Dropping out?

Deciding to drop out? Wait!

Deciding to drop out? Wait!

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.

Reconsider your decision. Cheers! Tangy Tuesday Post

Image credits: Matt Niemi

9 comments on “Dropping out?

  1. Very practical post. just before some days my junior dropped his engineering after completing  6th semester because he have lot of false backlogs which are gifted by university and now he left engineering. I tried to consider him to do continue but he have finally decided to quit from engineering life. He wants to move for animation industries now. I know he did wrong but the education system havenot treated fairly with him and i respect for his courage . I need your reply on my this comment.

  2. I am glad I dropped out after high school to start my startup. I spent my teenage hacking stuff on internet and Indian education system didn’t have much to offer. It could not see what good use I could make out of 4 years in an Indian college, where most of the time is wasted in mass bunks and college politics instead of education.

    It is very much clear that vast majority of graduates in India are unskilled / unemployable because the universities and colleges failed to provide education to them. Some of them do make up as employees of
    body shops like TCS, Wipro and Infosys. But, hardly anyone of them has what it takes to solve hard problems.

    I never wanted to work for an Indian services company. But back in the day, startups in India were unheard of. I worked with a US startup, contributed to open source projects and did freelance work. $2,000 was a lot of money for a teenager in 7 years ago. It was a huge motivating factor, which lead me to my startup.

    May be I missed out on the social aspect of college, but then I did not want to socialize with aimless douchebags (Punjab colleges are full of them). I wanted to socialize with like-minded hackers, and
    people smarter than me.

    Initially, I felt embarrassed when anyone asked me what college I go to. But, now I am a proud dropout. I have no regrets, life is good and I get to work with really smart people. I would recommend taking a break after school for a year to give a shot at a startup. If it doesn’t work well, you can always go back to college.

    Additionally, working for another startup can be a great learning experience. You can learn a lot more than what you would learn in a college, that too in shorter time.

    At least, get a part time job while you go to college. Kids all over the world work part time while they go to school. Why can’t Indian kids do that? Many people do not start working till the age of 25 and keep hiding behind the walls of college while wasting parent’s money.

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