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Ask HN: Is your work meaningful?
30 points by faitswulff 34 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments
In light of the "escaping your safe meaningless 9-5 job" post, is your work meaningful? And how is it meaningful / what do you do?



After 20 years in recruiting for tech startups I decided to launch a resume writing and career coaching business. In recruiting I was often helping candidates to fix their resumes and teaching them how to get jobs, but I was working on behalf of companies and my incentives weren't always to the benefit of candidates.

Now I focus 100% on helping people get jobs and build careers. Much of my coaching work involves convincing people that they are qualified for roles they felt were beyond their reach, or helping write a resume that will open doors that had previously been closed.

Sometimes my clients come back and send me a thank you note about how they have been offered their dream job or a raise that will change the lives of their family. Sometimes I just see a LinkedIn notification that shows a past client took a new job.

Being a resume writer is an odd career choice. It's not glamorous like writing novels or screenplays. But I can point to thousands of people that have benefitted from my work. That feels meaningful to me.


Yes it is.

We build a machine that shaves of pennies from donations to orphanages and funnels them directly into hedge funds.

To do so we have to build a neural network! and in Tensorflow no less!

And here is the real kicker: I rewrote the interface in Haskell. If that isn't meaningful, I don't know what is!


Cool, what kind of fossil fuel does the machine run on?


Tires soaked in the blood of a white rino, but to make it meaningful, we first use crispr to modify the protein in the blood.


Poe's law?


I have a personalized set of 'meaningful indicators' I use to help answer that question whenever I am job searching or feeling less than thrilled about my current work.

1) Does the work have a positive impact on people in my community? (this could be a literal local community, or a shared interest community)

2) Do I feel energized by the work that is happening around me at my company? Not just what I am personally responsible for.

3) If I were to leave, would I still care if the product/mission of the company succeeded?

4) Am I making enough to support my family and provide myself with a healthy/active lifestyle?

5) Have I ever felt like I have directly contributed to, or worked for a company that has, deceived or taken advantage of its customers for the sake of profit?

Outside of these questions, I feel like trying to attribute any other type of meaning to my work would leave me anxious, depressed, and perpetually stuck in the "grass is greener" situation.

I am lucky enough that my current work checks all the boxes (1-4 as yes, 5 as no). With the bonus of having learn a ton and been given the opportunity for career growth multiple times over.


I work because I must provide for my family. That's enough meaning for me.


Same, I help writing systems to 'optimise advertisement effectiveness' == encourage consumerism and maybe creative negative value for society. It sucks but I have to support my family and extended family as the main bread earner.

On the other hands, I often donate to wikipedia, supporting local FOSS communities and mentoring young students. Currently helping my friend with his air pollution measurement station project too. All that I won't be able to do if I take a lower paying job but more meaningful job (previously I was working as a civil engineer, building bridge and stuff).


> It sucks but I have to support my family and extended family as the main bread earner.

May be you can find a different work which may pay a bit less but doesn’t create negative value for the society?


It's very hard to find one like that with all the VC money poured in, only those cool startups get all the money. I am making 3~5 times as much as friends who are working in civil/mechanical engineering.


This.

All other "meaningfulness" is just pure bonus. And no: I am not unhappy, nor unfulfilled.


Would you provide for your family at any cost? Forget about meaning. What if your work is causing harm to some people or a lot of people? Like the wall street or Cambridge Analytica or Palantir?


Are you pitching a TV show? Because where I live, no one has to choose between certain death and working on cool tech for corrupt spooks except in TV shows.

Providing my family, doesn't have "any cost". It costs at least 50K€/year around here and, if my LinkedIn feed and the official stats concerning my domain of expertise are to be believed, I could slam the door any day and start at another tech company within a week.

But, assuming we are in a TV show, yes. I would gladly harm tens of thousands of unnamed, faceless nobodies and please tens of thousands of others if it helped me keep my loved ones out of the gutter. Especially if it meant playing with the cool tech at Palantir :-)


same to me. hard to invent another meaning so far..


That's not "meaningful", is merely necessary.


Well, meaning has scale, and on the human scale, what OP describes is extremely meaningful. On the local scale, raising good kids can do good things for the community. On the county level, things get fuzzy. It's probably better that his family is well looked after and tax money goes to the state. Net positive? Probably.

On a planetary scale? Universal Scale? Of course it doesn't matter, but what would be the point of caring about that except at length? We're not universal scale. I'm not a planet. I'm a human, and I care about other humans and the communities I'm part of.


