Office of Career Services

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If a meanie were to hold a gun to my head (likely situation now that my upperclassmen house/dorm community, Mather, is hosting a house-wide game of Assassin) and asked me to name the most important lesson that I’ve learned at Harvard, I would be ruthlessly murdered due to my indecisiveness. However, if the bully had just rephrased the question to inquire about my takeaways per semester, I would have lived to tell the tale.

As the semester falls to a close and Reading Period (the week before final semester exams where no official classes take place – a week to study and hopefully relax!) begins, my slightly slower schedule is concomitant to much reflection time. When I look back on each semester in retrospect, it’s always been easy for me to identify one activity that my whole semester revolves around.

Freshman Fall: Coxswaining for the Men’s Heavyweight Crew Team (Yes! Girls can do this…WHAAAT?!)

Freshman Spring: Chem 20 (an introductory organic chemistry class)

None of my friends knew the three other classes I was taking…'Nuff said.

Sophomore Fall: Working as a Research Assistant at the Harvard Decision Science Lab, located at the Harvard Kennedy School

Being a member of the math and science community, the pressure to perform research always exists. Lucky for me, I’ve always perceived this pressure as a challenge I’m willing to confront. I left this challenge on the backburner last year as a freshman though. So when I started comparing myself to my peers (a dangerous road I forbid you to travel down), I felt like I was slacking which resulted in a handful of freak-out moments during my Freshman Spring semester. I didn’t join a lab freshman year (totally normal!) because I wanted to wait for a topic that I’m genuinely fascinated by in order to avoid a tragic dive into a project I was only faintly interested in. Waiting and relying on fate can literally be one of the most frightening tasks! BUT just make sure you keep your eyes peeled and your mind open. In our fast paced lives, it can be hard to side step long enough to accept that some good things take time. But boy, am I glad I waited…

Within the two weeks right before the start of the Fall 2011 semester, I applied and interviewed for a position as a research assistant at the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory (HDSL, this is a moment where I wish we had a twitter so I can tell you to follow us…). This type of research would be completely different from all my academic and commercial research experience during my high school years because there would be no mice, pipettes, or microscopes involved! Although these differences were an enticing and an exciting aspect of the job, the unfamiliar environment was also a source of fear.

However, saying I was scared of that is just like saying I’m scared of opportunity; it’s ridiculous! After one semester of working at HDSL, I can already say that I’m obsessed. Not only does the job pay me well, but I also get to interact with many undergraduate and graduate professors while working on their projects, and working with post-doctoral students has given me significant insight in graduate education.

The surrounding Harvard Graduate schools were one of the prime reasons why I decided to enroll at Harvard College instead of other universities. I’m a big advocate of undergraduates exploiting opportunities from nearby graduate schools – also it gives me a (false?) sense that I’m not a member of the Harvard Bubble community. But that’s definitely not to say that there isn’t a virtual cornucopia of opportunities on the undergraduate campus. The Office of Career Services (OCS) frequently partners with undergraduate (and graduate) departments to hold informational sessions about upcoming opportunities in research as well as in the internship/job market and beyond! You also can’t use “I’m busy” as an excuse for being ill-informed because user-friendly informational websites are abundant. If this isn’t overwhelming enough, you can take it upon yourself to investigate what individual professors are researching and directly approach the professors to inquire about whether they need assistance or not! The opportunities are literally endless; but it’s also extremely important to keep in mind that having too many opportunities is a good problem to have.

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Simple advice, right? I thought about it, though, and it’s true. Well, at least I think so. This was something Mark Zuckerberg (or, “Zuck,” as his colleagues called him) said when he came to visit campus on Monday, November 7. The Office of Career Services (OCS) and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) sponsored the event, entitled “Facebook Q&A,” with Mark, as well as two of his colleagues, including Vice President of Engineering Mike Schroepfer. The talk was capped at 200 students, who all had to apply by submitting a resume to the OCS website. I couldn’t have been more excited when I opened my email and read: “Congratulations! You have been accepted to attend the Facebook Q&A session with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and VP of Engineering Mike Schroepfer.”

We were all encouraged to submit questions days beforehand, which were then compiled by the moderator, my CS50 professor David Malan. Mark said he didn’t start Facebook for money (today, his personal wealth amounts to $17.5 billion), nor did he think the website would become what it is today. He said his impetus for Facebook was simply because he thought it was cool. Despite reading about Mark being an unpleasant person in interviews, I found him to be a laid back guy. Who knows? He very well might be unfriendly in day-to-day life. However, he seemed affable and gave candid responses to everything Professor Malan asked him.

I left Farkas Hall inspired. It was 6:30 PM, and my face must have been beaming as I walked out because a reporter from the local news on NBC decided to pull me aside. Not that I didn’t enjoy the event, but I’m pretty sure I looked so happy because I was looking forward to dinner. Regardless, she was one of the most enthusiastic human beings I’ve encountered in my lifetime, and she asked me some questions about the event. My mom was especially excited that I would have my 5 seconds of fame on the local news.

It’s surreal to think about how Mark Zuckerberg was just one of us. I don’t want to put him on this giant pedestal because yes, I guess he is just like anyone else. He wears plain, (what appears to be) Hanes t-shirts (one of my favorite things) and your everyday athletic sneakers. See Mark looking like a typical human being below.

Mark Zuckerberg Visits Harvard

Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard for "Facebook Q&A"

But…what he’s accomplished is actually amazing. Today, Forbes Magazine cites him as the #9 Most Powerful Person in the World at the age of 27. It’s interesting to think that someone I walk by on any given day could very well be the next Mark. I think that’s pretty special. It’s one of the reasons why I love meeting new people here because everyone is so passionate and driven that you never know who will end up where. I feel just as fortunate as I do excited to be able to say I went to school with all of these people.


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