Finding purpose, forging a path

Andrew Wu (BSBA ’22) wrote this for the Olin Blog. He’s majoring in computer science and finance and is a technology fellow at Bear Studios.

Purpose.

A word that has been stuck in my head since I began thinking about life after high school. Like many of my peers, I was stuck trying to figure out what career path would be the best fit.

It seemed easy enough: pick a major that would give me the best employment opportunities after graduation. But when it came time to submit my university applications, I was stuck with two questions. What is my purpose? What career best fits that purpose?

In my junior year of high school, I had narrowed my options down to biomedical engineering, computer science and finance. Over the summer, I brought up my concerns with my uncle, and in an attempt to help me he took me on a tour of his office at the Apple Park. I remember looking around in awe of the modern design, the massive communal field, and the people riding by on Apple-branded bicycles. Everything looked so immaculate. Even the pebbles looked like they were manually affixed to the path. It felt perfect.

But as we were about to enter his office, a section of the staircase caught my eye. Instead of leading to the main doors, it veered off to the side, straight into a bush. I turned to my uncle to make a joke of such a pointless slab of concrete. He took one look, laughed and said. “Have you never found yourself trying to find a place to sit outside, but when you sat down on a staircase you felt like you were blocking someone’s path? That’s what that staircase is for. Not for walking, but for sitting.”

While touring the park didn’t help me make my decision, that one small, seemingly insignificant interaction has been essential to my university experience so far. Eventually, I decided on biomedical engineering as my major and committed to WashU. thinking that I would graduate and become a biomedical engineer.

But during my first semester, I learned that many of the graduates in my major went on to do very similar things post-graduation, the majority going into medical or graduate school, consulting or industry. As I sat in the lecture halls with my peers, the same two questions kept nagging me. Would I truly find my own purpose following that same path, or like that staircase, could I redefine my own purpose? By doing so, would I inadvertently limit my opportunities?

To find some answers, I decided to take classes for the other majors that I considered—computer science and finance. After a few weeks I immediately knew that this was the better path. I was much more engrossed with the material, so I soon found myself switching to computer science and adding a second major in finance from Olin.

Going down a more uncertain path has allowed me to see new opportunities to reconcile these two areas of interest that otherwise I would not have been able to discover. One such opportunity was Bear Studios, a student-run consulting firm. During my sophomore year I saw that Bear Studios was recruiting, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put my skills to the test. I successfully applied to be a technology fellow, and now I’ve had opportunities to leverage my passions and help St. Louis entrepreneurs.

Even now, going into junior year, I am still not able to confidently define my own purpose and passions. But by reminding myself that this time in university is an incredible opportunity to grow alongside like-minded individuals with unique dreams and aspirations, I have been able to continue searching for those definitions.

By actively branching out to explore new interests and applying what I’ve learned in different ways, I am creating my own path.

In Career, Student Life
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