Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Role Models

As an early user of Google Plus, I have come to love the flexibility and selectivity the social network affords me, especially in comparison to Facebook, whose privacy settings I have finally given up trying to understand as they apply to the timeline format. More on that in a different forum. I started to add companies to my circles when they first came out with that. And recently I’ve started to add people I don’t personally know. I call this new circle the People I Admire circle.

To this circle, I recently added Drew Houston. This was in part inspired by reading about him in the much tweeted about LA Times article (which, by the way, doesn’t really add much to the much circulated Forbes article about him and Dropbox) and also in part inspired by his Google+ profile. I discovered that he went to undergrad the same years as I did, albeit in a totally different part of the world! He, and the article, made me think about my years as an undergrad, around the time I began this blog. I think about my ideas, motivators, priorities at that time and hold it up against what they are today. If you had told me back then that I would be where I am today – literally and figuratively, geographically and professionally – I would have dismissed you as an incompetent fortune teller.
bI realize now the importance of having role models. But that’s just such a generic thought. I wish I had known the importance of having role models for the right reasons. My undergrad major was driven by my desire to escape computer programming. I turned to mechanical engineering because it’s what my father had done. It was an easy choice. In retrospect, it was a great choice, I loved my coursework and the skills I acquired. But in 2001, I had no idea what it entailed and what I was going to do with it four years on. Same time, half the world away, Drew Houston was getting into MIT and thinking about starting his first tech company.
Back then I didn’t know he existed. Today I admire him immensely, not just because he has this wildly successful company that actually means something to a lot of people and not just because he has this strong vision of building the next Apple or Google. I admire him also because as someone who is the same age as I, he has shown vision, maturity, motivation and determination to do something with his life. I think the word I’m looking for is focus. He has remained focused on the thing that matters most to him professionally, and given it his all. He’s just one example. There are other thirty year olds I can hold up… or the twenty two year old Doogie-Howser-of-the-tech-world co-founder I met a couple months ago; or the Google Guys whom I’ve admired pretty much all my professional life! In comparison, my own professional history reads to me like a drifting log.
I am still trying to figure out what my “thing” is going to be… you know, the thing that you were born to do, the one you’ve been preparing for your whole life without actually knowing it. A month ago, I stood at (what seemed at that time) a very important, life altering crossroad in my professional life. I had been building up to it for a while now, taking certain decisions and choosing a path to get there. When I finally reached, I threw out the obvious choice and selected an entirely different one to go down (remember the drifting log?). I still can’t extrapolate forward the dots in a way that makes any sense. But I now have role models whose successes, failures, tenacity, creativity and focus I can look up to. I am fortunate that my role models are real people, who I could easily run into at a terminal at SFO. It makes the dream seem that much more achievable. It makes me believe that I will be able to connect the dots someday soon. All I have to do is keep moving forward.

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