From seniors to citizens: The right problem

Graphic by Aiden Menchaca / The Tufts Daily

Senior spring to social security. On the hill to over the hill. Graduation to … grandchildren? Here’s what seniors have to say before all is said and done. 

Once, a venerable advisor told David Pearl, “You can spin your experiences; you just have to be a good storyteller.” 

Of course, only the wildest storyteller (or a government simulation called “Crimson Contagion”) could have predicted the snowball of confusion and suffering unleashed by the novel coronavirus, but for now, Pearl is just focused on developing his story.

“Good storytellers have years and years of practice, and I’ve only been pitching my story for four or five years,” he said. “I want to be able to tell my story and really inspire people, and I don’t think that I can do that yet.”

Despite his relative inexperience, Pearl stands poised to begin an internship as a UX (user experience) researcher at a notable company in the Boston area. The world’s current predicament might prompt the internship’s postponement, but Pearl has progressed a long way since a recruiter laughed in his face at the first of the seven career fairs that he eventually attended at Tufts.

“I’m a stalwart believer in the power of networking. It’s good to meet people and hear their story,” Pearl explained. “You never know where a conversation with someone will take you.” 

The coronavirus outbreak took him home to California, but even from home, Pearl continues to reach out to professors and other useful points of contact. Just last week, he asked a professor for a book recommendation (Bullshit Jobs” (2018) by David Graeber), and Pearl’s plan for when the world resumes its rightful course stems from another such conversation. 

Last spring, Pearl, a double major in anthropology and science, technology, and society, sat down for a chat with Dr. James Intriligator of the Tufts School of Engineering. Hours later, after discussing Pearl’s interests in helping people and solving problems with solutions informed by user feedback, Pearl perceived a new path forward.

“It all started as a friendly conversation to learn more about what I could do, and now I’ll be getting a Master’s in something I never imagined I would be getting my Master’s in, Human Factors Engineering,” he said.  

Pearl takes pride in the opportunities that he has created for himself.

“I’ve run two startups, worked a couple different internships and taken classes in a variety of departments because of my very interdisciplinary majors,” he said. “I’ve done research with professors and written papers, and I’m just thinking in ways that some majors don’t allow and some people don’t try to pursue.” 

Although no crystal ball has yet revealed how Pearl will spend his career, he envisions running a company that seeks to solve whatever problem becomes his passion.

“When I find the right problem, I will lose sleep because I’ll be so busy thinking about it,” he said. 

In the meantime, he will not lose sleep over not knowing what problem will cause him to lose sleep. Whether considering a global pandemic or his own unpredictable future, Pearl’s same message of reassurance applies: “It’s one of those situations where you can’t really believe it until after the fact, but … everything is going to be pretty okay.”