Upvoted. And on the bigger scales, I have detailed views on what matters and why (because of a belief in God, with a long list of reasons for it all :) I wrote or linked to a bit of it here but there is more if interested:

http://lukecall.net/e-9223372036854618453.html

http://lukecall.net/e-9223372036854618449.html


Is there some reason they're mutually exclusive? Eating is necessary, but it can be meaningful even if the food is simple. Working in order to build your life can also be meaningful.


I work in IT at a large insurance company. Most days, I get to cheer someone up and help them with a tech thing they are stuck on. I'm not curing cancer, I'm not fixing the atmosphere, but at least I can detect when I helped someone out. It's mixed bag, but it definitely puts the needle over 50%.


Your work is more important than you know. Many people in large orgs are still afraid to talk to the "Trolls in IT."


I find meaningfulness in my job but I do not find my job meaningful. Once upon a time, we were doing great work and were actually able to touch the edges of the whole "change the world" mantra that is thrown around so carelessly in technology startup/company culture. Today, we have outgrown ourselves and have failed to maintain a relationship with our core purpose in the process. Most of our new efforts fail to deliver any of their promised utility to their intended customers. We're in the healthcare space; That's why I originally came here.

There is a legacy app that I'm occasionally tasked to maintain or extend. It's still chugging along in production and it's actually touching real humans and providing a very useful and pragmatic service to the thousands of people that use it daily. That thing has kept me around but I'm starting to focus increasingly more on my own life and making my own meaning, now that this place that I used to love is showing signs of abuse.


My company produces medical devices that help a lot of people enormously, including my girlfriend. Her life was unbearable before we got the device. In addition she probably got the device only because I knew about it through work.

So the work should be meaningful but somehow it doesn't feel that way to me. Between bad technical decisions, bureaucracy and a lot of schedule pressure I don't like my job. I think I would be happier working on a less meaningful product but in a more technically interesting and challenging environment.

There are other people who get a total kick out of helping people but somehow this doesn't work for me.


Maybe you can also still work in the same field but for a different company? Because it doesn't sound like you're mostly missing a challenge or interesting problems, it sounds more like your management / senior staff isn't making the right decisions for you / in your opinion..


As a JavaScript developer... no.

I love the language and how expressive it is while it can also be very concise. Unfortunately, JavaScript work is typically relegated to entry level developers and 90s era business requirements. Since the business often believes this is lesser quality work the requirements around craftsmanship and quality are often irrelevant.

In my line of work quality is poorly understood. Code style, as in how to write code, is exceedingly important. Code style is basic literacy. This is a newb thing.

Actual quality is defined objectively outside the code. Does it execute quickly (performance)? Do blind people receive the same level of convenience and understanding from your product (accessibility)? Does the application fail frequently, leak data, or use a bunch of third party analytics (security)? Does the application have mountains of frameworks and dependencies (portability)?

Most places I have worked the developers are barely code literate and really don't give a shit about quality. They care about personal success (however they choose to define it) opposed to product success. That is extremely unfulfilling.


Well, it's matter of perspective. It's not very possible that in 200 years or so, people are going to remember and study my work. That's reserved for the Newtons and the Gausses of the world, and even then, they are acknowledged from a tiny percentage of the world's population.

But I'm very grateful to work in a setting where I can solve exciting problems, get to collaborate and learn from really smart and passionate people, try (and fail) in designing software, and then sometimes find time for a hobby or two.

The 'safe 9-5 job' exists, and as programmers, we always want a fresh challenge, but in many cases it's in our hands to create the opportunities so it's not 'meaningless'.


Unless you're a really good mathematician (I count hardcore CS as math) your work will likely not bring any advancement because it is low hanging fruit.

Sometimes you get lucky like Apple, but the hard work was done by inventor guys like Kendall or a selection of electrical engineers in 80s.

In short, if it's not academia, it's probably 10 years outdated already if not more... or just a minor tweak. (Like high end 10Gbit routing, hardly life changing. Or yet another ANN architecture.)

Companies do not want a gamble and deal with science, they want instant gratification. (Except the few super rich like Google and Microsoft having small but great real research teams.)

Yes, it is a high bar, but a big difference between feel-good and actually useful and life changing technologies.


It takes collaboration to make a difference, and from another perspective, computer science is worth just the paper it's written on until it's applied in the real world and actually changes something for the better.

You could write a simple program, with 10 year old technology, that changes an entire industry. Imagine if no one applied encryption to eCommerce. Or imagine if no one wrote a messaging application that works over telecommunication protocols.

