Challenging problems to solve... when asked about the job

Mar 16, 2019 7 Comments

First of all, I am not judging or criticizing at all. I am just trying to understand the reason why this is the most important criteria for many people.

I can understand when people say they like the job because of good WLB, compensation, meaningful (ie make world better) or fun work or work environment such as good benefits or colleagues. But what I don’t get is lots of people (engineers in particular) say they choose the job because of interesting or challenging problems to solve.

To me that sounds like solving the problems for the sake of solving them which is kind of pointless to me. All of my friends choose the team/company because of above mentioned reasons.

However, in Blind and when managers talk, they all cite challenging problems. Is it just another way of saying fun work?

Challenges are good sometimes but most of my friends rather take on easy problems and use the brain on their life and family.

Challenging problems can be interesting when you solve them as a leisure but when it comes to work, that should mean stress for most of people as your performance review cam suffer if either you don’t approach it reasonably or leadership/peers don’t understand the difficulty of problems (communication doesn’t always work in some relationships).

Am I missing something? I am not talking about challenging problems that obviously contribute to the better life of human beings such as cancer research. Most of tech problems are supporting role (ie infrastructure to mine data) but I can still understand when it comes to a problem that opens up a new innovation that will benefit human life.

However, it is hard to connect this to the problems some companies are solving such as Facebook, Google Ad and Pinterest. They provide entertainment and contribute to better life to some extent but lots of problems such as better marketing can be double edge sword. Making MS office or Amazon retail experience or Google maps better can be also rewarding but I am not sure if that gives tangible joy of solving the real world problems. I am not downplaying the roles of these businesses but what I am trying to say is it is not straight forward enough to say that unlike the researchers working on human health problems or poverty.

Once again, I understand these roles are solving great problems that can lead to better life eventually but the relationship is not very directive to feel it (as opposed to doctors who just saved a life or social worker who helped poor family to get necessary funding for their crisis). I would like to understand the real meaning of this solving interesting/challenging problems when it comes to say internal service or entertainment or ad (marketing) business whose impact is very indirect.


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TOP 7 Comments
  • New / Eng

    New Eng

    Take it to the extreme and then maybe it will be obvious: For work, would you rather put caps on tubes or solve unique problems?

    There's a spectrum of challenge and ambiguity when it comes to tasks. Some people are happy on the low end and some people are bored even on the high end.
    Mar 16, 2019 0
  • Amazon gkeH07
    I agree. This confuses me also.
    Mar 16, 2019 0
  • PatientsLikeMe / Data h6sjf93nva
    Some people like to solve problems for the sake of it - it's an end to itself. Engineering professions tend to attract those people. Just because it doesn't seem fulfilling to you doesn't mean it isn't to other people.
    Mar 16, 2019 0
  • New xMkh47
    To me it's 's about "slaying the dragon" feeling. The bigger the dragon (challenging problem), the bigger the reward. Doing that in a "safe" environment (eg within a hobby) can dilute the resulting feeling (eg you postponed for too long given it wasn't that important).
    However doing that within the constraints of work makes the stakes higher, as postponing - particularly of a critical problem - no longer becomes an option. Therefore the dragon is far menacing, and that "yessss" feeling when you see it fall to the ground is even more rewarding. Assuming it doesn't take you out first in a burst of flames, of course.
    Mar 17, 2019 0
  • Microsoft / Eng bebK16
    The assumption is that a challenging or interesting problem space will keep you engaged and grow your skills, which is ultimately what everybody wants -- to gget better over time and not be bored.

    You can certainly accomplish those things in a less challenging space, but then you actually have to have the discipline required to grow and not be bored. That's not something a lot of people can do, apparently.
    Mar 16, 2019 0
  • More challenging problems = more impact when they are solved. Some people gain satisfaction from that
    Mar 16, 2019 0
  • Square / Eng sj42hc
    It just means expand your horizons and better for your career growth.
    Mar 16, 2019 0


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