Drinking the Kool Aid: an Exploration of What MKTG3205.01 Really Means to Me

Hi everyone!

Before getting into this reflection, I would just like to sincerely thank you all for such an amazing trip. To Professor Kane, Professor Doyle, Kelsey and Matt, I truly appreciate all of the work that you each did in making TechTrek West the best that it could be. Likewise, I could not have asked for a better group of students to go with: this is the most passionate, talented, and hilarious group of people that I know, and I loved every second of it.


Moving on to the field study itself, I was absolutely blown away. Along with just being insanely cool, I learned so much information and valuable life lessons from the alumni. I was also exposed to various roles and career paths that I never would have looked into had I not been a part of the program. This latter aspect, as well as its repercussions for me going forward, are what I would like to focus on for the bulk of this blog post. With that said, allow me to set the scene:

Imagine a kid raised by two business-oriented parents, each of which forming strong connections and experiences in their careers. Have him grow up in northern New Jersey, a short drive away from the biggest collection of banks in New York. Next, make him relatively good with numbers and attentive to detail. Finally, place him in a college whose business school’s default track is finance, and which even has a club solely devoted to investment banking. You can probably tell where this is going.

But then, throw him across the country and into a region completely foreign to him. Put him in a ball pit at Google, in a movie theater at AirBnB, and with a dog named Winston at Veem. Show him a vastly different approach to company culture, and occupations that don’t require grueling 80 to 100-hour work weeks.

Confronted with this alternate reality, along with significantly nicer weather, he’ll probably start to question the validity of that original track. Despite the absurd amount of networking and case competitions that he’s already been through, it just doesn’t seem to have quite the same glamour that it once did. The entire foundation of his post-graduate plan begins to waver, and in the wise words of Chinua Achebe, “things fall apart.”

So now I’m here and have no idea what to do. I can’t really articulate the feelings behind that, but here’s a picture that I think does a pretty good job:


These companies throughout our field study have not only redefined office culture and aesthetics, but also redefined what a company can be for its stakeholders: it can serve as a platform for social change (as we saw in Salesforce’s 1/1/1 model), a vehicle for empowering others (such as Sequoia and True Ventures), or even just a learning experience for those involved (like Trevor and the members of Split). Regardless of the specific intention, these organizations clearly go beyond the bounds of a rectangular building dedicated to revenue. Moreover, productivity is always an important factor, but it became apparent that the nature of one’s work does not necessarily have to be a grind. Individuals can actually come to work with a joy and passion for what they’re doing, instead of some rationalized tolerance or passive indifference. In a time when I’m constantly forcing myself to memorize responses for “why I want to work at ____ company,” such distinctions really resonated with me.

Unfortunately, though, I’m hesitant to make the immediate jump from one field to another. As much as I would have liked for TechTrek to be a kum-ba-ya moment in completely shifting my career path, I don’t think it’s as black and white of a decision. The overlaps and gray areas in this discussion are both enormous and difficult to distinguish. As a result, I figured the best way to compare them would be to weigh out their respective pros and cons as best as I can. Also, before getting into them, I really want to emphasize that these are paths I would aspire to take on (and not ones that I think I could simply walk right into). So, here we go:

Financial Services (and Probably Investment Banking If We’re Being Honest)


That thing I said I wanted to do freshmen year because it sounded cool and because every other Finance major wanted to do it as well. After beginning to learn what it actually entails, however, one aspect that really stands out to me is the hours. As an analyst at the bottom of the totem pole, much of my work would require the approval of others above me. The inefficiencies of that structure, as well as all of the changes that each superior person wants to make, could very quickly drive me up to 80-hour work weeks or more. This makes a work/life balance extremely difficult and effectively muffles company culture. Furthermore, I don’t believe that the role would be very fulfilling from a personal or external standpoint: in terms of the former, I don’t particularly have a burning desire to make Excel models or PowerPoint slides, and regarding the latter, the Veem engineer hit the nail on the head in saying that they don’t do much aside from “adding liquidity.”

On the other hand, this role is fast-paced and I would constantly be learning tons of information. Along with that, a growing number of analysts join the industry for two years and then leave, which would allow me to take those skills and meaningfully apply them elsewhere. Lastly, although not as important to me, the salary and prestige of investment banking does objectively seem to open doors down the road. I even remember Katie Bailey asking the Split team why so many founders and executives seem to have some type of background in that field. This reconciling of an unhappy two years with various potential long-term benefits is something I struggle to deal with.

