I started reading nonfiction in my first year out of college, in an effort to better understand the world and the forces that shape it. After starting a new tech job in the Bay Area, I started building mental models from my experiences at work, but also had a growing exposure to and affinity for social issues both local and worldwide. I found I was more motivated to work on problems with direct social impact, which in turn prompted me to dig deeper into their causes – though I realized I didn’t know much about the world outside of tech, and wanted to broaden my worldview.
Learning more about the world is rewarding in and of itself, but it’s more valuable when guided by a specific set of goals, due to the realities of infinite knowledge and finite time. Naturally, this led to questions about what the most pressing social issues are, how I could best contribute to them, and what I want my career to amount to. My answers to these questions are constantly developing as I continue to introspect on them and understand myself and the world, and my current thoughts are as follows.
Projects like the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and 80,000 Hours provide different perspectives on major issues affecting the world today. Of these issues, I’ve primarily focused on learning about climate change, though I recognize the importance and interconnected nature of other issues, and my focus may change as I learn more about my strengths and the different opportunities to leverage them.
While these social issues are deeply rooted in the social sciences, I’ll contribute to their solutions from the perspective of a technologist (my background is in security and software engineering) and a practitioner (rather than an academic) for the foreseeable future. This helps define my approach (breadth over depth) for learning about these issues, and where I fit within the wide variety of ways to contribute; I want to apply my engineering skills to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization working directly on a pressing social issue.
At the current stage of my career, I’m focused on building my engineering skills and human capital, including developing my worldview. My goals in doing so are to reach an “elementary academic understanding” of economics, political science, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and history, in order to become a better thinker and problem solver, so I can ultimately narrow down how and where I can drive significant social impact as a technologist, and be more effective in that role once I’m doing it.