The Story of My Work

RUSSELL — An engineer & graduate student in his late twenties

"Working through The Story of My Work process I came to deeply understand the underlying reasons behind what motivates me to do good work — and became better at articulating these reasons...This was much more helpful than any online test I've taken. "


Russell is a talented, educated guy who is keen to do good work, but disillusioned about finding something truly engaging. He has enjoyed hobby pursuits like photography and backcountry skiing, but has struggled to engage his passion within a working field.

As Russell began his career, he knew that his strong analytical and problem solving abilities would make him a great fit for careers in the Engineering field. However, after three years at a big engineering firm, he wanted out and decided to take on a Masters of Science. After 3 years (as he wraps up this degree), Russell was still at a loss about where to plant himself. 

In everything he does, Russell brings a strong analytical and creative posture to master and excel the subject. With such a strong skill set, why did his varied work options seem like such a grind?


We identified together that Russell's stories revolve around him creating products and mastering and iterating the design and function of the final goal. The long life-cycle of his projects (~3 years) were too long, drawn out, and ultimately draining. The focus on project management in his oil & gas engineering job lacked the build, design, & development elements he craved.

After the SOMW process, Russell was equipped with a framework through which to assess his job prospects in his post-grad-school career. Instead of looking just at the external elements like salary, schedule, & title, Russell was motivated to seek out & prioritize roles based on his motivations what will inspire him through a long career.


What we learned:

  • Terms like engineering are so big and ubiquitous that they are dangerous to career direction. What is engineering? Are all engineers the same?

    1.    Engineering is a massive field with so many types

    2.    Those different types require different things being done

    Russell was in oil & gas engineering, which often requires great project management skills. But, His stories revolve around him creating products and mastering and interating the design and function of the final goal.  Russell would do better with shorter project cycles – both his engineering role and masters have 3 year life-cycles and his engineering project got cancelled! This did not speak to his motivation to see the outcomes of his work.

  • Russell needs to place himself in engineering or technology environments where he can build, design and develop with quicker iteration timeframes. He would be fantastic at creating software/products that require design, beauty, lots of learning, and will result in an end product. Are there jobs out there that need that problem to be solved – there sure are!

  • Russell will get stuck if there is not a creative element to his job, if he does not have a team to bounce ideas off and there is not a chance to learn and master new sets of skills.  He wants to create products to show not reports (I have worked with others who are the opposite)


In Russell's Words:

I am a graduate science student with a civil engineering background. I had previously worked three years for a large company in oil and gas and didn't find that to be very interesting. I wasn't sure of what type of work to look for when I graduate school in a few months.

I wanted to find career ideas that I could get excited about. Three years in both the corporate world and in academia left me disillusioned about finding engaging work.

Working through The Story of My Work process I came to deeply understand the underlying reasons behind what motivates me to do good work—and became better at articulating these reasons. Specifically, I discovered that I am motivated to create beautiful things, by myself or with other skilled collaborators, while achieving mastery of the skills involved in creation. Creating a tangible result is a strong motivator for me—something that was missing in a former corporate role.

I came to realize that many of the jobs that previously sounded appealing to me had only a superficial attraction (lucrative, prestigious, or flexible schedules). I learned to consider potential career options from different angles such as geographic location, schedule, lifestyle, and corporate environment and how to think about which of these aspects to prioritize. I got some great ideas to try.

I gained a lot of clarity through the whole process of thinking about stories and achievements in my own life, writing these out, analyzing them, and discussing them one-on-one. This was much more helpful than any online test I've taken.