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Preethi Kasireddy Reinvents Herself

Preethi Kasireddy chats with Kent about how she gave up her promising career in venture capital to become a developer.

Software development isn't limited to "nerds." During her time at Andreessen Horowitz, Preethi met thousands of entrepreneurs. What she realized was that software engineering is what these entrepreneurs use to change the world. They're able to code the future they believe in using software engineering.

A lot of people were surprised that Preethi gave up a promising career in venture capital to become a developer. But, Preethi says that the greatest artists reinvented themselves often. There's something unique and special about the periods in our lives where we are working on improving ourselves. We kind of lose that after going through everyday life. And so we must continue to find new hobbies and interests that we enjoy and grow with.

The world is driven by logic and what is objectively measurable is what ends up being valued. The hedge fund manager making millions a year is doing something objectively measurable while the artist isn't. But, beyond a certain point, money doesn't make you happier. You have to look out for your happiness. Your happiness is your incentive for choosing to pursue your passion over choosing the option that makes you more money.

Homework

  • Preethi Kasireddy

    Preethi Kasireddy


    Transcript

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Hey, hey everyone. This is your friend Kent C. Dodds And I'm joined by my friend, Preethi Kasireddy. Say hi, Preethi.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Hey Kent.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Preethi and I met years and years ago. I actually don't remember exactly how we first got introduced. Do you remember?

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I think it was on the internet through one of my blog posts or something.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Yeah, yeah. I tend to meet a lot of people on on the internet. But yeah, so it's been a pleasure to know Preethi and I'm excited for you all to get to know her. So Preethi, could you introduce yourself a little bit, tell the audience who you are and kind of the things you're interested in and that kind of thing?

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Sure. This is always a tough question for me because my identity has evolved over time, but overall, I think I would classify myself as a blogger. I write a lot. Kent and some of the JavaScript community may have known me through my blog posts in the past.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Previously, I've worked at Andreessen Horowitz. I was a partner there. After that, I left and I taught myself how to code, and then I joined Coinbase as an engineer. And then after that, I ended up starting my own company. And now I'm back to blogging again.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Yeah. Now, I remember reading your story of your transition. I think that was probably the first blog post I read of yours, was about that transition to developer, and I was inspired by your story. Do you want to just tell us a little bit about that?

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Sure. I was an engineer in college, but I wasn't a software engineer, so systems engineer. I didn't really even knew what software engineering was. I thought it was just a bunch of nerds in a basement coding. At least, that was my definition of it because all the software engineers I saw on campus just look really nerdy. And I never want to be a nerd, so I never even thought to look into software engineering.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    When I joined Andreessen Horowitz and I would meet entrepreneurs every single day, I met thousands of entrepreneurs over the course of two years I was there, and basically what I realized is, software engineering is how what these entrepreneurs use to change the world. They're able to code the future. They believe in using software engineering.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I was like, "Wow, this is an amazing skillset to have, because then it allows you to build whatever you want and shape the world in different ways." And even if it doesn't mean joining a company and building a revolutionary company, you can change the role in small, tiny ways that you just couldn't do before.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I felt like it also gives you access to a whole other underworld that you just simply cannot understand. Like, I would try to figure out how some of these technologies would work and I was handicapped because I didn't really understand how the technology stack behind it worked.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    So I was like, I felt like some part of me was missing as an engineer and I tried to teach myself how to code. And even though I failed a lot in the beginning, I was not very good at all, I kept trying and trying and trying. And then at some point, I hit this inflection point, where it just clicked for me and I became so passionate about it.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I decided to leave and quit the amazing job I had at Andreessen Horowitz to teach myself how to code. I did that and that's how I got into the JavaScript community, because I was teaching myself JavaScript and yeah.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Yeah, I'm inspired by that story. I remember reading it years ago and just being inspired that you decided to take a step down, I guess, on the corporate ladder or whatever we want to call that, where you're really successful and experienced in what you are doing and decide to make a switch career-wise and kind of start from square one again.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    It sounds like it was just because you're inspired by what was possible, by what this new skill set could enable you to do. Also, there was just something that drew you toward being able to develop software. There was some passion there. Where do you think that comes from?

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    The passion for software?

