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Why I Quit a Fortune 500 Company for a Startup

Last updated:
11th Dec, 2017
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Why I Quit a Fortune 500 Company for a Startup

I loved video games as a kid. I loved playing video games. I loved reading about video games. I loved video games so much that I loved watching other people playing video games. Yes, in case you are wondering, I had a problem. With all this said, I was predestined to study computer science, learn to programme, and ultimately get a job as a software engineer making video games. Or that’s how things were supposed to be.
Like Forest Gump said,

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

And boy did life have other plans for me. It took me down some extremely unexpected and strange turns. I went to college to study computer science. I ended up hating computer science. I wanted to get as far away from computer science as I could But I ended up going to graduate school to study more computer science anyway.
Infographic: What After IT? Top 5 Transitions You Can Make

I ended up falling in love with graduate school so much that I wanted to stay in academia forever. Instead, I ended up getting a job at a big corporation – a fortune 500 company. I planned to stay at this big corporation and climb the career ladder. Here too, I ended up jumping off the career ladder and jumping into the world of education. My friends and family were generally supportive of my decisions, or at least until that last one. Some of them still introduce me as Cheng-Han, someone who used to work at a big corporation. Many of them doubted my decision to leave behind a lucrative job and get into education. They often ask me … ‘why did you leave?’.
To the question of ‘why’, I reply that I have no regrets because I am now in a position to make the world a better place by making higher education more accessible to everyone in the world. Since joining the world of education, I have created classes that have been taken by hundreds of thousands of students (yes, hundreds of thousands, the population of a small city). I have created online classes taken by students from 40+ countries worldwide. And, more importantly, the online classes that I help created have enriched people’s lives and helped them reach their dreams and goals.  
In fact, one of my most cherished memories is a note from a 14-year-old student in rural India. He said he would not have learned what he learned if it wasn’t for a class that I helped create. He wrote me a thank you note and that’s a thank you note I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. Through this 14-year-old,  I realized that I had made a profound impact on someone’s life halfway across the world, through education alone. Education is clearly a powerful tool that can be used to better people’s lives, worldwide.
India’s Acadmic Sector needs a New Avatar, a Contemporary Approach

In addition, with the advent of technologies and expansion of the internet, we now have the means to amplify the reach and impact of education. We can build online classes that can be taken by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world.  Help them learn something that they want to learn. Help them reach their full potential. And help them reach their dreams and goals, much like how we helped that 14-year-old boy achieve his ambitions.
If you liked my journey or the story of the 14-year-old boy and would like to make a positive impact on society through education, please visit the UpGrad careers page to know more about the open positions.

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Cheng-Han Lee

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Cheng-Han is leading a talented team at UpGrad to build the PG Diploma in Software Development program and preparing students for software development jobs of the future.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What are startups?

In simple terms, startups can be defined as newly established ventures. The companies are founded to develop a new product or as an innovative solution to an existing problem faced by people on a large scale. The business is built from scratch, with the founders putting in the money initially. Some startups raise the money from investors as the business grows and provide them a share of the company. On the other hand, some popularly known as bootstrapped startups keep on investing the earned profits back into the business which helps the founders retain the company's entire share. India has seen a tremendous increase in the number of new startups in recent years. In fact, 2021-22 has about 14,000 recognized startups compared to just 733 in 2016-17.

2What are Fortune 500 companies?

The top 500 US companies with the highest revenue are known as Fortune 500 companies. The Fortune magazine compiles this list at the end of every fiscal year. Being on the list is considered a highly respectful feat. This is a dream for many new startups to get featured by the magazine. These companies are also favoured work destinations for graduates from all over the world. Some of the famous companies that are on the list are Walmart, Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet. Walmart is the top Fortune 500 company of the year 2022.

3What are some of the famous Indian unicorn startups?

India is churning out startups at an increasing rate with passing time. Many of these have become unicorns in the past few years. Those companies that surpass the valuation of $1 billion without being listed on the stock exchange are called unicorn companies. As the startup ecosystem is booming in the country, so does the number of unicorns. 2021 alone saw the addition of 44 unicorns in the country. Some of the famous Indian unicorns are OYO Rooms, Flipkart, BharatPe, etc. Flipkart, with a valuation of USD 37 billion, is the most valued startup in the country.

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