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I dropped out of b-school to join Amazon July ‘99. By Dec Amzn’s stock had doubled, Jeff was Time Man of the Year. Then March ‘00 internet bubble popped -> my stock options were underwater and Amzn faced bankruptcy. Yet dropping out was the best decision I ever made. Here’s why:
I needed a pattern interrupt. My life had been conformist up to that point - straight A’s, awards, Harvard, b-school. But business is messy, life is messy. I knew deep down I needed to mess stuff up, get outside the box. I’ve tried to maintain that mentality ever since then.
Shortly after I started my internship at Amzn, I asked CFO Joy Covey if she thought I should drop out of b-school to stay on full time. She said I would learn more on the job than in school (she had dropped out of high school). She was right, you can’t learn biz in a classroom.
I would have made money and had fun if Amzn had continued straight up and to the right as it did in the previous 6 yrs before I joined. But I learned more and was presented with more opportunities to grow through 6 yrs of the company struggling to survive. Adversity -> growth.
I learned a lot in my 1st yr of business school - finance, strategy, etc - taught me biz fundamentals and helped me pivot my career. But 2nd yr is more about getting a job and partying. I already had my dream job, and my partying was limited bc I was a young dad w student debt.
MBAs are often viewed with contempt by product-driven tech start-ups. So I hacked my resume: when speaking with MBA types I could say “oh ya, I went to b-school” and when speaking with product/eng folks I could say “oh ya, I dropped out of b-school.” Best of both worlds :-)
I trusted my gut with a decision that most of my friends and family thought was irrational and risky. I was being impatient... 7 yrs later I left a great job at Amzn, moved from Seattle with my wife + 3 kids for a start-up in Palo Alto. I learned to take risks, be impatient.
I got extremely lucky that Amzn survived after 2000, most internet companies did not. And I got even more lucky with FB, most start-ups don’t make it. But I knew I could always go back to b-school, or move back in w my parents. I decided to take my shot, and I never looked back.
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