Things Last: Work vs School

In school, nothing lasts longer than 10 weeks — at least if you’re on the quarter system that Stanford subscribes to. A few do, like your roommate or your unfortunate streak of nights where you had to drink coffee after midnight, but, otherwise, your life is turning over every quarter of the year. New classes, new projects, […]

In school, nothing lasts longer than 10 weeks — at least if you’re on the quarter system that Stanford subscribes to. A few do, like your roommate or your unfortunate streak of nights where you had to drink coffee after midnight, but, otherwise, your life is turning over every quarter of the year. New classes, new projects, new teammates.

The funny thing about work in the real world: things last.

Of course it’s not that simple, but reductive statements make nice hooks.

From School to Work

Coming from school to Good Eggs was more than coming from academia to industry, classes to internship, or Stanford to SF. It was moving from a world that took itself apart and rebuilt itself every ten weeks to one that had existed for years before I came and continues to do so now that I’m back to tumbling through the cycles of school again. There’s code in our site that’s been around since 2012 (and probably earlier). That’s a dozen heat-deaths of the student’s universe.

That feeling of permanency might sound odd because things change so fast at Good Eggs. The energy levels go from high to alpine; the sprints last a month and then we’re blazing on to something new. But we’re building a product that’s going to stick around, even as it changes. What you write is going out there to the real world, and people are going to use it until we have time to make something even better.

Of course, that’s par for the course for anyone who’s been working for a while. But put yourself in my shoes (or those old shoes of yours from college), when no one saw your code except you and an autograding script. During my internship I worked on tools for the producers who work with Good Eggs and for our internal team. Those schedules, order summaries, and dashboards are out there, getting used. Compare that to a problem set or the same memory allocator that thousands of students wrote before you. Suddenly knowing your work will get used is kind of exhilarating, isn’t it?

Guess what else sticks around? Your coworkers. Back in college, sure, your classmates will still be taking your same courses. They’ll still be the people you see around campus or red-eyed in the library at two A.M. surreptitiously eating a power bar while hiding from librarians, but if that last project didn’t go so well, guess who you won’t be working with ever again?

And that’s kind of unfortunate.

It’s easier to just ditch what didn’t work and try again or to hold onto those people you work really well with like the last parachute in a leaking hot-air balloon. But if you learn anything about collaboration from that experience, it’s all accidental.

You can’t do that at a company. These people are all you’ve got, and that’s awesome. So at Good Eggs, how we work together is just as important as what we’re working on. In addition to building a great product, we’re spending time building a great team. Weekly retros, daily stand-ups, communal lunches. After a big push to get the second version of the website out — better, faster, stronger — meetings started popping up on the calendar.

  • Let’s talk about collaboration between design and engineering.
  • Let’s talk about handling big launches.
  • Let’s talk about communication between groups.

It helps that all the individuals are awesome in their own right, but it helps more that we are constantly working out how to be better as a team. We not only become a better team but also learn how to become better teammates.

One last thing: your attention span.

No, I’m not saying kids these days can’t focus. But most days as a student, you’re not doing any one thing for more than three or four hours at a time. You’re working 14 hour days or haven’t slept since last Tuesday. You’re trying to juggle half a dozen things at least, and they’re all due at the same time. You’re taking four classes, teaching a fifth, and making sure a gaggle of freshmen don’t get abducted by aliens.

Showing up to work, and then working for 8 hours, is — dare I use the word — relaxing. It’s a great feeling to launch a new feature, and it’s an even better feeling to be working on that one feature and knowing when you’re done there will be another one thing to work on. You may take a couple hours to fix a bug, to discuss code architecture, or to pair with another team, but the overall focus lasts.

Probably for most of the people reading this, these comparisons are old hat. You went through this or maybe are going through it. Or perhaps you’re looking for an internship and will go through it or are going through it right now. If the first one’s you, I hope some of this resonated, or at least you were amused by the student stumbling wide-eyed out of academia. If the last one’s you, I hope you get as much joy out of the experience as I did. And maybe, that you’re doing it at Good Eggs.

Originally posted by Sarah Sterman on Oct 7, 2014.

Good Eggs connects people who love food, directly with people who make it. We deliver the most incredible food, straight to Bay Area homes. If you are inspired by our mission is to grow and sustain local food systems worldwide, find out how you can help.


Things Last: Work vs School was originally published in Good Eggs Product Team on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Good Eggs