When the beginning of my senior year at Caltech came around, I still had no idea what I wanted to do. I thought I would go to graduate school, get a PhD, and afterward go into industry and do cool things and work with amazing people and make money. I thought that's just what I was supposed to do, but I didn't know why; I was following a trajectory that both of my parents had followed and that many of my friends would follow as well. I took the general GRE in September and the CS GRE in October, expecting to start working on my grad school applications soon after.
It was my recruiter at Facebook who led me to decide against graduate school. He noted that grad school isn't the only way to gain credibility in the software engineering industry (unlike many other industries), and the kinds of work done in industry and grad school aren't so different - but one is more comfortable. I probably could not have dealt with another six years of academia anyway, but I hadn't fully thought it through at the time. I was looking for a reason to deviate from my trajectory and this was more than sufficient.
I had interned at Facebook during the summers of 2010 and 2011, and had an outstanding full-time offer with a deadline in late November. Some of my friends who had similar offers from Facebook decided not to interview anywhere else and simply go to Facebook - the offers were enticing and the company and product were strong. I seriously considered doing this too, but it almost seemed too easy, and I felt like I would be missing some opportunity if I did. So I went to the fall career fair, and handed out copies of my resume to companies I was interested in. I handed out resumes to Quora, Palantir, Microsoft, nVidia, Fusion-IO, Dropbox, Apple, Google, Ooyala, and three others who I've forgotten now. (I remember how many I handed out because I tried to minimize my resume-handed-out-to-free
-T-shirt ratio: the final result was 12:5. Palantir gave me two different shirts.)
I had a round of phone interviews and on-campus interviews, and was invited to onsite interviews with some of these companies. I managed to schedule all of these onsite interviews in one incredibly hectic week in late November, and spent that week driving all around San Francisco and the peninsula, writing code on whiteboards and talking about algorithms. (Curiously, Quora's was the only interview process that included me sitting at a computer and writing, running, and debugging real code - now that I've been on the other side, I feel that the signal from this kind of interview is incredibly valuable.)
Quora was by far the quickest to give me the result of my interviews - I hadn't even left the office! The rest of the companies I interviewed with took a few days to get back to me. I was then saddled with a difficult decision, which eventually came down to Quora vs. Facebook. Adam offered to answer my questions about Quora, and I think what sealed the deal for me was the similarity of my decision, then, to his decision when he graduated from college. Couple that with the idea that there is no better time to take a risk in joining a smaller company, and my decision was made (though I really didn't see choosing Quora as much of a risk).
Not once have I regretted this decision since I made it.