The Purpose-Driven Career: Myth or Reality?

Whether you’re just starting your career or already working in your field for a long time, you can still have thoughts about your purpose in the job or if you’ve chosen the right career path. It’s normal to ask yourself similar questions – we spend most of our time at work, so trying to find purpose in it seems natural. This is where the idea of a “purpose-driven career” comes in. But is it real or just something everyone’s dreaming about, but no one actually achieved it?

Let’s dive deeper into what a purpose-driven career is and what you can do to find yours. Ramunė Šabanienė, Head of Data Science, AI and Analytics in Telia Lithuania, agreed to share her career path and give essential tips & tricks on how to understand your purpose.

I’ve started my career as a statistician in the healthcare sector in the UK. This experience helped me realize how stable, consistent, and high-quality data management practices can look like. Since then, I’ve worked for over 10 years in management consulting, mainly in the telecoms, retail, airlines, and banking sectors. I was responsible for providing decision-makers with acumen and tools to enable leaders to run their businesses more effectively and confidently.

I mostly focused on putting a solid foundation and accumulating as many different experiences as possible. There were three focus areas of building my experience:

  • Learning about technology & techniques
  • Building business acumen of different sectors
  • Building business acumen of different sectors

After 13 years of working all across Europe, I’ve moved back to Lithuania. Now, I’m leading the Data Science, AI, and Analytics teams at Telia Lithuania. I believe data is one of the greatest tools to make more accurate and profitable choices to accelerate growth.

When I think about my career having a purpose, I ask myself what makes me get up in the morning and be excited about the day I’m about to have and what makes me excited about working at a specific company or a project. Having a clear answer to this question is where my motivation comes from. It’s important to understand that a sense of purpose is unique. Very often, the purpose “comes” to each of us from our life experiences, our interests, and knowing what we’re great at. What’s left to do is figure out how our experience and knowledge can be helpful to others.

For example, in my case, since primary school, I’ve been great with numbers, facts and data. I feel passionate about learning, and data helped me understand more about the world. Data also helped me learn extremely quickly about each business I worked with. To help anyone find their purpose, I would encourage asking yourself – what is it that you absolutely can’t do? And what can you not live without? What things capture your attention and you can spend hours and hours on, lose yourself and lose track of time?

I think self-motivation is probably more about managing your energy levels. The purpose is more about why I’m putting my energy into achieving certain goals and how I’m prioritizing the most important goals.

I’ve been lucky to meet many great people who have dedicated their lives to fulfilling their purpose. For instance, one can be passionate about sustainability and employ their energy in creating solutions or finding a role in your current company that contributes to your goal, aligns with your values, and what you deeply care about. Great managers often ask when they meet you about what makes you interested in joining their team – it’s usually a way to understand what motivates you and how your leader can help fulfill your goals.

The purpose can change over time (as did mine!), and it doesn’t have to be complicated. I’m often asked whether searching for a purpose may require changing jobs frequently. I would say it’s more about being picky. It’s about understanding the company’s culture and values before joining and asking questions during the interview process. Most companies have values defined as part of their mission and vision. For example, Telia has three simple words – Dare, Care, and Simplify. We fulfill our values by being brave to ask difficult questions, being respectful and caring to our colleagues, and finding a more elegant and simple way to accomplish the tasks. Does it give you a complete 100% understanding? Of course not, but it gives you a taste of what to expect and what behavior and attitude will be expected from you. A great way to gain more insight into company culture is to find someone you know who works at the company or ask to talk to your future colleagues during the interview process. This will demonstrate to your future employer that you care what environment and culture you are about to join, and your choices are well thought out and mature.

Of course! Today’s world is all about innovation that couldn’t and won’t happen without science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The choice of pursuing a career in STEM is the choice to be part of a huge wave changing the way we live our everyday lives, changing the way we’ll be doing tasks in the future, improving many aspects of human life as we know it today. In telecoms, we empower every person to be connected to each other; we open the world so that we hardly imagine anymore what our day would look like without the ability to instantly find any piece of information we need, without socializing online, etc. Being part of the journey to ensure the business runs efficiently and our customers use technology seamlessly definitely motivates!

Personally, I’m raising two girls, and for years a debate among parents made me smile – how we still position car-toys as “boy toys,” when I cannot think of any woman I know who couldn’t drive! In the same way, I don’t know any women who aren’t using apps, websites, and innovative tech solutions. Therefore, I don’t believe there’s a single reason why women shouldn’t choose to create those innovations through their STEM skillset. And that skillset can be employed not just in creating cars or rocket ships – it can be fashion tech and creating apps targeting women.

Firstly, choosing a STEM career is a huge step in narrowing the gender pay gap, enhancing women’s economic security, ensuring a diverse and talented STEM workforce, and preventing biases in these fields. Typical STEM worker earns significantly more compared to employees in other fields. What’s more, working in STEM, women can influence what products and services they produce!

Secondly, as in most professions, the STEM field requires continuous learning, self-development, and creativity, so you should be ready for this. Just imagine being able to build a robot – whether physical or virtual or construct a rocket ship or an app to virtually try out new fashion styles while creating your digital self. Or imagine designing something completely new that would change someone’s life in a previously unknown way.

Finally, understanding what my passion is and feeling empowered by my skills encouraged me to stay in STEM. Some of my first ever projects were opening health data to the public to understand and for civil servants to make better policy decisions. The project has changed the understanding of what’s important, where the focus of the system improvements should be, what professions in the healthcare sector are lacking for more effective patient care. I thrive on being able to help in discovering priorities using tech, capturing demand instantly, and making sure we all can make the most significant impact possible in everything we do. This is why I love working with data – if processed right, it points us to where our attention should be.

I highly recommend reflecting on what matters to you. Finding at least part of the answer will motivate you to gain any skill in the world. Skills will be key in achieving your goals.

Also, it’s essential to build a habit of learning. Use an anchor in your current schedule and create a learning routine around it. For example, read up a tech news article with your morning coffee. Be specific about what you’ll read or watch a TED talk. Start with something small – you’ll be more likely to do it! Every week review how your new desired habit is “sticking,” then change and adjust as needed. If you stop – reflect on why you quit, then try to remove the barrier (e.g., when reading on the phone, I get distracted by other app notifications. It’s important to disable notifications then or get a paper version to read).

Another way to inspire yourself is to pay attention and ask what drives people around you. What drives and motivates your current team members? What motivates your manager to work where she/he works? I personally am passionate about innovation, making our lives better through digital products and services, making it easy to access objective information, and contributing to the growth of people around me.

Lastly, there are no rules that one should follow; however, to start with, I highly encourage seeking inspiration and expanding your imagination. “Women Go Tech” is excellent at doing exactly that!