The Future of Startups: A Home for Liberal Arts Majors

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Mark Cuban boldly predicts that tech startups will need to hire more liberal arts majors to succeed. Seriously?

In an interview with Bloomberg's Cory Johnson at the NBA All-Star Technology Summit in New Orleans, Cuban argues why he thinks liberal arts majors will be in high demand in the coming years, “No finance. That's the easiest thing — you just take the data have it spit out whatever you need. I personally think there's going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data. And so having someone who is more of a freer thinker.”

Although hardware and software engineers continue to top the salary charts, tech startups are learning that employees with liberal arts degrees offer important value. As trained storytellers, liberal arts majors help companies go beyond the numbers and humanize their sales and marketing efforts, driven by engagement and a broad understanding of the world that can inform their respective positions.

Over the last three years, Sage Corps has sent 200 college students to intern with tech startups on 5 continents, in 8 international cities. Our data has increasingly shown that any student can be “entrepreneurial” and make significant contributions to early-stage startups. 50% of our students are women, 47% are minorities, and are studying 80 different majors, many of which are liberal arts-focused, including economics, psychology, history and philosophy.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2022 around 2 million more Americans will enter the workforce as educators and sales associates. As the tech industry advances, these opportunities won’t just be in academic institutions or retail stores. Startup ecosystems will continue to grow and evolve, creating demand for coaches, trainers, leaders and business developers. The Liberal Arts are far ahead of other areas of study in serving this demand.

The soft skills developed through a Liberal Arts education are some of the most valuable in the workplace. Soft skills refer to the way employees relate to and interact with other people. The Multi-Generational Job Search Study 2014 by Millennial Branding said employers ranked the following as the most highly desired qualities in candidates: communication skills, a positive attitude and the ability to work in a team, all of which can be labeled as soft skills. Additional soft skills often sought out by employers include critical thinking, problem solving, writing, the ability to communicate directly with customers, and fitting into a company’s culture.

Software development and processes will continue to become more and more automated. Content is immediately available, and plug-and-play widgets are multiplying exponentially, meaning fewer people in the tech space. However, the need for non-tech employees—people needed to make the widgets look good, write supporting documents, and maintain human connections with customers—continues to rise.