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What We Do Matters

16 February 2016

A few weeks ago, I sent out an email to the entire company about some things that had been on my mind about what we do, what we’re trying to accomplish, and who we are really working for.  Still, today, these feelings are brewing inside me, and continue to drive IST’s activities on a daily basis.  I think it was a combination of my trip to Grace Farms to talk about human trafficking, the Memex quarterly, the events in Paris and San Bernardino, and a recent trip to New York.  I am rarely at a loss for words nor do I usually have trouble speaking my mind, but this was different.  It wasn't angst, it wasn't excitement, and it wasn't fear... it was something different.

I think it was mostly an immersion into the fact that the stuff that we do really, really matters.  We have chosen to immerse our efforts into the world of decision support in domains that are really tough and really meaningful.  While our bill paying customers might be government research and law enforcement organizations, those most effected by our efforts are current and future victims of some of the most heinous evil that exists on the planet.  We are not conducting decision support to help retailers decide how to best sell the latest fashion to teenagers in Chicago, we are not creating new apps for trivial life convenience, we are not makers of games and entertainment, nor are we creating 10% increases in NLP precision.  We have chosen something more.  I am also dwelling on the fact that some of the concepts we regularly discuss; connecting the disconnected, combining active and passive information campaigns, getting there first,... all of these things really set us apart.

I found myself sitting in traffic on 95, waiting for an opening to reach the express lane entrance and dreading the rainy return trip that would surely be a mess of congestion.  I did not find myself thinking, "We have the opportunity to save the lives of people all around us."  And that’s when I looked at the cars next to me.  How many people within five, ten, or twenty cars of me needed help? Interstate 95 is one of the biggest arteries of traffic in the country, connecting all of the major cities on the eastern seaboard.  Every day, people are trafficked on this road, sitting in the cars next to yours and mine.  At that moment I counted my blessings, and knew that what we are doing makes a difference.  When I finally arrived at my destination, I drafted the email to everyone at IST, and closed it with: “I want to encourage all of you, I know the pace is fast, I know the resources are slim, I know we could handle twice the staff to do what we want to do...  I want to encourage you that what we do really matters.  It really, really matters.  When you find yourself burned out because a day was long and the boss wouldn't let up... think about the victims we serve. What we do matters.”