If you Google “famous scientists” you will see the faces of great minds like Albert Einstein, Galileo, and Niels Bohr — the Danish physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922 for his contributions to the fields of atomic structure and quantum mechanics. What you may find surprising about a scientist like Bohr is that he was a great proponent of the humanities and the arts. He’s famously quoted as saying, “What is it that we humans depend on? We depend on our words. Our task is to communicate experience and ideas to others. We must strive continually to extend the scope of our description, but in such a way that our messages do not thereby lose their objective or unambiguous character…”
A lot has changed in the last century, but Bohr’s point still rings true. And today, the world’s top software companies are hiring more liberal arts majors than ever. Despite their obvious need to draw experienced engineers and MIT graduates, tech companies are now also starting to see the need for top talent in nontechnical jobs, like sales and marketing. The more innovative their work becomes, the more they need creative types who can connect on a deeper level with customers. After all, what good is a groundbreaking app or software solution if you can’t sell it?
The missing piece: the ability to communicate great products and ideas
Think about what makes social apps like Twitter and Instagram so popular; it isn’t their great UI or their complicated algorithms (although those things are important), it’s their ability to bring people together. Companies need those brilliant software engineers and coders, but they also need individuals with a talent for understanding people’s behaviors and what makes them tick. They need writers and artists that can communicate to people how this software will change their lives.
In a recent article for LinkedIn, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson (an English major) discussed how a liberal arts education is mistakenly undervalued in today’s job market. “It’s overly simplistic thinking,” he said. “One of the things I find fascinating is the discussion that says that the world is increasingly about technology and software, so therefore we need more math, science, and engineering majors. That sounds sensible on the surface, but when you take a step back and see what people are building today, they are building software and interfaces to be used by everyday people to complete everyday tasks. The idea of only having an education in math and science so you can build new products, but not having the skills to communicate, to me is a fallacy. You need both a liberal arts education and a technology education to build products that people will use and understand. I am legitimately surprised that so few people view it that way.”
Thanks to things like plugins and content libraries, software development is becoming more and more automated. But there is no way to automate the human element of an application. Understanding the Customer Experience and how people will interact with your product requires a different type of thinking on a more emotional level. Language and art is needed for UX and design, as well as the branding, marketing, and sales needed to take that product to market. Organizations that will be the most successful will be those that surround themselves with a diverse workforce; left-brained people and right-brained people being equally important.