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Yeah or just the willingness to take the risk that you did.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Oh, okay. If I had to be completely honest, it's just from my stubbornness and desire to just follow my heart. Ever since I was a child, I was not one of those kids who just did one sport and could do that for 10 years and stick to it forever. I just genuinely was very curious, so I did a few different sports.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I like to follow my passions and do what I thought I wanted to do at that moment. So in this case, yeah, going up a corporate ladder at VC was definitely one path, but I just didn't feel like for me personally it was the optimal path. There's just so much more in the world that I knew I was passionate about and that I knew that I wanted to learn about.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    At the time I was only 23 and I felt like if I really wanted to just become a venture capitalist, I can do that when I'm 40, but right now was the opportunity for me to go out there and learn about the world, explore and just be hungry for knowledge and building.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I always think the greatest artists also reinvent themselves often, because if you're doing the same thing over and over ... Times change, right? And as an artist, you need to be able to reinvent yourself all the time. And I think fundamentally, I operate more like an artist and a creative, in the sense that I like to create and I know that times change and if I want to do something different, I need to reinvent myself. I've never been afraid of sort of reinventing myself in that way.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    So learning to code, to me, I think a lot of people viewed it as like, "Wow, you're giving up a lot. You're giving up this really amazing career." I think that's a really good way to look at it, but sort of like a glass half empty way to look at it.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    The other way I think about it is, what else can I do with this new skillset than what, that I just couldn't do if I continue down this path without that skillset? And like I said, if I really want to go to VC, I'm pretty sure I can make that happen. But now with the new skills that I have, I can do VC plus so much more. And I was like, "Okay, the opportunity is just so much bigger on the other end, so I can't imagine not taking it."

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Yeah. Something interesting, that kind of came to my mind as we were talking there was that, you know the early stages of when you're just learning a new skill? Especially, I think lots of us felt that maybe when we were teenagers or going through college or whatever it was that we went through to get to the career path that we're on right now, there's some excitement, maybe frustration, maybe even some fear if there's a lot riding on the line of you succeeding.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    But there's something unique and special to that period of personal improvements and working on yourself and your own skills, and I think we kind of lose that. And after a while, we fall into the drudgery of just everyday life, where we're applying the same skills that we learned 10 years ago or whatever. We stop innovating on ourselves.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Maybe we're innovating with the skills that we've developed and that's awesome, but we stop innovating on ourselves and discovering new capabilities or improving new capabilities within ourselves, and discovering new hobbies or interests that we might have if we just say stay focused on what we have now and maybe on what the world is telling us where our value lies I guess.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Exactly. This is such a hard thing for people to navigate because I think when we're young, we have all these dreams and aspirations to follow our passions or become this and become that. Then, you kind of grow older and older, and then society sort of puts all these expectations on you of what they think you should be doing.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Oftentimes, we're not at an age when we're to getting into the job market, where we've truly found our "passion". So we give into a job or a role that will make do for the expectations that society has. But then, our dreams kind of get shoved under a rug, and then by the time you want to actually realize those dreams or even have the ability to go back and reevaluate them, it might be even too late.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I think the key thing that's missing here is, when you're young, people are not encouraged to ... How do I put this? They're given more logical routes of how to follow their life and career and everything because logic is the best way to justify your decision.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Like, "Okay, if you pursued this path, you'll make the most amount of money," or, "If you pursued this path, you'll be the safest. If you pursued this path, there'll be the most ... I don't know ... you get the best retirement," whatever it is. There's logical reasons why certain career paths make sense, but all the illogical paths, there's no rhyme or reason to follow them, so people don't encourage you to follow them. And sometimes your dreams and aspirations follow in those paths.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I don't mean to sound weird or crazy, but I think sometimes the illogical paths are actually probably the right answer and the logical one might not be the writing answer.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I started to really think about this a lot over the last year or so because I continue to meet people, especially who are, five, 10 years older than me. I'm 29. People who are 35, 40 who, they've accomplished a lot in their life. They've shared a company or they're even rich or they progressed along the career lateral. They're a VP at something or whatever it is and they're fundamentally unhappy. And I'm like, "Hey, why are some of the most successful people unhappy?"

