How Zubin Pratap Went From Lawyer To A Software Engineer
Ep. 207
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Zubin Pratap

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On this week’s episode, I talk with Zubin Pratap, a recovering lawyer turned entrepreneur turned software engineer. After over 14 years in international corporate law, Zubin went into commercial roles and then eventually taught himself to code at 37 and became a software engineer at Google at 39.  Today he is still working as an engineer and educator and spends nights and weekends privately coaching committed career changers on how to transition to tech. Zubin is a prime example of how to pivot in your career and follow your dreams but also how you need to shift your thoughts along the way.

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Show Transcript
Hey, welcome to Lessons From a Quitter where we believe that it is never too late to start over. No matter how much time or energy you spent getting to where you are, if ultimately you are unfulfilled, then it is time to get out. Join me each week for both inspiration and actionable tips so that we can get you on the road to your dreams.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to another episode of Lessons From A Quitter, I am so excited to have you here. If you've been here a while you know there's those interviews where I'm basically yelling yes a hundred percent all the time throughout the whole interview. This one is one of them. I am so honored to have Zubin Pratap on the episode today and you'll see that we are just two peas in a pod. We both very strongly believe that mindset is pretty much everything in personal development and really strengthening your mind is what the key to changing your life. But I will let you hear from him because he has such amazing advice and wisdom and he is just such an example of how we all should be approaching our lives. Zubin describes himself as a recovering corporate lawyer. After over 14 years in international corporate law, he went into commercial roles and then eventually taught himself to code at 37 and became a software engineer at Google at 39. He's the first one to say that this summary conceals 99%, especially the immense self-doubt, fear, hesitation, failures, false starts, tears, loneliness, frustration and on and on it goes. He has blogged and spoken openly about the real struggles of career change and he now, while he still works as an engineer today and educator, he spends his nights and weekends helping other people coaching them through the career changes into tech. So I wanna jump into all of his story because there's so much that's not even covered here. I honestly could have talked to him for hours and hours more because he has lived many lives. And I think for so many of us, when we see people like this it seems as though it's easy and I love how open he is about the fact that so much of this was a struggle in overcoming all of the fear and doubt in his own mind. So I will stop rambling so you can hear from the amazing Zubin Pratap.

Hi Zubin, thank you so much for joining me today.

Hey, nice to be here, Goli. Thank you for having me.

Oh, I am so excited to have you and I can't wait to share your story because I know it is going to help so many people. So let's start back at your legal career. Why don't you tell us a little bit about why you maybe you became a lawyer and how long you worked in that field?

I worked as a lawyer for over 14 years. Um and I was licensed to practice for about 16 but I wasn't working as a lawyer for the last two. I started my career in India so I went into the law in the late nineties. I started I went to law school in ‘98 and there is an excellent law school and that's the real reason I became a lawyer. It wasn't that I was sure I wanted to be a lawyer. It was more that in India, a good Indian boy in the eighties and nineties would um, you know, be either a doctor uh an engineer, typically a civil engineer or mechanical engineer, not IT engineering was not, you know, quite as big back then or a law- lawyer. And you often made the decision based on the prestige to actually the school you went to based on what you could afford. So it was a combination of factors that had very little to do with what your natural inclinations are and I'd argue at 17 or 18 you don't really know. I I really honestly wish we could do university at 40. I think we'd we'd all get a lot more out of higher education if we did it halfway through our career. [Absolutely.] So yeah, so that's what happened. ‘98 I started, 2003 I popped out the other end. The world changed in the middle, ‘98 Google wasn't a thing. 2003 Google was getting ready to list publicly, right? Like the whole world change at that time. [Right.] Dot com boom, the bust, you know, all of it happened in that time while I was in law school and, you know, the trajectory was set. So I was a lawyer for 14 years um after that.

You didn't practice the whole time in India, right? You ended up moving to A-Australia.

No, I was… that's right, Goli. So I was uh three and a half years in India. I I started off as a litigator. Uh I made the um the first mini career transition into corporate law after about two and a half years of that. Um and back then it felt like the biggest deal in the world like it was, you know, wow. It was such a risky move and all that. Made it to corporate law, loved it. Loved M&A, loved aviation financing. It was a time in India when, you know, the aviation sector is booming. I was one of a small team that, you know, pretty much built a new practice that didn't exist. It was really great fun. [Mm-hmm.] An excellent time. And then I moved to Australia 2007. My timing was absolutely exemplary. Uh just in time for the for the uh great financial crisis. I was on a work visa. I hung on by my fingernails. Um I worked for an American law firm actually Baker Baker and McKinsey. [Right.] Which um you know was a was a great place to work um and they were kind to me during the financial crisis. Um you know and I survived that along with a lot of other people that did unfortunately.

I love that you said that though, that you thought that it was a huge shift because even for non-lawyers, but I know in the law, I don't know if it's maybe the powers that that be do it, but we definitely do it to ourselves where once you're practicing for a couple of years like you pigeonhole yourself. Well, now this is all I can do. I've done litigation. It's funny because the people I work with, you know, I'm trying to push people to make these huge changes. And it's like even the idea of changing a practice area seems like such a crazy notion until you do it and you're like oh yeah, I had these skills. Of course, I could do it too.

