High School Student Skips College, Gets a Job at a Tech Startup

Meet James Walpole, a marketer at BitPay and Praxis graduate.

Before Praxis: High school student with no tech skills or marketing experience.

After Praxis: Hired as full time marketer at BitPay.
James started Praxis as a member of the Fall 2014 class with no college experience and few relevant career skills. We placed James at BitPay, a bitcoin payment processing startup based in Atlanta (with offices in Europe and South America), where he quickly proved himself to be a competent and valuable team member. James learned new skills throughout the duration of the program and completed both the Praxis curriculum and professional development components. Upon graduation he was hired by BitPay full time, without a college degree.

I asked James about his Praxis experience. Here’s what he said:

What did you work on for your portfolio project?
I started out planning to contribute my copywriting to the overhaul process for my BitPay’s website. I ended up learning not just how to write good copy but how to use git and GitHub, how to write webpages in Jade, and how to notice the small details that make or break the user experience of a site. It’s all public – check it out! 

How was your mentor experience?

Getting to know the Praxis team and seeing their shared experiences and love for ideas was a huge part of my experience in this program. I’ve had long philosophical conversations with TK, shared book recommendations with Cameron, and talked at length about entrepreneurship and my future plans with Isaac. I’ve even traded some conversation with a favorite writer, Jeffrey Tucker, who also took the time to get to know my class.

Even with all of these great individual mentoring experiences, I’d say that the moral support has been most significant. Just having good people at your back is huge when you’re going through a transformative year like this one has been.

What was the educational experience like for you?

I had the chance to interact with some really interesting thinkers, encountered material from way off the beaten track, and gained insight into history, economics, philosophy, and business along the way. I don’t think this learning would have meant nearly as much without the context of my work experience in a company that requires entrepreneurial thinking.

What was the best part of the Praxis experience?

The best part of the Praxis experience for me was building a network of unusually entrepreneurial people, both in the program and at my company. It can be so easy to settle for the people in your age group or your area. With Praxis, I was thrown into a world that selects for brilliance, hard work, and integrity. I’m confident that I’m in a great place to build relationships and be myself.

Advice for anyone who wants to get a job at a tech startup, or who has just enrolled in Praxis?

Start taking responsibility wherever you can. Purposefully expose yourself to the areas of your life in which you lack skill and study them (learning about tech – particularly bitcoin – was a big part of how I got into BitPay). Cultivate the skills of asking questions and listening intently. Focus on how your actions can create value for other people. Take pride in yourself and your work but recognize that humility and curiosity will be your greatest tools for learning and growing.

Through everything, remember that you are an entrepreneur. Whether you have a company or not, you do have a life to build. If you’re just coming out of high school or college, you’re pretty much in your ‘early-stage startup phase,’ and you’d better be ready to work like it.

How likely are you to recommend Praxis to a friend?

It’s not a question of probability – I already have. This program has helped me become vastly more competent, confident, and free than I was just a year ago. I think that anyone who wants to work hard, learn intensively, step outside of the norm, and have a blast should go for it.

Articles James Has Written for the Praxis Blog:

How I Achieved My Four-Year Goals In Ten Months

How To Kill It In Your First Internship

Learning for Life in a Changing World: How to Make Your Education Antifragile

You Don’t Know What Entrepreneurship Is Really Like

Why 99% of the Work You Do Doesn’t Matter