I’m done with school. I graduated with a degree in computer science from a well-known university. I have a job waiting for me at a FAANG company. If things continue this way, I will never struggle for money.
What did I do to deserve this?
Nothing. But also, some things.
I won the privilege jackpot in so many ways. I was born in America where I have maximum opportunity. I was born the majority skin color and the historically dominant gender. I grew up in a two-parent household with extremely supportive parents. We never wanted for anything. Statistically, I was born with an incredibly high chance for success. And now, by the world’s standards, I have met that expectation and achieved success.
Thinking about how the deck has always been so stacked in my favor makes me sad. This summer when George Floyd was murdered, I was angry. I felt confused why someone living in the same country as me could have such a different life than me. I felt guilty that I had life so easy and others had to be on guard 24/7 just to stay alive. It isn’t right. Something deep within me knows that its not right.
My guilt and anger and frustration at the world and especially this country have caused me to discount any personal achievements in my life. I’ve been struggling lately to accept the inequity of the world while at the same time accepting that my achievements were not entirely because of my privilege. I had input in my life and in my success. When I was born, there was no guarantee that I would become the person that I am today.
I’ve been struggling lately to see the little places where I did put in effort to utilize the privilege that I was given. I’m starting to realize that the way to acknowledge and respect the privilege that I was given is to use it wisely for the benefit of my family and others. In that vein I am going to try to remember some things that I did to maximize my potential and respect my privilege. I am loath to brag, but I think I need to do this.
I was always forward thinking. I had long term goals and I remembered them every day. Every night I would pray for help to achieve my goals of getting good grades so I could get into a good college so I could get a good job and support my family. From about age 12 on, these were my goals. And I stuck to them.
I tried hard in school. This one might come as a surprise to my wife because we have very different definitions of trying hard. I feel like I used my time very wisely all throughout school. To me, using time wisely meant maximizing my grades with my happiness. My goal was always to get a good job. I found that I would have the best chance of a good job with a 3.5 GPA and up. So that’s what I maximized for. I tried hard for that GPA, but I didn’t sacrifice any happiness for more than that. But I did try hard.
I did my research. I spent hours reading forum and blog posts from former FAANG interns and employees. I read interview tips online and in the Green Bible (Cracking the Coding Interview). I spent hours practicing coding questions on Hackerrank. I connected with friends and other CS students to ask for advice on getting a job. I leveraged relationships to get me job experience at other software companies.
I feel most confident about this last bullet point. These are things I know that if I didn’t do them, I would not have my job. If I just took classes and didn’t go to career fairs and didn’t ask friends for job referrals, I would not be in the place I’m in right now. My resourcefulness and effort directly contributed to my success.
The world is unfair. And I’m pretty mad about that. I don’t know the solution to inequity. But I know that discounting my own achievements and sulking about how nothing I do really means anything won’t help.