Totally and it's fear talking, right? [Right.] Fear writes a script that we all believe and also we live in very small worlds but don't like to admit it. And we surrounded by people like us who do things like us. We take our cues from the world around us. We just let our context normalize everything in our life, whether it's kids, family, what we do for Christmas. Um, you know, it's all normalized by what we see around us. And honestly you need one example to the contrary to have that moment like um Jim Carey movie when the lighting fell from the sky. It's very funny. I can't remember it. You know, the one I'm talking about, right. [Yeah.] And suddenly they’re like hang on, what? Why did this light fall from the sky? Like what's going on in the real world? And you peek behind the curtain and you see there’s an infinite variety of things that people are actually doing that you just didn't know cuz they weren't part of your context.

Yes. Oh my God, so well said. So then you continue your career in corporate law and at what point do you start getting an inkling that you wanna leave the law or try something else?

Um it's hard to pinpoint exactly when, but but here's a better way of thinking about it. I was always wondering whether I'd done the right thing. Now part of that is just is a function of being in the world with a bit too much choice, right. Which is a position of privilege so I'm not complaining but, you know, when you stand in a tuna aisle sometimes you have decision fatigue and you're sort of paralyzed because you're like hang on, which kind of tuna do I want? Right. It was a bit like that because the world had changed a lot between when I went to law school and when I came out. So 2003, the world changed a lot. By 2007 start-ups are a thing and I was like hang on, what do I want, you know? So it was a moment of doubt and the more I introspected and, you know, I do spend a lot of time in my own head which can be quite unpleasant for others and for myself at times. But um I realized that I was in the law and I chose the law for reasons that I wouldn't was no longer certain were true to myself. I didn't really know what that meant but I knew what it that what it felt like. Right. Which is there was a sense of dissonance, not because I didn't enjoy the law, I did. Intellectually was very satisfying, financially it was very lucrative and prestige-wise it was an incredibly anesthetizing thing. Like you just felt good about being a lawyer cuz other people thought you were a hot shot. You were a hot shot of some sort. [Yeah.] Right. [Mm-hmm.] And I didn't agree so there was a little bit of being on the inside and saying hang on, I don't really think there's anything particularly fancy about this profession but the world thinks so and maybe I should just go along with it, you know? So there was a bit of that and I didn't like that. I didn't enjoy that because I felt there was so much more that I could do in my life. So it started like that and then it was just a question of, and and I I'm trivializing and making it sound way more simple than it was, it started off with me giving myself permission to wonder [Mm-hmm.] and then giving myself permission to explore. Then giving myself permission to fail, which was possibly the hardest part. And because that entailed trying, you can't feel unless you try. And that was the hard bit.

Yeah. I mean, I think what you just described what so many people feel when you talk, you know, the [Mm-hmm] idea that that prestige and I think part of this, not that it has to do directly with imposter syndrome, but I think a lot of times that is why we have these feelings because inside we're like wait, I don't feel any different. I don't feel like I'm this big hot shot but everybody's looking at me as if oh wow, you're a lawyer. And you sort of get that dopamine hit when you tell people you're a lawyer [Yeah, totally.] or what do you have that prestige. And then there's this dissonance cuz you're like but I'm the same person with all these problems still. Right. And you know, [Totally.] but when you you say that the the trying and failing, how did you even get to the part where you were saying exploring? What did that look like for you? Was it like after work you were what did you start exploring with to even let yourself try and fail?

Oh, I tried so many things, Goli. Like, you know, that that's the interesting thing. Like honestly the path behind me is littered with so much debris from things I tried that didn't work that, you know, most of the world will never see. Not that because I'm hiding it but because they just wave in my past, you know? [Mm-hmm.] It took small forms uh me attending a few meet-ups, me tentatively talking to people but completely lacking the confidence to own what I wanted because it just felt too big. And anytime I did it, I felt like the moment I acknowledged the size of the transition in my head, and it was all in my head, Goli, this is the important thing. It's all in my head. Right? [Yes.] And I felt like a cockroach that was scurrying back into the shadows anytime I confronted my dream like I wanted to run back into a little crack and hide there because I was safe and warm and secure there. Right? So it started with tentative little steps like that. Then it started with me saying, you know, let's just do it. Let's just do something. So I I hired a team of developers and built what I called my first product, which wasn't a product, but I didn't know any better. You know, that happened twice. Everything got off the ground. The third time I did that, Goli, I was so in over my head that I spent a bit of money getting a bunch of developers in in India to build me an entire product. And it was the first marketplace for lawyers, accountants, that was the vision: lawyers, accountants, tax folks, conveyancers, um uh and people to do your will in one place. This was 2014. I called it Noble Genie and I said I'm gonna, I built the thing out, I got someone else to build it. And they sent me the code and they said yeah, you just gotta deploy it on the server, do the configuration. And I was outta money on the budget at that point in time. And I did not understand anything they said. [Right.] Til today, Noble Genie is a zip file in my cloud drive. But that was, you know, it cost me several thousand dollars. Never got there. That was the term. I'm with three.

