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Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Fall and Rise of "Jack"

"Jack of all trades, master of none."

I dunno about others but I literally grew up on that. I guess that's customary for all army brats. The military life has the smell of standardization in just about everything. While in uniform, one is put through every imaginable crisis and stress rising up the chain of command. Which in turn makes the men weather ready and somewhat multi-functional.

But then economy prospered and we liberalized. We moved out of the disciplinary ways of life dubbing it medieval and anti-intellectual. Our careers thrived with specializations, the mastering of a specific skill seemed to make all the difference. In fact from the days of Civil Service or Military Service being the foremost prestigious professions, we progressed to Private Service as the chosen one.

Capitalism happened. And like many times before this, we took a ride with the flow.

Born in the 80's in Bangladesh meant you were exposed to the last of these legendary Jacks. The cream of the society, the so-called intellectuals served the government (which in turn served the people, I guess) and remained the most elusive career option. Back in those days, BCS (Bangladesh Civil Service) exam used to be the greatest test of one's intellectual and practical abilities. A test of life. The decision maker of your future.

Like every other economy in the world, ours also flourished with private entrepreneurs and industries. However unlike the good economies, the public sector undertakings went on a gradual decline. Soon "groom wanted" ads in the classifieds stopped mentioning Army Officer or BCS Cadre as preferred professions. Police and Customs emerged as the career choice for the dishonest.
And most ironically paisa took over prestige.
Multinational and local conglomerates were now the employer of choice.
A new age of professionals had begun.

Computer Science, Applied Physics, Engineering were the kind of majors every talented high-schooler was aiming for. All of a sudden, Bangladesh was a bustling economy full of science grads. It was all merry and everyone was awaiting a happy ending.

Not to be.

The curse of capitalism stuck again. The need of generalization was back with a bang. In came the mother of all degrees (apparently), the one degree that MacGyver wanted for himself, BBA. The game was back in even grounds again. Specialists were only good for R&D but who will fill up the rest of the departments.Thus the need of Jacks was alive again.

I consider myself lucky to be in the bridging generation where both specialization and standardization of senior degrees could exist in parallel. But as the companies grow and quality of education deteriorates, its only the Jacks who are filling up all the blanks in the sentence.

I am a BBA graduate myself. It wasn't a degree out of passion or interest. I consider it as a visa-free entry in the modern economy. Now that I look back, the more purer forms of education seems more enlightening and intriguing than ever before. The likes of Archeology, Economics, History, Psychology or even Zoology (which I totally sucked at) had more to offer than a degree that's comparable to a marriage license.

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