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I think I realized like, I don't think they truly pursued their dream per se. They kind of did what society laid out for them, sort of the ABC path, but then never explored the uncharted path, if that makes sense.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Yeah. That just makes so much sense. And honestly, I wonder why we don't talk about this more, why we're not mindful. I think if you had a big group of people in a room and brought them together and said, "Okay, how many of you think that money is going to buy you happiness or whatever? Or that happiness just comes from being financially successful or professionally successful?" I think most people would say, "No, that's not what happiness comes from."

    Kent C. Dodds:
    But then there's a disconnect, because I think lots of us are ... Maybe it's just because we're too busy trying to make ends meet to stop and think about, "Where am I going to really find happiness?" I don't know. But for some reason, we still just pursue this stuff that we admit to ourselves that will not bring us happiness, rather than pursuing the things that we want to or that we have a dream about.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Not an actual dream. Maybe an actual dream, but have this desire in us that, "I want this thing to exist. I want to be a part of this movement. I want this in my life." We kind of put those things to the side because the world tells us that we can't have those things until we have secured for ourselves this ... I don't know, a nest egg or something like that. That's a shame.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Exactly. There's a few things I want to hit on, which is one, again, it comes back to the fact that I think the world is driven by logic and what's objectively measurable is what's valued. If something can't be objectively measured, then it's hard for people to place a value on that. So, that's why more creative or other endeavors are just less valued.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Why do you think you make no money as an artist or a writer compared to how much money you can make as a hedge fund analyst? Right? But the hedge fund manager, you're literally making billions of dollars a year. Sorry. The fund is making billions of dollars a year, you're probably making millions of dollars a year because the world values that, because that's just how it works. It's objectively quantifiable, whereas art is not and writing is not.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    So as a result, "the incentives are not there" for you to pursue the more passionate routes, but I think a lot of that ... I think what's really cool right now is, a lot of that is starting to change, where you're starting to see people who are truly passionate about these things can actually build.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Even if it's not your entire life's earnings, you can build some portion of your earnings pursuing your passion, and maybe you do the other portion doing your regular job. But there's so many tools online now to do that.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I'm seeing all the creators on Instagram and TikTok and Medium and all these places. It just gives you access to all these things to actually pursue your passion. So I think we're living in a day and age where, finally people can actually make a decent living off of pursuing "their passions".

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I want to cover the second point, which is money. I think oftentimes, even the richest people just ... And I've met really rich people too ... they're not the happiest people. There's absolutely zero correlation between how much money you have and how happy you are, beyond a certain point of money.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Yeah, more money makes you happy, until a certain point. Beyond that point, there's actually no correlation and there's even charts and data to show this. And it makes sense, because I've lived in extreme low income ... When we were growing up we were really poor, and then I'm not poor anymore, but I'm not uber rich either. I'm better than I was when I was a child and I can see the difference in myself.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    When I get used to certain comforts, like being able to order an Uber to get to places versus walking or taking the bus. All these comforts, it makes you lose your drive and your passions. I don't know.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I don't know if it really makes me happy that I can take an Uber. There was almost some pride I took in being able to walk and take a bus to a place because it felt like I did something.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I don't know. I'm not sure how to even explain this in words, but money ... At a certain point, I think what I realized is, you can get really comfortable and it can almost make you not want to work hard to pursue your passions. It comes at odds almost. You're so comfortable that you don't want to get out of your comfort zone to work hard to make your passions happen. So too much money can actually be counterproductive to you pursuing your passions and dreams and whatnot.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Yeah. I think that I have heard a lot of studies where you overlay money over happiness. It scoops up and then it plateaus and then it dives down pretty fast. Of course, that's not going to be cross-applicable to everybody in the world. Some people find ways to have lots of money and be happy. But I do think that if our pursuit is worldly acclaim and possessions and that kind of thing, then those are empty and hollow things.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Maybe your pursuit is worldly wealth so that you can go off and do wonderful things with it, and maybe that's where you can find satisfaction and fulfillment and happiness out of having so much wealth. So, that's an avenue you can take, I guess, but I really like this idea that you're pushing forward, of focusing on the things that you're passionate about or the dreams that you have, just following your heart in that way. That can be a mechanism to provide more real value in the world than if you're just kind of guessing at what you can do to provide value in the world.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Because I think that we could say, "Oh, well, I'm really ..." Well, I don't want to give any specific examples. But if we just kind of say, "You know what? I really have this dream of one day writing a novel." I guess I am going to give an example.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    But instead of doing that, I'm going to go off and be a hedge fund manager because that's what my dad did, that's what his dad did and that's just what we do. That's how I'm going to sustain the lifestyle that I'm used to.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Then, there's that dream. There's a huge amount of value that you could provide if you're doing the thing that you're excited and passionate and that you dream of doing, that will never be realized because you're so busy trying to satisfy other people's expectations or even your own unfair expectations of yourself.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Yeah. Exactly. I don't mean to overplay the need to find your passion because I think where people sometimes struggle is, "Oh, look, I haven't found my passion. Am I screwed?" I'm like, "I'm 30, I'm not passionate about anything."