I'm gonna pause you really quickly. And it's so funny, if you guys could see me, I'm like just nodding furiously. And I, you know, I feel like a broken record and I say this stuff all the time. I have a, if you know, but I have a group coaching program and in that process, like people come for this process of figuring it out and I'm always like it's not a secret, try a bunch of stuff, fail at it. Like keep tuning in to like what what do I like? What lights me up? As I do this, which one do I like? And I know that's not the answer people want because they want certainty. And they want like tell me what is the thing. [A hundred percent.] And so when you say this I'm like nodding so furiously like yes! [Yeah.] When you said, you know, my past is littered with the debris of everything that I failed at, like that is quite literally the only way. I failed the same way. [Totally.] I had a number of businesses that didn't take off. I had, I [Right.] I had a photo booth business that did, even though I didn't wanna do anything with photo business booth is but I was just like I gotta start a business. I don't know what I'm doing. And I feel like that naiveté is a real gift because it gets you to start things. But I wanna know for you, like a lot of people might dip that toe in, right. They might say like alright, I'm gonna start this business and maybe entrepreneurship is cool or whatnot. And then they get the first fail or or they get the second fail or they spend the thousands of dollars and it doesn't go. And then it's all of the fears of like maybe I'm not cut out for this. I have no idea what the hell I'm doing. I can't do this. So how do you start having those fails, start experimenting, start seeing like okay, I can do some things but it's clearly not going anywhere and then push back against your mind where it's like maybe law is the thing for me because I don't know what else I'm doing?

Let me add, I'd be annoyed, Goli. And answer that question the question back at you. Okay. Cause I think this will give your listeners the answers. This will remind your listeners of what they already know. Okay. Every time you made that effort, you did not even really in your heart of hearts expect to succeed. Even for the photo booth, there was a part of you that was like oh my God, here we go again. [Yes.] Right. There was a part of you that feels like right. You already, even before you your first ever failed attempt, you already knew what you had to do. You did. You had all the information. [Yes.] The different that about the process that it was gonna be painful. You were gonna fail. You were gonna, you had all the bumper stickers running like a stock ticker tape in your head. You knew all the things. Right. But the reason you didn't do it is because somewhere deep inside, you were hoping for one of two things I think and I'm gonna speak for you here but so this is my projection. This is what I went through. I was either hoping someone was gonna come and rescue me [A hundred percent.] and show me, right, or I was hoping that I'd be the one person in history who had an easier time of it. The moment I realized I'm just another statistic simply, not in a bad way. I'm another human being on a planet. The universe cares about me for sure but I'm a human being. I'm not gonna be singled out for special treatment. The only person who can single me out for special treatment. Well, is me and my mom really that's it. Only people ever gonna single me out and my wife to some extent on how well behaved I am, right. So ultimately that's what kept real. The big breakthrough for me is give myself permission to fail because it's unavoidable.

Yes, oh my goodness.

And here's the thing: if you're going to dig for gold, for oil, whatever you're digging for. There's an unavoidable amount of dirt, top soil, rock, knee scraping, head banging, elbow grease that's required. [Yeah.] You cannot find the oil until you dig through a whole lot of rock.

Ugh, I love that analogy.

And every step, every failure is digging. That's all it is. That's one. [Yes.] The second thing is that we, again, we know this: reframe failure as something useful. How many times have we heard this? [Mm-hmm.] What does it actually mean? It means a process of cognitive conditioning, conditioning your mind to say oh gosh, I'm thinking of this as a failure but how is this gonna help me? So I have a coaching practice too and around learning to code and actually around career transition. Most people get obsessed with the learning to code bit. Career transition's hard, Goli, right? [Yeah.] We make it harder than it needs to be. [A hundred percent.] Not because of the actual mechanics of the transition but because of the way we think. Every single day we add all this friction because one thought sets us off. It triggers us. It pulls out all these insecurities. And so cognitively reconditioning yourself to say failure is something that's A) unavoidable but B) never waste a good failure. [Absolutely.] You've learned something from it. Right. And as long as you could put food in the table, as long as the lights are still on at home, even if you feel terrible, you're not actually at risk.


Idea of risk is warped. I went to no income for three years. I was terrified. Three years later, I am no longer afraid of dropping my income cause I know I can tighten my belt. I okay and I come from relative privilege having been in the law for a while. [Yes.] But again, that's your audience, like we all have advantages and this about [Mm-hmm absolutely.] And I think Socrates said if you throw all our troubles in the pile and thought of swapping it out, as soon as you saw everybody else's, we would take ours back. [Yeah.] It's true. We all have advantages and disadvantages and you just have to cognitively recondition yourself to say I'm gonna take the beating. I'm gonna take the beating. [Mhmm.] You know, when you're doing those crunches and number 10 hurts, you don't stop because you know you've gotta do 15 before you actually start getting results. Four times, you know what you know, there's a drill.

So I mean, you're really speaking my language because everything that I coach on, everything that I teach on, on this podcast and so all the listeners also it's like all of it is mindset, right? The how-tos are out there. [Totally.] Like all the steps are Googleable. Everything's on YouTube. [Totally.] You can figure it out. It's just can I turn down the volume of that fear, of that inner critic? Like even when you're talking about yes, this fear, this catastrophizing in our brain where like if I take this one step, I'm gonna end up homeless outside. It's like no, you're not. [Mhmm.] I really reevaluating, what is the risk? What is the fear? Yeah, maybe it's gonna hurt. And mostly it's gonna hurt my ego. [Right.] Mostly it's gonna hurt telling people that I'm not a lawyer anymore. [Right.] Not because it's gonna hurt, cause I have to tighten the belt. It's like this identity I've created for myself. [Yeah.] Right?

