Did I underachieve in life?

thanks for sharing this thread :heart:

Two additions to all the good advice/input to what others already said:
TLDR: Grit is what makes people successful

Just sharing a story I came up across in engineering management lately.
Superstar Number 1 was a 20yo guy who was disappointed with his life, dropped out of college and went to work on 5* cruise ships and then later in 5* hotels - and then “suddenly” almost 10 years go by.

He learned a perfect English and a close-to-native German, he learned having a great customer focus and anticipate anyone’s needs from a few words and was trained to be super service oriented. He was made team lead in the hotels after a short while. He also picked up a wife and 3 kids along the way somehow…

Then at 29yo, he decided that this career in hospitality is not something he wants and he wants to be an engineer instead - so he registers for our IT junior programme and 3 very intensive months later he’s a Certified Kubernetes Administrator out of DevOps Academy. Paid super poorly (junior salary with a training baggage) with 3 kids, barely enough to go by in day-to-day, but ready to learn anything I give him and never says no for a challenge. Long story short, in 18 months he’s made 2 promotions into Senior engineer, almost tripled his salary and got to lead 5 people locally… and not because he was an intrinsicly talented DevOps (those don’t exist), but because of the experience he gathered in his previous life and the application of those skills to his new profession.

Superstar Nr2 was a lawyer for 6 years and later found his calling being a Java dev instead. Similar story, similar ending.

If you’re 32 and want to be a (software or devops) Engineer, it’s just about a year’s impact in terms of salary and humble learning, and then you’re back on your feet. A degree adds little to these career paths. If you want to be in space engineering, that might be a different story, though.



But I‘m quite confident that graduating from a no-name instead of a well-known university would have prevented (most of) them from going to their positions.


Probably true most everywhere, but not in Switzerland.
Check out this article: Some of Switzerland's top CEOs did apprenticeships instead of high school

I agree, it is easy recruiting. If you are HSG, you are more likely to hire a HSG person because you know what you get and they are in your personal network

This article is giving examples of 2 former CEOs, not really a representative study. They are probably more the exception than the rule and would rather feed some confirmation bias.

I have seen a study that the guys in top positions of banks etc. are mostly groomed since their earliest carrier (meaning hired from a top university and then pushed through the ranks - as longthey produce the results needed of course).

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In my opinion, a paper from a recognized school is useful for showing off in society. It’s a bit of a “who’s got the biggest” contest.

The network is much more important than any paper. In that sense, joining a local Rotary or Lions Club would be much more helpful.


Thanks for sharing your story. I feel like studies and life achievements do not necessarily correlate.

Do you think your friends are happier than you? You have your own place, a girlfriend, and a stable job.

I also work at a bank and often wonder if I could be doing more, just like you. And the answer is YES. I could be doing more, doing better. My dad always says life is a marathon. If you want a job, a mission that adds value to the world, there are many ways to create that position for yourself. You still have time to go back to school, or build a resume that will help you achieve what you have always dreamt of (in engineering or not). There are many ways to help people, at a small or large scale.

Congrats for what you have built so far.


Compared to what? I’ve read this post some time ago and have wanted to reply, but then thought differently because I’m not going to be as supportive as everybody else. Still it kind of stuck with me and I decided to reply nevertheless…

I value your responses on this board, you seem like a knowledgeable bloke when it comes to finances in Switzerland. But this post gives me some strong fishing, r/iamverysmart vibes.

Did you underachieve? It depends on the metric I guess.

Your childhood was difficult, you’ve got a great opportunity through great social policies (school psych evaluation and then paid private school) and you sort of squandered it at first but it provided you with a great opportunity to do the internship (I assume you wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Gymnasium). So no, I don’t think you underachieved, hell financially, you overachieved! If you hadn’t flunked out would you be earning that much? How many people with a masters are earning less than you at 32? Look at this table!

