It’s been a while since my last post here. This semester has kept me fairly busy, with the combination of projects, case competitions, job interviews, among other activities. All of them were fairly routine, except for finding the right full time job. But before we get there, let’s step back a bit to get some perspective.
It wasn’t always this way. In fact, just before summer I was certain that, after graduation, I would continue my education to get my MS in EECS (through the 5-year program) while simultaneously completing the MoT program. It sounded ambitious, promising and rational, and had the potential to open up a whole world of opportunities. I would get to take many of the graduate level CS courses I could not take in my undergraduate years and I would get to take some MBA courses that typically cost tens of thousands.
In the end, I would come out of school boasting a shiny resume flashing various, diverse skills and experiences, with the breadth necessary to build and cross bridges, and the depth necessary to excel in technology. I would conduct interesting research, spearhead incredible discoveries and spread my name through publications. I would be one step ahead of my peers who came out of college with just a BS, presumably because I would know “more”.
My experience this summer shattered those ambitions–in a good way. I had never thought that I would learn so much while working. My project was self-contained, ambitious, required me to explore the whole stack, and potentially very useful. My coworkers (especially my mentor Brian) were very supportive, and I learned a lot from them. It made me think of what it is about school that I do learn from–and I realized that much of my learning happens out of the classroom.
I learn through working on projects (like those from my programming languages course), through tackling difficult problem sets (like those from my randomized algorithms course), and through working with other people (case competitions). But school is structured to be easy and straightforward. There are few opportunities to try something radical, see it fail, backtrack, and try again. You follow a script in school. You write the script out in the world, where I have the same learning opportunities (projects, difficult problems and interaction).
Of course, that begs the question: Why not do research through a PhD program? Why work? I tackled this question early on in college, and decided that I would like to work on projects that have immediate, real-life applications. The social advertising space is still being carved out; so is the space for location based services. In academia time is measured in years. In industry it is measured in months. You can’t afford to wait because someone else will have established themselves. The excitement of the industry is fueled by the ticking clock.
So that is the story of why I have decided to forgo more years of school in favor of joining the workforce. Some days I still wonder whether that’s the right decision for me–whether I will always be one step behind someone who stayed for his MS, or whether I will always be a step ahead of him.
My next post will focus on my decision regarding where I begin my full time career, including what opportunities I pursued and ultimately why I chose Facebook over the alternative options.