Building something.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Being unhappy with the status quo, your job, your home, your life in general are all common enough occurrences. The motivation, will or expertise required to change any of the above is not. All too often, intelligent or driven people go through life dissatisfied with the state of things, if only because they're too afraid or too "busy" to bother trying to enact any changes.

Like most people, I've felt those things and right now, I mean to change at least a few of them. I love solving problems, asking tough questions and looking for the answers to said questions. I love building things, if only to see whether they're viable and this year, 2014, I'm choosing to do those things, instead of settling for the droning monotony of my current job/life.

This blog will cover my thoughts on random happenings in the tech space, my thoughts/readings on entrepreneurship and will serve to chronicle any of my attempts to build a viable business/startup here in NYC.

I guess it makes sense to start with a  little background information on me.

At the current time, I'm a 24 year old with a Bachelor's in Biology (Minor in Bioinformatics) working at one of the preeminent research hospitals in the US. I work on the moreboring and dreary side of clinical research ^_^ .

Where I grew up, in Antigua, the focus of most education is to transition into a professional of the traditional sort. Think Lawyer, Doctor, Accountant, Mechanic. Individuals that are always in reasonably high demand and almost always lucrative if competent.

My initial life plan was to go to medical school and why not? There's always a need for doctors, it's prestigious enough and opportunities wouldn't be too far away.  I loved the sciences, especially Biology and Chemistry and my grades were certainly good enough to get me into one somewhere.

The first seeds of doubt sprouted at the end of my Freshman year of college. I'd shadowed a few doctors by then, interned in a hospital or two but what I saw there, while interesting, didn't seem to fit with my idea of career. It seemed, monotonous and somehow constrained. Having spoken to a few of my professors about my concerns, I decided to try my hand at academic research. On the face of it, asking questions of the world, designing experiments to test one's hypothesis, validating or refuting the assumption of hypothesis, it seemed perfectly tailored for me. 

For a year and a half, I did a fair bit of that, primarily in biomedical engineering and synthetic biology. Lovely, interesting and growing fields to be sure but again I couldn't shake the feeling that again, it wasn't for me. Perhaps it was the extent of the focus on the most minute of problems/questions that put me off. Or maybe it was the feeling that practical application in a reasonable timeframe was not just unimportant but repugnant. In any case, again I determined that right now, that side of things wasn't for me.

So on to the next one for me! Clinical research, research focused primarily on end results, asking important questions, doing important work on what can easily be considered one of mankind's biggest scourges, cancer. Early on, I was incredibly excited by what I might be able to do there. After all, I was pretty much on the cutting edge of practical and possibly immediately applicable research. A year in, and I realized while there was lots of research being done, I wasn't as big a part of it as I had wanted to be. Understandable of course, I was on the lowest rung of the totem pole, one of the most junior people there and I just didn't have the level of education that many of the MDs, PhDs and the other clinicians and researchers did. At the same time however, I felt like it would be years, far too many in fact, before I was going to be given the opportunities that I'd been made to believe were available.

Something else that bothered me was noticing that "newer" individuals in my position were getting to work on the projects that I coveted; even with  my greater level of research experience and willingness to do the dirty work.  I held no grudges at the time but it would later come to my attention was the political landscape (who knew who & relationships outside of the workplace) was influencing my ability (or inability) to make the impact that I felt I could. While it shouldn't have surprised me as much as it did, it made me realize that a meritocratic system was all but impossible to enforce (and not desirable for some) in an organization as large as this one.

So where'd that leave me? 

A tad frustrated for sure but it's been an educational 2 years in clinical research. For starters I learned that I'm not much of a schmoozer, prefer my work to speak for me, prefer to communicate and be communicated with in a clear, straightforward fashion, despise disingenuous behavior and more than anything prefer to work in small, tight groups with common and aligned goals. I learned that being made aware of the big picture makes me work better, harder, longer and helps me to prioritize tasks and effectively manage my time. I learned that having something that you're incredibly passionate about helps motivate me and keeps me incredibly focused.

Having mulled these observations over for a couple months, I realized that working in a small, tech focused company (given my own hobbies) was probably the best place for me. Alas, having spent most of my formative years not doing much engineering, electrical or otherwise and only did a sliver of programming and little of it in the conventional sense.

So I sat on things, for a while, looking at alternatives to my current predicament that would enable me to leverage skills that I already had but still represented a transition to the environment I thought was best for me and where I could make a significant impact on a regular basis regardless of role. Looking online for opportunities in that space is about as likely to be successful as peeing into the wind. Serendipitously, I've bumped into one or two people in my travels that have provided helpful advice on remedying the issue.

So here I am

Working on building something in my time away from the job, constantly improving my programming with help from MIT Open Courseware, networking via NYESN, reading a boatload including this gem and picking the brains of former professors, bosses and friends.

Hopefully, it works out.


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