Good Riddance and Tally Ho!

Posted in Uncategorized by antisociology on January 2, 2009

I’m having a hard time deciding if 2008 was good or bad. So much happened, that I don’t think I could give it an overall grade and let it go at that. Let’s recap the major events:


  1. I came up with an idea for a company and started prototyping
  2. I got a full-time job at a tech startup here in NYC
  3. I applied for and was granted a two semester personal leave of absence from the university
  4. I finally got my own apartment in the city
  5. I kissed a girl for the first time ever
  6. Watched as half of my 401k and other savings evaporated
  7. Drama
  8. I took a salary cut (but got some extra options)


So, clearly, a bit of a rocky year. It could certainly have been worse. Some of my friends have lost their jobs. Others have had to take deeper salary cuts. Companies have folded. I still have a steady job doing something that I’m fairly interested in. For the time being, I’ll be able to take care of myself.


I’ve also had some good experiences. While I was working feverishly over last year’s winter break, trying to come up with prototypes and ideas for my own startup, I figured out that I really like building things — especially software. That isn’t to say that I think my training in Sociology has been a waste. On the contrary, it’s given me mental tools and models that I’ve found to be helpful in solving difficult problems. Still, while I am still profoundly interested in the kinds of problems I was working on, I never found the kind of satisfaction that I get from crafting a piece of software. It was a stroke of luck that I was able to find a company that sees value in both skills. For that, I am incredibly thankful.


I still dream of having my own concern and think that, at some point, I will strike out on my own with a friend or two to start my own company. I have some ideas that I think might be tractable and make a genuine contribution to people’s lives. People have been trying parts of these ideas, but I don’t think any of them have really tapped the essence of what I’d like to do. Some ninety percent of all startups fail (they don’t have a positive exit event), and mine probably will too, but I think I’ll have to at least try at some point. 


I’m not sure if I’ll return to Columbia to finish my degree. On the one hand, I’m not sure that a Sociology Ph.D. will help me all that much. It may even be a detriment, as some employers are wary of hiring Ph.D.s who they may perceive as being too expensive or too willing to jump ship for something better. It would be a different matter if my degree were in Computer Science or Statistics. Those are fields that bear directly on the sort of career path I envision myself taking.


I suppose there are still some questions in my mind about how I’d like my career to pan out. I think of myself as being an algorithms guy. I really like coming up with interesting ways of using data to solve problems. I’m not so interested in CRUD (create, read, update, delete) style apps. That’s not to say that they don’t have their place, I just don’t have a great interest in developing them unless there is some interesting algorithmic problem to solve. Algorithmic jobs (for lack of a better term) tend to exist in finance and research and development houses. I’m not at all interested in the finance industry, and I don’t have the CS Ph.D. that would get me into an R&D lab. I really do work in a very niche place. Hence, I think starting my own company may very well be the best direction for me once I finish at my current place. Of course, another option would be to try and get into a CS Ph.D. program.


Sometimes, it’s not so good to plan so far ahead, though. One runs the risk of losing sight of immediate goals and responsibilities. Right now, I’m committed to putting my company in a competitive technical position as well as resolving some of my own personal issues and deficits.


The easiest of these to take care of will be getting back into the habit of actively managing and monitoring my finances. When I started grad school, I fell out of this habit because I simply didn’t have anything left to manage after everything was paid for. Now there is something there, and I’d like to grow it. I’ve already got back into the habit of tracking stuff in a money management program. Now I need to figure out a way of systematically managing my accounts so that I don’t have to pay too much attention to them.


For those who’ve kept track of my own personal drama, I feel like I need to put myself out into the world. I know I have a habit of investing (if not acting on) a lot of emotional energy up front. I think that has, at times, led me to take flying leaps off interpersonal cliffs. It might do me some good to try casually dating more often. Even if this doesn’t lead to the sort of connection that I am craving right now, the experience may be good.


I don’t expect 2009 to be magical. In fact, I sort of expect it to be even tougher than 2008 in some ways. But, that shouldn’t keep me from growing. To me, how one arrives at a result is almost more important than the result itself.

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