The list of highly successful entrepreneurs who never went to college or dropped out is long … Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Peter Jennings, and Michael Dell just to name a few. So without a “formal education” or “degree”, how could they have achieved such success? What brought them to a point that they had the skill to implement their vision?
When you stop and think about each of these people and the field where they broke through to achieve a measure of fame and success, you come to realize that they have two things in common. First they had a natural love for what they were doing and a singular drive to make it successful. Bill Gates didn’t spend hours as a teenager writing code because he was made to; he did it because he loved it. Secondly, each had a base of knowledge and aptitude that was built up by experience. In other words, “hands on” doing of something they enjoyed brought satisfaction and proved to be the education they needed.
Obviously the heights to which these people excelled are the exceptions, especially if you measure the results in dollars, but the principle is the same for everyone. If you find an area that you enjoy, invest your time and efforts into it, you can develop a good foundation through those experiences, and the results are usually going to be positive.
My personal observations here at PBC Linear are consistent with that principle. We have highly skilled engineers with mechanical engineering degrees from top schools. PBC’s founder Robert Schroeder and his son Jonathan graduated from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a school that for the twelfth year in a row was ranked as having the #1 undergraduate engineering program in the country by U.S. News and World Report (http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/engineering ). Through the years, PBC has had 9 engineers on staff and over a dozen interns from Rose-Hulman using their skills in various areas. In addition, PBC has on staff degreed engineers from the University of Minnesota and Northern Illinois University. And many of our associates have been or are involved in ongoing education classes locally at Rock Valley College and Blackhawk Technical College.
As I have talked with folks about their schooling, the overwhelming theme I hear is that what they learned in the classroom was good. It helped them develop a foundation and discipline. But the “real” education began when they had to apply the book learning to solve a problem or to design an application. What has been successful for the engineers of PBC Linear is combining the foundation gained from schools that promote internships, competitions, and hands-on learning with a real world work environment that encourages experimentation and creativity. This inspires activities that allow an engineer to do the things they love, to tinker with a set-up, to find the optimum solution, and to go beyond what theory says can be accomplished.
Educational foundation is good and needed, but somehow in the process of “doing”, and proving the book wrong sometimes, critical thinking begins to take root … then the sky is the limit.