I didn’t let my peers who were smarter, more experienced, and didn’t have to worry about money bother me. I just put my blinders on and plugged away. By Poornima Vijayashanker (Founder, Femgineer)
I am really bad at quitting. Failing miserably isn’t enough to get me to quit either. For example, when I was a freshman in college, I got a 19 on my first Computer Science test. It was a wake-up call that instilled fear in me to drop the class, but a semester later I couldn’t shake the thought of dropping it. So instead I decided to spend my entire summer re-taking the course, eventually majoring in computer science and, well, we know what happened after that.
Even when catastrophe strikes, I cannot quit. My freshman year, my dad lost his job. I had to choose between taking out a rather large student loan to fund my education and pay it back, leave college altogether, or apply to one that I could afford. I took out the loan. I successfully paid that loan back 3 1/2 years ago.
Then there are times when people tell me that I’m not good enough or try to get in my way. Once again, not quitting. My junior year of college, I wanted to add Electrical Engineering as a major. The dean at my engineering school was opposed to me entering with two years left, having not completed half the curriculum. She suggested that I do a fifth year. Oh sure, let me just take out another loan… I don’t think so! I finished both my degrees with just two years left.
I know what you’re thinking, "Thanks for sharing your story of perseverance Poornima, run along now…”
But here’s the thing - each time I faced a hurdle, instead of letting it completely paralyze me, I took it in stride. And in those college years, I didn’t even have the strong support system I have today. In fact, my parents who were at this point providing very minimal financial and emotion support were still breathing down my neck to finish school. I didn’t let my peers who were smarter, more experienced, and didn’t have to worry about money bother me. I just put my blinders on and plugged away.
I just have two things that keep me going: “Will an older Poornima feel regret for quitting? What immediate discomfort will quitting avoid that I can learn to live with just a little longer?”
Here are some additional choice moments in my adult life when I could have quit, but I just pushed through:
- 2006 - I wanted to work at Mint. Aaron said I couldn’t because I didn’t know web development. I asked him for one month to prove that I could learn and be a productive engineer.
- 2010 - My first BizeeBee co-founder left for personal reasons. Usually a great excuse to close up shop, right? I pushed myself and the team to launch the product months later, making revenue from day one with a handful of early adopters.
- 2012 - While most startups were closing shop or getting bought up in talent acquisitions due to the Series A Crunch, I used up the rest of personal savings to bootstrap BizeeBee and start Femgineer. I’m still building and pushing the businesses closer to profitability everyday.
Now this isn’t me passing judgment on those who have quit things. In fact, you might not even have really quit, you may have just taken a timeout. But just know that quitting is an indefinite timeout :)
This post was originally posted at Femgineer.
Women 2.0 readers: How have you pushed back feelings of quitting? Let us know in the comments.
About the guest blogger: Poornima Vijayashanker is Founder of Femgineer. Prior to Femgineer, she founded BizeeBee. Prior to that, Mint where she began as employee #3 in 2006, and stayed through the startup's acquisition by Intuit for $170M in 2010. Prior to Mint, she was in the Master's degree program for computer science at Stanford University. Poornima holds a double degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science from Duke University. Poornima blogs on Femgineer.com and is a competitive yoga. Follow her on Twitter at @poornima.