And Goli, can I ask you something [Yes.] just in that point? Cause you've hidden something really important there. When you left the law, did you think people were gonna say you were crazy and it was incredibly risky?


And then yes, there may have been some that said that at first but once you actually made the leap, were people not generally kind about it?

Not only kind, every single person in my firm when I left was like I wish I could do that. I can't. [Right.] I wanna do that. [Yes.] Everybody wanted to, they're just too scared to do it.

Yeah. And and they put up a brave, here’s another thing, we’re just gonna call it. They put up a brave face until you do it. They dock the game because they need to defend their own lives. And I get it, I understand. Right. But the moment you make that transition, those same people that said you'd be crazy. Why would I do that? Nah, it's wrong. It's the wrong thing. Secretly reach out to you by email and say hey, how'd you do it? [Yeah.] Happened to meet an astonishing number of docs [Me too.] by people that I thought

Yeah, me too. Same. I mean, the people I was terrified of judging me, the people, the same communities that I was like wow, they're gonna when I put this podcast out are the same people who follow me now, who join my programs, who [Right.] want coaching because they're doing the same. They wanna do the same thing. [Totally.] And that's the thing, it takes courage to be maybe the first one at your group or the first person. I say this all the time and I see it all the time in my program with my uh students. And I always tell' em like, you know, you're gonna change your life. That's one thing. But the ripple effect it will have. And every one of them comes back to me and says like oh my God, my husband now is starting to do this mindset work and is changing it. My father talks to me this way and is like okay, if I take personal responsibility and just these concepts that are coming and it's like amazing to see. It's so scary when, like you said earlier, when it's your world and everybody's acting a certain way and so you're acting in that, for you to step outta that is extremely terrifying. And then you do and you realize not only is there all this possibility but like what if I become an example of what's possible? What if I'm the one that shows people that it's okay? [Exactly.] That it's available.

And you, what you've hit on this is such a huge motivator for me. So the reason why, you know, I work full time. I love engineering but I also, you know, spend a lot of my weekends and nights coaching people. Right. And the reason, and it takes up a lot of time cuz it's a very non-scalable thing the way I do it deliberately. And the reason I do it is, you know, we are all obsessed about um generational wealth, right? As a culture, [Mm-hmm.] right. There is no greater vector of wealth um or, you know, freedom, whatever our values are than a powerful idea. One powerful idea can echo across generations. [Yes.] Right? [Yes.] And the beautiful thing about an idea is unlike money, it's not a zero-sum game. It's not taken away from someone else when you get it. When you share a good idea, all of you get it.

Yes. Yeah.

Right. It's like a candle flame. You don't put out a candle when you light another candle. [Right.] The flame doubles. [I love that.] And then it it propagates. Right. And this happens across generations. So for me, the most powerful thing is a single idea can change your life. And it's happened to me the moment I opened myself up to that possibility. There've been times when I spent thousands of dollars in a program, got nothing much out of it but one idea that changed my life. Right. [I love it.] Just one idea.

I feel like we're gonna geek out. I I could do this forever. And I wanna get back to your story because it's funny because when my thought now when I, because I do coaching programs all the time as like a student, I constantly am investing in my own mindset, in my own thoughts. [Yeah, me too.] And my intentional thought in every single program is I just need one thought out of this, that's it. [Yes, that's it.] I don't care if the program is a thousand dollars or if it's 10,000 or a hundred thousand, I just need one thought and that will fundamentally change my life. And I always get what I came for. So every time I go into a program, I always find that one thought because that's the intention I put. It's not about getting a straight A, it's not about finishing every worksheet. It's about what did I come here to kind of shift in myself and I always end up getting it. [Right.] And it's amazing, but okay. [Right.] I want people to know, cuz you say like you know that you work as an engineer, so I wanna get there. So you have these couple of fails. You're still in the law. What happens next? [Yeah.] Like at what point do you end up leaving the law?

So I was in my mid-thirties, Goli, and um I was one of the top performers in in my company that I was in-house at that time et cetera. I was doing really well but I was getting a rejection after rejection when trying to leave the law. And at that point in time, I think this was 2014, I'd just done this really sort of career defining M&A deal in Indonesia et cetera. It was really wonderful like phenomenal opportunity. But I'd been trying to leave the law openly with my boss, with my management for over a year.

When you say leave the law like what were you trying to look into?