The World of Tech (Both Big and Small)


That thing I never really understood or looked into because I thought it was mainly for software engineers. As it turns out, I could not have been more wrong. Hopefully you can gather from earlier paragraphs that I now see enormous value in the business elements of technology. Yet, it certainly still has its drawbacks: first and foremost, I would probably have to start on the West Coast after graduation. The area itself is phenomenal, but the distance and time zone change would certainly make for a difficult transition. Secondly, product managers and analysts don’t seem to be appreciated as much as they are in banking. All power dynamics aside, it does cause me to question the tangible value that I could bring to these types of firms. Finally, I do feel that there would be an inherent risk in undergoing this path. On the side of big tech, Google and the like have extremely delayed recruiting timelines, meaning that I may not know where I’m working until the very end of senior year. Unlike financial services, they also don’t have as clear of a structure for moving up, which could prove challenging in the goal of progression over time. Shifting to small tech, the risk of startups is clear in less benefits, lower salary, and the underlying fear of it failing.

Conversely, I think it’s pretty clear that the work/life balance in these industries is incredible. The hours are not only much more reasonable, but also much more flexible in unusual situations. These companies are far ahead of the banks in culture as well, with vibrant offices and individuals who are genuinely happy to come in each day. In a similar vein, this passion is infectious: when the members of an organization are all aligned under one mission and set of values, the nature of that work is completely transformed (Madison Reed and its emphasis on love are an amazing example). This was true among any of the paths that we encountered, whether that be big tech, small tech, or even venture capital. At least in the short-term, then, I feel that this industry would be more fulfilling and enjoyable. When Rich Aberman explained Chase’s anger with them after a cryptocurrency blunder, and his only response was “how cool is that!”, I couldn’t help but find so much truth in that small statement.

In Conclusion


So now I’m here, again, with questions that I still don’t really know how to answer. Is potential long-term success worth short-term unhappiness? Does the risk involved with something even matter if it makes me fulfilled? Am I actually willing to move across the country and make completely new friends? This list could go on, and I may not know the answers to them for quite some time.

But maybe that in itself, at least for me, is the point of TechTrek West. Maybe it’s not about going in ball pits or movie theaters or dogs named Winston. It may not even be about meeting alumni or seeing all of those different companies. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff was fantastic, but maybe that kid from northern New Jersey just needed to open his eyes more than anything.

This whole time at Boston College, I had been so set on a track that I didn’t fully desire or even understand. My ultimate goal was ambiguous at best and largely driven by those around me. I have no idea where I’ll end up or which path I’ll decide to pursue, but at least I know now that it’s a conversation. I know that I will be making a conscious decision for what I genuinely want to do, and that never would have been possible without this trip. For that, I am unbelievably grateful and appreciative for my time in MKTG3205.01.

Thanks for reading!

9 thoughts on “Drinking the Kool Aid: an Exploration of What MKTG3205.01 Really Means to Me

  1. While my original reply was going to be focused on continuing to sell you on the left coast, the truth is that even as someone from out there, I’m going through a lot of the same things. Like you and probably a lot of people here, I grew up in a family that emphasized getting grades so you could go to a good school thus assuring some kind of financial security in a stable job after graduating. Although I took a chance in coming to the east coast, it was still a calculated chance since I was going to be at top tier institution with an incredible support system.

    But here’s the thing, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think this stability and structure has played a big role in allowing us to get to this point in our lives. The only issue is that a lot of the real world is neither stable nor structured. Especially tech.

    While I’ve began to start down toward the tech path here at BC, I wish I could say I’m not scared of all the uncertainties that come along with it. Like you said, the late recruiting process, the high turnover rate, and most everything else is downright insane and altogether pretty terrifying.

    And while I wish I could always be the no stress, west coast surfer guy who’s totally cool with plunging into the unknown, I’m not and I don’t think really anyone is (including the people we visited on the trip). Even for them, I think it’s a battle every day.

    I guess the last thing I want to say is thank you. Partly because I haven’t been able to find that many people out here (especially in CSOM) who are willing to publicly acknowledge that most of the time no one has any no clue what we’re really doing here. The other reason I want to thank you is because you do an amazing job of articulating this. Like I honestly think you should go publish this in The Heights.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Aw thank you so much Will! This means a lot, especially from someone who has grown up surrounded by the world of tech. I could not agree more with your thoughts on the instability of the industry – It’s certainly not the place for someone seeking structure, and that adds an even further layer of difficulty to this larger decision that a lot of us are now making.