You actually failed upwards, financially! You have no degree and earn more than most graduates who finish about the same age as you do and by the time you’ll be done you’ll be earning more than most of them most likely. Also you earned money while they did not for many years.

Morally/ethically, could you have done something to benefit society instead rich clients, maybe. Could your achievements in ITER mean free energy for everyone! Maybe!
That’s where “virtue signaling” comes in to me. You can go ahead and do that. Hell, save some money now and take the time off to go back to school.

I would give up a pretty decent career in banking for it. It would also be a lot of hard work. Early 20s, living at parents home, working 8-16h/week…so much easier. I just couldn’t manage it now. And it would probably put early retirement out of the picture.

But you’re happy with where you are. Enjoy it!


Surprising numbers, thanks for sharing. So the top 25% earn 100k gross 5 years after finishing a Bachelors degree and 110-115k gross 5 years after finishing a Masters degree. You are right that without the Gymnasium I wouldn’t have got the internship. This diploma actually saved me as there weren’t many alternatives.

That’s depends of what do you mean successful.

I had this conversation with my wife in regards of our kids and an article that I read about the kid’s future income and family wealth correlation.

Summary of my wife and I conversation
I want my kids to be happy, independently of the money that they will earn (this will be a success)
Good studies centers, universities open some doors and connections that other doesn’t (anyway you need good grades or really good connections).
It is much harder to climb the ladder from the bottom rather than the entering at the middle (open door based on education and background)


I know that one could view this as a sociopathic behaviour, but it really resonated with me.


Sheesh now I want to know how it finishes.

Nice way to overturn things, though.

edit: I mean I’d love if someone tells me how that scene finishes. I realized I might not want to see the movie…


It’s not a movie, but a series called The Dropout, which is based on the life of Elizabeth Holmes, which created Theranos and turned out to be a complete scam. The whole story is in fact worth checking out, it’s fascinating! The actor representing Elizabeth Holmes is so eerily right, it’s amazing!


You did well in life. You are successful in your own way. Own it, be proud, you have reasons !

On getting back to university (my opinion): do it if you want to prove something to yourself. Prove that you can accomplish it. To achieve something you have not done yet. But not for others, for job. You seem perfectly capable of scoring points at work.


I agree with this. I actually did exactly this in my early 30s, as I would have been the first person in my family with a university degree (or even attending university), and I wanted to prove to myself that I could have done it if my family had had the means.

Professionally, I was doing well managing a subsidiary of a US company, so I decided to try that before having kids. I completed the first 2 years of Computer Science until I realized that what I was learning in uni was so useless and disconnected from what I was doing as a developer/manager that it felt futile and led me to drop out (even if in Portugal you’re not taken seriously unless you have a diploma).

It would have been a waste if I had done it to make someone else happy or respect me.


Wait. Owning an apartment, a job with 120k compensation and you haven’t graduated bachelor in your industry yet? Man, you are way ahead of most people I know, including myself, in terms of current status and future potential.

Having said that, comparing to others doesn’t make sense, just moving forward on your own path. Sorry I haven’t read much of your past. Just look forward.

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He isn’t comparing himself to others as much as comparing himself to the potential he may have had.

He gets paid a ton to sell banking and finance products to people - while wondering if he could have contributed to creating marvels of engineering instead that could change the world.


Have you ever thought about doing an executive master to achieve both goals? Something useful for the current career path and obtaining a diploma that can always be useful for future goals.

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I’m not really talking about my financial success. I know that earning 120k without a bachelor degree is pretty decent. But like @San_Francisco said I was wondering about the field of work I’m in. I really like my job because finance is my passion, but how much am I actually contributing to society and progression of humanity.

First I need to finish my bachelors degree in autumn 2024. But yes that would also be an option, just an expensive one :smiley:

you can have many “lifes” if you able to master a different job in 6 months (and can fake it until you do)
you might find out your current life was better than the next you try

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I don’t really long to be a manager, I’d rather grow on the technical track. So an executive master would be of no use to me. Thanks for the suggestion, though!

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