Famously, the effects of penicillium mould had been known since the 19th century, the mould itself finally identified in 1928. But it wasn't until it was implemented by a team working on the practicalities of mass production that it began helping people, all the way ahead in 1940. Without the research paper we would have nothing, and without the implementors we would have something, but nothing useful.


Indeed. The point being you're supposed to implement the latest and/or proven and/or best techniques but we're reduced to sloppy work due to business requirements almost always.

Your point about encryption is misplaced. Do not imagine impossible stupidity - even ancient Romans sometimes encrypted tax and military information. The difference is between brewing your own (common in 90s, crackable even then in a day of math or so) and using actual research.

As for collaboration, it is overrated. Best work generally is done by a few actual geniuses in the specialty. (I can name a bunch in a few fields I'm interested in, like acoustics and audio algorithms.) They do need support staff of course. Usually the real ones are tenured professors with long development of a singular technology over the years.

As for penicillin, it was one quite genius chemist (Pfizer; Erhardt was a comfectioneer so support) who developed means of mass producing it. (Among many other things later.) They worked for a company which got major government funding during wartime, which makes it almost like a tenure.


Sure. I write code that implements features for a desktop application that is well known in its' niche domain. The code I write with my tens of colleagues is directly related to how thousands of professionals create new things throughout the globe.

Basically I write C++ that must provide mathematically correct end results, must not crash and must be fairly efficient.

It's a boring 9-5 job and there is nothing sexy about the field but I would find it very hard to call my work meaningless when I see the things the users of my employers application do.

As our requirements change I get to implement and learn new things.

As long as the end product provides concrete value, and/or there are new things for me to learn there is a definite meaning to what I do.


Why would meaningless and 9-5 be synonyms? Why does late evening imply meaning and regular managed schedule lack of it? Why would a company on edge of crash implied more meaning then the stable one?

For whatever it is worth, position I have now is a lot of what I was looking for professionally and I can be 9-5. Thankfully, they want output and not butt in seat. It is not saving world and have no such illusions. But my work is occasionally useful to real people I know personally and I work in team of people I trust.


I don't think late evening is the alternative. 9-5 links to "corporate" and "corporate" links to "meaningless job" for many reasons: first of all if you work for a company, the profit will come before the interests of your customers. If the company is big and profitable, it will be able to support more and more mechanism to detach its profit from the actual value brought to the customer or society or both. Also the bigger the company, the less relevant is the impact of most individuals inside the company.


> first of all if you work for a company, the profit will come before the interests of your customers

I don't understand that. That seems largely to be a generalization - I've work for non publicly traded companies, and we live and die and profit based upon the interests of our customers. Also, as we're publicly traded we don't have that impetus for profit - there's been discussions about starting up a pseudo-skunkworks to try and solve problems that may be dead ends without the pressure of needing to produce.


Then alternative is what exactly? Working only in non-profits?


That's a starting point. Otherwise publicly-funded projects or institutions.


I dunno. I think you can find companies that are more or less sociopathic. And while the fast growing big ones are likely taking advantage of something, I don't really have ethical problem with what I do.

I know employed people who in past refused this or that job due to ethical considerations and who I am pretty sure that would not cheat. Cause they refused to cheat in the past.


I'm web engineering manager and front-end contributor for a small team inside a small pharma. I love solving business problems, but I witness a lot of self-inflicted issues outside my department that we are then tasked to fix.

So my knee-jerk answer would be, "no." However the salary + bonus + benefits from this job are providing me resources that will enable my family to be nearly debt-free in a year or two (mortgage notwithstanding). The pay is above tech start-up grade, even well-funded ones.


Nope. I work in equity research and am lucky enough to be on the team that I'm on, but it doesn't seem meaningful or worthwhile. I generate investment ideas through industry, company-specific, and technology-specific research and then publish these ideas in reports for my client base. Most of my job is then debating investors on specific technology investments or trends.

Sell-side finance (e.g. investment bank) is broadly declining in my view. Companies are cutting many positions, technology is enabling downsizing while making certain areas more efficient, and there's fee compression across the board causing many public market facing roles to see substantial revenue declines.

The trade that existed in the 2000's of trading substantial hours of your life for $$$ has broadly disappeared. Instead positions tend to offer compensation that's similar to many tech roles, but requiring substantially more hours.


Isn't equity research a training ground for working on the buy side where the money is made?

