Leysia Palen on creating a new research area, the long path to tenure and starting a department

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Leysia Palen is Professor and Founding Chair of Information Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. She has also led the establishment of the Crisis Informatics research area. Leysia shares her career journey in getting to this place, an amazing story of being a first generation PhD, dealing with imposter syndrome, and moving to a new university to support her spouse. It is also a story of focus and perseverance, defining a new research area, being supported by her own soft money, then finally getting a half-time faculty position, while at the same time having a family and growing the internationally recognised Project EPIC. It was only relatively recently that she got tenure and then quickly became a full professor. Leysia also talks the challenges and lessons learnt in setting up and leading a whole new department and what higher education can be in this era.

“I was a trailing spouse…and the closest fit for me was Computer Science…but it wasn't an easy fit. […] It's important that both people [academic couple] be valuable in terms of how other people measure value.” 

“The truth was I still was uncertain if I belonged in the academy. […] I was smarter than I knew and I was more naive than I knew.”

“To do research and to do teaching, you have to just be present all the time. You have to stay with a problem. You have to stay with other people and where they are. And that's a particular kind of energy .”

“It's naive to think science is only about pursuing ideas that just come to one's head. They have to be good ideas, they have to be tractable ideas.”

For a full transcript, click here

Overview:

02:45 Being a first generation college student, undergrad at UCSD and PhD at Irvine

08:51 Moving to Colorado CS department as a trailing spouse, focusing on keeping the research thread going

11:34 Working in soft money, needing to reduce work to what she could do well while she was having children

15:08 Moving to a half-time tenure track position, trying to deal with not being a close disciplinary fit, moving to formalize research to make a difference

18:23 Setting up a crisis informatics research agenda, and getting it funded

23:16 The challenges doing crisis informatics work and self care

27:07 Eventually getting tenure, the challenges getting there, and juggling family, physical movement, and home/work, getting a full-time position in 2007 but still not tenured, eventually went for associate without tenure, then later with tenure. And then in a short time to full professor.

35:06 Being noticed by the campus for the impact she was having, the multi-disciplinary group, graduating 7 PhD students all women. Setting up a new department of information science. The opportunity to think about the nature of disciplines, what an ischool in 2015 could be like, and re-thinking education.

42:34 Learning to be a leader, no training pathways for leadership or role models for setting up a new department, and defining discipline vs department.

52:21 Final reflections and working with a 50 year view.

56:51 End

Related Links

Department of Information Science - https://www.colorado.edu/cmci/infoscience

Palen & Anderson, 2016, Crisis Informatics – New data for extraordinary times, Science. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6296/224

Ed Hutchins - http://pages.ucsd.edu/~ehutchins/

Aaron Cicourel - https://sociology.ucsd.edu/people/faculty/emeritus/aaron-cicourel.html

Don Norman - https://jnd.org

Amy Voida - https://www.colorado.edu/cmci/people/information-science/amy-voida

Ricarose Roque - https://www.colorado.edu/cmci/people/information-science/ricarose-roque

Brian Keegan - https://www.colorado.edu/cmci/people/information-science/brian-c-keegan

Mike Twidale on agile research, leading from strengths, and story-telling

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Mike Twidale is a professor in the School of Information Sciences at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, recipient of numerous teaching awards including Outstanding IS teacher in 2017, and more recently becoming program director for a new Masers degree. We talk about how he handled the tenure process, his teaching approaches, and his notion of agile research and what this means. We also discuss stepping up into leadership roles. Having thought he would never be any good at leadership, he has developed his own leadership style by playing to his own strengths and the complementary strengths of those around him, among other effective strategies. We also talk about the value of story-telling to make more explicit the multiple different ways and realities of how we do academia. And he talks about metrics as just being an indicator of something and looking for other complementary ways to also explore that something.

“Our job as we get more senior is to speak up for a diversity of different ways of doing scholarship.”

“If it’s really research we don’t actually know what the answer is.” 

“How do you design something so that it is easy to change rather than how do you design something so it is right so you don’t need to change it?”

“When a faculty works well it is nurturing and it’s like a family.”

Overview:

04:26 How thinking about getting tenure matters

10:15 Teaching

15:05 Agile research

25:00 Stepping into a leadership role

43:05 Storytelling, self-care and metrics

And in more detail, he talks about (times approximate) …

01:40 Moving from Computer Science in the UK to a School of Information Sciences at UIUC in the US in 1997 as an adventure to “try it out”. Seeing how he could go with the teaching. The challenges of multi-disciplinarity. Learning the US academic tradition including tenure.

How thinking about getting tenure matters

04:26 Going into a tenure track position, via an exception as a Q appointment. He talks about how he approached the tenure process. Was successful but always in the back of his mind was that he could always go back to the UK. Didn’t put pressure on himself – viewing it as an adventure, had a backup of being able to find another job if needed, and realizing it is “just a set of rules rather than something that is about my identity”. Vs treating it as about identity creates pressure and leads to conformist about what will be acceptable to the tenure committee. The paradoxes. And the value of the uni documents about tenure rules creating many different opportunities for excellence.

09:05 “Our job as we get more senior is to speak up for a diversity of different ways of doing scholarship.”

Teaching

10:15 Winning an excellent teaching award. How excellent mentoring helped him. A strong culture of excellent teaching in the school. Talks about the contrast of being a soft person in a computer science and then being the hard techie person in the iSchool. All relative.

11:55 The formal and informal mentoring he received – an Australian historian, Boyd Raywood, who could help translate the US academic system for him; Betsy Hearn and the power of storytelling. The teaching techniques he has developed – more hands-on activities

Agile Research

15:05 Drawing inspiration from agile software development to ask what might agile research look like and how can we speed up the iterations. Compares this to the ‘straw man’ logical waterfall method for computers but it doesn’t work as the world is a lot messier than we would like and we are fallible human beings who can’t follow rational methods. Compares this to grant and thesis proposals which look like the waterfall method but we all know that this doesn’t work like this.

19:40 Influencing funding bodies about this? So far no but he has a plan. He has just written a paper to justify agile as a reasonable research method. And talks about how it can fit into deliverables reporting requirements for funded research. Needing more honesty and transparency about the process of doing research. Not doing anyone a favour particularly our students who look at the post-hoc constructed representations of senior researchers’ work and compare it their messiness of their own. Honesty especially important given the increasing interest in reproducible research. “So long as you admit that thing you are doing is a legal fiction to save other people the time and bother and not pretend that is the thing we did.”

22:55 “If it’s really research we don’t actually know what the answer is… have some guesses… but time and again we discover something far more interesting than what we intended to look for.”

Stepping into a leadership role

25:00 Reflecting on his program director role. 5-6 years would have said he had no desire to do any academic leadership thing as didn’t think he would be good at it. No ambition. Thought he would be a bad fit as good at divergent thinking but not good at details, keeping track of things, person management. However the need and opportunity arose to be director of new masters program. Thought he would have a go. Brand new degree to be created out of nothing with help of fellow faculty. So an opportunity to build something new and interesting. That piqued his interest. He had written an article about what an agile university might look like. So given they didn’t know what should be in this program, how could he design the process to learn as they go? So coming up with structures and getting input from people and nudge it so they are not getting locked into early commitments. “How do you design something so that it is easy to change rather than how do you design something so that it is right so you don’t need to change it?”

29:08 Setting it up to enable learning from the start. Helped by colleagues working with him and delegating things to people who were really good at doing things that he was bad at doing. A struggle at times as can egocentrically think that if I hate doing it others do too. [30:34] Learning what it is that plays to other people’s strengths – so getting to know people, reading from their body language that this is something they like. Meg Edwards is very good at systematizing things. Having someone who has complementary skills but also not embarrassed about raising things that really need to be done. An important culture thing (mid-western nice, being polite, not wanting to offend – so have to move it along to see if people actually agree or disagree and what do we disagree about)

32:41 The important role of the leader in setting the culture. The importance of having lots of very small meetings including one-on-ones. Lots of little conversations more productive. And if it goes wrong it’s my fault, my job.

33:51 The people he learnt his leadership skills from – actual and implicit mentors. Discusses Doug Shepherd, Ian Sommerville disagreeing; Doug Shepherd – managing by walking around; Alan Dix - playfulness; Tom Rodden – sharing and including people;

38:35 The value of managing by walking around, understanding needs. Staying curious. Bringing research interests to management/leadership, figuring out strengths and what other things are needed, who can do those. “If you play to your strengths you are going more with the grain as opposed to against the grain.”

41:50 Role of systematization, structuring, as program matures and as you get bigger. Breaking into small teams work because of way humans work.

Storytelling, self-care and metrics

43:05 Role of story-telling. For example telling graduate students how to get a job – collections of stories that reveals getting jobs in different ways.

45:20 Story-telling in the faculty as well? Some happens already. Easier when smaller faculty and now needs more effort.  Stories – for new professors and doctoral students who want an academic career – stories of struggling around and how people overcame adversity, or even admitting not knowing and then things clicking into place. Those stories revealing the processes. Also stories of people who are successful and how much appears to be luck, seizing opportunity – “the factor of luck, happenstance, we often don’t want to tell because it doesn’t fit the heroic story but it is still an issue of seizing that, but helping people to realise, don’t be dispirited if one doesn’t work out, these things happen.”

48:25 We’d like to believe the world is rational. Same in the hiring process. But it’s not. Discussion of trying to be fair in hiring, to see the whole person, being open to different research approaches. Still times when you are not sure. Incredibly difficult issue.

51:05 Story of Leigh Estabrook who recruited him – one of her famous phrases was no grant proposal is ever wasted. You will be benefitting from that in the future in a way you don’t know about. “When a faculty works well it is nurturing and it’s like a family, that recognises that each individual in the family is different and unique.”. Other practices building a nurturing culture – always there, sustaining it via eg faculty retreats, sharing ideas, sharing stories. Key is inviting more than one story. Hallway conversations. Collaborations around teaching. Also need to recognize it can be intimidating for new people and need to be welcoming. The problems of comparing yourself to many others and thinking you need to be the union set of all those people.

55:55 Self-care – needing to do more on this. Commute time of 12 mins on average. Always temptation to do more and more work. Tries to make time for himself at the weekends. Travels a lot and tacks on an extra day of sightseeing. Sets a puzzle in his head and leaves his subconscious to chew over it but this needs time and relaxation and can’t force it. 

58:15 Talks about listening to podcast with Tom Rodden – do good work and other things will flow. Problems with metrics. Interested in looking at metrics as part of a socio-technical system, the doing of science. Have to remember is it the proxy and not the think itself. The challenge is to allow the telling of other stories. What you lose by turning it into a number. Getting qualitative and quantitative data working together. Numbers can help us when we want to be fair. But numbers are not unbiased. And what’s that something else we are actually looking for and how can we look for that. Eg looking for potential. What are some indicators of potential? Different people show potential in different ways. “Reminding ourselves it [metric number] is just a proxy and what are wanting it to be a proxy for may help.”

01:03:20 The challenge of academics being encouraged to be individualist. But you don’t have to do it all on your own.

01:05:13 End

Related Links

Boyd Rayward - https://ischool.illinois.edu/people/w-boyd-rayward

Betsy Hearne - https://ischool.illinois.edu/people/betsy-hearne

Meg Edwards - https://ischool.illinois.edu/people/meg-edwards

Leigh Estabrook - http://cirss.ischool.illinois.edu/person.php?id=69

Twidale & Nichols, ‘Agile Methods for Agile Universities’ - https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/129936578.pdf

Kjeld Schmidt – ‘The trouble with “tacit knowledge”’, Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): The Journal of Collaborative Computing and Work Practices, vol. 21, no. 2-3, June 2012, pp. 163-225.

Tom Rodden podcast - http://www.changingacademiclife.com/blog/2016/11/2/tom-rodden

Lindsay Oades on academic wellbeing, connecting to strengths, meaning and purpose, and not taking the system too seriously

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Lindsay Oades is a Professor at the University of Melbourne, where he is also the Director of the Centre for Positive Psychology at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education.  He has co-edited the Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Positivity and Strengths-Based Approaches at Work. I caught up with Lindsay in Budapest at the 2018 European Positive Psychology Conference and was keen to talk to him because of his expertise in positive organisations and taking a systems perspective to promoting wellbeing at work. In this conversation we talk about his own experiences of changes in the academic sector, and his key learnings getting to full professor. We also talk about what positive psychology can contribute to academic work environments and wellbeing, covering issues around values, purpose and meaning, strengths, promotion processes, performance reviews, job crafting, and academic leadership. Listen out for his great terms like ‘academic feudalism’ and ‘justificationism’.

We got so caught up in the conversation that neither of us noticed that his microphone had dropped so there is about 5 mins towards the end when he is talking about job crafting. If his distant voice is too difficult to hear, stay on to the end of the podcast where I repeat what he said word for word. The verbatim text is also below for that section.

“Don’t take it too seriously, don’t get sucked into the rumination and the competitiveness that people go through, and the valuing of each other based on the academic gaze.”

“A lot of academics mistake seriousness with excellence.”

“I…coped through…humour, patience, relationships, being in good teams, being quite purposeful…about why I was doing it, so I didn’t have an instrumental view of academia of publications for publication sake, grants for grants sake.”

“Academics love autonomy. The best way to manage academics is to get out of their way.”

Overview:

01:30 Background

09:00 Changing challenges of academic life

16:45 Key learnings getting to full professor

25:30 Values, purpose, meaning and the promotion processes

32:40 Well-being and academia, and how considered academics create to absurd systems

41:00 What Positive Psychology is about, and how it impacts his management role

50:05 Taking a strengths-based developmental approach to performance reviews and job crafting

1:02:57 Final thoughts – towards the positive university

And in more detail, he talks about (times approximate) …

1:30 Lindsay talks about the different phases of his career, from clinical psychology, to doing an MBA and then moving to a business school, and now moving “from negative to positive, from individual to larger system”, an evolution in scale, and what systems thinking offers for him. From health to wellbeing to business to education.

Changing challenges of academic life

9:00 The changes he has seen in academic life over the course of his career – huge. Increased in student numbers, internationalization, reduced funding, more managerial/commercial style, contracting of competitive funding, freezing of PhD scholarship levels and students having to work much more. Quite a different place. What hasn’t changed is the undervalue that the Australian culture places on academics. Anti-intellectualism. Thinks intellectual life valued more in some parts of North America and Europe and popular media. Changes have led to fewer positions, skepticism about ability to develop careers, larger teaching loads, multiple people scrambling for small amounts of money (academic feudalism). “You see these so called good minds spending huge amounts of time to get access to $10K…relatively small amounts of money”. “A lot of academics are very detailed oriented people, what I’d call naive rationalists, they think they are going to get a solution through reasoning and then get frustrated when politics or economics knocks them around.”

13:30 Own experience? His academic vantage point quite different as professor and director of a centre. Reflects on when he was a lecturer, dealing with teaching load and applying for funding, but was doing more applied research so used consultancies as a way of generating funding to side-step the feudalism. A deliberate decision. Institution allowed him to have a slush fund. But not all academics or disciplines are able to do this. Still went for competitive grants but now with a base level source.

Key learnings getting to full professor

16:45 Key learnings getting to full professor? Patience. Not taking the system too seriously because academic life can be very disheartening. A lot of academics would say this, that they feel very undervalued by their own institution and most of the recognition they get is from people they don’t see, from overseas who recognize the quality of your work, yet in your own institution you are told you are not producing enough or teaching enough classes or whatever. So this weird local invalidation and validation from someone a long way away. So don’t seek validation in the wrong place. And remembering what a university is, this incredibly resilient organization. They’re 8 or 900 year old institutions. They do this partly through the slowness of themselves. A lot of academics mistake seriousness with excellence. The constant workload and multiple roles that academics have to cross between teaching, research, community engagement and administration, without a lot of understanding – most think of academics as a teacher. So no real understanding of what academics do. What he learnt was probably a light touch, non-grasping view of what it is, don’t take it too seriously, don’t get sucked into the rumination and the competitiveness that people go through, and the valuing of each other based on the academic gaze. Finds it comical at times. Valuing the absurdity.

21:45 Need to find good mentors, get into good teams. A lot his good research output is from being in good teams. And a healthy skepticism and sardonic humour. When he was younger, he felt academia was ageist. Couldn’t achieve criteria for professor unless you had time. “I’ll keep doing what I’m doing because I’ll get to professor anyway because age will take of it.” So somewhat of an ageism in the way it is structured, the system values declarative knowledge that comes with age. So he probably coped through a bit of humour, patience, relationships, being in good teams, being quite purposeful, “I’ve always had my own purpose about why I was doing it, so I didn’t have an instrumental view of academia of publications for publication sake, grants for grants sake.” So a non-instrumental approach. Care about it. Always been attracted to ideas and learning. Love of learning is one his number one strengths. Conceptually strong. Good with ideas. That comes naturally, easier for him than some other people. That combined with a value and purpose for why I’m doing it, that has buoyed him along.

Values, purpose, meaning and the promotion processes

25:30 In a team at Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, 17 people. A very values and purpose driven group of people. He has some very clear things he is working towards, helping other people, changing systems in service of well-being. So quite purpose, meanings-based initiatives. Keeps those close. And reminds himself. So no surprise he is attracted to ideas like impacts rather than h-indices and metrics of how we stack up against others. One of the frustrating things about that when going for promotion- it is very extrinsically focused. He didn’t like the psychological impact because it took him away from what he valued about what he was doing. But having to report on all the extrinsic things that don’t connect to love of learning or meaningful impact you are trying to have. [27:40]. Lower down the tree it was the external impacts. But now at professor it was about being able to get on committees, have an impact. He calls it rampant justifactionism.

29:07 His ideal promotion process? Prefers whole of career approach, more portfolio-based, less constrained of how you have to fit yourself into a box. Stories would provide more mechanism for people to tell their stories. Using other media to make the case in more variegated and meaningful ways. From a managerial point of view, one of the ways to exploit the workforce where people love their work. It’s a strength of the workforce but also makes it easier to exploit them. It’s a danger for people who love what they are doing.

Well-being and academia, and how considered academics create to absurd systems

32:40 Well-being impacts? Has been involved in surveys of academic and managerial staff. Academic experiences different to other sectors. Has seen in the data academics have high levels of workload and stress but reasonably high levels of job satisfaction. That says there is another variable accounting for that – some value they are getting through their work. Meaning, impact, connection. And not the place to go if money is your key driver. The triggers for the stress? A lot of factors – individual, institution, department. Which institution, which faculty? Different pressures. At the individual level, obsessiveness, narcissism, perfectionism – we see these in academics, we select for these qualities too. Overthinkers, good but if overused it is problematic. All these things play out. “One-on-one I find academics generally very nice people, easy to relate to, usually quite kind and considered people. Yet the systems we create and inherit can be kind of absurd.” And it is at the individual level, the considered academic is good. But put them in committees to make decisions and they can’t make a decision and they develop systems that provide justifications. So the systems they create are not that effective. The effect is that it slows everything down. So one-on-one good people, well-intentioned people, smart people, but not always smart in the sense that they understand organizational life. Some serious problems with that that need re-dressing.

What Positive Psychology is about, and how it impacts his management role.

41:00 Positive Psychology – science of optimal human functioning, taking a strengths-based approach in the service of wellbeing. Historically a re-dressing of a deficits-based focus of psychology.

42:55 Impact of PP on how he plays out his role? All understand the language, have the expertise. But rest of the uni don’t have that language. And still a knowledge-behaviour gap in how they manage their own wellbeing, purpose etc. Everyone in the team has a wellbeing coach, wellbeing in the context of the strategy of the centre. Some take more a physical health approach. Others trying to manage their own perfectionism, change their mental attitude about how much they have to work. Ever since he had kids, he doesn’t work weekends. When he told team members they were shocked because they had themselves in the habit of working weekends. Not a sustainable practice. The critical point for him was having kids.

48:05 Another example: they have 8 people here at the conference, an expense to the centre, his view is that there is a wellbeing component to it. “My problem with my staff is not do they work hard, but do they work too much.” So this is an opportunity for them to have time to get sustained, rejuvenated. Not about reductionist managerialism/ROI.

Taking a strengths-based developmental approach to performance reviews and job crafting

50:05 At performance reviews, ask people what are they really trying to do, where are they trying to go. Have authentic candid conversations about what do people really want to do. What’s in this for them. People are varied. How do we enable different career trajectories? About knowing the people you are working with, and appointing them to match the role you want them to play. A problem though in the way universities appoint. He hasn’t formally done strengths-based recruitment but they have done teams-based strengths assessments with VIA and Realise2. Get individual profiles. And also get a team-based profile. “Academics love autonomy. The best way to manage academics is to get out of their way. If you want to manage a wild beast, give it a large paddock. …Academics love autonomy but they also love a rationale.” What Self Determination Theory tells us about this.  Autonomy doesn’t mean anything goes. Have some external research income targets to hit. Not negotiable. How do we do it. Then let the smart people do it. Don’t tell them they have to have micro-managed parts. They’ll usually find a way.

55:50 [Lindsay’s microphone dropped down here so the audio is not so clear. Here is a word for word transcript as best I could hear]

56:23 You have to do this both individually and as a group and I’ve been trying to push this strategy document so people can see where they fit into where we want to go. And that takes time.

[Turning the lens back to academia?]

It sounds really trite but the evidence bears it out. Fundamentally people at work often feel undervalued, in general or by their immediate boss. So simple things about what do you actually value about your staff and have you told them and in what medium have you told them. So that is number one.  And number two would be the stuff we talked before about strengths. Have you actually had conversations with staff about their role and the job description and how it can be crafted so that they can use their strengths more than they currently are. And that might take time as well because there are organizational constraints, that you have to deliver this or get this class taught or we’ve got to generate that income or we’ve got to get that contract done. So while at this moment we can’t get you exactly fully there at least have that conversation so there is a plan of how it is going to migrate there and those conversations are really important. Because again with academics, if there is a rationale and there has been a conversation, they will probably accept it for a while if there is good intent. So there’s a couple of things there, enabling them to feel valued and enabling them to use their strengths and mould their work, job craft their work from a strengths base.

[Doing that for each other too?]

59:03 I think too if you look at the history of the universities as well, they’ve been gendered so you have rationalist males that might not see the value of some of the stuff I was just talking about.  And […] they might not have had the skills for how to do it. And I don’t mean that in a nasty way. People have different skills. If academic life was originally a very cognitive, individual endeavor, you go into your room and do your work. That was old academia for a lot of people. This new academia, looking after people, many many more women in the academic workforce, also culturally much more externally focused than it used to be, much more community engaged, more demands from students, I wouldn’t say more demands, students have been enabled to give more feedback and they do expect a higher level of teaching quality. So a whole range of things that are different to how they have been.

[Loved job crafting, same job, but control, choices] And by job crafting I don’t just mean offloading your teaching. [Specific example of job crafting?]

1:00:53 Yeah there are a few. In academic life there is obviously research and teaching but the …it may be changing the type of teaching you are doing at a subject level or also gradually doing more research led teaching or face-to-face teaching or particular type of teaching like workshop style, lecture style. Or gradually trying to move to more admin and leadership roles but doing in a way that uses my particular skills or strengths. [end of lost mic – shorter notes continue]

1:02 So there are different types job crafting might look like – tasks, relationships, So different forms of what job crafting can look like. So different ways. Enabling people to take charge of their work life, their career. Academics are sophisticated people. They think a lot and they are willing to work hard. So it’s about capturing that.

Final Thoughts

1:02:57 Currently trying to champion the idea of positive universities. People usually just think of student wellbeing. But it is broader than that – student wellbeing, staff wellbeing, positive organizational practices. How do we take science of wellbeing approaches and apply them to universities? A group of universities around the world currently thinking about it. A bigger picture way of looking at it. He has a paper called “towards positive universities” about how to do it at a tangible level. When people talk about wellbeing, they think it’s the positive experience, feeling happy, but don’t take the functioning bit. Wellbeing from a eudemonic perspective involves positive functioning, growth, virtue. Wellbeing includes good functioning, not just feeling good but functioning well and doing well. That’s where the meaning and purpose part plays a big role. Big changes coming. Universities resilient, they adapt. Not as simple as the commercial arrangement would suggest.

Student wellbeing programs still deficit focused. Working on wellbeing literacy. We don’t have a way to communicate about wellbeing. Positive attributes. More than the absence of anxiety and depression. Wellbeing in the broader sense –where students can communicate about what is self-regulation, what is using strengths, what is wellbeing, what is meaning, what is purpose, and communicate in a way that is meaningful for them. Having senior leaders able to see this relationship between wellbeing and performance and communicate this to staff and students explicitly and implicitly.

01:10:46 Repeat of the content where Lindsay’s microphone dropped

01:14:43 End

Related Links

Lindsay Oades: http://www.lindsayoades.com

Centre for Positive Psychology, Melbourne Graduate School of Education: https://education.unimelb.edu.au/cpp

9th European Conference on Positive Psychology 2018: https://ecpp2018.akcongress.com  

Barbara Frederickson’s Broaden and Build Theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broaden-and-build

VIA character strengths: https://www.viacharacter.org

Strengths Profiler Realise2: http://www.ppquarterly.org/portfolio/realise2-next-generation-strengths-assessment/ Now Capp: the strengths experts https://www.capp.co/Home

Self Determination Theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-determination_theory; http://selfdeterminationtheory.org

Job Crafting: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/job-crafting/

Book & Papers:

Oades, Steger, Delle Fave, Passmore (eds), “The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Positivity and Strengths-Based Approaches at Work”

https://www.wiley.com/en-gb/The+Wiley+Blackwell+Handbook+of+the+Psychology+of+Positivity+and+Strengths+Based+Approaches+at+Work-p-9781118977651

Oades, Robinson, Green & Spence, “Towards a Positive University”: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2011.634828?journalCode=rpos20

Oades & Johnston, “Wellbeing literacy: The necessary ingredient in positive education”. https://juniperpublishers.com/pbsij/pdf/PBSIJ.MS.ID.555621.pdf

Jan Gulliksen on middle management, leading autists, and building values and trust… with drama

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Jan Gulliksen is a Professor in Human Computer Interaction and Vice President for Digitalization at KTH in Stockholm Sweden, among various other national and international leadership roles. He was also Dean of school for 7 years and we talk here mostly about his experiences and thoughts on middle management and academic leadership. He shares his personal development as a leader as well as some practical strategies, many using techniques from his background in theatre and drama, for example, in how to read and interact with people, or in using improv theatre to create insight and shift values around PhD supervision.  We also touch on a range of other issues including the nature of academic freedom, building organisational values, the importance of 2-way trust, what makes good role models, the problems with meetings, the ‘too’ in working too much, and much more.

"You are building an organisation and you are actually building values. This is probably the single most important thing…around the values that you are bringing…and trust is then intimately connected to these values."

"Everybody should be able to play in the organisation on equal terms."

"I never say I work too much. It’s when people add that word ‘too’ that it becomes a problem…claiming [it’s] more than they want to [and] not in control of setting that. But...it is always our own choices how many tasks we take on."

"We have too many [meetings] that don’t contribute and don’t make efficient use of people’s time."

Overview: He talks about (times approximate) …

1:30 Jan introduces his background and current role.

3:27 He notes the values embedded in my question about his choice to do more strategic impact and management work. Discusses being in management roles for the last 10 years and motivation for doing this. Got a management role of 45 people as part of his package when he moved to KTH. Must have done well as he was then promoted to Dean two years after, which is not the obvious way to do this as usually appoint older people. A former colleague said “Jan are you going to be a dean? But you’re actually a good researcher!”. Fascinating because it showed the values that says doing leadership or management is not considered as prestigious or as good as other things. He finds this strange.

6:35 Strategic choice for management an option? But we don’t always do strategic choices. Discusses how we didn’t use to have metrics or Google Scholar and no-one was talking about citations etc then. So you can look at different people in the past who happened to make choices that benefit them now eg in high h-indexes but they were lucky to have made that choice. He believes that leadership roles should be valued much more. He didn’t do leadership as a prestigious thing but because he thinks he has something he can contribute and wants to be part of shaping how we do these things.

8:45 Formal training for leadership roles? Yes. He really likes these internal training programs. Started with pedagogical training courses because they were rewarding and he learnt new things. Inspiring and wanted more. What came next were different types of leadership courses. Every time you join a leadership course, half of it is about leadership, the other half is about personal development. So that was a way to use these courses to mature and reflect on how you. Joined every leadership course he did at Uppsala. And when he came to KTH, joined their leadership courses. Final step was that he went to INSEAD and did their advanced management program for a full month which is something that shapes you up a bit. He also joined as a mentor for others which is also a way of developing.

11:05 What were the personal qualities that made the role a good fit? Jan finds an enjoyment in seeing other people’s development. That’s why PhD supervision is the most fun and rewarding thing academics do. Similarly the thing he likes with management roles is not what people would think. Now that he has gone from dean to Vice President, he used to have staff responsibility for more than 400 people but as vice president has no staff responsibility. People say ‘lucky you’ but he thinks that is the most rewarding part, the between 4-eyes meeting with staff, mutually solving problems to help their development. Much more fun than working on strategic plans or management group meetings that you also need to do. Typically HR issues is the biggest part of leadership roles.

14:00 Practical skills he brought? One of his backgrounds that he uses a lot in his leadership role or any role is that he started out with theater and drama. Wanted to be an actor, director. Read a lot, did a lot. Learnt a lot. Uses that knowledge every day without being aware of it, reading people’s eyes, trying to watch what is happening from the outside as a director, shape what is happening there, simply by how you phrase things and speak you can control the stage there. Thinks drama should be one of the core subjects for schools. Can use that knowledge to control your voice, your body, how you pause, create awareness by being silent and being ready to be silent for a longer time than you do. Both reading, seeing, observing and then also turning it into something you do yourself. Classes on improvisation, and how they make the story line continue etc but clear rules on how you make an improvisation that you need to follow to develop the story. These happen in real life.

19:15 Subtle herding of cats, or leading clever people? Management book, writing about management from a conductor’s point of view (Esa-Pekka Salonen). Leading artists. Which is bit like herding cats. He felt that when he became Dean. Wants to do a follow up, leading autists, simply based on the experience of leadership in academia. Can seem like an insulting title but clearly have brilliant people, many of whom probably have some cognitive special skills, that makes you need to be more aware of your leadership skills. Another aspect of academia that should be debated much more, compared to leadership in business or public sector, and that is the concept of academic freedom. Academic freedom means nobody should influence you on what types of methods or research questions you use but many academics, particularly the higher you get up in the academic career, would want the concept of academic freedom to be read as “I don’t have a boss, nobody should tell me what to do” rather than it is about your research and the freedoms in relation to that. So management in that sense becomes very complicated because you are supposed to be a manger of people who are of course highly skilled, more skilled than you are in their particular topics but still there are things you can contribute to their development. This is something that probably will change in the future because he doesn’t think it is a sustainable solution to have universities run in the leaves of the organization and where the management roles don’t have any opportunity to steer or control how things are happening. He has heard something said about a president at a university that when they make a decision it is heard as a statement in an ongoing debate. This is bad as it means a president can’t make any decision and how can you develop and change a business if that is the perspective.

23:50 Business of academia? Discussion of different way that the term ‘business’ is used. In Swedish have the word ‘verksamhet’ which is best translated into English as business but it is a concept about ‘work activity’ but more than that. Wants English to inherit that word. So talking about teaching, management tasks.

27:20 Navigating boundary, encouraging people to participate in the business of academia? Usually go to a leadership course on individual management between two people to have difficult conversations, then courses on strategic management, but really not a course for middle management and middle management probably the most tricky side of management. He has had a manager above him and is managing people so has seen this tension in the middle management role. Also works fairly well in industry but there are things that need to be developed in academia for middle management. How do you contribute to delivering on the development plans of the manager above so decisions are channeled through. But he sees this autonomy makes a management meeting on the top a tricky issue, and need to come up with a decision. Middle manager may have been fighting for the opinions of their groups but may not have got their will through and how do you deal with that. He has seen many middle managers go back to their group and instead of saying “we had discussions, made tradeoffs and agreed on this that we have to deliver”. Instead they say “I really fought for you and these stupid managers above didn’t listen to what we said so now they are forcing us to do this.” But this is not in the management spirit. He would love to see a management course to help with the struggle of that role that has contradiction in terms, fighting for subordinates upwards and then have to communicate decisions down.

32:10 A better way of doing it? Role play or drama might help you think about these different roles. When you are middle manager, you should talk much more “we”, “we made a decision, we did this” and talk about the collective of management that made the decision. But he hears instead that “he made the decision” and distancing from the decision and keep on fighting that instead of being part of the collective making that decision. As a manager of a group, need to be the advocate for the joint decisions being made and even if you didn’t like the decision, your role is to make it happen than fight against it. Need to reflect on how to tell the story about why the decision was made. We are in the trust business. So need to build that trust so people can see that different views were considered. Then eventually decisions had to be made and different tradeoffs.

37:00 Trust also works both ways. Talking about needing to trust our managers, but managers also need to be able to trust staff to work in this fashion. You are building an organization and you are actually building values. This is probably the single most important thing to do, is around the values that you are bringing – so that people like we are moving in this direction because we share a set of values in this organization and trust is then intimately connected to these values. How to do this practically? Openness and transparency is a value but you can’t be open and transparent about everything as a manager, sometimes not even allowed to be. But if generally have the notion, openness needs to work in collaboration with trust, that if we appoint someone as a leader, we need to trust the leader to take the wisest choices. Delegating the management role.  Equity also important. Everyone’s point is important and valid. The more heterogenous the group is, the better choices you actually make. It is involving every staff, students, administrative staff in management team.

42:00 Next issue is a lack of respect between faculty and administrative staff. In Swedish, the word ‘administration’ is seen as not prestigious, for the lowest in the income scale etc. But still everybody should be able to play in the organization on equal terms. How to have these conversations? In groups, coming up with concepts you can stand by. In other situations, they come in organically. Busy academics can feel these types of discussions are beyond the limit of what they can do. So may need to trick that in to get discussion. Talks about some issues related to harassment based on what people are earning. How to work with these issues? 

47:12 Did a long project over a year and a half called a Sustainable Work Environment. Could see it was working in the annual work environment survey that harassment went down and trust in management went up. PhD students felt most pressure, to work long hours, not getting enough support from professors. These were also things to discuss. Got a theater company to come, interview PhD students and supervisors. Then gathered with all supervisors with theatre company re-enacted student views, then stopped and asked for what could be done differently that was then discussed. Then re-played with the new approach. Afterwards people could really see this was for real and how difficult it was to recover. So trying to come with these things that are fun, efficient, social, these are activities to help with development.

52:20 Did a lot of activities with PhD students. A lot of their problems is with time management. Didn’t do any relaxation. Tools to get more relaxed and work with own attitudes to work and lower self-expectations. And working with the supervisors about what is reasonable and to think about how expectations are communicated. Need to talk about it in a different way. Role models? Role models usually ‘stars’. Female role models to show what you can do/become. Didn’t work out as good as getting role models that were more ordinary that people could identify with and see this path as a great outcome. Role models shouldn’t be the top people in excellence.

55:25 Working hours role models? Talks about this freedom that we have … to choose where and when to do work is something that we really should treasure and treat with dignity. And trusting people to deal with their own time properly. Better to work with people’s way of managing their own time/work. It’s your own choice. That’s the important thing. Email is what people think is their biggest work environment problem. Interested in seeing what work will be like for the next generation that don’t do email. Talks about our digital environment, being able to take work with us everywhere we go.

1:02:45 How does Jan manage that flexibility? A lot is about how happy and satisfied you are with what you are doing. So not a big problem if working too much in periods. Other periods where you don’t work as much. Would never say he works too much. It’s when people add the word ‘too’ it becomes a problem, working more than they want to work, and perhaps not in control in setting that. As academics, our own choices how many tasks we take on. We need to set reasonable levels for what we are doing. Discusses his strategies for saying yes/no. Most of tasks are ones he has chosen because he can contribute something and add value. But we also go to too many meetings. Need to think through how we do meetings. Could have done better over the years having fewer meetings. The most rewarding meetings are between 2-3 people. Big meetings cost and we have too many that don’t contribute and don’t make efficient use of people’s time.

1:07:45 Discusses his own strategies as Dean for handling meetings, collecting them on one day, some you have to have. Could have prepared meetings better to have a more efficient meeting. But schedule became too crowded to do that. And maybe didn’t delegate enough. People also didn’t open agenda before they came to the meeting. Experimented with ways of making them more efficient eg Google doc that all could contribute to, removing need for a secretary. Good for losing time to translate notes to document but created less dynamics at the meeting with people distracted by their laptop in the meeting.

1:10:34 Final thoughts – for another discussion, about engaging with politics and think there is a lot we can do there. National and international politicians and their interests in wanting to contribute to society and their openness and curiosity to get knowledge from academia. An issue of them getting access and we’re not very good at communicating with them. Also brings in selection of research topics – do they contribute to our career development or to changing the world.

1:14:15 End

Related Links

Jan’s personal web page & blog: http://jangulliksen.com

Jan’s KTH web page: https://www.kth.se/profile/jangul/

INSEAD Advanced Management Programme:

The conductor Jan referred to is Esa-Pekka Salonen and he has given several talks and seminars on leadership in relations to the orchestra - how you see the individual and look at the whole picture at the same time. We’re unable to find the book but there are several articles in the newspaper media about it but not the exact quote, such as: https://www.metro.se/artikel/stjärndirigent-leder-chefer-xr. Or he talks about his leadership here: https://www.aktuellhallbarhet.se/esa-pekka-salonen-han-vagrar-att-lamna-havet-bakom-sig/

The word “verksamhet” is untranslatable as the following statement from the dictionary in Swedish explains: https://sv.wiktionary.org/wiki/verksamhet. A Google translate of the concept brings the following: https://translate.google.com/#sv/en/verksamhet. But Jan feels that the concept of  “Operation” clearly does not capture it.

Rowena Murray on writing retreats, academic friendships and dealing with discrimination

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Rowena Murray is a Professor of Education, Director of Research, in the School of Education at the University of the West of Scotland. She is an internationally recognised expert and author on academic writing and on running writing retreats. In this conversation she talks about the writing retreats for both the importance of learning behaviours around how to write, and for the value of the academic friendships that arise from such writing groups. She also talks about the challenges of being a woman professor dealing with unremitting criticism and undermining, and in having to fight for academic writing as a legitimate research topic in its own right. And she gives very practical advice for creating the support you need to deal with this and how to care for yourself in the process.

“When you give smart people dedicated writing time, it is astonishing how much they do. Immediately.”

“They know that a rough draft is called rough draft for a reason. But they still hesitate to write … they have the perfectionism and then they have the procrastination.”

“It’s a different set of relationships [developed at writing retreats] that are collegial and positive and sympathetic and intellectual as well.”

“As a woman professor, the undermining, the bullying, the pressure, the unremitting criticism has intensified throughout my career.”

Overview:

01:30 Rowena’s background, learning about writing and starting writing retreats and workshops

08:00 Teaching writing as being about behavior change, how writing retreats help, creating the retreat environment, and the importance of the social aspects

18:15 Practical strategies and SMART goal setting for writing

34:05 The personal/career challenges finding a place in the academic infrastructure, the long path to becoming a professor of academic writing, and the importance of her writing group as support

46:00 Why there are more women at writing retreats

49:00 Discriminations faced by female professors, and advice to younger women

58:25 Rowena’s various self-care

1:02:00 Final thoughts on the importance of special intellectual friendships

And in more detail, she talks about (times approximate) …

01:30 Rowena introduces herself as working at Uni of the West of Scotland, a wider access college, and talks about her first degree at Uni of Glasgow in Scottish language and literature, and then going to Pennsylvania to do volleyball coaching where she also did a PhD in English at Penn State.

05:02 Rowena discusses how she came to be fascinated by writing, through learning to teach about writing, and reflecting on her own experiences. When she came back to Scotland she decided to start teaching thesis writing courses in the mid 80s. From doing these courses for around 10 years she wrote the content for the ‘How to write a thesis’ book. And it kept growing as people recognised there was a need for it. Hesitates to use the word ‘need’, everyone loves them, but has been told by someone they hope there comes a day when people won’t ‘need’ a writing course. But they miss the broader context in which writing retreats are essential, for those who choose to go. It is a haven, a behaviour change model, it’s a network. Mostly women who choose to go. Not a sense about ‘needing’ but about the environment that doesn’t allow us to write in the ways we really want to.

8:00 What’s driving this need? It’s about individuals not being sure how to fit writing in their personal lives. Also a need because we don’t learn how to write, how to construct arguments, or the behaviours for managing writing and other complex tasks. There are specific output targets in people’s plans, but the quality writing time is not in the plan, and knowing that it will be protected.

09:12 When you give smart people dedicated writing time, it is astonishing how much they do, immediately. Partly because someone is there to say start now, stop now, take a break. Insisting on the break. How quickly write in that context is fascinating. Which tells you how important the environment is. And how much less stressful it is. People talk about it as ‘positive pressure’.

10:15 She had said it wasn’t possible to transfer writing retreat environment to campus environments but now thinks it is possible if they replicate the dedicated writing time, away from the phone, internet etc, having coffee on tap, then they can do this on campuses, in their homes, in cottages. Need the level of concentration for the writing. Both space and other people are crucial. People often say “why can I do this so well when I’m in the writing retreat and I can’t do this at home?” May be that they are learning to change behaviours. Or may need to write with other people in a different space to hold them to the change. What the literature says about behaviour change. And it does work. Having said that, Lucy Hinnie has developed remote retreats with twitter threads, using Rowena’s material, and sending out tweets to structure the time. So that is early days and shows it can work that way without physically being in the same room, using a virtual group, and holding each other to the time, which does seem to be a key part of it.

13:50 When in a retreat and everyone else is typing, can smell coffee, would say they would normally stop then. But they keep writing and work through what might have been a stop or a block and surprise themselves by getting it done. So specific changes and benefits from sticking to the timing. Rowena is also listening out for distracting noises and will tell someone if they are stamping their feet while listening to music on their headphones, or will ask the person mowing the grass to move somewhere else.

15:47 But the social thing is key, it is the haven and it’s a different set of relationships that are collegial and positive and sympathetic and intellectual as well. Lots of exchanges about research methods and ways that people are supporting each other eg in the breaks or out on the walks. Time for activity important in the writing process. And in the evenings. Have evenings off. Which is surprising for people who think they should be writing for 10 hours a day. And she says no, should be resting. Obvious. But again giving people permission.

18:15 So lots of behaviour change about the process of writing. Is there also input about structure of writing? Yes. And sometimes will read people’s stuff as well. Encourages people in the last 7-8 months of thesis writing to do a 750 word thesis summary, set at the end of the introduction, paragraph for every chapter (in 4th edition of her book). So will suggest these things in the break, and look at it, then give feedback and they can work on it in the next session. Once they get this summary it is sorted (after looking at it 20 times). Doesn’t take a lot of time as a supervisor but such an important task. Tries not to read a 5-10K chapter at retreat. So there are retreat-specific things she can suggest for a next session. A lot of them are in the books.

20:50 Another behaviour that is useful is goal setting. Smart people are good at setting SMART goals eg for marking scripts. But not so much with writing. So 80K words, how many words for literature review, so decide on specific goal, think about how many words, and how you will produce in the first 90 minutes. Have a verb for the text. “the purpose of X is to…”. Intellectual work in deciding on the structure and microstructure, goals, subgoals and subsubgoals, and designing the writing for the time you have, and then monitoring how you achieve this. So learning to set realistic subgoals. Motivation there as well. Goal setting, monitoring how well you are achieving the goals, and developing self-efficacy, the belief that you can achieve your writing goals. In contrast Rowena talks about the dark side, just carrying on, not getting done 45 things to do, guilt fuelling anxiety. But did it to yourself. Use goal setting principles with writing as you do with other stuff.

23:40 Different writing styles? All can benefit from specific writing goals, structure of writing arguments. Everyone is different but the retreats/workshops provide a framework and within that, what everyone does can be quite individual. Benefits from planning and setting goals and academic writers can do this more than we do. Intellectual decisions. About targeting, style.

26:35 Getting better at estimating, learning process. Been doing a writing retreat just about every month. Has to watch herself. Blasting out a chapter. Recognising after reviewer feedback that it wasn’t good. Need to also watch the fluency. Learned behaviour. And gives an intellectual life around writing in universities, something we are craving, exposed by writing that is done at the retreats. Reflects on this regularly, why is she not more of an activist and she realizes she is, but more like a resistance movement, providing immediate change and help, getting people through rather than standing at the front line and blasting away. Finds committee work and standing up giving big talks, writing up big reports, meaningless work for her. But she can do this more immediate work, achieving stuff with her own writing and helping people get through. And that’s part of intellectual work as well, as a PhD supervisor, that is what you are doing.

