I Am Bismark

Dropping Out of School

I mentioned in passing in my last post that I had dropped out of school. I am sure some of you might have no idea why, so I thought I had better write a post on what’s up.

I started as a full time employee at Zynga on August 16th. It was a pretty crazy week coming to the decision and figuring out logistics. On the Wednesday before my last week of the internship, my team lead brought up the idea of a full time position. HR made me the offer the next day and we had the weekend to think it over. We gave our answer on that Monday.

This was not an easy decision and I did not take it lightly. There were many factors that went into it, though first I want to make clear what was not involved in the decision:

  1. This was not about money. Mariam and I were doing fine on my student income. We have no debt and school was essentially free. Sure, having a positive cash flow is awfully nice, but I didn’t drop out of school for financial reasons.

  2. No one forced me to choose the job. Mariam was actually against it and it took a lot of discussing and convincing before she agreed.

So what were some of the deciding factors?

  1. I didn’t love grad school. Some of that was my own fault: I didn’t put in enough effort to make it really worth my while. I think that part of the reason I didn’t try was because I didn’t really enjoy it. I’ve never been interested in research or writing papers. I just want to make cool stuff. Will I ever go back to grad school? Possibly. I know, I know, it’s so tough to go back to school after you get an income, but if I decide I really want/need it, I will do it.

  2. I am not convinced a graduate degree in computer science helps me in my career goals. None of my peers have advanced degrees, but they certainly have years of experience that I lack due to school. Now, if I wanted to join a research lab at say Google, an advanced degree would be important. But when my ambitions are more along the lines of becoming an independent software developer, I think real world experience trumps academics.

  3. Stock. Ok, yes, I know above that I said it wasn’t about the money, but maybe it did play a small role… Given the direction that Zynga is going right now, I feel like it’s important to get as much stock as quickly as possible. Obviously I know nothing about the business decisions at Zynga, I just have a gut feeling the stock is going to be quite valuable in the future. I think an opportunity like this, a change to join a fast-growing startup company that is actually making money, is pretty hard to come by.

  4. I’m feeling old. Yeah, I know, I am only 26. But so are guys like Marco Arment and Alex Payne, and they are already rockstars in the tech industry. The more I thought about spending another year away from real world experience, the more I felt like that was just something I could not afford. My hiring manager took me out for lunch during my “deciding” period, and he told me that he would have thrown out my resume given the lack of actual experience. I feel like it’s time to stop spinning my wheels and I really did not feel like one more year of grad school was going to put me any closer to achieving my goals.

I’m happy with the choice I made. I enjoy the interesting engineering challenges I’m getting at work and the fun atmosphere. Now that San Francisco is finally having some summer weather, Mariam is starting like the city too. Things are going well.

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