Tanner Poling

Finding Meaning Can Be a Slow Process

If you find yourself feeling disillusioned with what you’re studying, it can be really hard to either rediscover what made you so excited about it previously, or find some new channel for that enthusiasm. Towards the end of my degree I wasn’t sure I would be able to translate my EE degree to a meaningful career after graduation; I wasn’t interested in consumer electronics or working as a software developer for some commerce-driven tech company, and felt very alienated from the humanitarian side of things in my studies.

What helped the most was using this as motivation to find people doing work that inspired me, as well as challenging the way I approached my coursework. I hate cold-emailing as much as anyone, but it’s important to remember that as a college student, people are much more willing to mentor you (especially if you demonstrate interest in what they do).
Talking with people about why they love what they do gave me a space to reflect on my own values and interests; oftentimes they were able to help me direct these into something I could actually pursue and progress towards.

As far as school goes, it’s easy to feel like you should only take “useful” classes. For me it was always another programming class, more physics, research, etc. until I was sick of it. Especially for STEM majors: take some time to seriously question what “productivity” and “usefulness” should mean. The best class I ever took was a CHID class on perception, and I’d argue it was an order of magnitude more “productive” than any coding class because of how it impacted the way I interact with technology and the world at large.

Tags:

Academics – Electrical Engineering / Class of 2021
Interests – Sustainability, Conservation, Energy / Tech, Data, Gaming
Identities – he/him