Doing research of any kind is insurmountably difficult

I have lived in the research world for a while now, more precisely 12 years. My journey has been an extremely inert one. There have been countless times when I thought I am onto something, and it turned out to be fluke, bug, or some other uninteresting outcome. While in academia, I at least had the leisure of choosing the problem I wanted to pursue, some of which might not be at the center of the community spotlight, hence could yield to persistent trying, in industry, the competition is laid out in plain sight, and the metrics against which success is measured are few. The competition not only comes from contemporary peers, but also historical knowledge accumulation, which is true in academic settings also. What is more frustrating is that one often gets committed into a no-brainer project, only to find out later that it is a hole from which one can never crawl out in a wholesome way. This is the key difference between academic pursuit and industrial pursuit. Although in the former case, one also has coauthor’s trust at stake sometimes.

In any event, I have presently been stuck in such a hole for the better part of 4 months. The goal is not even very lofty, but a mere refactoring and space saving gimmick that doesn’t even qualify as a new idea. It turned out however that all those savings come at a cost, namely metrics are going down, despite all kinds of variations I have tried. Being an honest person, I do not wish to resort to the mercy of the team to launch the project, however, it is also distasteful to let it go to waste, since another colleague has been with me throughout this “wonderful” journey and I have a responsibility for not letting him down. While many other folks are anxiously waiting for this bottleneck project to settle down, I continue to bang my head against the wall, especially given how slowly things move within our organization. This may be the most opportune time to fuss about work.

So then I thought about Abraham Lincoln, and how he overcame an insurmountable amount of personal and political difficulties, only to be shot dead in the end. But the beautiful part of his story is that he carried all such weight with a smile of grace. ‘Tis I shall emulate, and prod along with animalistic persistence despite ever dwindling peer respect for my intelligence, prospect for promotion, and the opportunity to change the world and shit before I succumb to natural decay. Eventually the organization will figure out the right place for me to grow or rot, and all I should care about is the next local optimum to pursue.


About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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