Saturday March 23rd

The Fork in the Road

Hello from Burlington

  • Did you say Burlingame? NO! Burlington. I’m here for Open House Admission day for grad students. I met my would-be advisors, some of my peers, and the general town called Burlington.

Things I did not enjoy

  • That Dulles airport thing was brutal lol. I still don’t know how to pronounce that word!
  • A bowl of butternut squash soup that I ordered from the restaurant downstairs that definitely (by West coast standards) is not a bowl of butternut squash soup
  • Yeah…so I’m really stating these things because they don’t matter :). I enjoyed it all, and even got a few tshirts and candies that I plan to share with my coworkers when I get back.

Wisdom: Things I did enjoy

  • I met a girl who was also accepted but they didn’t determine the degree to which they were going to fund her. My programme is fortunate enough that money is not an issue, so I’m fully funded. I immediately hit it off with her, and we spent the evening having dinner and just discussing our futures, and what is in store for us. Both of us seem to have similar backgrounds, similar concerns, and a similar wit. She is also just the kind of person who is going to succeed wherever she goes. You can tell this just by speaking with her.
  • She, like myself, was coaxed into taking an internship by a company that originally wanted her full-time. Like myself, she had set out to do grad school anyways, but now was having reservations about the direction she should go.
  • So she was also accepted to two other great schools (like top five) and one didn’t fully fund her and the other did. But the fully-funded one is not in research she finds interesting at all. And this one has research she is interested in. On her way back, the chair informed her that they would fully fund her. They would be silly not to do so; she is definitely going places.

My situation

  • I had decided about a month ago that I would not go (on paper), but I decided to check it out anyways. I change my mind daily, so take my first statement with a grain of salt. Silicon Valley has really put me at a crossroads, and I was going down one particular road. I ended up really loving Burlington, the people, and could honestly imagine myself here. My advisor had said that funding will never be an issue, as that’s his job, and that this is an apprenticeship. He even gave me a ride back to my hotel.
  • What he did promise is that in this world of engineers who solve their problems by looking online and asking their friends, he could teach me to solve new ones where the answers were not so obvious. Also, my advisors are a mix of solid Mathematics background and Computer Science/ programming, and there is a lot of Haskell and Python, and that’s awesome.
  • There is also a really solid field (which my friend is into) that lends itself to really great collaboration opportunities for things I’m also interested in. So that’s something to think about, too.
  • Also, the subject matter is fascinating. It would, however mean that I may not be a fit for my current path after this journey. So that is something to weigh. This programme would change me significantly. However, I love my current company/ internship, and the subject matter is not too far off that I couldn’t find a topic that I could work in within that company. I was even thinking it’s a topic that they highly value, so by becoming an expert, my skillset would be valued. So I’m not 100% hosing myself. I honestly think about the fact that this company where I’m currently interning has given me so much, that it would be an opportunity to give back in a positive way, if it were possible.


  • I’ve had several mentors since I have landed in Silicon Valley. Someone referred to me as “a gifted intern”. I feel really grateful and fortunate.
  • In this group, I’ve met people who were drop-outs, to people who were in a situation like myself and chose to do their Masters, and everything in between. Just before I had dinner with my buddy from open house, I was on a phone call with a technical mentor who was highly regarded by another mentor who works in my company. This mentor wanted me to connect with this individual. I was expecting this individual to sway me in the direction of “I didn’t do one and I turned out great”, but instead, the individual said “it’s one of the regrets of my life”. We spent an hour talking, and it was really enjoyable. At the end, the individual said “you’re keeping me in suspense; let me know which you choose and keep in touch!”. He also asked about what I’d like to contribute in my life; I admit the question caught me off-guard. It’s true; being able to contribute something that matters is something that matters to me. This is why I’m also currently at this internship; because I believe that these are values that my current company also upholds and the people there do resonate with that need to contribute things to the world that really matter, even in their own, small way.
  • It’s very different from a lot of my peers, who seem to focus on “how to get into N company and make a lot of $$”, or “how do I get a job in Silicon Valley”, or “how do I give this talk at X conference to get my name out there?”, or “will I ever be able to buy a house in California?” or “how will I pay my student loans from undergrad?”. I don’t think about these things at all. I think about my growth as an engineer, the health of my parents, and about the journey, and about enjoying things that are hard but that are fulfilling, and being around A people who push me to become the best that I can be.


  • I feel lucky and grateful to be in this situation, and I guess I’ll have to make a lot of difficult decisions in the months ahead. One of the things my advisor told me was that Silicon Valley has always had a problem finding good talent, so that they know if they’ve found you and identified you as talent, they have to do all that is in their power to keep you there, because it benefits them.
  • And honestly, I’ve never had a problem finding a job. My range is anywhere from 10 to 22 days, typically.
  • Another student told me that doing a PhD will give me (as a minority) an opportunity to be a positive role-model, too. And either decision will not hurt me, so it’s really a personal decision. But in his case, he was working and was bored and was told that he’d get more challenging responsibility, and they just kept bringing in people with graduate degrees, who were able to move ahead of him and get more interesting projects. So he knew that he had to pursue one. It hasn’t been easy, but he has enjoyed it immensely.

So I have all these things to think about

  • It’s a tough decision. I guess that things that some people value highly, I don’t particularly, so general advice is not helpful to me (buy a house, get a job, family, etc) because I guess I am not motivated by the same things that the average person is. So we’ll see how it all goes.

And that’s it!

Written on March 23, 2019