What College Taught Me- Realizations Post Graduation
tldr: After college, I learned a few lessons about the world, work styles, happiness, persistence, and grit.
I went to Georgia Tech, a difficult engineering school in the Southeastern United States featuring a highly competitive batch of international students. IMHO, the difficulty of a school is proportional to the number of international students.
School Was Hard.
By no means was Georgia Tech easy, trivial, or a cakewalk coming from a US high school education. It gave me persistence that I didn’t know I had. I studied Industrial Engineering & Polymer Engineering. I blogged about the curriculum of Georgia Tech Industrial Engineering here.
I got to work on exciting technologies, meet incredible people, and eventually find other consummate creators. I learned a lot along the way.
Lessons I’ve Learned.
The lessons below continue to guide the way I think about how to treat teammates, being analytical, the best way to make a viable impact, and how I spend my time.
Context Switching Costs are High.
Prior to being out on my own and starting LeanBelts, I was literally working 5 jobs. Each semester I’d take 5 different subjects.
The mental and physical toll of taking several different subjects was huge. I’d gained weight, looked unsightly, and had Al-Pacino bags under my eyes.
After leaving college, I lost weight, felt healthier, and had a lifted mental acuity. It was only after college did I appreciate the high costs of context switching. I also noticed that this high speed switching between subjects and organizational systems had an effect on the LTV(Life Time Value) of the knowledge I was studying).
In short, do not look at life after college under the same lens of self-scrutiny. After college, you should have a greater capability to dive deeper into the things that are meaningful to you. As well, you might find yourself actually enjoying learning in some scenarios.
Retention is Low.
The end result of high switching costs was very little of the knowledge I studied in college was immutable. For the most part, it was forgettable, and I found this to be true for many of the top GPA’- scorers in my class as well.
I noticed that very few of the Engineers who left engineering school will be the real sort of engineers with the skills, chutzpah, guts, and the tenacity to tackle new problems. What’s more shocking is the number of engineers who graduate who probably aren’t able to score at least 50% on the ABET examination.
The best engineers I’ve worked with include Rob Rhinehart and Hunter Scott whom I founded LevelRF with a few years ago, today it is pivoted into Soylent, a major revolution/pivot. Hunter & Rob are both consummate engineers, builders, tinkerers, creators and it’s evident in their projects. They are both undeniably the engineers’ engineer and have ravenous curiosities. (http://hscott.net). It is rare for me to find such high quality engineers.
I found that contingent upon the engineering discipline, the number of engineers worth their weight in engineering skill was surprisingly low.
Clearly, subjective data based on looking through my LinkedIn.
- ISyE — 1/30
- ME — 1/25
- ECE- 1/10
I’m sure engineering schools would be mortified if they were measured by pseudorandom ABET examinations of graduates who have a 3.5 GPA or higher. In other words, the chips are in favor of students who are great managers of time, but potentially awful engineers.
GPA is a false proxy.
Progress of the World is a Function of Technology. To be Relevant, You Must Embrace it.
The sole benefit of being human as opposed to another species is that we are capable of recording and repeating information. This has changed the way we progress as a species.
The schooling curriculum in the USA never adapted to the following realities.
The only constant in technology is change.
The cost of memory:
The cost of Internet Bandwidth:
1999- $1245 / 1000Mbps
2012- $23 / 1000Mbps
$222 / 1M transistors (30 years ago)
$0.05/ 1M transistors (Today)
Talk is Cheap. Analysis is Valuable.
In short the above numbers mean that the search for data, storage of it, and recall of it is not worth nearly as much as it used to be.
The ability to comb and analyze data is most valuable.
The source code for the future of humanity is built upon an understanding of math and science.
IMHO, to be relevant, you must understand math, science, communications, and human behavior. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be relevant without these skills.
There’s now a micro-generational gap between people who are as few as 4 years apart. Look at the mobile apps of 26 year olds and 22 year olds. The differences will shock you.
In short, learn a science, and if you struggle to do this, then at the very least obtain scientific competency.
Sleep Schedules are not Humanistic.
Humans didn’t start sleeping 8 hours a day straight until the late 17th century. This pattern of behavior is born out of electricity and the lightbulb.
In other words, don’t be surprised if you don’t hit your peak productivity at the same time as everyone else.
All of us have high performance and low performance modes contingent upon the type of work, rest, and play that we engage in.
Commute Time is a Huge Factor in Work Happiness.
I can’t underestimate this. Commuting is a grinding waste of time in many cases.
Don’t Waste Time with Doryphores.
In life, you will encounter people who issue non-constructive critiques to your efforts. As soon as you encounter these people, identify the situation, and constrain your communication and listening.
The definition of Doryphore is “a pedantic and annoyingly persistent critic.”
Simply walk away from the table when you encounter one of these pests. This extends to meetings too—- if they waste time, leave. Some companies today have policies that meetings are optional, and you can leave when you feel that they no longer effectively use your time.
Measure of Persistence is Proportional to Low-Performance Mode.
A person’s persistence is best measured by their ability to get over seemingly indomitable tasks and hurdles by sheer will and effort. Grit is directly proportional to the extent to which one is in low-performance mode in a task.
A horrible example: I love Nutella and eat it all the time. Measuring my persistence by the extent to which I eat Nutella would be a false positive.
Greatness is Born of Obsession.
I write about this in more detail here. Many times in the US Education system there’s a lot of emphasis put on ‘diversity’ and the importance of being ‘well rounded.’
This is mostly bullshit. I’m curious to hear opinions and views on this.
Everyone I’ve ever met who is interesting in life pursued their craft with ambitious zeal and sometimes an unhealthy level of it.
What is Power.
People often talk about power and nepotism in Silicon Valley, where I live.
I’ve come to understand that social power is a function of 3 things.
- The extent of one’s ability to not give a fuck what other people think.
- The ability to work relentlessly for what you want in life.
- The ability to call upon people for favors. Likeability isn’t a must, but the ability to call on favors is huge. As well if you’re highly likeable, people will offer to do you favors.
Emotion vs. Logic
The ability to decouple emotion and logic to solve problems is a tough one to have. It’s an evolution in development for many people that may or may never happen.
An Egyptian Chip designer gave me a great analogy.
Your emotion is an animal.
Your logic is an person.
The person rides the animal.
Some people have a wounded tiger of emotion.
This means jostling the tiger or saying something remotely offensive will jostle their emotions and kill the person.
How do you Know if You’ve Reached Them?
To find out if you’d like to work for someone, slap their emotions with a simple phrase, and see if their logic keeps their emotions in check. Drop a line like “Why did you do things that way? That doesn’t look like a good solution.”
The reaction 1 minute, 10 minutes, and 60 minutes after this question is key in understanding how far down the line they are in this evolution of decoupling of emotion vs. logic.