I hate my job.
To be fair, I only hate my job about one day a month -- and that's when projects get cancelled, people argue vehemently about facts that could be looked up, or when nothing seems to work (even when it did yesterday). The rest of the time, I love what I do, even the fiddly bits, and especially the twiddling bits.
To get through my slumps, I want my work to have a higher meaning. For example, I've made devices that teach children their letters or save lives by fighting crime and improving medicine. Beyond algorithms and data structures, software has an application. For me, being a software engineer is only exciting if it's more than simply writing programs.
Recently, I was delighted to find out about an upcoming conference where other engineers -- folks who feel the same as I do -- are getting together to talk about how technology can help make the world a better place. It takes place in San Jose, Calif., October 20-23, 2014. In their own words, the goal of the organizers of the IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC) is to:
Bring together communities and individuals -- engineering, science, technology, industry, academia, government agencies, NGOs, charities, funders -- interested in applying technology to develop effective solutions for overcoming the challenges faced by the world's underserved.
Several sessions dealing with connectivity and wireless networks in rural areas or in disaster zones will really get beyond the ivory tower (or Silicon Valley) to discuss how people's lives can be changed with technologies that I take for granted. In my last post, I was down on the Internet of Things. I recognize that my points are relatively short-term issues, things that hopefully will be solved in five to 10 years.
So, yes, I'm interested in a topic like "Embedded Wireless-Enabled Low-Cost Plastic Sorting System for Efficient Waste Management." Garbage handling doesn't sound like a particularly alluring application, but if it makes recycling easier and leads to fewer resources wasted, I could be happy working on something like that.
There is huge diversity in the topics that will be presented, from the monitoring of wayward elephants to the future of prosthetics. It may sound like a scattershot approach, but in fact the conference is focused on how technology makes lives better and how to live and thrive in a world with 8 billion people and limited resources. The core goals are to discuss health, clean water, energy, and education.
I'm quite looking forward to attending.
— Elecia White is an embedded systems consultant at Logical Elegance. She wrote the book Making Embedded Systems for O'Reilly. She has a podcast about creating gadgets, from idea to engineering to product. Elecia will be speaking in more detail about the path to connectivity at EE Live! March 31-April 3, 2014 in San Jose.