Stories of a Recent? Olin Grad - Part 1

By Boris Taratutin '12



Boris1.jpg

Hey
There,

Boris
Taratutin, class of 2012.5 here.  You may have first heard about me 4
months ago when I was seeking advice from another alum on how to
make friends now that I had left Olin! Or perhaps you have seen my personal
blog/website, ideasandtea.

I
graduated from Olin in December 2012 with a degree in General Engineering:
Robotics, and in my first 6 months after Olin, I moved back home to the Bay
Area, immersed myself in the hectic & thriving culture of San Francisco,
worked as a Data Engineer/Product Designer for a subscription-based jewelry
startup (https://www.rocksbox.com/),
hitchhiked across the country, and ultimately, made the (at least for me),
scary decision to move out to the east coast. Now I work for Kayak.com and live
in Cambridge, and after 6 months of turmoil and moving around a lot, am finally
settled and loving it :).

Sally
and I have long been friends during my time at Olin and she has offered me some
terrific mentorship on job-searching, networking, pitching & marketing
myself, and great tips on building out my resume and cover letter. Now that
I've graduated and have some real-world experience, but still am not too
separated from Olin, I feel like I'm in a great position to deliver on some
long-promised blog posts. In this series of posts titled "Stories of an Olin
Grad," I want to cover some topics like "What's it like to search for a job as
a recently graduated Oliner?", "How is post-college life different from Olin,
and what do I wish I knew before?", and talking a little bit about things like
San Francisco, startups, and how I found myself going down the path that I'm on
now. - plus, injecting a bit of personal philosophy here and there (as I do),
to craft something that should hopefully be an interesting read. So let's get
into it!

--

When
I graduated, I was set on going to India in 9 months to work on a project I
proposed as part of a Fulbright
application. But before then, I had no plans for what I would do next, due to a
semester of being too busy/stressed/having too much fun at Olin, and a delaying
of thinking about plans.

School
finished up in December and I went home to San Jose, excited to do nothing but
sleep and recover from college for three months - a long needed break after 4
years of hard work. Christmas, New Years, and 7 days later, I was restless. It
could be described as a post-graduation cabin fever of sorts. It set in once I
finally got some sleep & relaxation in (something not too common during my
Olin days), and felt ready, alive, energized - to go out into the world and do
things; learn, work for great companies, travel abroad, maybe even start my own
- but then realizing that I had (by conscious choice) made no plans, and, for
the time being, was stuck in the suburbs.

I
can't say this was a good way to do things, but it was the inevitable
outcome of prioritizing, making the most of Olin and learning and building
friendships my last semester, instead of spending my last few months of college
locked up in my room searching for a job or opportunity. So in that light, I
don't regret the decision - but I did feel ready to go out and do things.

So
step #1 was changing my environment. I needed access to people, friends, job
opportunities, cultural events, inspiration - the attributes of any good and
thriving city. So I decided to move to San Francisco and try to find a job
there.

My
next steps came about the same way 90% of opportunities arise: social
connections. Or, as some people call them, "networking." This - the building
and maintaining of meaningful, long-lasting friendships and relationships - was
something I had spent many years at Olin cultivating and building. Meeting new
people, talking to them, finding out what matters to them and what they're
excited about and where they want to go with their life (and, of course,
sharing some of your own) - just generally being curious and enthusiastic about
other people's lives and ideas, and putting in the time to learn about them. I
think this is a far cry from "networking" - but what, at least in my opinion,
it should be like. And time and time again, it has paid off.

In
San Francisco, it helped me find a place to live (crashing on the couch of a
high school friend of mine) within a week, and finding a job at a startup
(working for RocksBox, who an Olin Alum
'11 - Maia Bittner - had helped start) - within the next two.

Admittedly,
I had something else going for me that had helped me find that job: knowing
what I wanted.

In
my experiences and conversations with other Olin alumni and friends, I started
to see a trend: that the people who knew what they wanted kept getting it, and
the people who didn't, didn't. On the surface, this might seem to be a trite
point, but I think there is a bit more meaning behind it: that when you have
spent the time to think about what it is that you want, what you value, what
you want to do and why - and can articulate that to others - it
makes a very powerful statement about you as a person. It shows that you are
thoughtful, driven, (articulate), excited - and, on top of that, it gives you a
platform for others to help you. It's easy to meet up with someone else, catch
up, and when they ask you "so what are you up to right now?" give a response of
"well.. I don't have a job... but I'm searching for one!" (with no more details
as to what or why).   This response,
however, won't start a conversation and doesn't give the other person anything
tangible to think about or search their network with.  Yet, if you tell them, "Well I don't have a
job now, but I am looking for X, Y, or Z and am really interested in D and J" -
now you've given the person five specific things they can search their memory
for.

