Tuesday, 08 May 2012 23:45

Yahoo! CEO's bogus university degree


One of the problems with telling a rather public fib is that one has to keep on telling it in order to maintain the status quo.  So it was with newly-appointed Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson.

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Many people 'embellish' their resumes in order to look good to potential employers, but one might assume that this is generally restricted to lesser positions where the cost of being found out will (hopefully) be outweighed by the demonstrated ability to do the job.

Various polls (all unscientific) seen by this author - this one for instance - suggest that perhaps 25% of people will extend their technology credentials into the realm of fantasy; although perhaps only 10% do so regularly (until they're caught!).

One hopes it is less common in the upper echelons of power.  For two reasons.  Firstly that such people tend to stand on the merits of their previous roles and secondly because they're too easily found out.

Yahoo!'s new CEO, Scott Thompson is guilty of the second reason.  He was too easily found out.

When appointed, Yahoo! was required to submit a SEC filing detailing the credentials of their new CEO, presumably they took his existing bio summary and used that, after-all it was fine for his previous role as CTO of PayPal.  It was also wrong for his PayPal role.  In both cases, Thompson's bio claimed, "Scott received a bachelor's degree in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College."

Stonehill's own alumni listings show Thompson has a degree in Accounting only.  More than that, the college did not commence offering degrees in Computer Science until four years after Thompson graduated; during his tenure at the College, only one computing course - "Intro to Computer Science" was offered - hardly enough to claim some kind of "double major."

When confronted with the problem, Yahoo! claimed some kind of "inadvertent mistake," presumably the same mistake that PayPal made (and his previous employer, Zuora in 2008).

Dan Loeb, from hedge fund Third Point (with 5.8% of Yahoo!'s shares) is leading the charge against Thomson in an attempt to gain as many as 4 board seats (and the departure of Thompson).

Of further interest is the "resume stuffing" of the Yahoo! director in charge of the recruitment team which selected Scott Thompson.  Patti Hart also has issues with her resume - she claims a bachelor's degree in marketing and economics whereas her degree was in business administration, although her principle study areas were marketing and economics (one might argue she was describing the content of the degree rather than naming it).

Loeb's letter to the Yahoo! board of directors is here.

One wonders when the Securities Exchange Commission will wade into this battle with some decrees of their own.

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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