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I think sometimes maybe passion is maybe even the wrong word, but it's just things that you genuinely enjoy doing. It doesn't even have to be that it's your single life's passion.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Sure.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Yeah. I think there's an interesting Ayn Rand quote, where she says ... Going to your point about doing what you think other people want you to do versus doing what you want yourself to do, and this is something I've thought about a lot because one feels selfless, right? You're giving for the world. You're changing the world by doing something that the world wants you to do versus doing what you yourself want to do, which is very selfish and serves your own purpose, but doesn't maybe serve of the world.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    She said something interesting where she was like, "Being selfless is actually selfish." Because why are you selfless? Why do you care to do something for the world? It's because it makes you feel good and it's like you're doing it for yourself in the end.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    So, you can never let go of this idea that you're inherently selfish. Everything you do, whether it's your desire to have kids, yeah, it does help the world, but it's also because like you feel like you fulfilled a purpose in life and so you have to just admit that.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    We can argue that literally everything we do is selfish, in which case, I think you have to pick and choose where you want to be, "selfish". And I think it's okay to be selfish about doing things that truly make you happy, because happier you will put out more good energy in the world and you'll naturally do better work as a result. And down the line, that'll have much higher value than you doing something suboptimally in a less passionate way, but in the end, that has actually less value in the world.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    At least I'm speaking for me personally. I know that if I'm interested in a topic, in a subject, in a skill, in something, then I put my 110% into it. And as a result, I'm able to do a lot and accomplish a lot with that. But if I'm kind of 50% there, it's just nowhere nearly as ... my output is not nearly as good as when I'm interested in it and I'm happy doing it. Right?

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I actually think more value would be created in this world if people truly did the things that they felt they're good at and that makes them happy.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Absolutely. You know what? I agree with that totally. I think that if everybody just focused on the things that they really were excited about, wanted to do ... wholesome things, of course. If we're all just sitting around playing video games, nothing's going to get done. But I don't think most people have that, an actual passion. I'd consider that maybe more of an addiction.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    If people were intrinsically motivated to do the things that they were doing because it's things that they're really passionate about, I do think that we would create more value in the world. I would also say that, maybe more important than the amount of value that you can create in the world ... I'm not going to say maybe this ... absolutely more important than the value you create in the world is the happiness level that you feel in your own life, and the value that you can create as a side effect of the happiness and satisfaction that you get from your own life.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Being selfishly self-interested in your own true happiness ... And I'm not talking about the fleeting happiness that you can get from ... I don't know, like you get that from getting buzzed or whatever. Not that kind of happiness, but actual true joy and satisfaction out of life, when you get that, I do believe we'll also get to a point in the world where you're providing more value to the world. So, it's all upside, no downside there.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Yeah, exactly. I'm sure you can think of many examples. For example, one that I probably relate to you on is writing and blogging, in the sense that I ... A lot of people can't say this, but I'm genuinely passionate about writing. I genuinely enjoy publishing posts and generally enjoy the process of teaching via my writing.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    And I know I've impacted tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people through my blog posts, because I get messages almost every day saying, "Okay, this inspired me, this inspired me." So, I know this is true. I know that if you truly do what you are excited about and what gets you up in the morning, what makes you excited and what makes you feel good, then that energy that you put out ... that energy for example, that I put out in my posts, I can feel the rebound of it by the messages that I get from people who are thanking me or whatever for that post. So I think that's a concrete example of a way that, if you're happy, the energy that you put out in the world through your happiness and through your work will be shown by that.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Absolutely and even if the work that you create in doing that doesn't reach the number of people that alternative work could reach. For example, I decided to start writing a novel last year for National Novel Writing Month. Not very many people have read it. It's not a very good novel and still in the editing process, but it was just so enormously challenging and satisfying and fulfilling for me. It was really a transformative experience for me and it made a really big impact on my life. And I have to believe that, despite the enormous amount of hours that I spent writing, I received a positive return on that investment in my throughput in general in life.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Before that, my hobby was basically my job. I just loved coding. And I have a family of four kids and a wife and I spend plenty of time with them. But outside of spending time with them I was always coding or doing open source, whatever. And when I found the novel writing as a creative outlet, it changed things for me in a really positive way. I think that it made me ...

