My takeaways from a summer emerging from under the rock of high school into the bubble of tech

Tasha Pais
6 min readAug 25, 2021
One of many fireside chats over the summer. This one was with Ryan Delk, the founder of an ed-tech company called Primer.

For the first time in my life, I lived alone for 3 months. Not alone, but at a couple of hacker houses in Silicon Valley over the summer. These houses are just co-living spaces for curious and driven young people to share ideas and build together. In addition to coding in Solidity and discussing philosophy, I grew into a version of myself untainted by what my family and friends already thought of me. I had interesting conversations with traditionally successful people not because I was already an expert, but because I learned how to ask very good questions and learn along the way. Here are some takeaways I’d like myself to remember:

  1. When faced with divergent paths in life, always choose the more challenging option. This is the one you’ll be grateful for in retrospect because of how much you’ve grown. For me, the choice was whether I should even move out. On paper, the people I would be living with seemed extremely well-read and accomplished. I felt like I wouldn’t belong. Turns out, they’re just experts in very niche subjects and are insanely curious about everything else. Intelligence is measured not by how much you know but by how you synthesize information and connect ideas. It helped that most people weren’t like-minded at all. Hot takes and contrarian viewpoints made for the most interesting conversations.

If you want to be interesting, surround yourself with interesting people.

This can be in the form of online communities and podcasts if not your physical location. Scroll down to the bottom for a list of resources that have changed my life.

The Garden x Edyfi meetup in a dark backyard in Nob Hill.

2. School is an obvious case of diminishing marginal utility. Join an early-stage startup or work in industry on the side. I just internalized this a few weeks ago when a friend was telling me about how he was either completely un- or under-qualified for most of his past jobs. He’s currently the first employee at a wildly successful seed-stage fintech startup. There are so many small companies working to solve problems that you care about and as long as you’re ambitious, align on their mission, and can figure things out along the way, founders in Silicon Valley will hire you.

Your resume is irrelevant. Startups hire for personality and shared vision over arbitrary accomplishments.

That’s why it’s important to remember that the areas in life with the highest competition have the least returns. Competing for an e-board position at a club at school is analogous to how professors compete for tenure at Harvard. The return on investment is low enough that it makes more sense to work on something that you actually enjoy — it will eventually make you much more successful.

When we went to the SF Symphony. The repertoire consisted of Manuel de Falla’s Three-Cornered-Hat and Schumann’s only Cello Concerto in A minor.

3. The reason San Francisco felt so different to me is because I felt confident. It had been a year since I deleted all my social media accounts and I cared very little about what other people thought of me. I attended dozens of tech whiteboarding events overrun by men (just because of the nature of Bay area demographics) and felt at ease asking questions and networking. I was solely driven by the curiosity to learn about deep tech instead of the fear of sounding like I didn’t know what I was talking about.

It’s normal to feel imposter syndrome when you’re new, but very few people actually take the time to ask uncomfortable questions.

In conversations, questions are like keys to unlocking personalized information. So the next time you feel insecure about your intellect, know that acquiring tons of knowledge isn’t directly rewarded in society — the world is just too inefficient. Just ask about what the hell someone is talking about.

This one was at a crypto whiteboarding event at Ric Burton’s House where we met the founders of Opyn,, and Juno.

4. There are actually no rules in life. Everyone is playing a status game. You just have to figure out what game you’re playing and how you can, not win in a conventional sense, but tweak the rules to live life on your own terms. There’s a famous thought experiment called Plato’s allegory of the caves. It’s about how people are living their lives chained to face a blank wall. Everything they perceive as reality is just a shadow projected on this wall because their backs are facing the real world. These shadows are often completely misinterpreted and arouse intense fear. The story goes that one person is unchained and escapes the cave. He comes back to tell everyone what he saw but is killed for being crazy.

There are only a few aspects of your life that have enormous influence: where you live, who you’re friends with, and what you spend your time on.

What’s worse is that the highest returns come from just 20% of the work you’re doing. This means that 80% of your hard work is basically useless. Finding where that 20% lies comes from retrospection. This book covers ideas like this in depth.

Meetup with a few On Deck fellows in Mission. This rooftop had the best views of SF.

5. I can’t finish an article on tech in the Bay Area without mentioning crypto. As a CS student, the highest paying jobs in the market right now lie in blockchain development. Learning how to program in Rust/ Solidity and deploying smart contracts will get you hired asap. It’s more than just making money, but is the future of how we exchange digital assets.

The world is transitioning out of credit middlemen and centralized financial authorities.

Moreover, every aspect of life — from energy management to the future of work — will benefit from a trustless, decentralized, immutable blockchain.

List of resources:

  1. Online communities I’m a part of:
  • If you’re in tech, Twitter is a much better place to be than LinkedIn. Finding jobs and following trends is so much more efficient. Here’s my Twitter handle if you’d like to see who I follow: @TashaPais
  • If you’re in college or recently graduated, the On Deck community is a good place to access mentors and programming to succeed in tech.
  • If you’re between the ages of 14 and 18, The Knowledge Society is the best place to learn about emerging technology that’s going to change the world, while also training an unconventional mindset to make an impact.
  • If you’re looking into joining a hacker house in SF/ NYC, there are a few I’ve gotten to know: Edyfi, Launch House, Mission Control, Tribe, Atmos

2. Podcasts with the best quality of information:

  • Lex Fridman: Led by an MIT researcher, conversations with experts about the future of intelligence and consciousness
  • How to Take Over the World: Takeaways from the lives of successful entrepreneurs, reminder that you can do anything you want!
  • My Climate Journey: Guest interviews with successful startups working on solving a niche problem in climate using deep tech
  • All-In: Hosted by the biggest names in tech (Chamath Palihapitaya, David Sacks, etc.), updates/ opinions on tech and current events

3. Tools for thought:

  • Obsidian, Roam, and RemNote use science-backed studies to help you remember the information you read and connect ideas together over time

4. Books I read this summer that will change your perspective on the world:

  • The Almanack by Naval Ravikant
  • Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Principles by Ray Dalio
  • The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
  • The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell

If you liked what you read, connect with me on Twitter @TashaPais.