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A 3-to-1 Company-to-Academic Hypothesis
October 31, 2011 - 7:04pm

One of the great things about our ed tech world is how our people sometimes move back-and-forth between academic and company gigs. If you want to sell, serve, or code for a higher ed customer then the best prep is have come from that world. If you want to evaluate vendors, negotiate contracts, and engage in meaningful partnerships with companies then having worked in the corporate sector will be your best education.

I'd even argue that our community should do more to facilitate movement in-and-out of academic-to-corporate / corporate-to-academic jobs. Colleges and universities could offer incentives for temporary postings to companies, such as 3 year leave-of-absences for people who take jobs in a related and relevant ed tech field, with assurances of re-employment at the end of term. Or we could negotiate job swaps, where we trade some of our academic players for your corporate people. Or maybe ed tech companies could have an "academic in residence," or higher ed could offer something reciprocal and similar. EDUCAUSE could broker exchanges of people, not just ideas, across the academic / corporate divide. IHE could solicit "Views" columns for people who have made the switch, or the switch back. Your ideas?

I have this hypothesis about the corporate ed tech world in comparison to the academy.  1 year working for a corporation is like 3 years working for a school.  How so?

Attributes of the 3-to-1 Company-to-Academic Hypothesis:

The Past:  Past length of employment is, on average, a third shorter at any given time in a company vs. a school.  Get 10 academic and 10 corporate people in a room whose work overlaps, and on average the company person will have been at her or his position (at that employer) for one-third the length.

The Future:  Future length of employment is 3X longer for the academic then the company person, at a given employer, at any given time. This is perhaps because companies are less stable than colleges, they tend to get purchased or go out of business at higher rates. But it is also due to the people, company folks are more comfortable switching jobs and perhaps taking more risks.

The Resume:  Company ed tech folks have had 3X the number of previous jobs, at different employers, as compared to their academic counterparts.  The resume of a corporate employee will list 3 times the employers, holding things constant like age and similar responsibilities, as the academic person.

Direct Reports and Airline Miles:   If you work in management at a company, then you are likely to have 3X the number of people who report directly to you (again holding things constant like age and responsibilities).  I also think you've flown three times as many miles, but this could be an underestimate.

Intensity?:  Is it possible that the corporate ed tech job is 3 times as intense as the academic ed tech gig?  I don't know, as the technology jobs in academia have gotten pretty intense in these years of bigger demands with less dollars.  Perhaps at the highest levels (CIO) this is not true - but in the middle - perhaps.  I worked for a few years in the technology / publishing / web sector during the first dot-com bubble, and those years certainly loom larger in my memory than other longer stretches in academia.

Do you buy this hypothesis?  How can it be improved, and then tested?  Who is doing this sort of cross academia / company empirical research?


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