Day 2 – Doing Work That Matters: A Look Beyond The Idealistic Notion of ‘Doing Meaningful Work’

Tired and overwhelmed by challenges / obstacles of doing work that makes a real impact on the world. A pep talk.

Vision — A world without fear of cancer.

Ultimately have jobs to keep a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and fridges dark, many of us want to use our skills for good!

A new team member, four years into her career — “I needed a little bit of a reason to go on.” Purpose and impact are so critical in the work we do.

Three obstacles:

  1. It’s regulated
    1. Example of one of the emails having information —
      Guidance on the application of usability engineering to medical devices (108 pages)
      Guidance on visual-user interface elements (42 pages)
      Applying human factors and usability engineering to medical devices (49 pages)
      Safety-enhanced design (7 pages of other standards!)
    2. Feels like — No room to create / innovate.
    3. What the entire thing, in brief, is saying — “Don’t kill Grandma.”
    4. These regulations ‘protect’ grandma! They are not obstacles but tool to protect.
    5. Find a person, situation, or concrete idea.
  2. It’s big and complex
    1. Sheer bigness and degree of complexity are more than we anticipate.
    2. Someone says, “Can’t we just…”, but beneath that lies layers and layers of complexity.
    3. Example of COVID app —
      Launched in July 2020; well received, thoughtfully designed, protect privacy, easy to use; but wasn’t supporting older phones or operating systems.
      Canadians with newer phones were protected, and everyone else wasn’t. Left the most vulnerable people, unobserved.
    4. The underlying message still is the same — “Don’t kill Grandma.”
  3. It’s sensitive and it matters
    1. “Move fast and break things.” — quite famous in the startup world and tech companies; except when those ‘things’ are cancer patients!
    2. Every decision somehow affects the experience of the patient, in some way or another.
    3. This work matters; “Don’t mess with Grandma.”
    4. It is not a luxury we have.

Three coping mechanisms:

Less about solutions, more about coping with / around them. Finding what energizes you and your team.

  1. Look for short(er)-term wins
    1. Side projects (that move fast)
      Not regulated, Not too big, Not too complex, Less sensitive, And still meaningful
  2. Re(connect) with your users
    1. Site visits
      Still ask, “What is the periwinkle carpet in our product / feature?”
  3. Stay focused on the end goal

About mindset.
This is what you wanted to do; something made you choose to spend 40+ hours a week on these problems because they felt meaningful to you