How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

Reflections after a summer as an engineering intern at super{set}

Payas with members of the super{set} and portfolio company Habu teams

By , Student at University of Toronto

Do you ever feel like you treat every little life decision — like what internship to pursue — as an optimization problem? Or is that just us undergrads studying computer science?

I’m in school right now, and everyone is hyper-focused on what comes after, starting with the best internship, often at some Big Tech Company. Unlike most people I know, I’m a bit blurry. Shouldn’t we take more risks? Shouldn’t we struggle to figure out what’s best? The answer to everything can’t be as simple as asking Google. The answer to what’s next can’t always be to work at Google.

I decided to approach things differently. I started with first principles: what outcome was I after? What did I aim to achieve by the end of the summer? After some navel-gazing, I decided: EXPERIENCE.

The split-in-the-road for every CS student contemplating an internship is “Big Tech or startup?” I applied to both, enduring stressful rapid-fire rounds of technical interviews with anonymous managers at big firms and a few more pleasant conversations hinting at a different type of professional and intellectual culture at startups. Ultimately, my decision to prioritize experience boiled down to: would I learn more from the companies slamming me with puzzles alone or the companies looking to solve real-world problems with grit and persistence? So I took the startup pill…



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