Circumstance

May 2, 2015

Reflections

path

I used to say I believed in luck. It’s easy to say this because things tend to have a way of working out in my life. It wasn’t until I was debating the idea of luck with someone that I realized I don’t necessarily believe in luck, but rather I believe in circumstance and the idea of creating your own luck.

Starting my Career

The summer of your third year at Penn is the start of your professional career. You join the rest of your classmates in the hunt for a prestigious summer internship, which is the first real mark of experience on your resume. In the on campus recruiting process for internships, it is exceptionally hard to stand out from your peers as no one has significant work experience, so your GPA is your main competition point on your resume. Of course no one tells you this when you start uni, so by my third year my GPA was squarely in the middle of the pack and certainly lower than all of my friends I was competing with. However, I believed I was a solid interviewer for a consulting internship and with that confidence, I just needed to get my foot in the door to show them what I could do.

After failing to secure a single interview through the traditional resume process, I took a more creative route by checking every day to see if anyone cancelled their interview. While highly unorthodox, I realized that the best and brightest in my class received internship offers very quickly in the process, therefore canceling their later interviews with firms they were less interested in. This created an opportunity for last minute interviews that the OCR system wasn’t designed for. So I knocked on the door whenever there was a cancelled spot and asked if I could interview, and surprisingly people said ‘sure, why not’. This was my introduction to learning that unlike my prior education where working hard = success, my career path was entirely in my hands and if you wanted something in the real world, you needed to have the resolve to fight for it. That pure resolve was able to land me an internship with a well known consulting firm and forever changed my career path, thanks to a Partner at the firm who liked my proactive attitude and ambition. I have since unfortunately forgotten this Partner’s name, but I am always thankful for the opportunity he gave me.

Quarter Life “Crisis”

The two year mark living in NY is often referred to as the quarter life crisis in my social circles. People complete the standard two year time frame expected of their first job without having quite figured out what they actually want to do with their lives long term. For some, they delay their decision of entering the real world by going back to school to get a post-graduate degree. For others, they continue on the path most traveled by their older ivy classmates deeper into the world of finance. For the rest, they scatter across the industries to discover their true passions.

As a fairly easily influenced young consultant, the world of venture capital investing sounded alluring – learning more about new ideas and companies while maintaining a comfortable lifestyle and continuing to build my resume. I began my search for an opportunity within a VC firm which included tapping my existing network to see if anyone could help me with a bit of luck getting into an even more challenging field. While I did not manage to get a job offer in the world of venture capital, I did receive some words of advice from a former venture capitalist that took my life in a new direction: “don’t think of starting a company as a risk, think of it as putting your career on hold while you pursue your passion. If it doesn’t work out, your resume is your safety net, you can always come back to this world.” With that in mind, I took the leap of faith and left my friends in NY and moved my life to SF, the land of tech startups.

Network Effects

My first step into SF was with a technology incubator. Most incubators promise business advice and networking in exchange for ownership in your company. While many people say most incubators are not worth the cost, I consider my experience a once in a lifetime opportunity. A commonality of life experiences is that the more you put into something, the more you will get out of it. Incubators are the same where they have the potential to add great value to you, if you put in the effort to help realize it yourself.

Moving to a new city and to a new industry without knowing anyone is intimidating. One of our incubator partners offered to share his network with the companies he was mentoring and I immediately took him up on the opportunity. I took meetings with everyone who was willing to spare the time to meet with me, and built new relationships on top of his introductions, finding new mentors for myself that I was able to connect back with him. I learned that a unique thing about the culture in SF is that there seems to be a “pay it forward” culture; someone helped them become successful so they in turn share their time to help the next generation become successful. Once you realize that you have nothing to lose reaching out and saying hello, it becomes exciting to explore the SF community. You never know who you will meet, what connections you might make, and what you might learn.

 

I used to believe I was lucky to find the opportunities I have been given that continuously opened up new paths for me to take. I used to believe I was lucky to learn the lessons I have learned before the big inflection points in my life. I used to believe I was lucky to have met so many people that have become mentors, coaches and friends to me. In reality, if I had never put myself in the circumstance to make those happen, my path in life would be entirely different.

“We are not creatures of circumstance, we are creators of circumstance”

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply