Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Absolute Must-Read Post of the Year

The Awesomest 7-Year Postdoc or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tenure-Track Faculty Life.

That's the title of the post by Prof. Radhika Nagpal, professor of computer science at Harvard. The post lays out, with a great deal of humour, the specific schemes and hacks (including "I stopped taking advice") that helped Nagpal navigate a 7-year long journey to tenureland. To me, the best part of her piece is the way she frames her junior faculty job -- as 7 long years of job security! It is this framing that allows her to enjoy the journey. The rest of the article offers some great tips for prioritizing travel and service commitments, work-life balance, recovering from bad news, and time management.

Here's an excerpt -- really, you should go read all of it, like, right now!

And in that moment it suddenly dawned on me what was taking me down. We (myself included) admire the obsessively dedicated. At work we hail the person for whom science and teaching is above all else, who forgets to eat and drink while working feverously on getting the right answer, who is always there to have dinner and discussion with eager undergrads. At home we admire the parent who sacrificed everything for the sake of a better life for their children, even at great personal expense. The best scientists. The best parents. Anything less is not giving it your best.

And then I had an even more depressing epiphany. That in such a world I was destined to suck at both.

Needless to say it took a lot of time, and a lot of tears, for me to dig myself out of that hole. And when I finally did, it came in the form of another epiphany. That what I can do, is try to be the best whole person that I can be. And that is *not* a compromise. That *is* me giving it my very best. [Emphasis in the original]