As I write this I am supposed to be just finishing up my last first-day-of-school at MIT. I should be a senior majoring in computer science and physics. Instead, I am taking the fall off from school and right now am in San Francisco working on a startup called PicnicHealth, thousands of miles from my dorm room.
My journey to working at PicnicHealth started with restlessness and a decision to study abroad. At the end of my sophomore year, presumably during an especially muggy time in Boston, I decided to study abroad and applied to some Oxford colleges for study during my junior spring.
I ended up getting accepted to St Peter's College and went to Oxford to study physics where I unexpectedly found myself with a lot of free time. In this free time I explored the campus (and England), joined sports teams, and made great new friends. But as time went on, I realized that I missed computer science. This led to me joining some friends to make a fun project called GraphDocs.
It was this same longing that led me to offer my time for free to help a friend who had gotten into YCombinator with his health tech startup. It seemed like an interesting idea and I had time to kill while traveling and procrastinating in my dorm room.
This offer to help quickly led to me reevaluating my summer plans. I started by retooling the UI on the main dashboard of the application and then all of a sudden I found myself leaving an internship at Quora, that I was really looking forward to, to work for PicnicHealth for the summer.
Leaving my summer internship at Quora was a tough decision. I had been excited to work with and learn from from the people at Quora and the timing of my switch was horrendous. I ended up letting them know that I wasn't going to be there for the summer just a week before I was slated to begin my internship. I felt bad making the switch last possible moment, but I was confident I was making the right decision for myself.
A lot of the same reasons that compelled me to leave Quora for PicnicHealth, kept me from going back to MIT.
At PicnicHealth I saw a small team of talented people where I could have a huge impact. Now I'm working with an expanding team of friends who I learn from and laugh with everyday.
I saw an interesting and ambitious plan to help people collate and understand their medical records by leveraging technology often unused in healthcare. Now I'm part of that mission as it's quickly being realized.
I saw an opportunity to learn what it's like to be part of an early-stage startup and be exposed to all different parts of the technology stack. Now I'm experiencing different stages as the company is growing and am currently in the midst of seed round of funding. I'm constantly getting exposed to new challenges and doing my best to tread water while dealing with operations, testing, UI changes, marketing, etc.
MIT is an awesome place and I'm definitely sad that I'm not there. I miss my friends, engaging classes, and awesome, approachable professors. I miss staying up late at night just goofing around with friends and the excitement that comes with the start of every new year of school. But ultimately, I am happy with my decision to take time away from school.
At PicnicHealth I feel like I'm doing something meaningful while continuing to further my education. It's not always fun. There are days where it sucks and it seems like what we are doing is way too hard. But there are also days where we receive a thank you from a customer who is amazed at what we have done. I try to focus on the latter because a good day is worth 5 bad ones.
As a side note, this experience has made me realize that to find and explore new opportunities, one must give themselves free time in which to try new things. There is no way I would have offered to help out with PicnicHealth if I had been at MIT and buried with course work. In the future I'm going to strive to give myself time off between periods of my life to dive into new, interesting things.