Words from the west coast

December 3, 2010
by Dillon Compton (dcc06)

This is Dillon Compton, writing at you from the west coast. Lee asked me about a month ago if I would like to author the first alumni post, and I’ve finally remembered at the same time as having the time and energy to write something.  I’ve been banging my head against the wall trying to think of something to write about, and have not had much luck. I apologize for the rambling below, but hope that it serves as an introduction to me. I’ll also share a few thoughts at a very high level about how Hampshire students (or at least me) have mapped our skills from Hampshire to the real world of corporate technology.

I graduated from Hampshire in Spring 2010 – my Div II was focused on Computer Science and Evolutionary Biology, and my Div III focused on tech entrepreneurship and smartphone software development. I’m intensely interested in how you can change the world with technology, and think that the newest era of ‘smartphones’ represent a strikingly new method of data consumption, and more importantly democratizes the production and dissemination of information.

I’m currently living in Palo Alto, CA and working at Intuit – the makers of TurboTax, Quicken, Quickbooks, Quickbooks Online, Homestead, Mint, etc… The job is good, usually interesting, and surprisingly engaging, but still leaves the ‘Hampshire Student’ in me mostly unfulfilled.

The longer I live in Palo Alto, the more connections to the Hampshire community I discover within this silicon-valley small-world of technology. Marketers, Engineers, Designers, and CEOs for tech companies large and small are all represented in the growing Silicon Valley Hampshire community. This was a surprise at first because I did not expect many Hampshire students to graduate, leave the pioneer valley, and head to the silicon valley to make it big in the world of tech corporations… but we are here, and most of us seem to be enjoying it. There is a culture out here that encourages people to always drive for something new – new technology, new ideas, new processes – that I think appeals to the Hampshire in me. It’s not about innovation for the sake of innovation, it seems like everyone I talk to wants to change the world in their own way.

Within my day job I find that the inherent interdisciplinary nature of a Hampshire education has prepared me for corporate america in many unexpected ways. Creating and delivering compelling presentations, drawing connections between apparently disparate subjects or points, negotiating workloads and expectations, establishing subject expertise, self-educating, and crafting well-written emails and proposals are just a few of the skills that I acquired at Hampshire and have used at Intuit so far. I’ve also found that the drive Hampshire fostered in me, to create new, applicable ‘things’  has served me incredibly well so far. Mostly due to this drive I’ve been handed the reigns on several side projects, and am in my “10% Unstructured time” (like google’s 20% flex time) running project and product management for a mobile time-tracking product with 10,000 customers.

I’ve got to sign off for now, but will try to post again in the near future with some details on a few side projects that I am pursuing. Much like my days at Hampshire, it seems that in the real world doing the ‘expected’ work is not sufficient to keep me engaged and I keep several side projects in progress at any given time.

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