A few days ago, I was asked to interview an intern for the Google diversity program, aimed at providing diverse students with relevant work experience for a better future.
I have seen many resumes for this program, Harvard 4.0’s Stanford 3.8’s etc. All with very impressive previous internships. My assigned candidate was a boy from Detroit. His resume was mediocre at best, but overall, unimpressive. No evidence of analytical skills or critical thinking abilities. When I interviewed him, I grilled him with some relatively difficult questions, and while his answers were satisfactory, I was by no means impressed. I recommended a “no hire” in the evaluation.
The recruiter followed up to ask why I had recommended a “no hire”. I explained that the candidate was not qualified - he did not have previous relevant experience and he did not show ability to think strategically. The recruiter confirmed that this is all very true. In terms of his past, the candidate did not have any shining experiences that would match our standard.
But he never had the opportunity to shine.
The candidate comes from a family of “diversity.” The family size is large, and the family income is low. He is the first of his family line to ever graduate high school and attend college. He is the oldest of his siblings so he works two jobs to feed his family. He pays through tuition all by himself, takes care of his family, works two jobs, and still maintains a 3.8 GPA. These qualities do not (and should not) show up on his resume, but it does speak to his ability to fight through adversity and overcome hardship.
The morality of affirmative action and the positions large companies should play in equalizing the playing field is beyond the scope of my blog. Nevertheless, this was a lesson in humility:
I’d like to think that I worked hard for my success and I developed into who I am today through my own choices, values, and talents. But the truth is, I was given many opportunities to shine. And unlike the boy I interviewed, nothing was holding me back. By no means were my parents wealthy or well connected (I was actually quite poor growing up), but I never had to make sacrifices to make ends meet.
I was provided all the opportunities in the world. I just had to be good enough to seize it. For some, even if they are good enough, they will never have the opportunity to shine.
My family is proud of me for what I was able to accomplish. I can’t imagine how proud his family must be of him :)
"Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that not everyone in this world has had the advantages that you’ve had." — The Great Gasby