A few months ago, I made the difficult decision to shut down General Task. It sucked that it had to end this way, but I’m incredibly grateful for the experience: I learned so much and have many fond memories. At some point soon, I’ll collect and share the lessons learned for posterity. But today, I want to talk about what I’m working on next.

I am excited to share that I’ll be rejoining the Robinhood engineering team!

Why go back to Robinhood, instead of another startup? Robinhood is special to me for a number of reasons. Let me explain why.

Finding my way to Robinhood

Nearly ten years ago, when I was in high school, I got into investing in the stock market. I thought it was so cool that I could be a part-owner in famous brands like McDonalds and Apple. I was lucky to have supportive parents who opened a Schwab custodial account for me, and I started trading with a few hundred dollars. While it was fun to get involved in the market I quickly saw how much of my money was being eaten up by trading commissions. I invested $50 into Facebook, and paid $9 for the privilege. When I sold it later, for $100, I paid another $9. Nearly 40% of my profit was eaten up by fees! It almost didn’t seem worth investing at all unless I had way more money.

But then, one day in 2013, I discovered Robinhood, which proudly declared on its landing page that it would soon offer zero commission trading. That blew my mind. I immediately joined the waitlist, and applied for an account at 12:05am, literally minutes after I turned 18. I fell in love with the product as soon as I downloaded the app. I had never seen such a beautifully designed, easy to use finance app—suddenly, stock trading didn’t feel as much like something that only rich old people did—now people like me could easily invest on our phones! And I didn’t need a ton of money, now that I didn’t have to pay steep fees on every trade. I quickly became an avid user.

That summer, after I graduated from high school, I began to think about internships for the following year, and without hesitation, I thought of the product I loved and used most: Robinhood. I checked Robinhood’s careers page and didn’t see any internship postings, but I was too excited about the prospect of working there to let that stop me. So I applied for a full-time position, even though I hadn’t even started my college classes yet, and added a note saying I just wanted an internship. I knew the odds were low, but I had to at least give it a try.

Surprisingly, they actually were willing to give me a chance! I went through their backend engineer interview loop and got a call a few days later that I had been offered an internship for the summer of 2017! I was ecstatic, and immediately accepted the offer on the phone before I even heard what my compensation was going to be. I couldn’t believe it—I was going to get to work on a product I absolutely loved, and one that I felt was genuinely making a positive difference in the world.

For the rest of the school year, I counted down the days to the first day of my internship, especially on the nights when I was up late doing boring computer science or math homework I couldn’t make myself care about. Spring quarter in Freshman year was tough for me—I was drifting away from several of my friends, and started to feel quite lonely and burned out. I had always thought that college would be an amazing opportunity to meet more people like me: builders who were excited to work together and make cool things that could change the world one day. Instead, I met a lot of hypercompetitive students who didn’t care at all about changing the world, and had no interest in building things for fun. I felt isolated in my passion, and I longed to bring back the days in high school where I’d tinker on coding projects with my friends between classes and after school. I started to worry if I could ever find a community like that again.

I’m so lucky that I did, and it didn’t take long.

When I got to Robinhood that summer, it was a much-needed breath of fresh air. I loved the work, and quickly dove in. It felt so good to be building again, and contributing to something meaningful. As one of only a handful of backend engineers at Robinhood at the time, I was given a crazy amount of responsibility very quickly, and got to have a big role in shipping several features during my internship. It felt amazing, especially since I was excited to use those features myself as a user too. I was learning so much and doing the kind of work I loved.

While that was all amazing and great, that wasn’t even the best part of Robinhood. The best part of Robinhood was the people. Even though I was just an intern, my teammates and the broader company welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like a true member of the team. I got to meet new people every day at lunch, and my mentor introduced me to a ton of cool people across the company as well. I went from spending almost zero time meeting people and socializing to doing it all the time. Every single person I met that summer was insanely smart and talented, but more importantly, kind, friendly, passionate, and helpful. Any time I needed help at work, I was able to get it immediately. And the shared excitement about the Robinhood mission was palpable.

Robinhood was small back then, only about 75 employees or so, and had far fewer users than today. We all knew it was going to be an uphill battle to change an industry and convince the world that investing is for everyone, not just the wealthy few. But we all were crazy enough to believe we could do it, even if it wasn’t going to be easy.

I fell in love with Robinhood that summer. I had finally found my people.

I wanted so badly for that summer to just go on forever. I was truly happy in a way I didn’t think would ever be possible for me in college. So when I got an offer to convert to a full time engineer, there was no doubt in my mind that that’s what I wanted to do. My parents initially wanted me to go back to school and not take the offer, but I simply couldn’t bear the idea of turning this amazing opportunity down. So I proposed in a letter to my parents a compromise: I would take the offer and work full-time while remaining in school. It would be hard work, but I knew it would be worth it if I could stay at Robinhood.

In that letter, I described earlier that day at Robinhood being “surrounded by the talented and passionate coworkers I've had the opportunity to spend time with this summer, working on something that really matters, to me and to potentially millions of people. I got up and went to a joyous, cheerful, lighthearted all hands lunch meeting. It was full of laughter, and now I realize that I think today was probably the happiest I have been in years.”

I successfully convinced my parents to let me take the full-time offer. It was so worth it.

