let me = stayInSanFranciscoForever?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Anika at the Bay Bridge

Hi! So those of my fellow developers out there might get a kick out of my camelCase title (I know I made myself laugh) and some of my fellow iOS developers out there might even enjoy my play on an optional type (Swift > Obj-c)….but I promise I’m going to stop trying to clever now.

My name is Anika and I am a rising junior at Duke completing an interdepartmental major between Neuroscience and Computer Science - basically one large, interdisciplinary major that I got to name “Minds and Machines” (I thought it sounded cool).

Anyways, I wanted to target something specific in this blogpost and that is for those of us who like CS, but maybe aren’t sure if they love it. Maybe you have conflicting interests and passions, maybe you have no clue what your passion is. It is an incredibly difficult thing to be split between disciplines that you enjoy equally when you only have one summer a year to gain work experience and learn out of the classroom.

I struggled a fair amount with the decision to pursue a software engineering internship this summer. It was essentially a decision to use the CS side of my major with full-force and leave the Neuroscience side to rust. I have this constant fear that I will end up in a job I hate, and that I’ll have that mid-life-I-hate-everything-why-did-I-not-do-that-other-thing crisis. However, after doing neuroscience research for the last few years, I knew that if I didn’t try a software job now I might not get the chance again. Tech is an interesting field where if youth is a huge advantage if you are trying to get an entry level technical job – the older you get, the more “out of touch” you are considered. Therefore, if you are interested in tech, I highly recommend trying out a technical job while an undergrad – building up your ‘technical chops’ while help you later in life in this unique industry.

Rather than continue on this monologue, I’m going to make a list of things that I have learned when it comes to being split between passions/interests.

  • Make a list that dictates the different aspects of having a job in the your areas of interst. Seeing the possible career paths for a Neuroscience student vs a CS student helped me see what might be better suited for me in the long term.
  • Literally Google “\(interest1)   \(interest2)  jobs”. Sorry, I really can’t help myself from trying to write in Swift, but I’m not joking - Google jobs at the intersection between your two interests. There might be some cool company  or research facility somewhere that does exactly what you want to do!  (As a side note, my favorite thing about tech is that you can apply it to essentially every other field. Regardless of whether you love art history, biology or political policy, there is, without a doubt, a tech job related to that industry.)
  • Along the same lines, do your research and contact people. I can’t even try to recount the number of faculty pages and company websites I have visited trying to find information/research/jobs that deal with prosthetics or AI or computational neuroscience. If I find something cool with an administrator email address, I always reach out. I am constantly surprised by the number of responses I get. One time I got a direct email back from the creator of Scholarpedia!!
  • If you think of your dilemma as a Venn diagram with two large circles with a little bit of overlap, don’t be afraid to try something in the non-overlapping area. I am thrilled I decided to work in software engineering this summer at Vida Health (not Neuro related really at all) – it showed me that I could be very happy doing something similar out of school. It helps isolate one side of the diagram and uncover what you like/dislike about that particular field. 
  • Try to find the key feature of each that makes you like it. For me, I like the health aspect of Neuroscience and the problem-solving aspect of CS. It showed me that I would want to mostly likely be in a health sector of tech or maybe the algorithm side of Neuroscience.
  • The last piece of advice is actually from my mom (she’s a pediatrician, a total bad-ass and my best friend). She always says that there isn’t one right path and that you can be happy doing really about anything – it is all about perspective. If you have the mindset to see every day as a new challenge and appreciate the difference you make in your role, you can lead a happy and fulfilling life regardless of what that role may be.

Well I hope this wasn’t overwhelmingly boring and perhaps even a bit useful if you’ve struggled with any of the same internal conflicts as I have! If you have any other questions about this topic, my job at Vida, DTech, San Francisco brunch spots, or just want to talk, feel free to reach out! 

Good luck!
Anika

Anika Mukherji
Class of 2019
Major: CS/Neuroscience “Minds and Machines”
Internship: Vida Health