Going to a commercial role. So I was I was trying to do the easiest thing in the same company if possible, move to a commercial role. Right. Um to basically a non-legal role so a role that, you know, handled I dunno something around commercial strategy or go to market operations or something, you know? And here's the interesting thing. Every single person that I met said oh, you’re talented, you're smart. You're a lawyer. Course you can do anything you want. Okay, will you gimme a job? No, right. So they appreciate the skills or at least they say they do [Right.] but they cannot take the risk on you because you are a risky entity from a hiring point of view cause your competitors are people with experience, with the right credentials, whatever that means today and which HR is not gonna push back on. It’ as simple as that. [Mm-hmm.] Right. So when I realized how recruitment worked, and I had already done recruitment a lot in the law by that point of time and I done it amongst countries, so I sort of understood where this is coming from. I actually changed my strategy quite a lot. And it it took a lot more sort of parallel processing and lateral thinking to actually make the change. And then eventually I changed um into a commercial role at the same company I was in. I was in charge of go to market strategy. That's why I give you that example [Mm-hmm.] um and a sort of channel strategy for our uh the mobile business. So that's what I was doing for a while. And it was, you know, it was my first step out of the law and I knew that the first step is not gonna be the one that you necessarily dream about. Right? [Yeah.] It's not but it is a step. And I was happy, I had a good team, et cetera. No problems. Then the year after that, I did my MBA at night and I transitioned to a role that was more aligned. Cause once you make the first change, [Yeah.] it's like the first house you buy, the next one gets a little bit easier. [Totally.] Right. The hard one's the first one, getting that right is important. You know, and I keep saying this to my students: direction is way more important than speed. Cuz if you're going from New York to LA and you head east, it doesn't matter how fast you're going. [Yes.] Right. [Yeah.] Direction more important than speed. And so I was highly intentional about the first rule, but to be clear, I had more than 53 rejections in one year. [Wow.] A lot of them from the same company in which I was already in the top 5% like go figure that's life. That's the game we playing. Right. And so you have to evolve the strategy. So I made the transition, I then moved into a more tech-focused role which is wrapping business models around emerging tech like drones and connected home and IOT. In 2016, did my MBA at night. And then I just quit cold turkey. Five days after my wedding, I invited my wife to to grab a burger with me with the dog. And she's like what is going on? And I'm like oh, there's something I need to talk to you about. And she's like and you could not have had this conversation with me six days ago. And I'm like yeah, sorry about that. My bad. Um anyway and I said look, I wanna quit. I'm just gonna quit cold turkey cuz, you know, I'm 36 and a half. I'll never do this. I'll never do this if I don't do it now. Already it feels so risky. And she said oh God, just do it. Like you know, to her credit, she never stood in my way. But it meant there were financial implications obviously, you know, in terms of the risk and all that. So I had to manage all that but I was like I'm just gonna do this and we don't have kids by choice. So it was a little bit easier for me. No doubt about it. Right. And so I did it. I just quit. I hired an extremely good team of engineers here in Melbourne. I had an idea but I I was no longer gonna do the overseas thing for for the development work. Hired a team of engineers, launched a product a year later, had about 5,000 users on on on cell phones and very quickly, you know, I was at the end of my road. I ran outta money. I spent tens of thousands of dollars, Goli, on this one thing. [Wow.] I was trying to solve street parking. Right? Uh really something I felt very strongly about. Anyway, didn't work out. Two years later, I had a co-founder briefly but he quit because he had a baby and I had to learn to code to deliver in some proofs of concept that I promised to local governments here. You know, local councils. And so I just said okay, I'm gonna have to learn to code somehow. I tried and failed four times before that [Wow.] um and then this time hadn't earned income for three years, I’d spent more than 80 grand by this point in time. You know, I was drawing from the mortgage, all the rest of that. And then I got into a bootcamp. I borrowed another 50 grand against the mortgage to go to San Francisco for three months while running a house here uh went, left in week one, came back because I was 38 by this point in time. And I realized, Goli, that with all due respect to bootcamps, they do a good service for sure but they teach me how to code. That's literacy. No one in the last 400 years has got a job for being literate. [Mmmm.] What I needed was a career transition again. [Yeah.] And frankly, how many musicians do we know who aren't in bands? You know, just cuz you and I know how to write English, I I dunno about you, but I'm not an author. I'm not a poet. I'm not a songwriter. I know I have all the tools I have all the literacy but I'm not skilled at those things. [Yes.] Right. To me, learning to code is pure literacy. Right. [Interesting.] And so I quit the bootcamp and said none of these people have changed careers, the ones that I'm learning from. None of these people have had much of a career cause they're all in their mid-twenties and, you know, they've got time ahead of them. I was in my late thirties at this point in time. [Right.] And none of these guys had actually been on the hiring side. So I said, so I quit came back and I decided fifth time, I'm gonna just gonna do it. I'm gonna teach myself. But this time I had all the learnings and this is why failure matters. [Yeah.] So I had four years’ worth of my diary. I sat down for two days and pulled out all the things I did wrong from my diary from four years. It was a lot of work. [Yeah.] And then I audited that and I said okay, now I know what not to do [Oh that's…] and I know why I quit. Right. Cause I had my diary. [Yeah.] The thoughts, all the thoughts that I've forgotten, all the feelings I've forgotten. [Yeah.] And seven months later I applied for four development jobs. Got all four.

That's amazing.

A year and a half later I was in Google. [That's…] Right. As an engineer.

