Brandeis International Business School

023: The Value of a Liberal Arts Education in a Digital World

The skills that we need for the future are changing. So how can students adapt?

Today's guest is Lauren Maffeo, who has spent most of her career reporting on and working within the global technology sector. She started as a freelance journalist covering tech trends for The Guardian and The Next Web from London, and today, Lauren works as an Associate Principal Analyst at GetApp, where she covers the impact of emerging tech like AI and blockchain on small and mid-sized business owners.

From the Dorm Room

Although Lauren works in tech now, she definitely didn’t plan that when she started college. In fact, she knew she wanted to be a journalist, and she didn’t have any doubt about that. She declared herself a Media Studies major as a freshman and never wavered throughout her four years at Catholic University.

However, the recession hit while Lauren was in college, and when she graduated in 2011, the economy was still recovering. More to the point, this was also the time period when ad spending was shifting from news websites to tech websites like Google and Facebook. “So, it really was a signal that finding jobs in journalism, it was never easy before, but it was certainly going to be really difficult moving forward.”

But, still, Lauren definitely did not expect her career to go the way it has gone. “If you had told me in college what I would be doing now, I would just be confused because I didn't really know what software development was. I didn't know what artificial intelligence was. And so, I wouldn't have even known to say that I wanted to do what I'm doing now because it wasn't even something I could envision for myself at the time."

However, Lauren doesn’t regret her choice of major or her focus on liberal arts studies – and she recommends that any students still in college should try to take on as diverse a course load as possible.

“If you're still in a position to be picking classes, pick as diverse a range of classes as you possibly can. I don't regret being a Media Studies major, but I do wish that I had taken more business courses, especially marketing and product management.”

The more diverse the course load, the better you will be prepared for the future, regardless of what you end up doing.

To the Boardroom

So now Lauren is an Associate Principal Analyst at GetApp... but what exactly does that mean? 

Well, GetApp is basically TripAdvisor for business-to-business software. So if you're a small or mid-sized business owner, and you need any type of software for your business, you can find the best option through GetApp. And Lauren’s role is researching and writing about emerging technologies and how business owners use them.

“I couldn't foresee at the time how valuable my Media Studies education would be, both in my career and also in this weird cultural moment we're in,” Lauren says. We're in this unique moment where the value of being able to dissect arguments and rhetoric for what they are and critique things at face value is a more essential skill than ever – and these skills are likely only going to get more essential because the reality of the future job market is that any rules-based, repetitive task is going to be automated.

The reality is that automation is going to touch almost every job, Lauren says, even hers. And so, the people that are going to ultimately succeed are the ones who can learn how to use these technologies and work alongside them, so that you're outsourcing parts of the work to these machines, but you're doing the things that humans excel at – and that is true in every industry around the world.

For the time being and into the foreseeable future, the most important skills are high-level thinking, business strategy and being able to dissect arguments and understand nuance.

The Entrepreneurial Edge

Every week, we highlight one piece of advice for aspiring, struggling and successful-but-want-to-be-even-more-successful entrepreneurs:

Lauren has a lot on her plate and she’s accomplished a lot, so we knew she must have some good productivity tips. But it isn’t some app or technique – it’s self-awareness.

“The main thing I've done is to understand which time of day I am most productive. And, basically, what that translates into is making note of when I have the most energy to do very specific tasks.”

This isn’t always possible if you’re working in a more traditional business environment, but a flexible schedule is one of the perks of being an entrepreneur. So learn when you work most effectively, plan to do your most important work then, and figure out what other tasks are best to do at other times of the day.


Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

Listen on Stitcher


Follow @FromTheDormRoom
on Twitter  

Share Your Thoughts

Connect With Us