On the drive home from school, my father and I listened to the first day of the SANS course on strategic planning. This was pretty far outside of my usual knowledge area, and it was an experience I certainly don't regret. The first day went over all the basics of strategic planning in general, as opposed to as it applies to security. I've never really done any planning with my life, and decided I should start doing that.
A mission statement is a reason for existence. I'm sure most people have at one point thought "why am I alive?", or their purpose in life. I believe that there is no intrinsic purpose to life, and that purpose is imposed on ones own self. A mission statement should be long-term and not have a single end-state, but rather be a guiding philosophy. My best attempt at a mission statement so far is:
To have a lasting positive impact on human society.
Dissected, we have the following keywords.
The work I do should live beyond a day or week. It's not realistic for everything I do to be lasting (not much good came out of eating a sandwich), but starting a company around some social media fad with intent to sell would be against this mission statement.
Perhaps obvious, but I do not want to work in a weapons lab designing the next hottest way of killing people. I recognize the necessity of warfare with the current state of society, but I myself do not want to work furthering it. This is perhaps the most nebulous word in my mission statement, given moral relativity.
I struggled with the scope of my mission statement quite a bit. A friend suggested "Why humanity? Why not life?" This is a valid critique, and one I have no good response to. For now, I think restricting it to human society is acceptable. Which society? Ideally all societies. This ties into "positive". If something I do benefits only a single society, what impacts does it have on others?
While the mission statement is vague and non-specific, a vision statement provides the specific end-state to be achieved in a given period of time. My current vision statement:
Graduate with a Computer Science degree and get a job in the aerospace industry.
This leaves some details out, of course. Why aerospace? Because if I can't be an astronaut, by golly, I can be a rocket scientist! More realistically, I think aerospace is really cool and would be a great use of the first few years after I graduate.
There are three facets to my next five years: academics, research, and work experience. Academically, I am doing very poorly. That will be another post. For research, I've been working on the Rust project, and will be working at Mozilla this summer as a research engineering intern on the same. I love Rust and I love working with the project, but it started as a hobby and while I'm quite involved, I don't see myself working on it in my professional life. I'm also very interested in electrical engineering, and may decide to pursue that further down the line. After this summer, I plan to double down on my academics. Next summer, I would like to intern at ARM, nVidia, Intel, or AMD. Why? They do interesting work, particularly at the boundary between hardware and software. I've always been interested in that.
The summer after that, I want to spend back home working with the school district on any technology needs they have. It is amazing how tough problems can become more manageable with a programmer on hand. After that, I want to try and land an internship at SpaceX or a similar organization with the intent of job placement in the aerospace industry. Depending on how these go, I will either enter industry or continue on to get my Masters degree.
This should give me a solid foundation to move forward after these next five years.