Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.
— Lewis Carroll (Sorry, the Churchill quote was just a little too obvious).
This is not going to be an interesting or insightful blogpost. I just needed something more than a facebook status or a tweet. If one single person reads it all the way to the end, I'll count it as a win.
So it would appear I have reached the end. Of my academic career, that is. This morning I had the great pleasure of accepting my BA in Mathematics from The Lord Rees of Ludlow (OM, FRS, OMG etc.), which marked the end of my three years of study at Trinity College, Cambridge, and to (just under) seventeen years in the British education system. A lot of my friends from school may be surprised at the fact that I'm not further pursuing academia to a Master's, a PhD or beyond, but believe me: this is definitely the right time for me to call it a day (the maths here in Cambridge is really hard!).
And boy, has it been an incredible journey. I'll spare the details, but suffice it to say that I've changed more as a person in the last three years than I think anyone would have thought possible.
They say (I still haven't yet figured out who the proverbial They actually are) that you remember your time at university just as much for the work as for all the other things you do besides. And if I'm honest, I may have been slightly lacking as far as the extra-curricular stuff goes. Though in my defense, my time was sufficiently filled with my part in organising a big party (or two) and a company (among a few other things), that I don't regret my lack of involvement in other things too much. A friend of mine explained her philosophy of these things to me the other day, which was roughly thus1: that at most about eighty-five percent of one's achievement at university can be measured through examination and academic achievement. The remainder is entirely measured in personal achievement: social life, relationships, personal development etcetera. I guess I would probably have only scored at most eight or nine out of fifteen by that measure (though as a mathematician I'd say that's actually quite an achievement), but the philosophy is a good one. The actual numbers 85 and 15 aren't important — they'll vary with the person, the university and the degree (though I think the point was that however you make the split, you can't push it any higher than 85/15) — but the point is the same. It's all well and good locking yourself in your room, talking to nobody and striving to get that all-important First, but if that's all you do, then you're missing out on a hefty chunk of what being at uni is all about (I got a 2.1 by the way, for any of you that are interested). Maybe I got the balance right; maybe I didn't. Who can tell?
One question I'm frequently asked, being the one co-founder of GoSquared who didn't drop out of university to run the company full-time (long story short: the reason being that the other two took a gap year and I'd already got a full year of study under my belt before we took investment), is whether I regret having decided to stick at it in Cambridge, rather than calling it quits and working in London full-time. And now I finally have an answer: Absolutely not. While it may well have been beneficial for the company had I gone and worked on it full-time, the magnitude and diversity of ways in which my short time here in Cambridge has changed my life, undoubtedly and unequivocally for the better, vastly outweighs any disadvantage I may have picked up by not diving into the startup life two years ago.
Would I do anything differently, were I to have my time here again? Yes, most probably. There have been many missed opportunities along the way — things I wish I'd done, people I wish I'd got to know better (though strangely I can't actually think of anything off the top of my head I particularly wish I hadn't done). Maybe I would have focussed less on my non-academic pursuits and more on work, or maybe the other way round. Truth is, I don't know. I'm glad I've done it. I may not have taken the best path (well, I know I haven't), but it's still been fun along the way. Ridiculously stressful, but fun. And you'd be hard-pressed to find a metric by which I haven't turned out a better person today than I was three years ago.
So to everyone whom I've encountered along the way: to lecturers, supervisors, tutors, passing acquaintances, to random people I only ever met once, and to good friends — thank you all for being so awesome. And don't you dare just disappear off the radar. Any of you (and especially those of you to whom I've said this already) are more than welcome to drop by the GoSquared office, to touch base and catch up, if you ever happen to be in the area (that's Clerkenwell in London, by the way). I can't promise I won't be busy, but time can always be made for friends.
In summary: Wow. It's been a crazy last three years. But nonetheless it's been awesome. And who knows what the future holds? So to everyone else graduating today, tomorrow, or in the next few weeks, I wish you all the very best with whatever the future has in store for you. We're only just getting started.
1: Philosophy © Katherine Lavender Brilliant Ideas Inc.