As an older graduate student/young postdoc, I often noted that the people who received lots of job interviews tended to have stellar academic lineages (i.e., either their Ph.D. supervisor or post-doc advisor, or both, were scientific rockstars). The cynic in me assumed that this reflected more about the psychology of academia than anything else. However, I am beginning to wonder if there really is something about the "pedigree" that may be important.
Over the past couple of years I have run into the following scenario again and again: bright, capable student wants to publish papers in Ecology, American Naturalist, Ecology Letters, etc, but has no concept of how to write a paper that could possibly get accepted. The reasons for this vary. Some are working on projects that their advisor told them to do, but if it ever was cutting edge it was 20 years ago. Some are doing cutting edge science, but haven't learned how to write for big journals. The latter is a common scenario I run into; somewhere along the line the basic lesson has not been learned that writing for The Journal of Your Favorite Specialized Taxonomic Group probably results in a very narrowly written paper that is not acceptable for the broader, higher impact, ecology journals. Invariably these students seem to have one thing in common: they would never be described as having a great pedigree.
What I am wondering is if there is something important about who you train with. Having a big name advisor is obviously no guarantee of becoming a successful scientist. Having less than lustrous pedigree is not some unalterable death knell. I still believe a good pedigree says nothing about the inherent quality or potential of a scientist, but I am beginning to suspect that it does indicate something about the "scientific level" that someone has been trained to operate at.