Charting out my future

I had to make some pretty big decisions for myself this past year, and those decisions weren’t easy to make. However, in the end, I’m happy with how the year has panned out.

 Work, or school?

Choosing to come back to UC Berkeley for the Master of Engineering program wasn’t an easy decision for me. If you ask my friends and peers, I polled them non-stop on what I should do: continue my work with Uber or join my friends back at school.

Although listening to each one of my friend’s “what I would do” was interesting, ultimately I already knew the decision rested on my own shoulders. Asking the question and explaining the choices each time really nudged me to agree with what I subconsciously already knew: I wanted to go back to school.

Each option had their significant opportunities. Uber had an amazing pool of talented people to learn from (as well as enormous financial opportunities), but continuing school was an immaterial opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. I wanted to really finish off my senior year of college “right” by spending time with my friends and taking the opportunity to learn more about topics that really interest me.

 Wait, what’s after school?

Although my personal intent for coming back to school was quite clear, I realized on the first day of classes that I wasn’t sure what I was trying to get out of the graduate program professionally.

The motivations of many of students in the program (as well as many of my friends finishing their undergrad) was to find a full-time opportunity by the end of the Fall. However, I already passed up several opportunities that offered generous full-time starting positions at places that I loved working at. I thought the challenges were interesting, I admired the technical aptitude of many the people at these companies, and I believed that the products were true game-changers. So what was I looking for?

To be honest, I still don’t know. I love the thrill that comes with engineering thoughtful and creative solutions. At the internships I’ve worked, this thrill is greatest when I’m first diving into the codebase and learning how the products’ infrastructures work. However, this thrill fizzes after a few months when I think I have grasp over how to get things done. Even if I don’t know everything, I know who to ask to figure things out and the process becomes a routine. I fear that routines will eventually become boring.

I haven’t experienced being bored at any of my software engineering internships, but I tentatively foresee that I would eventually become bored after a year of working when things become routine. Maybe I’m overthinking it and I’m completely wrong – but it’s a fear that has dug it’s way into my thoughts on what I want to do post-graduation.

Boredom isn’t my only consideration for what I want to do after graduating. I also want to do something that not only challenges me, but also effectively utilizes every bit of me. When it comes to doing things, I like doing everything, and I don’t just mean “full-stack” engineer. This includes designing the graphical user interface, developing the traditional web full-stack, applying machine learning models, programming embedded micro-controllers, and dabbling into almost everything. I realize that a role that satisfies all these skills doesn’t really exist - but I’d like to maximize their appreciation somehow.

Weighing the options out there, I’ve made a self-commitment towards doing something with a startup. If I validate some of my ideas to be worthwhile, then I’ll take the plunge into making my own startup. If an opportunity with a startup whose mission I firmly believe in, then I’ll happily hop on for a ride. For me, the startup scene is really the only place where I’ll be encouraged to juggle everything to get things off the ground.

So startup world, I’m coming for you!

 
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