I am finally in a position where I am truly happy with my professional life. That doesn’t mean that everything is perfect or that I’m even remotely satisfied — far from it. Shit is more complicated and difficult now than ever, but I love it. I love what we are building, I’m incredibly fortunate to work with super smart people, and I walk into work every day fired up and ready for world domination. This makes me truly happy. I had no grand plan to be building MVPs at the NYC Dev Shop. It certainly wasn’t a direct path, but it’s been a fun ride so far. So here is my unabridged 4 Part answer to how it all came to be:
- Career Path 1.0: Make Uniformed Decisions
- Career Path 2.0: Learn to Hate
- Career Path 3.0: Don’t Listen to Your Mother
- Career Path 4.0: Learn. Improve. Adapt.
Career Path 1.0: Make Uninformed Decisions
Some of my earliest childhood memories involve building things — playing with legos on Christmas morning, building forts in the woods, and climbing up unfinished 2nd story additions to “help” my dad build houses. And when you play with legos as a child, people tell you that you’re going to be an engineer. After hearing it enough times as a child (and finally realizing that they didn’t mean operating a train), you start to believe it.
Eventually, the self-fulfilling prophecy became true. I was very good at math and science and generally didn’t appreciate reading, so more people kept telling me that I should be an engineer. As a 15 year old kid who was just trying to get drunk and make bad decisions, I now had to pick a career path that would determine the course for the rest of my life.
Uninformed Decision #1: I want to be an engineer
I had absolutely no clue what an engineer actually did on a day to day basis and I could barely spell the word correctly, but that’s what I wanted to be. Supposedly, you *build* things and you get paid decent money. It was like they plugged in my SAT scores and spit out a tiny piece of paper that said ENGINEER. Ok, good enough. Count me in.
Now that the Sorting Hat told me I had to be an engineer, I next had to figure out where I wanted to go to school. This seemed like more of a headache than I wanted to deal with. My friends were stressing out about how they had to write so many essays and schedule campus visits. Again, 15 year old me had more important things to do.
My college search process was methodical. Step 1: find colleges that had an engineering program. Step 2: Throw out all the ones that required an essay. And just like that I had a very short list. One pre-frosh weekend later (which involved cutting all my classes to play basketball and an all-time great performance on the beer pong table as a high school senior), and I no longer had to search for colleges.
Uninformed Decision #2: Stevens Institute accepted me early admissions with no essay. My search was over.
Sweetness. Now I got to watch my friends stress out about college acceptances and writing all those essays, and I could focus on the important stuff — whatever that happened to be at the time. I was really able to enjoy my senior year, but Stevens started bothering me to pick a major.
How the hell could I possibly pick a major? I barely knew what engineering meant, and I had no clue what an engineer actually did. So I looked over the choice of majors and the answer revealed itself.
Uninformed Decision #3: I like computers and I want to be an engineer. Therefore, by transient property, I want to be a Computer Engineer!
I can’t even try to put a spin on this decision. I took one “Intro to C++” class, and I immediately found the Change of Major form. Having to spend an entire 3 hour lab class trying to have a computer tell me that something is False when I already logically knew the answer 2 hours and 59 minutes ago. No thanks.
So I finally smartened up a bit and made a somewhat informed decision. By this time, I fully recognized I had no clue what I was doing and my track record of making decisions was comical at best. So I did what made the most sense to me at the time: I picked a major that would basically allow me to do whatever I want. They called it “Engineering Management” and described it as core engineering with a focus on business.
Jackpot — with a combination of business and engineering I no longer had to worry about making uninformed decisions that would determine the rest of my life. I just left the window wide open so that I could literally take this new found knowledge wherever I wanted to go.
And that’s how we arrive Career Path 2.0: Learn to Hate.