Friday, March 20, 2009

Defining Value

I just received a check in the mail for reimbursement of expenses that I had for an interview. When I was filling out the form a month ago I remember thinking at 55.5 cents per mile was a lot of money. Who decides that each mile I drive is worth 55.5 cents? I happen to enjoy long drives. The end result was that I only put down half of my miles traveled and still got four times as much money as the gas cost me. 

This isn't really a unique idea either. When interviewing or looking for jobs in general people try to define their value. I browsed around on The Ladders to try and see what it takes to be a six digit talent. My conclusion:  you have to be older than 22 (or even 23).

Value, in terms of money, is something that is not always easy to quantify. For example, If gas is six dollars a gallon and I need to go to the airport I'll go anyway. Trying to put a value on my career is giving me a little difficulty. I know that someday I'll be a multimillionaire, in part due to inflation, but I am worth something. It is scary to think of starting a company because I know that that means more years of college student living and having zero savings and paying the minimum payments on my student loans. In essence only progressing in experience not financially. At least for awhile. I think my ideas could pay for a Porshe but it may take until my van has 300,000 miles on it. 

On the upside, what better way to be frugal than to not have any money to spend? Also, judging from the number of jobs I've applied for in the last 6 months that require 2-5 years of experience compared to jobs for newbies, it seems that experience is really valued highly by everybody. In the sense of experience getting my masters here at WPI has been great. I honestly feel that I am worth twice as much as I was a year ago. The two years my skills in engineering (and computer science) have multiplied several times. 

In case any high schoolers read this WPI has a great program called the Major Qualifying Project (MQP) where you spend months working on a project from beginning to end in a group setting. It's stressful, but rewarding. Basically it's a culmination of everything you've learned and requires you to learn new skills. It's very related to your major so when you pull all nighters or 16 hour days it is because you are motivated to work that hard to get it right. Future scientists and engineers apply here!

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