The Quest for Meaningful Work
How to find data science projects that will make a real impact.
. . .
If you’re a data scientist or geoscientist on the hunt for work, you want to join a project you’re excited about and will enjoy. But how do you know that your work will feel meaningful before you’ve committed to it? These are the things to look for and avoid when you’re looking for fulfilling work.
The best way to find meaningful work is to look for projects with a clear purpose. When you have a purpose or goal in mind, you have context for your work and it feels more significant. This is particularly true if you’re working in a field that could have a long-term impact, like climate tech. As geoscientists and data scientists, we have the unique opportunity to create work that can literally influence the future, and what’s more meaningful than that?
Failure is Fine
Whether or not work is meaningful is completely independent of the outcome of that work. A study or experiment that doesn’t yield the results you expected — or even that completely fails — still teaches you something. In fact, you sometimes learn more with a failed outcome than if everything worked out perfectly. Think of it this way — if it all goes exactly the way you expected, then you gained no new insight. Expecting and embracing failure is key in this industry, and you should focus on whatever kind of work you’re drawn to, even if the outcome is a bit risky.
What Kind of Work to Avoid
So if work that may fail isn’t the problem, how do you know a project or job won’t feel meaningful? One way is if the project is not well-defined. This goes back to that purpose we talked about earlier — your work needs a purpose or goal to be fulfilling. When you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, it all feels pointless. When seeking out new projects or career roles, ask those involved how this work is intended to affect or improve our way of life. If they don’t have an answer, steer clear.
At Studio X, our goal is to provide meaningful work for everyone who interacts with us, from our clients to our employees to those who participate in things like Xeek challenges and XCover projects. For clients, we give them an avenue to test ideas and workflows that they may not be able to do otherwise due to associated risks and costs, or lack of expertise. Contractors who work with these clients are given the opportunity to work on projects (from home!) where they play an important role, have a real impact, and can hone their skills and pick up new ones. We’re driven every day to work on finding solutions to current and future problems, and we really believe our work has the potential to change the world. Our work feels meaningful, because we know it is.