Banking

Yahoo CEO resume flap: IT pros react

IT pros react harshly to Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson's false claims of a computer science degree, adding fuel to investor Daniel Loeb's pressure for a Yahoo board CEO ouster.

As Yahoo investor Dan Loeb continues to urge Yahoo's YHOO board of directors to fire new CEO Scott Thompson - Loeb on Wednesday sent yet another letter to the press and the beleaguered company's board - IT pros we contacted reacted pretty vehemently to what has emerged as Thompson's falsified claims of holding a degree in computer science from Stonehill College in Easton, MA.

Yahoo execs called the computer science degree claim an "inadvertent error" in a San Jose Mercury News interview.

Loeb, according to records, runs a hedge fund that owns outright nearly 5.9 percent of Yahoo's stock. In his latest letter, Loeb wrote that "Thompson's fantasy degree was in no way an ‘inadvertent error.' The evidence shows us he had been using false credentials for years." Loeb and his fellows are demanding an immediate ouster.

IT pros I contacted reacted hotly on the issue.

John Livingston, an IT pro for the American Red Cross in Savannah, Georgia, wondered "if someone is willing to lie on (his) resume, what else would (he) be willing to lie about?"

Such prevarication "just makes it harder for people looking for IT jobs," Livingston added, saying that though anyone can easily lie about extra degrees and certifications.

Tech pro Paul Miller agreed that ethics is "the bigger issue here." Nonetheless, he said, "The irony of Silicon Valley (venture capitalists) and (hedge) fund managers asserting moral outrage is patently absurd. The "giant elephant" in the room is "that this was perpetuated for years and ... no one noticed until some guy with an agenda began to dig up dirt. The fact that someone can claim a degree (he or she) does not have - and that there is little way to tell them from the (rest) of herd who has ‘earned' a degree, without researching an educational background, tells how little these degrees mean."

Andrew Terry, an IT consultant in the London area, also sided with Thompson's detractors. He pointed out that "there's a big difference between what most of us think of as resume padding (versus) adding qualifications (one) doesn't have."

"If I found out someone lied on the resume about something as important as a degree, (the employee) would be fired. I personally worked my ass off for my computer science degree," said Peter Schmidt, a CTO at a Boston-based aviation firm. "Thompson's bald-faced lying angers me."

Other IT pros were a little easier on Thompson, though all 12 tech pros this reporter interviewed expressed distress at the prevarication.

Isn't a degree really just a glorified piece of paper? Yes and no, IT pros said. "I don't have a degree," said Dan Phillips, who is in tech support and network security in Ontario, Canada. "What I do have is nearly two decades of real world IT experience and that gets me in the door every time.

"Not to knock all computer science students, but I won't hire anyone straight out of school because they just won't have the knowledge that's needed for some high end IT jobs," Phillips said. "Certifications are nice but you tend to have to memorize the "book answer" and then quickly forget it because it does not apply in the field," he said.

How do you feel about the Scott Thompson situation at Yahoo? Let us know in the discussion below.

About

Gina Smith is a NYT best-selling author of iWOZ, the biography of Steve Wozniak. She is a vet tech journalist and chief of the geek tech site, aNewDomain.net.

24 comments
slobodan.hajdin
slobodan.hajdin

I don't have IT degree. I do have an degree, but not in IT. However, like many others, my 35 years of experience with computers, 20 years expirience with networks and 15 years of programming are letting me in second round of selection.

But, I NEVER claimed I have an IT degree...

id10tz
id10tz

I agree with Paul Miller. Ethics & "(venture capitalists) and (hedge) fund managers asserting moral outrage is patently absurd. " Laughable at the least. I have degree & certs, but my 15 years of IT real world experience is what feeds my family. I am concerned about the approach that Scott took. & Why is Yahoo so late and obviously incompetent in their background checks?

austindayo
austindayo

It???s not funny because the same CEO would fire any employee found to have falsified documents. And am sure if he wants to recruit he wouldn???t want to hire someone with a FAKE resume like his.

j2will
j2will

Seems to me that the more important issue is the ethical and moral standards of Yahoo itself. Since they have not already fired Thompson, they have already demonstrated that the company is willing to "bend" the rules. This is highly indicative of a poor standard of ethics that has most probably permeated the entire corporate leadership structure. As stated in other posts, a person who lies for personal gain is not going to stand up and do the right thing when faced with a career ending situation . . . he will place blame outside himself and engage in extreme measures to cover up his mistakes. If the chief executives and board of directors are accepting this, then my question is WHY??? Are they all as corrupt as Thompson that they don't see the ethical issues and the proper course of action? Makes me wonder just how careful they are about protecting my data that they have on their systems. This also raises great concerns about how they are balancing their cost/security budget items . . is it in favor of their customers or is in favor of executive bonuses?