This is wait, we we’re gonna have to stop. This is unbelievable. I love it. I mean, you said this a couple of times and this is really, um so so true when you, it's not even about just reframing failure. I think when we can start, instead of attaching a story to it right, which is what most of us do, it's like we fail once and then we start making it mean like I'm not cut out for this. I'm not good enough. I'm not smart enough. And then we quit. There's so much gold to mine in it. Right. There's so many lessons like the fact that you evaluated the fact that you went back and said okay, what can I learn? One of my favorite quotes is you either get the result you want or you get the lesson you needed. And that's it. It's like I either got the win or I got I I clearly had to learn something. So what was that thing? [Right.] Most of us don't stop to learn that thing. We just use it as like let me use this as a stick to beat myself up. Let me just cake this failure and just beat it over my head. And hopefully that I don't know will produce something in my life. It's like [Absolutely.] but I just wanna know though, there has to be times, you know, you've you've tried to teach yourself, you make the decision to take out more money and go to San Francisco. You know? Like there there had to be doubt. There had to be the thoughts where like [Oh, there was so much.] Yeah, like what am I doing? I don't know. I mean, how did you deal with those thoughts?

Very publicly. So there is I wrote a a blog in 2017 or 2018, around that time, called for the avoidance of doubt. Cuz as a lawyer, for some reason, I'm still stuck with that d*mn phrase in my head. I said for the avoidance of that, I still have that fear every day and I was so public [Mmmm.] and that went kind of semi-viral for 2017/2018 um because I was so open about it. You know, I it's I think it's still up there in medium somewhere cause I was so open. [Yeah.] Cause I didn't want people, cause people no matter what happened, Goli, sometimes my own family, cuz they're not in my head, [Right.] even they think it's easier than it is.


Cause they're not in my head. [Right.] They see me taking action. They see me keeping my chin up. They don't see what's going on in my head. Thoughts. Cause I'm a walking jukebox for bumper sticker quotes [Right.] that empower me. Right. Cause none of this is real. None of this is real. If you go down to the quantum physics level, all of this is just energy moving around in weird bits. Okay. [Mm-hmm.] We, our eyes, our brain construct stories. Okay. [Absolutely.] The fact that we give each other plant reproductive organs and we elated about it cuz that's what we want for both. I mean that's what flowers are the reproductive organs of a plant, right? But we attach all this meaning to it and it makes us come alive. We get to choose. There's nothing more empowering in the world then knowing that the only person in your way is you. The only person you've got to blame if you screw up is you and you don't blame, you hold yourself responsible. There's a difference. [Absolutely.] There's no way to empower whether you're a man, woman, child in this modern world. We've spent hundreds of years fighting for a level of freedom where we are free to choose whether or not we are free anymore. [Mmmmm.] That's the level of freedom. We are so free that we give away our freedom without even realizing. There is no more empowerment in this universe as a human being than to know that the only person in in in your way is you.

Goodness, so good. So good. And so true. I mean, a lot of times really when you zoom back, we, and we talk about this sometimes on the podcast, I I've done an episode of like the fact that none of this is natural. None of this is… jobs. You know, it's like we're animals on this Earth and you think even when you zoom back, it's like this tiny rock that's just floating through space. And yeah, we ended up here and we created these societies and we even created jobs. And then we decided what jobs are more prestigious than others just because we wanted to. It's not like learning to read a contract somehow makes you better at something. [No.] You know, it's like what? We've all assigned these meanings and then we are so beholden to 'em. Right. [Completely.] We're so like handicapped to kind of like handcuffed to the fact that like oh, I'm a lawyer now so I guess I have to spend the rest of my life doing this. [Totally.] It's all made up. It's all made up. [Totally.] So I love I love that.

Yeah and it's funny when you say that cuz I used to listen to Pete Seegar’s Little Boxes. Anytime I feel I'm limiting myself, I'll listen to Little Boxes cause it's a story about how we all come out looking the same. [Yeah.] Cause, you know, we put boxes around us up. Yep.

Yeah. I guess nuts and bolts, how does one teach themselves how to code? Is it just like on the internet there's ways to take, how did you even learn that process?

I had a coach that was non-technical that pretty much first and foremost and most people don't, I'm sure you see this in your program. Most people say yeah yeah, I know mindset is important but really show me how, right. Cause we're so obsessed with the tactics. [Yeah.] Right. Because we don't see, we are so good. The human brain has evolved such that we minimize pain. [Mm-hmm.] Right. And we are bad at predicting how we handle pain and stress. We are bad at it. We know we don't like it, but we suck at knowing how we're gonna deal with it unless you're really self-aware and you practice. Again, it's a learnable skill. It's a learned behavior. Right. So my coaches were like if you want a different outcome, you've got to change. [Mmmm.] Okay. World around you will only change when you change. Again, bumper sticker kind of stuff. Right? [Yeah.] But absolutely life-changing. Like again, that idea is life-changing, you know? [Yes.] The other thing is if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got. [Yes.] It sounds like a bumper sticker but profoundly deep. [Mm-hmm.] Okay. And again, gives you power. It gives you power, you know? Cuz you have choice now. And so I had a few coaches that sort of helped me get my mindset right. And again, it wasn't so much about what is learning to code. I don't know. I mean, I play the guitar. I've played the guitar for 20 years. I know how to play the guitar. Am I good? I have no idea. Right. Am I good enough to be in a in a rock band? I have no idea. Right? Learning to code, it's very clear when you don't know how to code. It's unclear at what point you suddenly know how to code. There's no magical why. Right? And that's why you have universities to give you a magical finish line that's kind of arbitrary and totally standardized. It's everyone comes out looking like the same cookie from the same oven without any distinguishing features. [Mm-hmm.] Right. [Mm-hmm.] so I basically had to, again, I I make it sound easy but it took four years of trial and error [Yeah.] to figure out that I am in a marketplace and in a marketplace, I am the product. I am the CEO of the said product and I have to invest in said product to make it marketable. And that is assembling the right skills in the right order in the right way for the market and targeting. Now how I got my first four development job offers totally different from the approach I took for Google.


