Why I’m glad I got rejected from Chicago Business School

Just over three years ago, on March 24, 2010, I didn’t get “the call” that was supposed to change my life – a congratulatory call from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business accepting me into their MBA program. But the absence of the call has changed my life.

I assumed (arrogantly) that I would be accepted. I was just
finishing a master’s program in Applied Mathematics (which
I never planned on using) with straight A’s. On top of my
studies, I was working full-time at a large defense contractor
in Washington, DC, volunteering at a local youth organization,
and I had decent GMAT scores. I had studied abroad, had
an engineering undergrad and wanted to be a management
consultant, with the eventual goal of starting my own business. I
had applied to a handful of schools but I thought I was made for
Booth and Booth was made for me. Made sense, right?

Thankfully the admissions office didn’t think so.

I always knew I would work for myself eventually. I had
started two businesses prior to applying to business school (a
shirt company that failed and a computer repair company that
failed). I had a serious problem with authority. I hated being
told what to do. Even though I never thought I would use my
advanced math skills , I absolutely loved math and computer
science. Minus a few minor issues I had with my current job
it never once felt like real work.

A little depressed over the rejection and having to live in DC for another year, I finally started to realize that I really loved what I did everyday. Sure, I thought I deserved more money and I hated having a boss, but until I faced the rejection, I hadn’t really questioned if business school was really going to get me where I wanted to be.

The next day I woke up with a new plan that has brought me
to where I am today. I was going to learn web development,
move to a more start-up oriented culture (New York City), and start my own company. I clearly remember not knowing a damn thing about web development but having heard about something called Ruby on Rails ( I ended up choosing Django over ROR, but that could be another post by itself).

As I prepared to execute this newfound plan, I actually started
to take my job a lot of more seriously. Working as a data scientist at a very small DC-based consultancy was fulfilling, but I always assumed I would be leaving for bigger and better things. I accepted the fact that liked what I did, and started reading everything I could get my hands on, and taking on larger projects.

I eventually lead the Hadoop effort of scaling my company’s
infrastructure on EC2. This lead to my immersion in big data,
which lead me to being active on Quora, which lead me to
Meetups, which lead me to my co-founder, which lead me to
SocialQ, which is where I have been for two happy years.

Everything that happens to you in life can be turned into an opportunity - even rejection. Not getting accepted in B-school, at the time, seemed like the worse thing that could have happened - actually turned out to be the best thing that could have happened for me. Success and happiness can be found in places you never thought to look.

If you enjoy content like this, please follow me on twitter: @josephmisiti