Friday, December 10, 2010

It's Magic Pony Time

The question is, which magic pony do I ride?

Last night we had the annual company Christmas party. I have been kind of busy lately and not very responsible for my social life and was therefore dateless. Everyone at a company Christmas party has a date or a wife or a husband and so going alone is always a little awkward. So I decided to sit at the table with some of the directors of the company so as to glean from their wisdom and build rapport. I sat next to one of our directors who just came to our company after being with Google China. He always has something interesting to say and he was also conveniently dateless. I always like to observe people who have made a great impact like Jared and as I was looking over, I saw that he had a couple of note cards. I thought he must be
studying or something or just had some idea pop into his head about a new product or feature that he wanted to code. Then as I looked closer (call me snoopy), I saw a bullet point with "Ride the Magic Pony" written. This kind of threw me off. I expected anything but a magic pony on a notecard of a multimillionaire from Google. But as he got up in the end to speak, he said some things that really made me think about my life right now. What direction I am going and where the destination will finally be.

His speech was about the past and future of the company. He talked about the past starting in the basement of Scott Smith (he is the one in the video below), the BYU marketing research professor who needed a tool to do his research online and came up with this idea. Then to a few developers and sales guys, then more and a new building, then buying the building, then over 100 employees, and hundreds of thousands of users and now millions of responses monthly with clients all over the world. Next week we will be again moving to a new building where even more growth can happen.

At the end of the night every employee received an irregularly hefty cash bonus along with an awesome backpack that was stuffed with high-quality embroidered hooded sweatshirts. At last year's Christmas party they had a raffle for one flatscreen 50 inch HDTV. I'll just say that this year, there was no raffle. Everyone got one, and more.

Then Jared said something as he looked down at the notecard I saw about the future of this company. He said something to the effect of: "I have been at many great companies before, Word Perfect, Novell, Google, what have you,... and there is always a point in the progress of the company where it begins to significantly expand and then explode in just a few years. It's what I call the 'magic pony time'. You all have the opportunity to make a decision. You can stay with Qualtrics and ride the magic pony till you see that you wont need to worry about money anymore, or you can have great experiences elsewhere. But this is the magic pony time - when you can get on or get off and either way you will see this company do things that no other company has ever done...." and he went on.

Needless to say, it has made me think A LOT about what I am doing with my life. Where I am in the company. What I have accomplished there. Where I could be in 5 years, and whether I want to ride the magic pony of Qualtrics or find another pony to ride. Another successful businessman (who was the visiting father of one of my dear friends at the company) told his daughter (who then mentioned to me later) that if we stayed at Qualtrics, we would never have to worry about money and to "stay if you can".

All this has been difficult for me to digest as I have been planning to go to grad school all along. Money is very comfortable. More money is even more comfortable. And I like the comfort, and being the dateless snooper that I was, I thought about supporting a family and how cheap it is to have a baby (though I am neither pregnant nor married) under the insurance they have and how great the benefits are. I just have a picture in my mind of someone who worked for Amazon, or facebook who left because they didn't really see a future in it because they thought it was boring or that it was not for them, then they kick themselves now that these companies are booming successes. So for the next five years (which will very much influence the next 50 years) I will either be at the Q developing new ideas and building it, or I will be at grad school, or I will be doing something else entirely. So what do the Ponies look like?

Magic Pony #1
Score well on the GRE this Friday, finish all the grad apps (some of the deadlines have already passed for my top choices). Some are not till early to mid January. Go to grad school in the fall of 2011 by myself, hopefully with scholarships.

Top picks: UMass Amherst, Penn State, U of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, University of Michigan. All programs are in communications and media effects. I was informally offered an internship position for the summer near Boston that is totally relevant to the field and I have been preparing for grad school for my whole undergrad career.

Why I should go:
It makes a lot of sense. I am passionate about knowledge. I am passionate about education and the current effect of the technology explosion/revolution and the media on everyone and everything in the world. I love history and knowing what the masses are thinking and the direction they are going. What is happening now with technology and the media has NEVER happened in all history (at least on this world) and there isn't really a reference for what is happening. I have high aspirations and would like to have more than a bachelors degree in psychology from BYU in the end. The longer I wait (if I decided to wait another 20 months - if I don't go in the fall, that's what it would be), the less valued and relevant my undergraduate letters of recommendation will be.