And isn't the work very interesting? (at least for the first 8 hours)


It is a pathway into buyside research analyst seats, and I have a number of colleagues who attempt that path. I just don’t see that as something I’m interested in doing. There’s less opportunity to move into areas like private equity, which tends to recruit from banking, though I firmly believe networking effectively can change the odds. In terms of compensation, sell side research associates tend to work 60+ hour weeks for total comp around $120-$170k depending on where you’re at. Senior research analysts may tend towards $250k-$1mn+ depending on sector, seniority, following, and relationships with potential banking clients (though I need to stress this side of the business is highly regulated). On the buyside comp skews higher, and those that perform at good shops make good money, but it’s far more competitive now. I’ve seen a number of buy siders move into industry or back to the sell side recently as their funds cut headcount. There’s also almost no end of young and hungry bankers looking to move to the buyside and grind. Pressures include lower fee investment vehicles putting pressure on all sidies of the industry, as well as problems including widespread hedge fund underperformance.


I used to think so. My career has been of the type many dream about: started a game company in high school, in the early 80's, C-64 & Vic-20 games. Then I was a beta tester and original 3rd party developer for the Mac. Then I worked in 3D Graphics research, right when ray tracing started. I worked for Mandelbrot. I was an OS developer for the 3DO and then the first PlayStation. Worked in games for years, then switch to VFX and feature film production. My specialty is creating production systems / process task pipelines. Then I wrote "the" global patent on automated actor replacements (called Deep Fakes now). Tried and went bankrupt creating a technology company around digital actors and personalized media. Now I'm in facial recognition as a lead developer at a global FR leader.

I used to think my work was important. It is not. Ultimately it just pays the bills. I like my work, clearly, but I don't idealize it. Perhaps if it was not ultimately put to capturing and controlling society like a stupid herd, I'd feel different. I love entertainment, and our current entertainment industries are producing stunning human achievements. Switching to the security industry after 30 years in entertainment technologies has been enlightening, but continued a vein I was aware in entertainment.

I've spent my career in the United States, grown up here, and from my experience in all these "great jobs", the "metoo" movement is barely tapping the employee abuses and interpersonal abuses everyday people exhibit constantly. The anti-intellectualism of the US is a serious problem, perhaps the root cause of our worse problems.

If people really want meaningful lives, respect of everyone around you, up and down your social/power hierarchy is the path. Then it will not matter if you are the janitor, because within a respectful collection, everyone's needs are recognized and then this shitty disrespectful place that is the current United States will not be so crappy.


Yes.

I joined a small startup because they had a product I really wanted to use. Now the product is used by many people.

But, even though it's meaningful, and I love my job, I still look forward to figuring out how to move on to something else. I've come to accept that, unless I'm financially independent, there's always going to be ups and downs with my job. That's just the reality of life.

I've also come to see people who are financially independent stick with a "stressful" job because they emotionally need the stress and ups and downs. They would get board if they quit, and get directionless if they tried to run their own thing.


Insanely so. I go to sleep thinking about what I’ll be working on the next day and rise excited to get started.

It’s an amazing feeling and I reflect daily that I’m blessed for having a career that I excel at, pays well, and whole heartedly enjoy.


I think the question is about the meaning your job has for the system at large, not for you as an individual.

But gratz anyway


I work at a company with one of the catchy "changing the world" slogans that everyone likes to make fun of, but I actually feel like we are making an impact.

We provide tools for educators to get more actionable data about their students and then facilitate conversations between educators and parents, and it's a pretty great combination. If even a few students end up with a better life because of a teacher being able to reach out more easily, then I'd say that's meaningful.

If that sounds neat, check out https://schoolstatus.com


Well, I can pay for my mortgage and I can keep food on the table for my kids. Yep!


This. My job provides the financial means of doing what I want to in my spare time.

I'm not going to be a hypocrite and try to find deeper meaning in a job which basically means I'm making money for the business so that the shareholders can get their cut.


That's about as meaningful as these jobs get. Cut hours and perhaps teach the kids, you might get lucky, find and help a new genius or inventor.


That's not "meaningful", is merely necessary.


Double posted because I saw this identical post and thought my other comment didn't work. Same response as my other comment though.


It's my first job and it pays well for a first job. I'm working in the enterprise container space, so maybe I'm contributing to a more seamless cloud orchestration future (open source). I don't know if that means much to me, but it's a pleasant way to achieve my goals.

That is meaningful, but it's not a furtherance of the causes I really care about, but it is slowly putting me in a position to improve my own life and get into a position where I can try to work meaningful(as opposed to token) and lasting change in those causes that I do care about.


