It definitely helps you get into a good college, get scholarships, internship and probably a decent job if all that matters to you but anything after that doesn’t really depend on your grades. A friend of mine had 4.0 GPA in his masters but that did not get him his dream job. Instead he got a job through networking and when he was negotiating salary, he was told Bachelor’s or Master’s degree doesn’t count, the base salary for a fresh out of school graduate is the same. So much for pursuing Masters and getting good grades.
Once you are at work, you are in the midst of lot of people, some who were academically good, some who were not, some who are dumb, some who are intelligent, some who are passionate about their work, there are slackers and then there is a go to guy and so on. Every organization or team typically has these set of people or more.
After you enter, how you grow is completely dependent on how you present yourself, how you maintain your relationship with your supervisor , how much you can talk and to a small extent how you work. How you grow up the ladder is no way related to your grades or academics, it may help a little in terms of your productivity but not so much after that. This is where people skills, presentation skills, networking skills, innovation comes into picture and if you are fortunate enough to work under someone who actually values your work and recognize it then great.
But this is not fairy tale; we are talking about real world here. Good things don’t happen easily but that doesn’t mean you will never get it. I see a lot of dumb people around me, lot of slackers and some really good people too. And I really couldn’t figure out the perfect equation to succeed here. Being academically good and knowing stuff definitely helps and puts you ahead in the game but that doesn’t mean you cannot succeed without it.
I have also known people who are not very qualified but are the best in the industry. I am sure all of us know about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. They are all college dropouts who became millionaires eventually. The point here is hard work and determination. Pursuing something that you like and doing it with full commitment. That probably is the key to success. Academics will help you get to the ladder, climbing on the ladder is solely dependent on how you do it.