My background was primarily pure science with four years in college studying mathematics and another four years in a PhD program doing statistics. Trainings in these two subjects taught me how to think/reason rigorously and mine information out of datasets. Those are valuable skills that I really enjoyed learning. At the same time, I am passionate about the growing tech scene in the Bay Area, mainly because of the fast speed things are moving and the massive impacts an individual can have. With that in mind, I jumped right into the startup world as a data scientist at Thumbtack after graduation.
Time flies and it has been a year since then, I feel this might be a good time to reflect some of the things I noticed from this career change.
There are the usual consensus. The execution speed in the tech world, where product features are developed and tested continuously, is 10X faster than academia. In academia, the equivalent of shipping products is to publish papers, which is a process often measured in years (truth being told, I still have a paper under review, which was submitted almost a year ago). Similar with direct impact, technology enables products to scale and affect massive users in near real-time, whereas most scientific research only have direct influence on a very small and specialized community of researchers, although they may eventually have a significant impact on our society.
But, most importantly, I am thrilled to be part of product initiatives where makers of different types working together to build ideas into actual products and ship them to millions of users. The experience of building something from 0 to 1 is just mind-blowing. It feels like drugs - you will get addicted to it in a good way. Although this is all relatively new to me, I am already hooked up to it and I think Albert Einstein explained the reason well.
Scientists investigate that which already is; Engineers create that which has never been.
- Albert Einstein
With such experiences, I am now a firm believer that the future belongs to the makers. With the skills and passion, makers can make the world better by delivering their crafts, and technology is enabling them to scale it up and reach a very large audience.
Looking forward to the next few years, I should just continue to improve my craftsmanship by doing what I love, learning from others and keep making stuff. As Steve Jobs once said,
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.