This being graduation season, I can’t help but hark back to my graduation from engineering school (lo those many years ago). I remember thinking about which company I would go with for my first job out of college. Seeing that the economy was much different then than it is now, I was fortunate enough to have a fewoptions to consider when it came to that first job. Key questions I asked myself were:
“What do I want to use my engineering skills for?
“What do I want my career to be about?”
While money was a significant part of my decision (I had been piecing together the stereo system I planned to buy for months), it wasn’t the biggest issue. I wanted to be able to look back at what I’ve done and feel like it mattered in some way. Most of all, I wanted what I designed to help people. I wanted to create tools that would make the lives of others easier. This sole factor ruled out certain employers and led me to choose my first place of employment as an engineer. While the outcome of my labors didn’t accomplish anything as noble as delivering water to the people of the Sudan, I was happy with what I was able to do.
In the past several weeks, I’ve had a chance to talk to a variety of engineers, web & software developers, and even some advanced Artificial Intelligence researchers. These are the people who, by and large, determine what technology impacts our lives and how that technology is used. The design choices they make everyday while creating new products directly impact the way we live our lives. In my conversations with these creators, there was one common thread that united them. When I asked, “What drives you to create/design/invent these products?”, all of these technologists gave answers that included a sentiment similar to mine: