The Goodness of Bad Feelings at Work

During the course of the day, many of us shy away from bad feelings. You know the ones: the day’s coasting when you see, or hear, or remember something and immediately feel embarrassed, or guilty,  or doubt-ridden. “Buck up,” and “soldier on,” you think to yourself, platitudes that fall flat.

Which is why Pooja Nath, founder of, didn’t recite these phrases to herself when she felt bad as a college student studying in the computer lab. Profiled recently in the New York Times, Nath’s story goes like this:

When Pooja Nath was an undergraduate at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, an elite engineering school in India, she felt isolated. She was one of the few women on campus. While her male classmates collaborated on problem sets, Ms. Nath toiled in the computer lab alone.

“Back then, no one owned a laptop, there was no Internet in the dorm rooms. So everyone in my class would be working in the computer lab together,” she said. “But all the guys would be communicating with each other, getting help so fast, and I would be on the sidelines just watching.”

The experience as a young woman in that culture formed the foundation of her start-up in Silicon Valley, Piazza.

About her company, a homework help site:

Students post questions to their course page, which peers and educators can then respond to. Instructors moderate the discussion, endorse the best responses and track the popularity of questions in real time. Responses are also color-coded, so students can easily identify the instructor’s comments.

Although there are rival services, like Blackboard, an education software company, Piazza’s platform is specifically designed to speed response times. The site is supported by a system of notification alerts, and the average question on Piazza will receive an answer in 14 minutes.

You see that? Those crap feelings you sometimes experience on the job can help you find fame and fortune. The task is not to silence your emotions, but rather to tolerate them, and listen to them.

If you can do this, your bad feelings may help you make decisions about your professional path. How great is that?

One last bit that floors us: the average question on Piazza will receive an answer in 14 minutes. What does this mean? Yes, the technological infrastructure of Nath’s business is impressive.

Also, there’s an ever-increasing expectation that we are always in front of a screen. Which makes us feel scared, and anxious as we consider the prospect of being in front of a back-lit screen at all times.

We’ll tolerate these uncomfortable feelings, open to the goodness they may still bring.

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One comment

  1. Naveen

    I rpesect you as a thinker, feminist, woman, mother, person (i’ve read some of your blog and read more each week and have also read some of the Azania-related blogs) so your comment means a lot to me. 🙂

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