Totally, totally different. Now you may say hey, it's all coding. Yeah. Say I wanna be a musician and try and make a career at it. Yeah, what instrument do you wanna play? Like, you know, what kind of music do you wanna play? Do you wanna play in an orchestra? Do you wanna play in a, the decision after you'd set the broad category of what you’re gonna try and do and then each one of those, if you decide to pick up the trumpet instead of the guitar because you think you can be a trumpet in a rock band and you find that not many rock bands that have trumpets, it's gonna take you time to change from trumpeting to playing the guitar. [Yes.] There is a time cost involved. Again, direction more important than speed. [Right.] And that's what b- the breakthrough was. And that's pretty much what I do with my students at the moment is learning to code is honestly one seventh of the problem. There are six other pieces that you have to do to successfully transition career. Mindset's also one of them but also understanding what your next career is gonna be. Especially for people in the twenties and thirties, they feel vulnerable for a reason because career transition can be costly if done wrong. [Mhmm.] There are risks. I no, obviously there are risks. [Of course. That’s right, yeah.] And if you get the wrong direction, you don't want to repeat the first half of your career again. That was what kept me accountable to myself is I don't wanna make the mistakes I made in the first half of my career and dream that I'm gonna get a different results. Cuz if you want a different result, change your action. I repeat my mistakes from my twenties and thirties or my thinking or my preferences or my prioritization. I can't go with the same plan. I need a totally different plan to get a different outcome. So all of that sort of, you know, [Yeah.] can to, yeah, it was all a set of stack skills. And, you know, as I can't remember who said it, success is really easy. You just gotta do the right thing at the right time in the right way. Yeah, totally easy.

I love that. And so then how long, I I know you just told me you just left Google for another place. How long did you work at Google for?

Oh, just coming up on two years, a little bit less, yeah.

Amazing. And then now you're an engineer as

A chain link, yeah.

Chainlink. Oh yeah, in going into crypto. I love that.

In the web free world, just you exploring as a lawyer, it's a very fascinating space to be in because it's one of those really multidisciplinary. You have to be engineering savvy. You've gotta understand market psychology. You gotta know a bit of finance. [Yeah.] You've gotta learn all these things. And as a lawyer, fascinated by the space cuz it's wild west at the moment.

I mean, clearly seeing your mindset and the way that you view it uh your your career now, it's not like you had one career transition, you've had multiple. Right. And you you I love that it's in the direction of where you wanna go because that's all we can ever know. Right. There's some north star and I keep kind of gauging and evaluating and pivoting and seeing like is this closer to what I wanna be doing? Is this not? Do I and how do I go? But I wonder like so how do you view the future of your career? Is it more the same kind of I keep taking steps closer to where it is and allowing myself to pivot? Is it like I found it and this is it. I wanna be a coder for the rest of my life. How do you view the future for yourself?

So the only, truly honest answer I can give you that, Goli, is I have no idea. [Yeah.] Cause I've still got another 20, 30 years ahead in it. [Yeah.] Right. The world is also changing rapidly. What I can tell you is the couple of things that I won't do from my past that I, you know, that I won't repeat. One is I will no longer think of a career the way everybody else does. At the end of the day, what we tend to forget is that it's a very important word before career, my career. [Right.] Right. I'm just gonna own it. It is about me. It's all about me. Okay. And it's all about what makes me happy, what makes me come alive. Personally for me, good people, which is part of the reason I joined Chainlink. Uh and one of the best things about being at Google with the people that were amazing. Curiosity. So I am giving myself full permission to follow my curiosity because I realize that from a Maslow's hierarchy perspective, most of my needs kind of will be met. I may not be particularly rich. I may not be particularly famous. I'm gonna have a boss. [Right.] You know and I'm okay with that. Right. [Yeah.] And anything that comes on top of that great. Upside, right. So that's aligning with my values. So that's principle two: align with my values. [Mm-hmm.] And three, recognize that as I change, hopefully my values will change. [Yes.] Cause I am embarrassed by who I was 20 years ago. I'm 41 now, I hope in 20 years, I'll be embarrassed by some of the things I say in this conversation in a good way. [Yes.] That I've evolved because me being embarrassed by my past is proof that I have evolved.

I feel like I am just gonna scream at like everything you say like yes, oh my God. Yeah. Cause a hundred percent. And I say this all the time, you know, on my own podcast. And I'm like I have no idea if this will be around in five years. I have no idea what I'll do. And that lawyer me would've been terrified of that prospect [Right.] because everything was like have a plan, make sure you know and it has been the most liberating part of this entire journey is knowing that the possibilities are endless and I could do so many things. And how exciting for me that I have another 30 years of figuring out who I wanna be and who I'm gonna be next and what I'm gonna try. And that I'm not limited by this is this one career and I have to make sure that, you know, nobody ever thinks anything bad of me and I never embarrass myself and I never fail. And like I feel like having gone through this journey, I've liberated myself from those thoughts [Right.] so now it's like yeah, I'm gonna fail. People are gonna wonder what the hell is she doing? And it's okay. And then I'm just gonna have a great time doing it and figuring out what I wanna do.

