So, what do you do?

When I meet people, the question “What do you do for work/money/a job?” often comes up. I’ve had some fun to experiment with different answers. Replying I’m a student is one my favorite answers in terms of the invoked response. It seems to bring a sentiment of longing for the freedom that students generally have, perhaps wistful regret that they themselves didn’t travel as much as they would have now liked when they were my age.

“I’m an engineer” is one I tried for a while. While accurate, I do intrinsically identify myself with engineering regardless of whether I’m going to school or working, I feel like there are many perceptions of being boring or unimaginative that I don't identify with.

When I’m in the United States, “I work for SpaceX” is one that gets a lot of adoration. If people have heard of SpaceX, they’re usually like “Woah, OMG that’s so cool!”. If they haven’t, a brief description of “We build rockets and spaceships and satellites and stuff” is usually enough to invoke the same reaction. While I like the adoration that this brings, it feels “braggy”. I’m essentially associating myself with the recognition of a big name company and mooching approval.

While traveling outside the US, I replied with a more objective description of what I do on a day to day basis. I said something to the effect of “I built robots that test ion engines”. I like this because it a factual description of what I do, without relying on the recognition of of a big name company. I feel less “braggy” when I put it like this.

This is so far my favorite way to answer. I feel like I’m not describing a job title or position, it’s something intrinsic to me. As I progress through my career, this is the same way I’d like I’d like to view my work. I’d like view is as a part of myself. Not myself conforming to a “job”.