This week we're spotlighting Troy, one of our Cambridge-based test preparation tutors! Troy is currently working at an education technology start up, and previously attended Yale for his B.A. and Harvard Law School for his J.D. Interested in working with Troy, either in Boston or online? Then feel free to check out his tutor profile here!
Tell us about where you grew up, and what your world looked like.
I was born in New Jersey but moved out to Albuquerque, New Mexico when I was 13 (a transition could be generously described as character-building). I loved the southwest; it has a such a distinct, genuine aesthetic and culture. My high school (which would later become the location where they filmed establishing shots of the city for Breaking Bad) was amazing-we were on the bus locally every weekend and traveling across the country at least once a month. We also had a directing class, with the opportunity to direct a one act play the year after: I ended up directing Wake-Up Call by Stephen Gregg, a hilarious surreal play about a boy trapped in a series of dreams-gone-awry.
What did you decide to study, and why?
At Yale I decided to pursue their Ethics, Politics, and Economics major, mostly for access to some really cool political philosophy seminars, but ended up taking a lot of courses on analytic philosophy and behavioral psychology. On the philosophy side, I ended up in some pretty crazy areas-an entire semester dedicated to the liars' paradox (what's the truth value of the statement "This Sentence is False") and another on various modes of infinity. In psychology, some favorites were a class entirely on the evolution of classical conditioning; another one literally called "Thinking" that looked at different modes of thought-in particular big focuses were on how we generate and conceptualize 'categories', and the different ways we make, and are bad at making, decisions; and, finally, an amazing reading group where we just read cutting-edge research papers and critiqued their methodologies, came up with alternative explanations for conclusions, and thought about the implications of the research. I knew I wanted to go to law school, so I wasn't so much trying to pick up any particular content or expertise so much as hoping I could broaden the ways that I approach information. I realized somewhat early on that my retention for random concepts was unlikely to stick for long, but analytical tools-how to close read, how to craft a good deductive argument, would last a lot longer-and that approach was great for law school as well (where too many courses employ the same tactics and just switch up the content being studied).
What are you up to now? How did you decide to pursue this?
After college I did Teach For America in Mississippi and then law school after that. I thought I wanted to go work for the government (I spent summers at the Securities & Exchange Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and drafting bills for Congress at the House Office of the Legislative Counsel), but realized I missed the education world and especially a career where I would get to work with and develop people as part of my job. So, when given the opportunity to join a small education technology start up, I leapt at it, and began working on it after I took the bar. In the meantime, Cambridge Coaching has been a great way to stay connected to education, help me continue develop my teaching and mentoring skills, and provide a lot of mental stimulation in the form of tackling new courses alongside some of my tutees.
What do you imagine your life will look like in 5-10 years?
Mostly appreciating that autonomous cars and VR are real, mainstream, and as awesome as I was promised as a kid (seriously, go strap on a Gear or any of the real headsets and they are already *amazing*). But more personally, I hope my start up is helping kids get into the best school possible and helping schools determine best practices to drive change for their students. If that doesn't work out, then I hope to have found some other social venture that's dedicated to tackling socioeconomic inequality.
Share 1 weird fact with us about yourself.
I used to hold two world records in the rhythm-based dungeon crawler, the Crypt of the Necrodancer. Now I'm second place, and I hope to change that in the near future. You might be able to find some video recordings of these on YouTube...
How do you stay focused and motivated?
I have a really open schedule right now: my start up work comes in waves based on when the programmer and design folk (who are both part time) are able to put in work, and then of course tutoring is quite flexible too, so a big thing for me has definitely been figuring out how to harness my time wisely, and especially thinking about: do I have set hours in which I can be productive, so I should focus all my work then, or do I have the capacity to expand my working hours, and should focus on those limits? I'm not sure there's an objective answer (though I think Dan Ariely has been doing a lot of work in the area, so maybe there is or will be soon), but for me it's mostly about focusing work on early hours so that I feel like I have a 'win', and then, whenever I'm feeling stagnant, to move locations. I cafe hop a lot as a way of staying energized (and fit), and mostly believe in the adage "if you want something to get done, ask a busy person." Anything to make me feel productive is going make me motivated, and feeling like I've been slow just creates a spiral of stagnation, so even if it's non-work related "ok now i'll spend an hour reading this, or doing that," I try to create some goals for myself to always feel a sense of progress.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get where you are now?
Put the things and people you love first. Your work will always expand to fill up whatever time you let it. So always prioritize that which provides meaning, and you'll figure out the work stuff after. Promise.