I was talking to an engineer recently at a party. They were talking about all of the challenges they are facing in their job. They described how much they love solving problems, but they hate how their work is contributing to larger societal issues. In the engineering field, some of the most common jobs are working in military contracting, big data, and home security. As someone who supports people in bringing their lives and work into alignment with their values, our conversation sparked something inside of me.
Were other engineers asking the same questions? What existed out there to support people who were passionate about problem-solving to make a positive impact with their work?
We gathered for snacks and people talked about the moral questions that have come up at work, the confusion they have experienced about what social impact is, and frustration with volunteer programs that didn’t provide an opportunity to leverage engineering skills.
During one point in the meeting, I asked everyone to share a take away they had from the conversation so far. One participant said, “It is really nice to realize that I’m not the only engineer asking these questions. It helps a lot to know others are also tackling this on a daily basis and in all different kinds of industries.”
There was a sigh in the room. The conversation opened in a new way. People started to brainstorm ways that engineering could be leveraged to support organizations in more productive ways. Several members of the group even left with clear action steps to carry the momentum forward.
If you feel like you are all alone, sometimes all it takes is putting the word out there. If you are asking questions that are keeping you up at night others are probably asking the same questions too. Normalizing is one of the most powerful tools for shifting from a place of worry, doubt, and fear, to discovering new possibilities. If you take the time to meet with others you can find a new normal.