Why I should not go:
It is expensive (without an amazing scholarship or series of grants). I still don't know what exactly are the jobs that a masters or PhD lead to (other than a professor of communications or a research consultant). I feel like my search has not been comprehensive in where to go. I just feel like there are places that I don't know about and I am making a decision to go to (the ones listed above) because I haven't heard of many others in what I am looking for. Though I have a fervid passion for learning, I don't know if I eventually want to end up in academia. It does seem like more people trust you if you have PhD after your name, but really though, who cares in the end if I can still learn and can comfortably support my family? Speaking of family, I don't have my own. I'm not married. I am not even dating anyone. This can change pretty fast and I may find some amazing and special young woman before I ship out in 8 months, but if not? Should I fly solo? I think not. I always told myself I would never go to grad school alone. Call me a banal Mormon, but in the end what matters most? Family matters and if I end up with 3 advanced degrees and respect and research and all the erudition this world has to offer and yet no one to share with? What then? Start a facebook fan page? No. That doesn't feel right. I do want more education. Don't get me wrong. I've always wanted to be Dr. Proctor. But I feel like I need to follow the counsel of one of the prophets and slow down, and remember what matters most. Here are some penetrating words:
" is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.This is a simple but critical lesson to learn. It may seem logical when put in terms of trees or turbulence, but it’s surprising how easy it is to ignore this lesson when it comes to applying these principles in our own daily lives. When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be."

So I feel that slowing down and not trying to forget everything in life other than grad school and GRE prep would be wise. Plus I am scheduled to take it in 6 days and not prepared as I should be. I just can't get my speed up. I know a lot of the stuff. I just need to be more nimble.

Magic Pony #2
Hold back for 20 months. Study longer for the GRE. Get a better grasp on exactly what I want to study in grad school while building multiple streams of income, taking more time for social endeavors, and developing some things at Qualtrics that will establish me as credible and dependable.

Why I should do this:
Because it feels better. I know that in this time frame I could create multiple streams of income that will be a huge blessing not only during grad school, but for the rest of my life. I already have the ideas for them, but just need to "push the button" and begin. Many of them are things that I am almost as passionate about as education and that would very possibly be a better way to support a family than being a professor. I currently am giving up everything other than food and my job and church to figure this out. I have sequestered myself to my room and the library to study so that I can study more. I do love studying, however, I also want to love people and to finally love one young woman. I treasure these words from Thomas Jefferson about this in his inner debate between love and intellectualism:
“Let the gloomy monk, sequestered from the world, seek unsocial pleasures in the bottom of his cell! Let the sublimated philosopher grasp visionary happiness while pursuing phantoms dressed in the garb of truth! Their supreme wisdom is supreme folly; & they mistake for happiness the mere absence of pain. Had they ever felt the solid pleasure of one generous spasm of the heart, they would exchange for it all the frigid speculations of their lives.”
I love this. I seriously want to be an educated person like TJ was, but even deeper within is the desire to be a supportive loving husband and a confident dependable father who enjoys on a regular basis these "spasms of the heart". I haven't had such spasms for a while. The only spasms I have had were due to food poison! Yuck.
Additionally, if Qualtrics really does explode and become the worlds authority in research, it will be a good team to be on. Who needs a PhD when all the PhDs come to you for help already?

And I won't have a heart attack because of the stress that I feel right now. I could actually enjoy the Christmas festivities and focus on people instead of tasks.

What makes me nervous about this:
I kind of already did it once last year and I hate feeling like I am a consistent giver-uper. I look indecisive and unprepared. It makes my letters of recommendation fade in meaning if I want to ever use them (it is hard for professors to recommend me if they don't remember me because of how long it has been). It even could seem that I am 26 years old and have no definite pathway in life. These are the main things that I worry about. Or if I end up losing the window of opportunity for grad school (which I don't see happening) and Qualtrics doesn't pull through (which I also think is hard to imagine).

Magic Pony #3?
Something else. Go to a film school? Work my way up at some other technology company after establishing myself at Qualtrics? Other opportunities unforeseen?

I am leaning heavily to Magic Pony #2. What do you think?

PS - I commend you for reading this far.

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