Goodbye Berkeley23 Jan 2020
The brief period of unemployment between graduation and the starting date at my first full-time job out of college is basically purgatory. Especially with the graduation ceremony only happening in the Spring following my graduation, it feels even more so. There are many loose ends, with research, club involvement, and connections being the biggest contributors to my continual connection with campus. But as the dust settles in this chaotic phase of my life, I can only slowly realize that the last few years of my life have only been to set the default of my continual success in both personal and professional matters.
Just a quick reflection on some major learnings and takeaways.
Academia vs Industry (aka the pursuit of impact)
I struggled to narrow down my true interests in terms of career path. It’s definitely a very naive and perhaps privileged way of thinking – that one can prioritize making a meaningful, positive impact. Those are just words, and while it’s possible, it’s important to think of goals in varying levels of granularity. Of course impact might be the eventual goal, but there are smaller and more immediate ways to achieve impact that may be somewhat collinear in trajectory.
Somewhere along the line, perhaps idolization of professors and other academics, I found myself on the grad school track. Especially in the blockchain space I had so suddenly found myself immersed in, the community is stratified by product/technology, founders of which often times reach demi-god-like status. My reverence for certain professors had reached similar heights. I wanted to make big impact by focusing on big picture topics in academic research – somewhat overlooking some of the prerequisite engineering rigor.
After seeking advice from others, I eventually realized my prioritization of applied vs pure sciences. While we need all types of thinkers, I came to understand my strengths in working in a more instant gratification impact manner. I will use my academic training combined with engineering rigor to solve real-world problems. Grad school will be on the roadmap eventually, but for now, I’d rather see for myself the problems that need solving. Then, if I deem it only possible to solve these problems with the leverage of academia and graduate studies, then so be it – chase that impact.
Mindfulness and parallelization of the brain
Coming into college, I knew immediately that there would be a billion things to do and only the time for a few of them. Like attempting too large of a plate during Thanksgiving dinner, it’s important to pace yourself. If you frontload all your responsibilities and end up underperforming or underdelivering, that’s worse than exceling at only a few items. A few more takeaways here:
- Avoid context switching
- Attempt tasks on a rolling basis
In other words, prioritize, order, and pipeline. In my life, the implications are that my daily TODO lists are not too long, ordered, and consider future days’ TODOs as well (e.g. a lower granularity weekly/monthly/yearly TODO). This also plays directly into my personal definition of practical mindfulness.
- Take nothing for granted
- Don’t mistake motion for progress
- Make the most of where you are