In
my case, I had come up with a set of criteria and goals for what I wanted to do
next. Being somewhat of a generalist at Olin, probably my main goal was to get
a job and do something where I would develop some technical depth and
confidence in my ability to produce something. Reflecting on my past classes
and internship experiences, I came up with some definite criteria for such a
job:

1.      Work with Data.
Analytics, processing, visualizing, aggregating, making sense of,  well everything! After taking a good hard look
at what my technical strengths & interests were, I realized I was most
comfortable/excited about working with software, and I had always been
fascinated and loved playing around with, modeling, visualizing data. I did
okay in statistics, and had never worked as a data engineer/analyst, but it
seemed like an exciting and awesome thing to do at the time.

2.      Work in a role
that allows me to mix qualitative + quantitative work
, design, user and
business considerations and fluffy non-tangibles combined with coding,
architecting, engineering, and actually making things. I don't want to
just design, and I don't want to just code. I figured this out from my time at
Microsoft. I was a Program Manager (PM) there, and found that doing design all
day, being creative, thinking big-picture and working with people certainly
satisfied a huge part of my personality, but ultimately left me feeling empty and
somewhat meaningless inside - because I never actually made anything. I
also knew that coding all day would be too narrow for what I enjoyed doing most
- weaving together aspects of business, customers, and product design into
engineering. So a mix of both would be best.

3.      Work on
something I personally find meaningful/fulfilling
. What the company does
should be in line with my values - ideally, in one of the following: building
community, reducing consumerism or environmental impact, encouraging progressive
education or human growth/development, or doing something in the international
development space. This I just attribute to who I am and how I aim to live my
life.

4.      See the impact
of my work.
When I lived in Kenya and did development work, the most
satisfying part of that job was that I got to work directly with people, and
when I did something successfully, the results were clear, evident, and
noticeable. A big smile on a person, the start of a meaningful secondary
income, the ability to grow more crops - things that had big, transformative
effects on people. Seeing these are what kept me motivated to keep working and
doing what I was doing - even when facing racism, corruption, food poisoning.
Contrast this with working somewhere like Bing, where my design *might* be
implemented in 6 months, and *might* be used by *some* people *somewhere*.
That's not for me. I'm too much of a people and results-oriented person.

5.      Have
opportunities for mentorship and growth.
This one goes without saying; it's
really nice to be around smart people who will make time to answer your
(intelligently-worded) questions and help you grow and become a more effective
person. I personally see work as yet another means to continue my education (a
grad school that pays me, if you will), and this is an important criteria of
that.

 

 

6.      Not work 40-60
hour weeks
. Ideally, I wanted to work 30-35 hours. From my previous jobs, I
found that while I could certainly work a "9-5" 5x days a week, I personally
valued time FAR above the extra money that it generated for me. In my eyes,
what's the point of working all the time and wearing myself out, if I can't
even have the time or energy to enjoy the incrementally more money that I make?
In my ideal life, I would work 4 days a week, probably 7 or 8 hours a day, or 6
hours a day for 5 days - because that gives me enough income to live the
lifestyle that I want. Don't know if I can get this one, but I thought it worth
trying.

 

These
are the criteria that came out of a deliberate, purposeful reflection on my
past experiences and what I felt was right for me at the time. And these are
the experiences and ideas that I shared with Maia, that helped me land that job
as a data engineer for RocksBox and led to a great 3-month contract of working
for them.

I
imagine it's worth saying at this point that your criteria will be totally
unique and different from mine, and will come out of your own values, desires,
and past experiences. But it's the process of going through and figuring out
where you are now and where you want to go - that can make it easier to find
that next job, opportunity, internship, or simply figure out what your
priorities are next semester.

So
in summary: not making plans while at Olin, good or bad?  The importance of Environment. A new
definition of networking. Personal criteria & knowing what you want.

Thanks
for reading, and as always, if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or
want to share some of your thoughts/reactions to this post, feel free to e-mail
me at boris@ideasandtea.com

 

Next
Time
: San Francisco, Startups, and Oliners. Hitchhiking 4,000 miles
across the U.S.. What I wish I knew while I was still at Olin.

-Boris
Taratutin

Posted in: A Broader World View, Alumni Speak, Job Hunt