The Oft Overlooked Importance of Data in our World – A Reminder

AvatarOctober 25, 2019

It was a typical (read chaotic) Tuesday evening. 6:45 p.m. on the clock.

“I’m done for the day. Coming?” asked my colleague.

“Nah, man. Too much pending work,” I sighed, already tired. “Need to develop 55 Informatica workflows this week. That’s 11 per day!”

He was gone before I finished talking. I gazed at my computer screen & exhaled despondently – my eyes saw only menial grunt work. In my disillusioned state, one of the partially completed workflows began mocking me & said, “Your life is pointless!” over & over.

“How’s it going? All good?” I turned my head. It was my new manager. “Going fine,” I replied involuntarily. He regarded me with a critical eye & said, “Doesn’t seem fine. Talk to me, Hamza. What’s wrong?”

“Frankly, this work is too much & too repetitive. I have to complete over 50 workflows this week. They’re mostly the same with just a few changes here & there. It’s not the least bit interesting,” I said in one breath.

“So let me ask – why are you creating these workflows?”

“To move clinical trial data from a set of sources to our target database,” I flatly replied.

“Yes, but why are you moving this data?”

“Like always, for reporting purposes,” I replied, in the same flat tone.

“Right, but who receives these reports, and what is the result?”

“Probably something business-related,” I said… impatience creeping into my tone.

“That’s the problem, Hamza. Listen carefully – the reports generated from your work will go to the FDA for approval on a new drug for Cancer. Do you know how many people die of cancer? Almost 27,000 people every day. That’s 9.6 million people per year.”

A sudden thought flashed through my mind – my mother & I, visiting a distant uncle years ago. His prostate cancer had reached the final stage. He was miserable & we couldn’t save him.

Shuddering, I returned to the present in time to hear my boss say, “…understand this – there are thousands of patients in unimaginable pain on hospital beds across the world suffering from cancer. These people & their families are waiting – and praying – for a cure. They only have a chance as long as people like us do our work well.” And he walked away…

At that moment, it occurred to me that I was an integral part of a system that is attempting to solve a critical real-world problem. I looked at the computer screen again. The partially-complete workflow was still there, but this time, the objects seemed to shimmer & say, “Let’s do this. We have a task to finish. We’re here for a reason. We know our purpose now.”

I smiled, cracked my knuckles, and began working again, thinking of nothing except the faceless millions who might benefit from a little more perseverance on my part.