What do you do for work? Give us a few reasons why you love it.
I should preface all that follows by saying that I am speaking as an individual, and nothing below reflects the opinion of my employer. I’m a software engineer. I just started working a few months ago at Amazon. I love programming. I tell people, “I get to do my middle school hobby for a living.” It’s always fun to hear programmers say how they learned to program. When I learned in the mid 90s, we didn’t have Internet in our house, so I learned to program by recording macros in Excel, combining them together, and reading the help files that came with Excel. It was fun just to figure out how to get it to do new things.
In your opinion, what is wrong with the corporate world and how would you fix it?
I think it’s worth saying something about what’s right with the corporate world, because there is a lot of good. The corporate world has given us things which even just 10 years ago would have been unimaginable: smart phones, voice assistants like Alexa, cloud computing, MOOCs, 3D printing and streaming videos just to name a few examples. In the next 10 years, corporations are trying to give us self-driving cars, new ways of interacting with doctors in remote areas, new ways of being more efficient with energy use, and even cheaper access to space. But we can still improve. And in terms of how to improve, I think the main day-to-day thing we can do is just bring love and respect for our co-workers in everything we do. Every little thing is an opportunity to show the people around us that we respect them, that we are willing and acting towards their good.
Which is more important: talent or work ethic? Why?
They’re both important, but more often than not talent comes from work ethic. There are obviously always exceptions, but more often the people I’ve worked with and that end up being successful were the ones who spent the time working on a problem, and come across as talented because they know the problem so well.
How do you measure success at work? in life?
For me, this is pretty simple: If I did my best today at whatever was in front of me, I was successful. And if I didn’t, I was successful to the degree that I did my best and that the effort today was better than yesterday.
How do you want the world to be different because you lived in it?
I obviously hope that my work has an impact on people. That’s often hard to control though. So, I focus on just being an example: I try to exhibit the right behaviors in what I do, and I’m occasionally successful! In some ways, I also try to be a counter-example to others. Stereotypically, engineers aren’t good at writing prose, and I spend time checking my grammar, figuring out how to make a sentence shorter, reading Strunk and White. Most people in the tech world are not part of an organized religion. I don’t go around proselytizing at work, but I when the topic comes up I am certainly happy to offer my own perspective to those who welcome other perspectives.