Software engineer in an online marketplace provider. In other words, I connect buyers and sellers. I find this meaningful for a variety of reasons, the most obvious (and previously stated numerous times) is that I provide for my family. But I also find meaning in getting the right product to the right person from the right seller: this gets us one step closer to the economic notion of perfect information so that the buyer can make the best decision for them. When everyone wins the world becomes marginally, even if ever so slightly, better.


I'm writing a project that will allow executives and business architects more insight into the structure of their company. Meaningful? For them, I certainly hope so. It's not something that a lot of people will see though.

For me, it's mostly a nice opportunity to learn about the structure of this company, about how to model and represent this data, and I'm doing it in a new framework. It's fun, and I've got tons of freedom. There are more fulfilling jobs out there, but this isn't bad.


Working in Healthcare/Education is pretty rewarding knowing the products we put out are helping people (both improving education for new doctors and improving clinical care).

Sometimes working in Healthcare is annoying (Changes are slow and there are legal restrictions everywhere, e.g. any time you mention the word "cloud" the C-level folks yell "but HIPAA!" and refuse to listen), but it's still good to know we're doing meaningful work.


"e.g. any time you mention the word "cloud" the C-level folks yell "but HIPAA!"

I worked for a former healthcare project manager in a completely unrelated industry and I would say 80% of her time was spend worrying about our industry's version of HIPAA. She viewed all new tech projects and software releases through the lens of "How does this violate our industry security standard?". The results were stagnated project releases and high developer turnover.


That's true - I guess every industry has their version of HIPAA that can frustrate developers/stagnate projects.

I don't think that HIPAA or these other regulations are a bad thing, just that maybe the way that some (older, entrenched) management approaches how projects work with those regulations is poor.


"e.g. any time you mention the word "cloud" the C-level folks yell "but HIPAA!" and refuse to listen"

Same here. Instead of working through the issues management just panics and comes up with some weird approach that delivers less at higher cost and effort.


We're in healthcare and we're going to the cloud! (still on-prem for a couple of years, but it's in the pipeline. My tests are all in the cloud nowadays)

I agree that it is rewarding, and it doesn't feel that slow where I work. We cover more than half the hospitals in our country, and a couple of university-hospitals. There's plenty of change they want - and (surely the university ones) - have plenty of ideas of what they'd like to see.

For us "but HIPAA!" is "but GDPR!" for quite some time though. But we're hardly unique in that.

It's definitely a nice industry if you want to have a meaningful job. But it does come with some stress as well though.

EDIT: Fix my English :D


I used to think it wasn't. My jobs were, no matter how it was dressed up, trying to earn a massive retailer an extra percent or two on their already massive earnings over doing anything that impacted the consumer positively.

Since I started working for myself, I find it meaningful if only because I get to actually BUILD stuff.

But after all of the advertising I've done, I'd like for my next full-time job to be a net positive for society.


Why do you think you will have another full-time job? Why not pursue working for yourself and building things as a continuous lifestyle?

That's not me trying to be snide or anything, I'm in your exact position right now and whilst I can see a circumstance in which I end up in a full time job again, the goal is to make this the way I engage with the world and make money going forward.


I am pursuing that currently and would love to do so indefinitely. Maybe I'm just pessimistic and assume that it might take a try or two before I get it right?

I'm also not against joining a team that's building something really cool.


That's fair enough. I'm definitely prepared for it to take a couple of goes as well. Best of luck!


You as well!


Is it meaningful? Not that much. We probably enable many use cases that won't really change much. Nonetheless the kind of expertise we are building might be applied to other fields with more meaningful impact. Will my company pursue these other fields? Probably not in the short term.

At least I'm not actively harming anybody and today in IT this is a huge privilege.


The meaningful aspect of my bootstrapped startup project is I believe that honest, trustworthy products improve the quality of peoples lives. Removing friction on teams so they can build products people can trust is what my tool does, so that's meaningful work to me.


I think bringing trust and honesty to the world is a hugely positive thing. I hope outright honesty can be the norm in digital products one day.


I'm working on a platform that uses spare change to pay off student loans. Both the savings itself for the user, and the educational angle about student loans feels more meaningful than most of the work I've done in other jobs at large corporations.


It is for me. It's interesting work, some of it is behind the scenes, some of it is very public. I like the people I work with and the people I work for. So yeah, it's meaningful and fun most of the time. I work remote, which makes it even better.


I get paid for it, thus it is meaningful.

Whether the result of my work is meaningful for me or someone else, is a different story. But on the smaller and bigger picture of the whole universe, everything we do is meaningless at some point, so who cares.


