‘An education can either be a stepping stone or a road block’ says Spotify’s Nikki Lambert

Education and the role of University within that is changing as more people are questioning whether the industry is more suited to teach than teachers themselves.

This was the question posed to industry moguls at a Creative Social event this week, which saw the likes of Spotify’s senior director of international marketing Nikki Lambert and Ogilvy’s director of innovation Nicole Yershon discuss the relevancy of degree educations in today’s market.

Lambert called for a balance of industry leaders and teachers serving as mentors and educators for future generations, saying while education has its uses it “often doesn’t have the same level of experience and understanding that those working in the industry can offer”.

She said that in many global businesses (and especially in the US market), employees are often seen as very dispensable, and encouraged young hopefuls to work their way up the ladder by hard work and a driven personality to “earn respect” in order to be valued in a company.

It’s how Lambert went from customer service representative to head of brand at Virgin in a few short years, without a degree. She cited a number of benefits to opting out of the traditional route to qualifcations, the least of which is emotional intelligence, a skill slowly making its way to the forefront of desirable attributes for many employers.

“(Not having a degree) meant I was given unique opportunities because I had no fear – there is something massive to be said about that tenacity and hunger you have when you are young that goes away a little each year as you get more fearful.”

What’s more, the rise of technology has disrupted the dynamic of how a young person enters the world of work now, with many creating their own start-ups and forming new roles within businesses rather than settling for something that's already established. Lambert called for businesses to “look forward and anticipate the skills that will be needed in the future”, saying there are jobs that don’t exist today that will exist in a few years as “technology is changing everything”.

The calls for a reappraisal comes as the diversity conversation continues to dominate the industry, as more leaders are championing that “University is not the be all and end all”, according to organiser of the event and founder of Creative Social Daniele Fiandaca.

Instead, he said, the conversation has moved to forming an industry with a mix of people from many different backgrounds, which the Great British Diversity Experiment and The Drum's Diversity Census has worked to promote.

It’s a notion surmised by Lambert in her closing comments: “You are diverse, hiring people like you is not”

Jessica Goodfellow

The Drum's media reporter covering everything from publishing, TV, social media, radio and technology.

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