Being one of the first entrepreneurs from a lesser known engineering college, I am often looked up and approached by batchmates and students of subsequent batches for suggestions on whether to join a job (or look for one), start a small web development studio out of home or a shack with a friend, freelance, pursue a post-graduate course, etc.
It’s interesting to know that a lot of folks *wish* to start their own *business*. That does sound great. Especially, if you’re skillful and can write code, there is no dearth of opportunities on the web to make money. More often than not, you’ll end up making anything over an above 500$ which may be higher than your first salary, in most cases. The pleasures that come associated with it include – working from home/ cafe, deciding on your own timings, no one to boss you around, et al. Not long before all this may appear to be a bubble if you’re good *only* at writing code and not essentially great at doing a *business*. I have examples with me. That is *just* one reason for boredom or moving on from doing freelance work or putting up a startup. There may be many more. Having said that, the journey is no doubt challenging and at the same time, interesting for those who wish to take a plunge.
We can talk endlessly about it. However, I came across a case when a student from my alma mater (someone who would be a couple of years junior to me) got in touch and asked, “I have been picking up web projects online and doing well. I now have 2 of my friends working with me. Should I drop out to continue my business? Does this degree make sense?”.
At the offset, I was surprised by the passion he had. I could understand the fun he had making couple of hundred dollars every month, being an under graduate. The curse he had for the institute that would not allow him to ignore classes and ensure the bare minimum attendance. He had his head held high for he had won several hearts within and outside the college.
Coming back to his question. It took me back in time when I had a fairly similar landscape. Just that I was not trying to build a career into programming the web, but documenting/ publishing about it. I had secured a job out of campus placements into one of the great IT companies. I had no plans to be an entrepreneur for the first 2 years of my engineering course. Even after I was doing fairly good at freelancing while being a sophomore, I *never* thought of dropping out. Ever. Despite of running for life and air when it came to attending classes and touching the mandatory attendance benchmarks, I was keen at making sure that I see through the 4 years of an engineering course. Not that I complain, even today.
I may not be using most of what I was taught/ delivered at the engineering college. But it does give me a lot of confidence to do something on my own. It gives a good feeling when you shape your thoughts into ideas that work. A professional course teaches you how to give that shape. It trains you well enough to address people and more importantly, understand them. It helps you speak in public, if and when needed. More than anything else, it does make sense when you meet someone and he/ she happens to ask you about your academic background. You may not be a graduate from a tier 1 institute, but having pursued a course is no less. In most ways, better than NOT completing it.
In one of the most saddening incidents of my life, I had to drop out of a premier institute, on the grounds of low attendance. It was then, that I could have dropped out and started to do something else. However, I realized early (with the help of some close friends, family and the internet) that there is no shortcut and it makes no sense. No wonder that the entire decision of graduating as an engineer from a different college was kindled by a character in my ex-college. I *did* drop out but then decided to complete the degree. Today, when I look back, I feel glad for what I did.
A lot of people suggest that one should chance upon entrepreneurship after having worked for a few years in an organization. Yeah, that does make sense. But to me, that’s not necessary. A lot of things can be learnt online or otherwise in books. Self confidence is built and basics are often taught at under-graduate levels, across the world. Which to me, are mandatory. Anything beyond, you may choose to learn on your own, at a large organization or at a startup. Vivek Wadhwa, a Visiting Scholar at School of Information, UC-Berkeley wrote a couple of interesting posts last year on the idea of dropping out. I feel you *must* read them, if you’re a student. One of them was – You’re probably not Mark Zukerberg, so stay in school!
Just to close, life is not as short (as they say), so why rush into things? In case you’re not the next Mark Zukerberg but end up having a good education, you’ll not hurt many people. At least not your family, before anyone else.
Image credits: Matt Niemi