I work for a company which specialises in a service helping other companies to ask stupid questions from their own customers and employees in a form of web surveys.

Is it meaningful? Nope.

Does it help put food on the table? Yup.


Yup. The company I work for is creating solutions to help utilities better integrate renewable energy onto the electrical grid. The environmental benefits are huge and I get to work with some really cool tech


No, I work in a gigantic company on the frontend of applications used for businesses to pay for their services. I could not care less about what I'm working on to be honest, at least the pay is good.


Consultant at a global ERP provider - Its not that meaningful but some days are better then others. Most the time it feels like herding cats.

I make rent and have something left over to invest. Can you ask for much more?


Yes, I work with a company that makes self-control appliances (BAIIDs) and operates in 48 States in the US. They serve over 100,000 customers and prevent estimated thousands of accidents per year.


I started an agency working with non-profits and social enterprises purely because working in advertising had been blackening my soul.


I help maintain systems so that people can manage their pensions, and have money to live on when they retire.


Online retail isn't particularly meaningful. However, I enjoy the work and it pays well.


Yes, helping people with chronic medical conditions improve their health and quality of life.


Do you now? Have real data to back this up or is it just a feel good guess?

It is easy to deceive oneself that an app or a tracker equals health... better than pen and paper and minor instruction manual.

Now if you're actually working on safety critical health devices (say, insulin pump or oxygen meter or maybe a CPAP or perhaps heart monitor), then I hope you're working on cutting the price tag as they're super expensive for not really any good reason...

We were trying to figure out a reliable way to track sugar levels relatively nonincasively but found out that it was less accurate than a chart and simple alarm...

Sometimes being actually rational sucks, you see that your junk does not work or that you have to be smarter than super well funded geniuses at MIT or Stanford to matter. And have comparable fabrication and chemical analysis facilities and biolabs to even attempt anything.

Research is expensive. As in really expensive now in terms of hardware. As in some big universities not in USA being too poor to afford hardware. That's not even counting lab space to actually house it.


> Do you now? Have real data to back this up or is it just a feel good guess?

Well, the program I work for is fully recognized by the CDC.

This thread is about finding your work meaningful, which I do. I'm not sure why you're being so condescending and hostile.


Yes, it's meaningful. I'm a community manager at @madevuk and @TechNetUK.


Teaching coding to adults. Fun. Interesting. Rewarding.


I work for a security company. I don't directly work on the products, but I support those who do. While, as others have commented, it's not like in 200 years people are going to be studying my work, I do believe I'm having a positive impact on the world. It's a positive impact that in some sense I may wish didn't have to exist ("wouldn't it be nice if we just all got along?" and nobody needed security?), but, nevertheless, it does.

On a day-by-day basis it's easy to feel disconnected from the end result of what I do, since it is several layers of abstraction away from the end customers, but sometimes the customers will tell stories about their experiences and how it saved their bacon after a fire burned down their datacenter, or let them secure a critical service that was being attacked, or discover a vulnerability in their system before it was exploited, and I remind myself that I'm getting just a small fraction of the stories that could be told. I don't go cruising through the customer database, but in my normal work activities, I encounter schools, non-profits, governments, charities, normal businesses, all sorts of people who individually may be getting just a bit of benefit from my work, but on the whole, it adds up to a lot. I also find this a good motivation to sometimes put in just that extra bit of polish on my work even without being asked or having an explicit bug tasked, which is typically technical rather than visual-design oriented so you may not see it or feel it, but you might feel the absence of it.

You may want to take a certain mercenary capitalistic "value-added" view to the whole thing, because it's often justified. Working for a grocery store chain IT may feel unexciting compared to the wild exploits you read about on HN, but you are helping people buy food efficiently and ultimately more cheaply than they could if all the grocery stores had no IT. This helps everybody, and particularly helps those on the margins, i.e., the poor. Scheduling software for the professional trades brings efficiency and services to people on the margin who otherwise couldn't afford them. Factory-specific software brings wealth to society as a whole as it increases the capabilities of factories and such to bring wealth.

And let's be honest, a lot of those wild startup stories either don't really pan out and end up just being a waste of money, or end up a net-destructive enterprise as they monetize via piling one more brick up in our self-created surveillance state for the purpose of squeezing a few more pennies out of a "customer".

In fact, there's a great case to be made that the "boring" jobs at least tend to average being a net good for society. The "exciting" jobs have a much larger range of impact, but there's a lot more of the net-negative work in there, too.


You have to make a choice between meaning and money




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