Dave Keays
Dave Keays

The fact that it only takes a BS to be CEO of industry giants like Yahoo or eBay. It wasn't long ago I couldn't reenter the CS market because I didn't have the masters degree companies required for even entry level positions. Maybe I would have had a better chance if I applied as CEO instead of a jr programmer.

Dave Keays
Dave Keays

Without being to apologistic could I ask what all the wazoo is about? While this puts his ethics in question, it doesn't answer that question. I know of no one whose house is 100% clean. Does that mean all my friends are filthy scum? Some of his bios don't make the claim to having 2 BSs which points to a possible (I emphasis "possible") mix-up. Unless the uber-bad PR hurts the companies stock value then why would the BOD worry? He's proven he can do similar jobs and they aren't in an industry that is so hyper-sensitive to ethics that revelations like this would hurt the company's standing in the industry and chance at future business.

Tiger-Pa
Tiger-Pa

This is in no way a defense of Mr Thompson, I think he should be ousted. But I know of many college grads with degrees and certifications that were achieved by cheating on tests. I know of peers that worked on certs while others covered their workloads and still called on the uncertified people for help when their cert didn't give them any usable knowledge. It's all about matriculating with a watered down skill set - a true BS degree.

SpatsTriptiphan
SpatsTriptiphan

"Certifications are nice but you tend to have to memorize the ???book answer??? and then quickly forget it because it does not apply in the field,??? - that also applies to the college education. My degree was in CS and the incredible amount of out dated crap I had to learn (cobol anyone?) was amazing. It also took me forever to get a real computer job until I built up experience.

yodi.collins
yodi.collins

For too long the hypocrisy has reigned, and the fatted goose has been getting perks perpetually denied the gander. While I seriously doubt that holding the Yahoo! CEO's feet to the fire will curtail future occurrences of such transgressions, or even cost him his livelihood, it seems clear to me that turning a blind eye to things like this is becoming 'five minutes ago'. And not a moment too soon.

hometoy
hometoy

Should there be an excuse about lying? If you have it, tell it, but if you don't that doesn't mean you are not qualified or capable of still getting the job but it is based on merit, not padding. True, it doesn't mean you are any better or worse than somebody with experience but it does at least say you have a fuller knowledge of it than if somebody learned by themselves. I do not have a CS degree, but I work in IT. I have been taking courses but am not certified. Will I have difficulty looking for my next job? Yes. Does it mean I have to stand more on my merit and experience than a degree? Yes. Does it mean I'll fake my resume? No.

Transatlantic
Transatlantic

If Yahoo's policy is to terminate the employment of a person found to have lied about their qualifications, work experience etc., on their resume, then he needs to go. If not, then he can stay subject to whatever disciplinary measures are usually taken in these circumstances.

Kim SJ
Kim SJ

A man who is prepared to lie for personal gain should never be trusted with anything more important than making a cup of tea. It is evidence of how far society has degenerated that there is even a debate about whether the man should lose his job. I am increasingly concerned that many people at the top of society (what I call the "overclass") seem to be getting less and less moral. I think this cancer is the bigggest threat to western democracy that we face today. As the moral majority, we have a duty to fight back hard, before corruption destroys us all. Turning to this particular case, lying should always be grounds for instant dismissal, and should inevitably destroy the offender's career. Bizzarely, a CS degree would seem to be of minimal interest on the CV of a large corporation's CEO. The fact that he lied is far worse than any advantage the lie might have given him. Evidence of poor judgment of risk/reward balance, in addition to his lack of morals! Clearly there needs to be some leeway for innocent mistakes, but I have never met anyone who does not know what degrees they hold; there is no possible grey area in this case. He should resign at once.

info
info

This is why the American Business Model is foundering. Was it wrong for someone to lie about his resume? Yes. Is it an offense for which they should be fired? Absolutely. But if someone is working at a company, as a doctor, whatever...for YEARS. SUCCESSFULLY... Should they be immediately fired when something like this is uncovered? I'd think it would depend on their track record. If it was that good, why not provide them the opportunity to GET that degree? In this case, I'd think the ends justify the means. How many successful business, or even COUNTRIES, have prospered because of a lucky break, or just a ruse or bluff one way or another? I thought the same with the stories about doctors having the same thing happen to them. All of their surgeries are successes! They have good knowledge and good skill. Why waste their talents and help them get the piece of paper they lack? How many IT 'pros' and doctors have you met that HAVE degrees out the wazoo, but shouldn't be allowed to tie their own shoelaces? Standards exist for a reason, but exceptions should be realized and made in exceptional circumstances. Another reason is all of these hedge fund managers that have a say in the going's on of a company because they have money. They DO have their own agenda. Make us much as they can for THEMSELVES, no matter the end result. How many times do the '1%' have to gain and the economy be crippled before the collective public LEARN?

