When people ask me what I do for work, I generally just say ‘research’, ‘math(s)’ or ‘data science’ and hope they stop talking. It’s not that I don’t love my job, it’s just that I get really really bored by small talk, and most people don’t really care in the first place.
In the case that the other person’s interest is actually piqued (or, I suppose, that they really have nothing else to say and no-one else to talk to), I go on to describe how I draw on whiteboards, erase what I’ve drawn on whiteboards, make some graphs on a computer, look at the graphs, delete the graphs, and then go home. This, combined with the fact that my occasional stint of working at home is often indistinguishable from staring blankly into the distance, often leads people to think that I do essentially nothing.
As such, it’s always nice when there’s a tangible output to what I’ve done, and people end up using something I’ve invented in their real lives. Last year I filed a couple of patents and had a research paper published, and this year the algorithms behind those are now starting to help experts in cancer research, lawyers and traders to do the things they do.
Less spiritually fulfilling, but much more instantaneously gratifying, I also won the Thomson Reuters Inventor of the Year award for one of the 2011 patents, which comes with a cash prize and the opportunity to subvert professional norms by offering a photo of me doing Capoeira in Central Park as my caption for the announcement.
Next goal, get an award that’s actually recognised outside of my company. Or, at least, some new whiteboard pens.