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Maybe I'm not pushing out as many releases to my open source libraries, but the ones that I do are probably higher quality just because my general attitude is better. And even if they weren't, at the end of the day, nothing matters quite so much as the happiness level of society in general. So, I think anything that's going to increase the happiness level of people is a positive thing for the world, even if the "value" is reduced.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    So either way, I think focusing on the things that ... Actually, that was a dream of mine when I was a kid. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a novel writer. So, taking that opportunity and that significant amount of time to try and make that happen really paid off and it's still paying off. I'm still working on it. It's just been an awesome experience for me. Yeah, looking those things that I dreamed of doing. And now that I'm an adult and I have responsibilities and stuff, I kind of have lost some of those dreams. And looking back and trying to identify some of those has just been a really positive experience for me.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Yeah. That's an amazing story. That's really cool that you wrote the novel. That's exactly what I mean. I see it. I see it in people who ... Because that energy is so hard to create artificially. And everyone's different. That energy comes for different people in different things. And it's one of those things, it's the life force that's honestly just like, you cannot explain it. You cannot put words on it. It's not objective. It's just there.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Because the energy is so hard to create artificially, I think that's what makes it so valuable and powerful. And to waste that away or suppress it doing things that doesn't give you that energy, I just think ... I don't know. You only live once, right? So, why would you do that? That's kind of how I would think about it.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Yeah, I think that's great. Well, so Preethi, we're coming down on our time here and I just want to give folks the homework. So for the homework for this episode, we want you to go back in time, maybe go on a walk or something or on a drive. Next time you're driving in your commute, whatever, don't turn on the podcast. Pause this podcast right now.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Wherever you're listening to it, you're probably in a situation you can do this. But go back in your mind and think about the dreams that you had when you were a child and reevaluate those dreams now, because when you were a kid, you probably couldn't make those things happen, but maybe you can make those things happen now.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    There's just something that happens between childhood and adulthood, where we suppress those dreams or those passions, because they're not practical or they aren't going to get us the success that we want out of life or whatever. But reevaluate them now and consider taking the leap of doing something that may not seem like the most logical choice.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    So that's our homework for you. Do you have anything to say about that, Preethi?

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Yeah. I'll just say a couple last things. One is that, this path that we're talking about is not the easy one either because it's not the one that's charted, like I said earlier, and it's not the one that gives you safety nets or a rule book or blog posts to follow or tutorials.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    It's kind of one of those things where, if you ... it's something that you have to kind of, on your own, you have to think independently about sort of how to navigate this. And that's not to say there's not communities and other people out there who are doing the things you probably want to do, but it just takes you stepping out of your comfort zone to explore those, rather than trying to find the path that's given.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    I often find that people don't do that because they're scared of taking the uncharted path. But I think if you just take that step and just try it once, even if you realize you hate it ... You hate the idea of charting your own path. You'd rather live a more comfortable life and you come back to that, that's fine. But I think, at least give it a shot once, rather than never trying that in your entire life. So that's kind of where I'd end it.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Love it. Yeah. That's wonderful. Thank you Preethi so much, for giving us some of your time today to chat with me. What's the best place for people to reach out to you on the internet if they would like to?

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Sure. I'm on Twitter @Iam_Preethi, so you can just reach me there.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Awesome. Well, thank you so much. This was an enlightening conversation and yeah, we'll see everyone next time.

    Preethi Kasireddy:
    Thanks, Kent. Bye.

    Kent C. Dodds:
    Bye.

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