原标题:Seven Things I Learned on the Way to Not Achieving My Career Goal

by 沈向洋(
Harry Shum) > Eng <> Chn <

When I graduated with my PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon, I had a career goal—to become a computer science professor. I would help shape young minds and contribute world-class research to the field.


I aspired to emulate my professors, like Raj Reddy, who delivered some of the greatest lessons of my life. It was all set. I’d follow the path to tenured professor in about ten years.

我渴望效仿我的教授,比如 Raj Reddy(雷伊·雷蒂),他给我上了人生中最重要的一些课。一切都安排好了。我将在十年后成为一名终身教授。

But that didn’t happen.


I made a series of choices that took me away from that goal. I don’t think I realized it, but with hindsight and experience, I can see that I was driven by another force.


Years ago, the mathematician Richard Hamming gave a speech, You and Your Research, that stuck with me. He asked: “What are the most important problems of your field? If what you are doing is not important, and if you don’t think it is going to lead to something important, why are you even working on it?”

几年前,数学家 Richard Hamming(理查德·汉明)发表了一篇演讲——《You and Your Research》(你和你的研究),让我印象深刻。他问道:「你所在领域最重要的问题是什么?如果你正在做的事情并不重要,如果你认为它不会取得什么重要的成果,那你为什么还要做呢?」

Many of us think about a specific career goal—to be a manager, to be a VP, and on and on. But instead of asking “What do I want?” perhaps we should ask, “What does my field need?”


If we do, Hamming’s suggestion to follow the most imperative problems could lead us to where we’re supposed to be.


Here are seven lessons I’ve learned in (perhaps unknowing) pursuit of this philosophy.


Lesson #1: You can’t do everything.

1 你不能什么都做

Straight out of school, I decided to become employee #4 at a start-up working on virtual reality, then a technology far ahead of its time.

一出校门,我就决定成为一家致力于 VR(虚拟现实)技术的初创企业的第 4 号员工,当时,VR 是一项远远超前于时代的技术。

At a start-up, you have to do everything and that’s still not enough. At the time, I had a newborn. I quickly realized that two things are mutually exclusive: having a baby and doing a startup. I chose the baby!


For the first time, I realized that my time and energy weren’t endless. You can’t do everything at once.


Lesson #2: Before you go broad, go deep.

2 要想走得宽广,先要走得深入

I joined Microsoft Research (MSR) when it was just getting started. Somehow, I knew it would be a place that would break new ground.


I met so many extraordinary people like Rick Szeliski, who taught me the importance of really digging into fundamental problems like motion estimation in computer vision. I learned when you take something on, own it, write about it in a compelling way that changes minds, and do it really, really well, it will lead to something bigger. He was right.

我遇到了很多杰出的人,比如 Rick Szeliski(里克·赛利斯基),他们教会了我真正深入挖掘计算机视觉中运动估计等基本问题的重要性。我学到了,当你接受一些东西,理解它,用令人信服的方式书写它,并且把它做得真的非常好,你将会取得更大的进步。他是对的。

Together with Rick, I wrote a lot, including one influential paper in 1997, titled “Creating full view panoramic image mosaics and environment maps.” Today when you take a panorama with your cell phone, you’re probably using our algorithms!

我和 Rick 一起,写了很多东西,包括 1997 年一篇很有影响力的论文,题目是「创建全景图像马赛克和环境地图」(Creating full view panoramic image mosaics and environment maps)。今天,当你用手机拍摄全景照片时,你可能正在使用我们的算法!

The more you seek imperative problems and solve the tough challenges, the more you put yourself on the path to leadership. Become an expert in something and really make your mark—then branch out.


Lesson #3: Storytelling matters—even for engineers!

3 讲故事很重要,即使对工程师来说也是如此

In research, business, and life, how you communicate your ideas may be even more important than the work itself.


I learned this from SIGGRAPH—the TED of the computer graphics and interactive techniques field. Over a decade, SIGGRAPH taught me new standards of quality through the high bar set for presentations.

这是我从 SIGGRAPH(计算机图形学与交互技术领域的 TED)中学到的一点。十多年来,SIGGRAPH 通过高标准的演示文稿教会了我新的质量标准。

Even as engineers giving technical presentations, you need stories to explain your ideas to peers, to inspire people to contribute and advance your work. The best work is nothing if people don’t believe in it.


