this is a eulogy, of sorts. the first company that i had ever worked at, Omgpop, was recently shutdown by Zynga. i would have written a response to it more quickly but a) i have been really worn out by my summer job (although learning a ton) and b) i was only there for 2 months as a college freshman 2 years ago, so i am, of course, not the closest person anymore to the once-startup.
if working for and supporting NYC startups for the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that life is unstable, unpredictable, and not to be taken too seriously. things change, companies boom and burst and are bought and then dissapear; the next big thing is already yesterday’s news by the time you download it, but the relationships you make in the office will last far beyond those confines.
i will be the first to admit i am not really a big consumer of internet games, or even mobile games aside from the occasional subway ride, but i was (remain) a wholehearted fan of Omgpop.
because sometimes the love of the sport is created by the love for one’s team; maybe they haven’t made the playoffs but they’re the reason you began to develop a liking towards the game in the first place. you don’t need to be a gamer to realize the joy that a product made with care can bring, and the enthusiasm of a talented and determined team is beyond contagious. simply put, even though entertainment might not be thought of as serious stuff, it is in fact made very seriously, and with dedication and pride as any other product.
this is how, i, as a non-gamer intern, a freshman in college, with no major and no technical skills yet, was welcomed with open arms, introduced into the world of startups, met some folks who believed in me, was encouraged to study computer science, first heard about a little program called hackNY, and still think fondly towards every employee i met during my short stay.
from there, i dug deeper into coding, eventually landed that summer fellowship, where i was introduced to both machine learning and mathbabe, picked up my first (data) modelling skills, realized how much it excited me, changed my concentration to artificial intelligence, began my own writing blog, became part of the ADI board, discovered great community there, went to more hackathons, and eventually landed my current summer gig at Knewton on a team where i have the great gift of working directly with new and interesting data models of student learning, and am challenged everyday to be a better scientist.
the route to developing one’s career is not always straightforward when it is led by one’s shifting interests and traversed through startups, but with great mentors and coworkers (who also become great friends), there is always the opportunity to learn and grow.