those who are sufficiently talented to work in technology, which tends to be more meritocratic than other industries, and to avoid old-style business. Beyond that, I know of no solution.
I found this blog post amusing. I am someone who has never had a "job." You know, where you show up eight in the morning wearing a tie? I have never done that. I did note the ode to the technology sector. In a startup, it is not about if you are rich, it is about if you are hungry. For me rich and poor is a global thing. For me it is about dollar a day people and self made billionaires.

I don't think you have to be rich to have self confidence. Social skills can be learned. Some of the most social and friendly people I have met in life have not been rich. It is as if they were born that way. There was something innately social about them. It came from inside. It was perhaps biological.

From class to race and gender is but one small step. In the old industries where the idea is to preserve the status quo, I can see how seeking homegeneity can make sense. But in the tech sector where the emphasis is on disruptions and out of the box thinking, unless you can mix things up, it is going to cost you. Tech startups that are not colorful in terms of gender and culture, I tend to have jaundiced views of.

One day Larry Ellison simply drove over to San Francisco from Illinois. He had nothing. Now he owns a few fighter jets. He has had them for over a decade. He was born into Chicago's "Jewish ghetto," his words. Give me two servings of that "class."

In my industry - microfinance - unless you grew up where I grew up, you are not going to be able to compete with me. I got "class" advantages.

When you go to events in Manhattan, you do realize that most people in the room are white. I have met people who went to all sorts of schools, and I love the idea of getting to meet them. These are smart, well educated people. And the way to add color to the equation is through universal broadband. With globally universal broadband, half of India ends up at MIT, like they ought to.

Rich People's Kids
Larry Ellison's Personal Life
Slumdog Millionaire: A Movie About My People
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