Infinite Careers is a new collaboration between Career Services (CAPD) and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.
Course 9, 2010
When I got into MIT, I was certain I wanted to become an academic professor just like my mom, dad, and older sister (who was actually an MIT professor until last year).
I was laser-focused throughout my time at MIT, and when I graduated, immediately went to UCSF to pursue my PhD in Neuroscience. Two years in though, I decided to drop out.
I've had a very non-linear path since then including driving for SideCar, producing EDM concerts, working as an operations manager at a fast growth startup, learning to code, freelancing as a web developer, and then finally starting a lifestyle business of my own, where I am today.
What do you wish you'd done differently or more of while you were at MIT?
Two things: 1. I wish I focused more on actually *learning* rather than trying to get good grades. 2. I wish I took more intro classes in other majors. (There are so many amazing resources at MIT that I didn't take advantage of!)
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
So far, it has been building a company around the things that I used to do for free because I genuinely liked doing them so much. I help people navigate their careers while I navigate my own (so meta, I know), and as a business owner, I really get to create my own world and live under my rules.
What is the biggest challenge you've encountered in your career? How have you managed or overcome it?
The biggest challenge was deciding to drop out of grad school, hands down. I had to leave everything and everyone I knew and come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t who I always thought I was. I had to do it though because I had to prioritize my own happiness over everything else.
Making decisions, especially important-feeling career decisions, is really challenging. What strategies have you used to make career decisions?
As an MIT student, you can truly do anything you want, but you have to genuinely want it. You can’t do it for your parents, to make your resume look good, or because you simply like to win. Even if you’re more competent than the people around you, you’ll be surpassed if your heart isn’t in it. Chase what energizes you, focus on the process instead of the outcome, and remember that being really good at a particular job is not enough reason to do it.
What's the best piece of career advice you've received?
“You can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” ― Jim Carrey
What career advice to you have for current MIT students?
My first piece of advice is to go out of your way and find an advisor of some kind. Talk to alums, faculty members, and other students to help you figure out “how to do MIT.” For instance, there’s one year where you can take advantage of P/F/No Record, and another year where you can wait pretty late to drop a class. There are lots of opportunities that are available to you, but you have to do some work in finding them. Second, make sure to look up every once and awhile and meet people. Your MIT network is so incredibly valuable. When I decided to get into entrepreneurship, I realized I had dozens of people to look to. From my class alone (MIT 2010), I can think of 20+ founders! That’s pretty awesome. (Ps. I don’t think any of us were course 15.)
What does "work-life balance" mean to you, and what do you do to maintain a work-life balance?
For me, work/life balance means blurring the line and blending the two. The way I've been able to best achieve "balance" is by working for myself so that I can have the flexibility to set and change my own boundaries. I also think diversifying your energy is a good way to go. Have hobbies to pour yourself into, spend time with people who are interested in different things from you, and make time for your family.
What do you like to do outside of work for fun/relaxation/inspiration?
My hobbies change, but they're almost always physical. I grew up playing soccer and lacrosse and then at MIT, I transferred all of that energy into dance. I continued to dance when I moved to San Francisco, but then eventually got into rock climbing. One year, I was really into flying trapeze. Another, Barry's Bootcamp. I later got into triathlons and have done two Ironman races.