      With all that said, though, you still do a great job coming across as the stress-free surfer guy. Even if it’s not always true, that type of calm disposition is what a lot of people depend on at these tech companies. In a sea (or I suppose a ball pit) of employee changes and venture rounds, they need someone cool and collected to keep them afloat, and I think that’ll serve you really well as you go forward in the industry. You also have the whole super smart and hard-working thing going for you, but I guess that’s besides the point.

      Thanks again for such a thoughtful response, and I’ll definitely look into publishing it with The Heights!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m honestly bummed I won’t be reading any more of your blog posts this semester. 😦 I think you did an incredible job of capturing what a lot of kids in the class experienced on the trip and are feeling now. In many ways, this trip has been just as much a retreat as it has been an educational experience. For me, I’m testing out if West Coast is the place for me by interning out there, so I would recommend you maybe try it out this summer or next (I hear Zynga has some sweet roles open). SEE YOU IN CLASS BUDDY!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Mike, I can’t tell you how much of a throwback reading this post was. I was in your exact same position my sophomore year second semester, being a fellow Finance & Information Systems major. Although I knew from the start that IB was not for me, I considered careers in investment management and equity research. I’m going to include more of my experiences with this type of networking in my blog post, so keep an eye out for that. I completely understand your struggle, and as Will said, know that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone in this class is so intelligent–everything will work out in the end for everyone! I had no idea where junior year recruiting season would take me! My advice to you is take this summer to continue to reach out to alumni. That’s what I did- I went for Premium on LinkedIn and began shooting cold InMail’s to BC alumni at both financial services and tech firms. Through one particular person, I was inspired and had a feeling that technology was the right route for me. This trip definitely confirmed for me personally that the West Coast is where I want to be, but I’m also a year further along than you are in the process. If you ever need anyone to talk to, I’m here. Just know that everyone is scared, and no one knows where they will be next year, and have confidence: you will know when the right door opens, trust me! It will feel right in your heart 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Mike, this post made me tear up (and not from laughing, for once!). I feel like so many of us had these exact feelings during and after the trip, and you articulated them so well. To quote, “he just needed to open his eyes more than anything,” I finally saw the vast options beyond the typical finance, accounting, banking tracks. At the end of the day, I am a firm believer that if you focus on things that will lead to self-fulfillment and growth, everything else will fall into place. I loved the fact that the work persona and personal life persona seemed to overlap out there, and that is a culture I find significant value in.


  5. Mike, thanks so much for sharing! Your post immediately made me think of our conversation during one of our last nights at the Cardinal in Palo Alto. I think confused and uncertain about the future would best describe our feelings at that moment. Like you, I have been raised by business-focused parents and identify with the east-coast banker’s mindset.

    At this point, it’s hard to know exactly what we want to do for the rest of our lives. The good thing is that we’ve got time. I think what’s most important now is to keep an open mind, to try things out, and to stay true to yourself. I know, it’s easier said than done… It has been a blast getting to know you better Mike!


  6. Tech companies need bankers too! There are some awesome banks that focus on deals in the technology space – if you’re interested, I’d definitely look into them (Qatalyst Partners, Allen & Company, Code Advisors). Not knowing what you want to do is okay. Even the people we met with, who have more experience than all of us, have no idea where they’re going to be and what they’re going to do in the near future. Remember that you have a lifetime to figure it out. Thanks for sharing this thoughtful post!


  7. Great post. That’s exactly the type of experience I hoped you’d have. I don’t necessarily think the purpose of this trip is to get students to move to SF, but to open your eyes as to what is available and what is coming digitally. It’s also much better to be asking these questions now, rather than 2 years after graduation, when you’re wondering whether you’ve made a huge mistake with your career path.


  8. Wouldn’t it be easier if we didn’t know all of the potential career routes? Ignorance is truly bliss. If you never know of anything else than investment banking, would you simply accept that as your life or would there be a point where you’d be fed up and do “anything” else?

    People say to live each day like it was your last. Does ~2 years of unhappiness with the goal of future success/happiness count as being fulfilling because it’s part of your plan? Is that satisfactory enough? I think it really depends on the individual. My friend wants to do investment banking solely to make money so she can later start a non-profit. If you asked her whether she was fulfilled, she’d say yes because it’s a means to her end. For some, their means can’t stray too far from their ends, while other’s means can be totally opposite from their ends. Who are you? Where do your means fall?

    …Now I totally get why everyone out West studied philosophy.

    Liked by 2 people

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