is tks worth it if everything you learn is self-taught?

By Laura Gao • 5 min read
June 2023

background: attended tks toronto in 2020-2021. the covid year. when i was 15 / in gr 10.

it was a good year. i learnt to code. i felt like i can build any website. i learnt quantum computing and made a few videos and implemented some algorithms and got a software engineering internship @ zapata, a quantum computing startup. i made a few youtube videos im rlly proud of !! all of this is very very directly attributed to tks.

frequently asked question: Is TKS worth it if everything you learn is self-taught? is it a scam? can't you get all the benefits of tks if you just [learnt quantum computing/build ai projects/read stoicism/worked on things] on your own?

tks gave me a reason to work on side projects.

there is a way in which posting my personal website on instagram feels cringe. instagram, where my classmates and school friends follow me. everyone else is posting pics of friends and hangouts and food and scenery.

i finish project -> post to tks slack, that shit is celebrated.

most of my childhood (pre-14 years old) was characterized by intellectual loneliness. my days my nose buried in astronomy books and buddhist teachings. "buddhism is so beautiful," i wrote in a journal, "what a shame i dont have anyone to share it with." i remember in grade 5 taking the bus home from fairview with faunia and telling her abt ionic vs covalent bonds i watched a video abt this morning. idk, i found it elegant. she nodded, "uh huh," "laura is being a nerd again."

but at tks i can be a nerd! i can be ambitious and declare i want to get 10k yt subscribers and implement this quantum gan paper and i dont have to nod and yes, yes, oh no you got a 70 on your english presentation what a shame, ah yes this teacher is a hard marker you shouldnt take his class, yes, yes, i want to go to waterloo cs and work at faang that doesnt sound soul-sucking at all. there is a way in which at school and w family i had to hide the part of myself that wants to pursue weird esoteric side projects or else i get made fun of for being a nerd. with family i couldnt talk about elon musk role model things bc "get a degree first do well in hs first, take it slowly chill"

at warp, tks founder navid comes to talk to us. after he leaves, us kids remain sitting around the circle, i tell them this.

k says, but most smart teens will find their way into these circles anyway, so tks is useless/scam.

shrug maybe, i say. looks like you did, and most people here did, all ur online math and cyber discord servers. but i didnt. tks, with all its flaws, was all i had. i can feel tears coming to my eyes lol

c looks at me. do you think if there was another place that had this community, would it have done the same thing as tks?

yes, i think so, i say.

so to answer the question. the stuff i did in my tks year: learn quantum computing, make youtube videos, start a blog, learn webdev, make notetaking apps, etc. YES in theory i didnt need tks to do them, bc they were all self-taught. BUT would i have done them if i wasn't in tks? HELL NAH.

tks told me to make my silly little youtube videos when my teachers and classmates and parents told me to study for the bio test first. tks gave me an outlet for my ambition. it believed in me when i didn't. it gave me a reason to keep going.

ALSO certain mentor-ish figures i met during tks: samson. sigil. harrison. big big shoutout, conversations with yall fuckin changed my life

c is part of hackclub. i think, hackclub is a similar community. high school kids that encourage each other to learn to code and build and ship. if ur thinking of joining tks for the community/learning tech, then look into hackclub maybe. seems like it woudlve had a similar affect on me if i found out about it 3 years ago.

also, here is a podcast i recorded 2 years ago (around halfway through the program)

leave a msg for laura

i respect your emotional rawness. keep introspecting, maybe a little less inspirational quote posting...

msgs are anonymous. optionally leave ur name & discord (or other contact info) if u want me to respond