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

Life is funny. If I write a bad check, I go to jail. A senator or congressman writes a bad check, it turns into an investigation, vendor never gets their money, life goes on. If I lied on my resume and put some bogus degree (which I wouldn't by the way. Like Hewbrew National Hotdogs - I answer to a Higher Authority) to attain a job, and was found out later I lied, I would be fired, and rightly so. What does an example like this set? Higher up the ladder you are, the more you can get away with. If you're just a lowly commoner like me, and most of the population, keep it honest or you get crucified.

dfa19
dfa19

Let me ask this, Yahoo a struggling company may have a CEO that could rebound the company and save them from being irrelevant (I personally think they will fail anyways) but if he is the answer should you fire him for that or save the company and all those people jobs?

Skruis
Skruis

is that if he were a lowly employee, it would be grounds for termination. Whether or not it's applicable to the question of whether or not he can do the job is irrelevant when it comes to corporate policy. If the policy states that an employee must be truthful on their application/resume then the company has the responsibility to enforce the policy. Giving him a pass on this, in my opinion, is tantamount to saying "the rules don't apply at the CEO level" and that's a double standard. Personally, would I care about this one little omission? No. If he's doing a good job then he's doing a good job but my primary issue with all of this is that that argument wouldn't be enough to save an employee's job.

io_zen
io_zen

However, since Yahoo is a private company, it's up for its board of directors to decide what to do with the CEO. Board's decision will send clear message of YAHOO's view on ethics and acceptable behavior to investors and general public.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

require one to expound on whether P=NP, but if his supposed CS degree was influential in getting that job he should be fired. Sadly his lying doesn't shock me, I sort of expect it out of the corporate boardroom along with greed and sloth.

slobodan.hajdin
slobodan.hajdin

@SpatsTriptiphan I had to learn COBOL. And ForTran. And Clipper too... But not for a degree... for a high school.

And you for sure know that COBOL and ForTran are still in use...

TNT
TNT

I've found most of the job postings for IT positions (in my corner of the world, at least) include, "Computer Science degree required" -- even for some entry level positions such as Service Desk. In some cases experience can be substituted, but not all. If the employer posts unrealistic demands does it free the potential employee to provide an unrealistic resume? Ethically, no, but in a practical sense it does. What matters more than any educational experience is the bottom line: can the applicant do the job. If they have demonstrated they can, then retain them. My personal morality doesn't permit to lie about my qualifications, but I understand the temptation to do so. I like info@'s idea, that if the company wants to press the issue for a model employee, then offer them a choice: quit or get the degree.

andrew232006
andrew232006

By masquerading as doctors, they're recklessly endangering the lives and health of patients who would have otherwise got help from a qualified doctor. In my opinion that alone would not only exclude them from medical school but is good grounds to put them in jail.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet moderator

it's "OK" for top executives of a company to lie about their credentials, BUT, whatever deity you believe in help you if you as a lowly support person lie about a certification? Or is it "OK" for anyone to lie about their credentials? This is exactly what is wrong with a large part of society today! As long as someone makes money, it doesn't matter the means. I sometimes feel sad for my children and grandchldren...what kind of moral guidelines have we taught them?

parnote
parnote

Yahoo may be a private company, but it's a private company that's PUBLICLY traded. If the BoD don't act swiftly and decidedly, I suspect you'll see Yahoo's stock price tumble -- of course, unless the vast numbers of people investing in Yahoo have the same moral fiber as is demonstrated by its CEO. Any more, it's rather difficult to discern who has good morals an who is rotten to the core.

andrew232006
andrew232006

I could work at KFC for years and no one would ever know I don't have a degree in biology or astro-physics. They also wouldn't know I don't have 2 decades of "real world tech experience" like dan phillips. Perhaps we should stop requiring pilots to have training or licenses after the events of "Catch me if you can"

Editor's Picks