Hola friends, I am writing from a cute café in Mexico City called Blend Station.
Someone responded to my “professional job search” kind of posts (written in Dutch) with some new elements, like: hey Johan, maybe it’s a search for a deeper meaning? When I think about that, yes, probably – the underlying reason for change is that your work is meaningful.
It’s important to decide what kind of work you want to work on. What do you make your mission to be for the next few years? Will you look back at it as a success or will you just think about it as another thing that got binned or never got to the state that you wanted it to be? I am doing a very thorough job now evaluating what I am going to do. Because I know it’s going to be for a while. It has to be.
The kind of work we accepted with Mono was always quite meaningful to me.
When I worked at a web design agency (my first job), some of the work felt a bit stupid or meaningless. Like making a website for Groen (green political party in Belgium that should really do a better job), or for escorts (seriously?); or for a church-based association. This was around the time of some scandals and I was like: why would I help this org? The worst one was helping bankers choose a luxury resort to go to after they sold enough things. This kind of incentive-based logic. Right around the financial crash.
Don’t get me wrong, my first job was a great learning experience and I had a great team and boss. But doing the exact thing I wanted to do led me to freelancing. That was a big part of the reason I left my first job.
With Mono we would almost always do something that was more meaningful to me, project-wise. We wouldn’t design a campaign that would just be for a couple of days. We would design lasting software platforms that would help in education, real estate, video creation… some medical things I believe I still can’t talk about that were pretty cool (i.e. design system to consolidate design for 17 apps when nobody was talking about design systems yet).
Of course there were some weird projects, like this one time when a Chinese gentleman wanted to change the process automation industry with just $10k budget and we kept on working on it because we didn’t know how to communicate with him. In the end we realized he was just a bad client.
Or when we started working on a sort of pitch and got wildly underpaid for a company that is now worth millions, and there was just a lot of confusion about when a project would start versus what the pitch was. After that we learned to just charge for anything we do. No free work.
So anyway. Maybe I want even more meaning. So what’s important to me? Which work will make me happy? I think one aspect that I really like is automation.
Why would you do it yourself, when a computer can do it for you? This concerns visibility of data, it concerns approval and rejection of certain actions, and common workflows that get presented to you that make sense.
You decide, but the computer does the work. You are very informed though. The app teaches you how things work. This requires the world to be explainable which is probably another matter, but let’s go ahead and try.
Think about taxes for example. The whole tax system in Belgium is so oblique. Every year new rules get added and it never gets easier. But there should be a way to understand the relevant parts of this jungle.
Another example is the kind of forms you have to file when you have international bank accounts. Why is it such a hassle?
There’s all these administrative things that take up mind space when they honestly shouldn’t be that difficult.
I think it’s a disgrace that in Belgium you need a dedicated bookkeeper to run a simple business. I heard that in the UK it’s different and people who work as a single proprietor file their own taxes; not sure.
All in all this category of work is something that I would be excited to work on. It might seem boring to a lot of people, but I think it’s meaningful because it creates space to live, instead of sitting behind a screen. It also creates possibilities that would otherwise not exist. If it gets easier to do something, if barriers are removed, things become accessible and possible.
Anyhow, just some thoughts. Let me know what you think.