Lesson #4: You get what you measure.

4 你的定位是什么,就会得到什么

I had decided to take the position as director of the new MSR lab in Beijing—and over four years, I truly found out what it means to be #1, the person in charge.


When we set out, we didn’t know what success would look like for an industrial lab for a multinational company in China—we were a first! We developed three goals: (1) advance the field of computer science, (2) contribute technology to Microsoft’s products, and (3) benefit Chinese academia and local industry.


And we worked tirelessly to achieve those goals. Defining success metrics early on really put the lab on the map. My colleagues in China would turn MSR Asia into one of the leading labs in the world. Define your goals wisely.


Lesson #5: Control the controllable, observe the observable, and leave the rest alone.

5 控制可控制的,观察可观察的,不去管其他的

I was asked to return to the U.S. and join Bing, a new effort for Microsoft at the time, as VP of Product Development, although I had little engineering experience in program management, testing or development. I had to relearn the basics: how to survive, learn quickly and add value.

尽管我在项目管理、测试或开发方面几乎没有工程经验,但我还是被要求回到美国,加入微软当时的新项目 Bing,担任产品开发副总裁。我必须重新学习最基本的东西:如何生存、快速学习和增加价值。

I figured out that solving the most important problems in Bing required deep research knowledge: machine learning for search quality and distributed systems for search infrastructure, to just a couple! So I went back to MSR to recruit over 50 people.

我发现解决 Bing 中最重要的问题需要深入的研究知识: 搜索质量的机器学习和搜索基础设施的分布式系统,而我们只有几个人!所以我回到微软研究院(MSR),招募了 50 多人。

There was tremendous pressure on our inexperienced team to compete with Google. We had to persevere through the hardest of times, and we disagreed a lot. During this time, I developed a saying: “Control the controllable, observe the observable, and leave the rest alone.” People get agitated too quickly by things that are not working, or they push against things that are too difficult to change. You must first look at what’s happening around you. If you can’t step back and observe the big picture, there’s not much else you can do.


Lesson #6: Think of your career as a series of projects.

6 把你的职业生涯想像成一系列的项目

I met Jim Gray, a Turing Award winner and great technical leader, at MSR.

我在微软研究院遇到了 Jim Gray(吉姆·格雷),他是图灵奖得主和伟大的技术领袖。

I once asked Jim, “You worked in MSR, and in SQL. It seemed like you never worried about whether you were on a product team or research team.”

我曾经问过 Jim,「你在 MSR 工作过,也在 SQL 工作过。你似乎从不担心自己是在产品团队还是研究团队。」

Jim’s response was that you shouldn’t define your career by your title or discipline—he said that “I follow projects where I can make an impact.” He wasn’t worried about whether it was product or research.

Jim 的回答是,你不应该用头衔或学科来定义你的职业生涯,他说:「我关注那些我能产生影响的项目。」他并不担心是产品还是研究。

Instead, he wanted to think about the kinds of interesting projects you can work on, the hard problems where a team can come together to solve something big. Don’t get caught up in categories. Instead, dive in.


Lesson #7: Always walk in the middle of the road.

7 秉承中庸之道

Wherever you are on your career path, you’ll do a lot—you’ll make decisions, you’ll code, you’ll create, you’ll achieve. But more than doing, be. Who will you be? What will you be known for because of who you are?

无论你在职业生涯的哪个阶段,你都会做很多事情——你会做决定,你会写代码,你会创造,你会实现目标。但不仅仅是做,比这更重要的是,你会是谁? 你会因为什么而为人所知?

Long ago, as a young Chinese student, I was introduced to Confucius’ teaching: the doctrine of the golden mean. The Chinese is actually written as 中庸之道, which literally is about walking in the middle of the road and keeping your direction.


To me, the essence of what Confucius taught was about listening, with balance, to both sides, being thoughtful and respectful. People can be extreme without knowing if their extreme position is right.


As you walk the middle, don’t burn bridges. You never know which one of your peers will become your next boss, which of your interns will go on to create the next unicorn.


Be generous, be open, be kind.


You never know what’s on the horizon. And maybe one day down the road, I’ll be an even better professor.