Internship at Microsoft Copenhagen – how did I get it and where to go from here?

As Marc Andreessen (pmarca) would say:

The first rule of career planning: Do not plan your career.

I read pmarca's posts on career planning at a crucial time in my own career: I was in my last university semester with classes, thinking about what would be the best option to start my career in the so-called software industry. To tell the truth, I wasn't really starting my career as much as re-starting it -- I had previously participated in some projects with real-life goals and real customers, projects that were a bit complex both by social and technical perspectives. I found it really amazing that I was able to review my past choices and bets, matching them with some of the advices Marc gives, just when I was finishing studies to start working full-time.

Of the pmarca career posts I linked earlier, the one that really resonated with me was the one about opportunity. Spotting, evaluating and seizing opportunities were what drove me to where I am now. Call me opportunist, but that's the way it is. (Apart from these three actions that you can "apply" to opportunities, there's only one better action: creating opportunities. But I'm not there quite so often yet.)

Throughout the previous four college years, after weighting my options -- 1) doing the best possible at exams and assignments and doing little else vs. 2) doing acceptable at exams and assignments and have time to pursue other ambitious opportunities -- I can say with some certainty (looking at my grades vs. my resume) that I chose option 2 about 80%-90% of the time. And I absolutely don't regret it. These choices have granted me extra experience, knowledge and personal interactions that I can't really measure. Sure there was also some time that was lost and opportunities that I couldn't pursue, but hey, that's life -- I also learned (a bit by the hard way) that I can't do all I'd like to and that it's important to know when to say no (and being able to do it).

Since I'm all out referencing Marc Andreessen, I might as well point to another article he posted (a bit off-topic): Luck and the entrepreneur: The four kinds of luck. Luck or chance is present in everyone's life. However, I've always been a fan of "you make your own destiny" kind of philosophies, and that's where I find the article interesting (most of the article cites a book by Dr. James Austin, a neurologist and philosopher). To try and sum it up nicely, I'll focus just two points:

  • you can either walk through life from objective A to objective B (and so forth) focusing on the objectives, or you can pay more attention to the path between each objective while moving;

  • what sometimes seems a lucky person in the right place at the right time is the result of that person's knowledge, hobbies and day-to-day behaviour -- and those can be controlled/improved.

Of course it's not always possible to do what seems more appealing to our tastes or that would have the best outcome, or seizing opportunities just for the sake of not losing them -- sometimes I really just had to do the right thing. Like not charging a client that asks for some changes to his website two months after he said that it was just perfect, or planning six months in advance to stop accepting projects because of a very important lab class at the university.

So, I guess I've painted a kind of abstract picture of how I came to Microsoft Copenhagen for a one year internship. Well, I guess the title was just an excuse to speak about career, seizing opportunities, luck and doing the right thing.

Where will I go from here? See the first rule of career planning.

No comments: