Chris asks:

What importance do you place on formal education in your team? In today’s information age, it seems that about any kind of knowledge is only a few keystrokes away, and anything one might want to learn about is freely available and can be mastered given the drive and, of course, trial and error to develop the skill. Naturally, this especially applies to web technologies (more so than, say, neural surgery). What kind of educational background does your team harbor, be it for business or technology, what practical advantage does it lend, and what do you think about the crowds of talented, self-taught “amateurs” which the web has made possible?

We don’t put much value in formal education when deciding who to hire. In fact, I believe only three of the eight people at 37signals have a formal higher education degree. Some spent a little time at college and decided it wasn’t for them. Some didn’t go at all. We couldn’t care less.

What we care about is intelligence, curiosity, passion, character, motivation, taste, intuition, writing skills, and the ability to make smart value judgements. A few of these qualities may benefit from exposure to higher education, but we feel most of them are better learned through practical experience. Further, we don’t believe taste can be taught—you either got it or you don’t. We believe taste is one of the most important qualities in anyone we hire.

Of course we don’t hold a formal education against anyone, we just don’t pay much attention to it. We’re more interested in someone’s experience, real work, and point of view than we are with their diploma, degree, or GPA. Formal education is probably last on our list of qualities we feel make someone qualified to work at 37signals.

Thanks for the questions!

So far we’ve received nearly 100 questions since posting the Ask 37signals announcement. We’d love to answer yours. Please send it along to svn [at] 37signals dot com. Title the email “Ask 37signals”. Thanks again!