I spent the last 4 and a half years getting my Bachelors degree in Computer Science. Throughout those years I worked on different things ranging from small personal projects, with small to medium size companies, government, and co-founding Blimp. I accomplished all of these because 4 years before I began college I decided to I would self start. By that time I was just learning basic programming. Months after I took that decision, I got my first freelance client, my parents. Yea, whatever, maybe they did it to help me out more than it was for me to help them out.
During the time I was I in college I met a couple of very smart students that were very passionate about programming and creating things. They aced all the exams, handed in all programming exercises on time, helped others out, etc. The only real thing I didn’t really like about college was that none of my professors encouraged them to be a self-starter, autodidact and independent. There’s no reason why you should wait to take class to learn something, specially in computer related degrees. With all the open learning initiatives like Harvard Open Courses, Coursera, Khan Academy, and the million of free resources available online there’s no excuse, you can learn to do whatever you want.
Most of the conversations and encouragement that happened around went like: “When you GRADUATE and go to work at [INSERT COMPANY NAME HERE LIKE MICROSOFT]…”. Not even once did I hear a professors encouraging students to build the next big thing or even something as simple as learn this or that ahead of time before graduating, find a pet project to work on, or hack something useful up.
Being a self-starter comes more naturally to some than to others, but if students were encouraged by professors, government, parents, and society at an early age to do something more than waiting for someone to teach them how to do something or what to do, we would probably have more young doers working on the next big things and taking more risks.
I think many people prefer to work for an established company with a safe salary. You can definitely be a self-starter and still work for an established company and raise to the top rank, there’s nothing wrong with that. Startups and risk is not for for everyone. But like my mom always told me, if you don’t try it you won’t know if you like it. People should at least give it a try, maybe they find a hidden passion and whatever they create or contribute to others might be the next big thing.
Photo Credit D. B. Blas via flickr