My Robinhood Adventure

I spent the next three years finishing my degree at night and working at Robinhood during the day. It wasn’t easy, but working at Robinhood was so fun and exciting that I didn’t mind the long hours. As I describe in a nostalgic letter I wrote to my first team at Robinhood:

Everyone I talked to [at Robinhood] was friendly, helpful, and deeply excited about their work and Robinhood’s chance to democratize the financial system. It inspired me that so many people would take a chance on doing something that had never been done (successfully) before. My positive impression of the people at Robinhood only strengthened when I joined as an intern in the summer of 2017. It was incredible to see what our scrappy Backend Product team of eight people was doing. Every person’s job then, as now, was scary and mission critical and...so cool. Then, as now, I was able to learn so quickly from my peers and from my work. But more important to me was that the people on my team and at Robinhood cared about me as a person, were willing to help whenever I had trouble, and were deeply excited about Robinhood’s chance to make investing accessible to everyone.

One team member at Robinhood was so passionate that he wrote a manifesto arguing in favor of zero-commission trading:

If you haven’t read The Free Trading Manifesto, give it a read, because it’s awesome. I will surface the final quote: “...many will claim that free trading is not possible, and many will insist that commissions do not matter. But if free trading is possible, how can you not strive to level the playing field and make it real?” Well, two years later, make it real we did. At the time in 2017, it seemed unimaginable that a 100 person company could change an entire industry, and change it in a way that directly benefits ordinary people. But we did. By forcing Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, E*Trade, and Fidelity to all cut their equity trading commissions to zero, we took a huge leap forward in our mission to democratize our financial system. And that. Is. Awesome.
Back in 2017, we had no idea if we could get this far. I never imagined the day when all of the major established brokers would match our pricing and zero commission trades would become the norm. But I can tell you one thing: we never, ever lost hope. We had plenty of rough times too…but we worked through those problems and emerged stronger, knowing the whole way that our mission was worth the struggle.

My time at Robinhood inspired me to believe that it is, in fact, possible to use technology to help people and level the playing field. We somehow managed to beat the odds. There was a time at Robinhood that we all genuinely believed we were unstoppable, that we would reshape the entire financial system, not just stock trading, to be more fair. As I wrote a few years ago:

There’s so many parts of our financial system that suck for normal people, and can be better. If you see how well a banking private client gets treated at Chase, you’ll be shocked that it’s the same bank that nickels and dimes poor people for overdraft charges. We can change this and so many other unfair, unjust parts of the financial system. And to re-quote [The Free Trading Manifesto], if we have a vision for making it better, “how can you not strive to level the playing field and make it real?”
American brokerages are but one small part of the global financial system. I truly believe that the biggest opportunities for us as a business are ahead of us, as we tackle new product areas and expand to new parts of the world. If we can become one of the biggest brokerages in America, we can do the same with banking or payments and with the rest of the world. It won’t be easy. It has never been done before. But it’s possible. And if we all work hard to make it happen, we could help millions or even billions of people have access to great financial services that they didn’t have before. And I think that’s pretty awesome.

Unfortunately, in 2020 Robinhood experienced some growing pains, and made a reasonable decision to pivot to focus more on stability and safety. As a side-effect of that effort, Robinhood aggressively expanded the team, and product velocity slowed down. Robinhood very quickly became a much bigger, mature company, and the work got a little bit less exciting as a result. It no longer felt like the underdog. I felt called in 2021 to leave and start my own company, General Task, in part to help address some of the developer productivity problems I noticed crop up at tech companies after the switch to remote work at the start of the pandemic.

For a long time, I never looked back and thought I would simply spend the rest of my career at early stage companies. But my time at General Task was very intense. I put my heart and soul (and quite a bit of my own money) into that company, and I was devastated (both emotionally and financially) that it didn’t work out. I started to wonder if I was yet ready to do it all again so soon.

Coming back

As I thought about what to do next, in July of this year I was invited to visit the Robinhood office in Menlo Park and meet with some of my former managers and coworkers. On my visit, I was completely blown away: the office was packed! It was buzzing with the kind of energy and excitement that I hadn’t seen at Robinhood in years. It felt alive. My former coworkers were genuinely excited to see me and several stopped to say hi. I also met a bunch of people who still genuinely believe in Robinhood’s mission and its ability to reshape the financial system. And suddenly, all of the fond memories and war stories from my time at Robinhood started rushing back to me.

That day, I saw the old Robinhood I loved, for the first time in years. The rebellious underdog on a super ambitious, crazy mission. The kind, collaborative, and tight-knit community. From the very moment I stepped foot back in that office, I began to feel an irresistible siren call to come back home to Robinhood. To work on a beautiful product changing the lives of millions. To rejoin my people, and fight for this mission I deeply care about. To do everything I can to help push that mission forward, no matter the odds. That siren call only became stronger as I met more people at Robinhood in the following weeks. I’ve seen firsthand what a group of highly motivated, passionate people can accomplish together, and I firmly believe that Robinhood still has what it takes to beat the odds again.

So, why am I joining Robinhood? Simple: it’s where I belong. It’s where my heart calls me to go. And because it’s one of those rare successful companies that, in spite of all the cynicism in today’s society, is still crazy enough to think it can change the world:

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

It’s time to democratize finance for all. Robinhood to the moon!!