Before you say anything: it’s okay to have opinions. It’s okay to change direction. You have four years to ponder the life that you will be living.
When I finally thought about college, it was the summer right before my senior year of high school. I had many interests, but I had to write down a list of all the majors I was going to consider; and boy was it a hefty one! Things like foreign language, design, neuroscience, and pharmacy were on all that list. Eventually, it came down to business and translation; the latter of which was my primary interest at the time. I thought about business primarily because my mother suggested it. I know, I should follow my own dreams and not my parents’. But I wanted to remain open to all possible paths, so I considered the idea. I eventually applied and chose Berkeley because of their business program in addition to its strengths in nearly every other program. I figured that if I changed my mind, Cal would have something else for me.
Like many other things in life, I persuaded myself why I liked business, and tried to find an area I could settle on. I found marketing. It was a perfect blend of language (of advertising), and design (graphic and product designs); two of which were my passions at the time, and thus marketing became my focus in my pursuits at Haas. Of course, marketing is more than just about advertising, and since I wasn’t truly passionate in language nor in design (as they are just interests and hobbies); eventually it fell through the facade and remained archived.
In Spring 2014, everything changed for me, since I was given the most responsibility during this time. I became an external vice president of Berkeley Marketing Club, took the introductory marketing class at Cal, and I also became a project manager. My discovery? People mattered more to me than any strategy did. At BMC, I was more comfortable communicating internally and being in charge of the mailing lists, emails, and websites than I was thinking of strategies and presenting them. I realized that helping people and advising others was more my thing, so I considered human resources and recruiting as a career.
Then, it changed again. In Summer 2014, I took CS 61A, or structure and interpretation of programs. While it kicked my butt over the summer, taking the semester to step out of the class, lab assist, tutor, and work with very talented and dedicated teachers in computer science; my feelings towards the subject changed. I understood many of the concepts more clearly, since I no longer was under the pressure of a high-paced six-week course.
Suddenly, working with people and technology to make an impact just made so much more sense to me. Human resources is much more internally focused, while product management would allow myself to work with people with a focused direction. I would get a chance to work on the product itself. While my experiences thus far has been vast, it all points the way somehow to product and human management. I have recruited tech professionals with Intera Growth Partners. I have led a product team. I have recruited and led student organizations. It all makes sense, and it’s the direction I want to go towards.
I am a workaholic. I want to work somewhere I can dedicate my life to and become passionate in. I want it to be the next thing in my life. Thus, I am determined to find out which career is best suited for me, and so far PM is a strong contender for that.
I suggest analyzing your goals. What do you want to accomplish? Why do you want to accomplish it? How will you get there? After asking these fundamental questions, traces will appear, and you’ll begin to pursue the right paths. For me, I just want to make an impact and help others. Product management will give me that ability.
Going forward, I understand the challenges of pursuing technical PM. But that is why I’m determined to learn about data structures (to understand the infrastructure of the code) and web design (to understand user experience and user interface, and provide a direction for the product to go towards). These are two big hurdles, and the cogs have already begun to move.
It’s okay to switch directions. It’s also okay to be ambitious, and try something new. Find out how to get there, and tailor your experiences to make that happen.