In 2016, I made the very difficult decision to drop out of university. Growing up, being a part of an institution was extremely important for me. I had just graduated from a high school whose primary focus wasn’t to learn, but to send its students to high ranking schools, so that became my goal. I was also under the impression that dropping out of a program meant dropping out of the industry - which is completely untrue.
Even with so much initial enthusiasm about my program, as I progressed into my second year of university I was left feeling unfulfilled. After I was put on academic probation, I felt like I wasn’t meant to achieve anything in this industry because how much value I placed on institutional learning. I wasn’t resonating with the material therefore I wasn’t applying myself or pushing myself to do my best. I was really just bored most of the time but I thought that university was the only way I could propel myself forward.
During the summer, I decided that I was going to figure out if what I didn’t like was the school or the industry all together. Building countless projects for class had taken the fun out of something I was once so passionate about. I took those four months to focus on building something on my own time, that I believed in.
Through research I discovered a need in the healthcare industry that I felt I could fill. I built out an application using Swift 2 which was very new at the time. This was a new language that Apple had released for mobile application development and I started to learn it. After building the application, I sent out an email pitch to companies, hospitals and clinics hoping to even get a response. I expected rejections and ignored emails but what I got was genuine interest.
I was spending hours every day learning concepts that had never been taught in the classroom. I had no idea that I was capable of building apps so soon into my educational career. I realized that I didn’t need to wait to learn the process in an institution, all I needed to do was start. I still remember spending days drawing out my application, and the excitement I had designing the tool to be user friendly. I quickly got back my passion for the industry.
To this day, I make sure all of my projects give me that same excitement to an extent. You’re not going to love everything you work on in life, but it’s important to make sure that whatever it is you’re doing contributes a bigger picture of what you value in your life.
In early September, I received a buyout offer for my tool from a large hospital in North America. Coming from an environment that made me feel like my worth came from institutional learning, I was shocked that my summer project held so much value.
I learned more in those four months than I did during my entire academic career. If any part of this writing resonates with you, I urge you to explore those feelings deeper. I’ve urged industry leaders, founders and even politicians like Elizabeth May to make real attempts at changing the curriculum and fixing this issue.
Looking back now, I’ve realized how everything we go through in life shapes who we are. Every experience is meant to teach us something. I spent so much time wondering why I wasn’t cut out for institutional learning when in reality it was the institution that was preventing me from doing what I love. Through all of this I’ve learned to stay uncomfortable because that is what has truly helped me learn the most about myself.