This summer, I flipped an electric bicycle at 30mph, dropped out of the University of Michigan, and most recently pulled a friend away from a seance in a cave. Hooked? Well at-least i’ve learned something about writing in the last four months.
I would love to say that every decision I have made in the last year was well thought out. It wasn’t. I decided to disenroll from UofM long before I had any sort of west coast job security. In fact, I came out to SF without a return ticket. I never assumed I would be given the chance to continue writing, but instead I blindly trusted that something would work out. Was this stupid, maybe. But burning the bridge ultimately helped me focus more on what I wanted to accomplish.
This week I accepted a full time offer to join the TechCrunch team. I have also accepted admission to UC Berkeley for the upcoming semester to complete my final course for graduation. Over the coming months, I will be covering developments in artificial intelligence alongside trends in venture capital with the same lenses that brought me to TC in the first place.
I came to TechCrunch on a mission to bring a behavioral science mindset to Silicon Valley, and to bring light to many of the changes occurring in venture capital. These goals have informed much of my analysis in covering events at companies like Tesla, SolarCity, Uber, and Twilio. That said, I have quite a bit left to do. As I sit writing this, I have a growing stack of companies, investments, and people to look into. In fact, my interest in technology has actually made it harder for me to focus on just behavioral science and venture capital.
I’m looking forward to writing because I see it as a tool for change in many of the same ways that lobbying was a tool for change back in my school board days. Right now, putting the spotlight on cool companies and calling out BS is the best way I can contribute to the the amazing growth happening right now in the technology industry.
I am grateful that Michigan gave me the chance to build up a set of beliefs about the world, but I have decided that the time is right to move onward and forward. The first contributor post I ever wrote for TechCrunch was about how startups like OPower and Timeful were leveraging cognitive science to not only achieve scale, but deliver more meaningful products. That is not something that would have ever happened without becoming a Cognitive Science major at the University of Michigan.
For me, college was never dreamy, but that doesn’t mean I regret it. My friends who know me best know that I struggled to find a foothold at Michigan after spending five years and almost a third of my life in local politics. When I left high school, I felt settled. The friendships I had made lobbying in Rockville, Annapolis and Washington taught me about passion, vision, and execution, and I felt that I had lost that by transplanting myself to a school 500 miles away. I applied to Michigan because it was one of the few schools in the country that offered my preferred major - Politics Philosophy and Economics (I made sure to tell them that in the why essay). But when I got there, it was hard for it to live up to my own expectations. I spent almost all of my time working on other projects and never ended up making it through even a single semester as a PPE major. Ultimately however, the discomfort of college was the greatest gift I could have been given. It made me dig to get to the bottom of why I felt prideful about my relationships and work in high school.
Near the end of high school, I was quoted defining my interests in the following way. “I’m interested in colleges where I can study the intersection of politics, philosophy and economics — the way people think and the process behind political and economic decisions.” I was completely wrong about the PPE part, but thinking about the way people think and the processes behind economic decision making is about the best bio I could give myself today.
Much like how muscle growth occurs from repeatedly tearing tissue and letting it regrow, I’m looking forward to shredding and rebuilding those same beliefs that brought me to Silicon Valley over and over again. I see no better place to do this than at TC.
I used to joke with people when I first started at TechCrunch, I felt like Po from Kung Fu Panda meeting the Furious Five. On my first day, I rolled into the office and preceded to drop my electric bike off the dedicated hooks in the office. Immediately after I was given a tour and was shown the desks of writers that I had been reading for years. But beyond that, what I saw after putting pen to paper was minimal ego, and a group that really just wanted to push breaking news out with killer analysis. It didn’t matter that I was new, or 20, or had never lived in Silicon Valley before, I was trusted to be useful. On the first day, my editor told me to go find a story, and that’s exactly what I did.
95 posts later, my greatest take away is the sense of camaraderie I feel for many of the startups I have chronicled. George Matus and his 85mph Teal drone, Dave and Nathan Evans trying to shake up rapid prototyping at Fictiv, and even Jared Kim’s mission to cut the frustration out of sharing gameplay.
I don’t see myself as a writer, I never liked writing in school, but here I am - a writer. I credit my close friend Jessica Li for introducing me to the world of journalism as a tool for change. She was instrumental in helping with some of the first pieces I ever submitted for publication. In those days my writing was about providing a voice where one did not exist in education. (I’ll never forget leaving a 1am voicemail on Marty Baron’s office line at the Washington Post after working so many hours I couldn’t even recall my own name for the message.) Regardless of the hour, she was ready and willing to help.
Other folks, Riley Soward, Jamie Shen, Vincent Sun, and Tiffany Zhong helped me plant an anchor on the west coast so that moving out to SF could move from hypothetical to serious consideration (looking forward to seeing the three of you on Sproul). Other familiar faces like Jennifer Liu and Sean Bae helped me find a little piece of home in San Francisco even as my family moved from Maryland to unfamiliar North Carolina. And obviously (almost without saying) my parents and Vyshakh Kandamath for being the best damn soundboards imaginable.
And while I won’t be returning to 213 North Division in Ann Arbor, I’ll be back for the Indiana game with Ben, Ella, Madeline and Coach Harbaugh and reunions with Nick, Jason, Connie, and Alex. And while this list is far from complete, I’m looking forward to coming back to DC in the coming weeks for unforgettable times with Sandy and Hanna.