Saturday, June 7, 2008

What I'm doing this summer and why it matters

Some of my friends from school are going off to corporate internships for the summer - Apple, Google, etc. I'm pleased for them. Some are going to work with startups. Kewl.

I'm doing a research internship. I'll be working on a project to help kids who've suffered trauma in their lives. Yeah - it's a pretty specialized use of what I'm studying. It'll require someone with a very interdisciplinary background.

I am way more interested in this than in whether I can help some company improve their website so someone can decide to buy a watch at store x or store y. Yes - some of the stuff the corporations do is going to affect billions of peoples' lives, some in small ways, some in larger ways. I'm very glad that people are doing that stuff. It's useful and affects a lot of people, directly and indirectly. The various uses of HCI and of programming range from trivial to incredibly kewl. I applaud anyone who thinks of the user and how to make their lives better.

But, for me, many of the projects really don't matter to me personally nearly as much as possibly helping some kid overcome the trauma in their life. and, y'know - if one of these kids overcomes the trauma sufficiently to go to University, they could be the researcher who finally cures AIDS or cancer or figures out how to stop alzheimers or the entrepreneur who invents the next Google or something else really awesome. In any case, if it works, we will have improved their lives - directly - and longterm. And to me, that's a far more worthwhile use of my summer than whether someone can use their mobile phone to find out if their buddy is at the same bar, as kewl and geeky as such things might be. (I like geeky kewl stuff. I'm a serious geek.;-) Anyone wanna join me on Brightkite?)

It kind of scares me to think about how much responsibility I'll have in this project. Yeah, it would probably be way more comfortable to be in a big company where there's plenty of people to watch out for me, where others set the agenda and run the show. No, I won't be completely alone, but there's so much I need to do on my own, that I need to figure out for myself, and design, and create, and manage, to make this work. So yeah - it's scary. But it's a good scary. I just hope we can pull it off. Cuz that would be totally awesome.

EDIT: I do hope that what my friends are doing at their summer internships matter to them just as much. I'm not at all saying those things don't matter... just that they're not something I'm passionate about, while this is.

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