A hundred percent, a hundred percent and you know, Rumi. So what you described there is, again, another really important value in my life is, and I I was just telling some neighbors’ kids this cuz you know, um they're a captive audience and they have to listen to, you know, what big uncle Zubin says. But anyway, I I was just telling them I'm like look guys, sometimes, you know, Rumi said this, actually one of the kids, her name is Rumi. She's lovely. You know, Rumi, the poet said this the I think it was him. Um the way emerges when you walk in it, paraphrasing here. [Yeah.] Right. And it's the same thing on the highway. We only see so far with the headlights. [Mmm mm-hmm.] The rest of the highway emerges as you drive through it. That's kind of how we, what's the point and meaning of life to me? The experience of it. [Yes.] We have some curation responsibility for that. I totally agree with what you're saying. Like and especially for the lawyers out there, the reason I describe myself on LinkedIn as a recovering lawyer is because there are habits of that life that I still carry with me and I have to guard against. Number one habit, lawyers kind of trained pessimists. [A hundred percent.] Okay. Our skill is judged by how much risk we spot. Okay. And I learned this lesson when I moved to Australia, I was living with a wonderful guy who was uh, you know, I roomed with him for for about a year. Wonderful guy who's a cop. And I noticed his worldview was slightly skewed suddenly compared to mine. [Right.] Right. Because he was surrounded by a certain set of experiences that as a cop, you'd see on the street. [Yes.] That shaped his life. And that made me think hang on, how is me being a lawyer shaped my mind and that's gonna hit me. I'm a trained pessimist. [Mm-hmm mm-hmm.] Right. And as lawyers, we that's how we are. So it's hard for us to realize that we've gotta shed that identity and that habit. Right. Because just cuz you see a rope in the path and it looks like a snake, doesn't make it a snake. It's perfectly rational to be legitimately cautious but what you're seeing is largely influenced by what you think

This has been so fantastic, Zubin. Thank you so much for joining us. And I'm sure that [Thank you.] so many people are gonna find so much value out of this. I guess for parting words, what advice would you have for anybody? I you're not just lawyers but somebody who really is in a career that they know is not for them but they don't know what that first step is. They don't know what they wanna do and they feel sort of stuck. But [Yeah.] they know there's something else.

First piece of advice I'd I'd give them is if you're thinking about it, give yourself permission to find out. Okay? There's a little bit of a follow up to that, especially for lawyers, but for anybody else, actually the human condition is we, you know, I think it was Seneca who said we suffer more in imagination than we do in real life. [Yes.] Okay. So we have to recognize that thinking about a change is actually far more painful, weirdly enough than doing it. It really is. [Yeah.] You will suffer a lot more. If you look at the word traction, again, bumper sticker but this one's mine. So, you know, it's literally 75% action. Literally the letters is 75% action. Okay. Which means you can't think your way, you can't engage with the future you by thinking, you have to do and you don't have to bet the farm. Jeff Bezos is against it so you should be too. I mean, if you wanna, you know, use somebody else's example. Don't bet the farm, but bet on yourself. There's a difference. You have to engage through action. The only way you will learn about what it is you want understanding yourself is a lifelong emergent phenomenon. It is not something that you do once in your twenties or your thirties, your forties, and write in the diary and forget. You are a a being that is unfolding which means figuring out what next is in the is a constant process of your evolution. It's an emergent idea which means you can only do it by being that which you wanna be for a little bit and not thinking about it. You can't just stop at thinking that.

So so good. Zubin, thank you so much. Where can people find you if they, I'm sure they're gonna want more and get in touch with you or I know you said you do some coaching, tell them all the things.

Yeah. Look, the best place is to just follow me on LinkedIn or, you know, sort of connect on LinkedIn and on Twitter. So Zubin Pratap both on LinkedIn and Twitter, you can find me there. You can find me at but really LinkedIn's the best cuz I try to respond to people, you know, personally um and things like that. And I have a small really rubbish YouTube channel. My production quality is low but I focus entirely on substance not form, you know, cause I speak for the heart there. Yeah. So those are the ways to find me but LinkedIn's probably the best.

Perfect. Well, we will link to all those in the show notes so that you can [Wonderful.] definitely go find Zubin and get more of this wisdom. Thank you again so much.

Thank you Goli and thank you for doing this. You, you know, you've done more than 200 podcasts. We just need one example of people like you to prove it's possible. And we don't need to know that it's gonna happen, we just need to know it's possible for us. And that's what you do. That's what people like you do. That's what your podcast is all about. So thank you for your service and contribution to people, you know, for spreading that idea for lighting another person's candle. I appreciate that.

Aww thank you so much. That means a lot to me.


Thank you so much for listening. If you liked this episode, share it with someone else. I promise you know somebody who also hates their job and wants to quit, so why not share the love? And if you want to come follow along for more, come join me on Instagram at LessonsFromAQuitter and make sure you say hi. I'll see you next week for another episode.