30:39 A myth we know this all already. But when start talking about writing, which happens rarely on campus, it can also be seen as a weakness as well. And when talk about publications, can get your wings clipped as well. The exchange of knowledge of what your paper was about would be useful. The exchange of knowledge of the process of writing, never going to talk about that in these academic settings. There are structures, processes, activities to learn around writing. At a workshop last week, talking about perfectionism. Know that a rough draft is called rough draft for a reason. But they still hesitate to write that first sentence, or to write the second sentence because the first one is not perfect. PhD students and academic and researchers. So they hesitate to write, they have the perfectionism and then they have the procrastination. So there is an existing paradigm that is quite dysfunctional and stressful for people, that we need an alternative to.

34:05 How to hang onto this as something she is committed to in the current climate? In the beginning committed to bringing some of that knowledge to the UK. Clearly no department in the UK wants to teach these courses. So must have helped hundreds of people get their PhDs that other people took credit for. Happy to do that. Started writing books but was told books didn’t count so did that in her own time – so very clear conscience about keeping the royalties. So certain frustrations about it not finding a place in the infrastructure and Rowena not getting credit for all the outputs she was helping people do. But as began to get research funding and journal articles, became established in field of academic writing and now has a peer group. But just last year had someone quite senior sit back quizzically and ask “so you do academic writing about academic writing”. Just said “yes”. What can you do? That person’s mind is closed to this being a field in itself. But have to be fluid in finding a job. Jumping areas. Complex, tricky. Have to be flexible. Fortunate to have got to where she is in this field, as a professor of academic writing. Was asked in her interview what her international reputation was in and she just said “academic writing” without elaboration, sounding defensive. They either look at the CV and see that or they don’t. For her that was quite a turning point. Not sure where that came from. Doesn’t have as much fear of that perspective anymore. Such an important intellectual task. If they don’t get it, what can you do.

39:20 What kept her going up to the point of getting that comfort? Was very challenging, felt held back in terms of promotion. Applied and knocked back for a number of promotions. What kept her going was playing competitive volleyball, had to concentrate on the match and it took her mind off what was going on at work. Currently writing about this in a book on women professors and facing these barriers. What she is writing about is how she set up the first writing group, the first in an academic setting, and that kept her going because she was doing the job of helping people write, writing her own publications, and was working with like-minded people cutting across agendas of departments. Writing groups have been a haven for her as well. Doesn’t know what she would have done without that sort of social support throughout her career. More about having alternative space whether it was sport or writing groups or whatever. Looking back, she started the group because if was supporting her, but also doing her job and that fended off some of the criticism.

43:40 Getting grants and papers doing what she wanted to do? Intellectual curiosity of interrogating that this works and getting evidence. So that was the bridge but still an ambivalence about it, conscious of providing counters in somebody else’s game but also about improving her game in a sense in understanding more about what is happening at writing retreats. Gives example of containment theory paper, and then writing about her role in creating the container. A learning process for her about retreats and her role in retreats, and the sensitive stuff she is doing. Actively protecting the space, in a number of senses, because threatened by other people’s understanding of how writing gets done.

46:00 Why mostly women?  Always observed and discussed. Almost always women not just at her retreats but also others’ retreats, unless built into a course or a departmental group where the head came along and other men came as well. The theory about why only women is that it is called writing retreat which can sound touchy feely and you might be exposed in that environment, and should call it bootcamp to attract more men. But she isn’t going to do this. Knows there are others like Inger Mewburn, one of her heroes, she calls some of her things bootcamp. But Rowena won’t be doing that. Thinking of advertising a men’s only one. Other theories are that it is a more discursive collaborative model even though most people sit and write on their own. Also run by women. Just did some research on this by talking to women and sent a paper into a journal a few months ago. What she found is that the writing retreats are a space away from all the other demands of so many different kinds of women in their work lives and personal lives. Getting away from both are really important. And getting away from discriminatory settings is really important.  

49:00 Ways she is still discriminated against? As a woman professor, the undermining, the bullying, the pressure, the unremitting criticism has intensified throughout her career and that is in different universities and settings. Not about her as a person and has talked with enough senior women and men and knows that this happens in other places as well. Tries to warn younger colleagues that this might not go away when are promoted. An intensified undermining and bullying. Knows men who became professors had a much more positive experience with celebrations etc but knows women who have experienced none of that – experience instead of others leaving you out of things, deciding things without consulting you, and gradually diminishing the role over a number of years. Almost like there is playbook. Discrimination at all levels, borne out by statistics of men and women at all levels. Strategies eg working on women’s confidence and networking all well and good, but if we’re not working on the infrastructure, the people making the decisions, not sure we are going to fix it. Men and women who don’t have the right behaviours to get that to top level … but she doesn’t want to be at this level or be the minority in the room. Has done all this. But doesn’t want to do that, doesn’t thrive on it. Doesn’t want to be the person in the room representing her gender, sexuality. But can help women and men who want to write and get on with each other.

53:45 Advice to younger women? She talks about her own experiences and the intensification of the unremitting undermining. To make them aware, not to say it will happen. Advice is to get themselves into groups like this. That will get them through. “If you try to get through your academic career in this discriminated position, yourself, I think this can break you.” You can then internalise it and think it is just about you and so you need the group to help process all that stuff and this group might need to be outside of the department as everyone competing there. Rowena built this support through creating writing groups for herself. So the writing groups are about much more than just the writing. In the course of talking about writing, you’ll inevitably talk about other stuff. The key is not to let that talk interfere with the writing.

56:55 How to get good people into senior leadership to make larger changes? There are young men and women who have the capacity to go into leadership positions. But would say get some way of protecting, having an intellectual peer network and doing the work together, not just a support network. So encouraging them to get some kind of insurance policy against the competitive stuff.

58:25 Self care? Stays active fit. Wears her fitbit. Mixture of training and exercise, all thought out. Also does nothing sometimes. After a retreat, exhausted. So will read fiction or see a film or something completely different. A great believer in not working in the evenings and at weekends. Keeps clear boundaries. Doesn’t ever talk about work much at home. Spending a lot of time with friends. Village community, altruistic stuff, raising money for the hospice. Now 0.5 half time professor and half time business. Was suggested by line manager that she does the retreats for her university. Has to monitor the finances of all that. Gets a sense of self-sufficiency. Meets lots of new people at retreats. Eating well. Hydrating well. And banter so it doesn’t get too heavy.

1:02:00 Final thoughts? Relationships have been super important. Special intellectual friendships you develop because you have been at writing retreats. Acknowledge the importance of academic friendships and conversations like this. See that there are some things we can do to make it better. Putting a protective barrier around these friendships. That’s what life should be about, it’s about these intellectual exchanges, the connections you make through initially maybe a brain thing and then you get to know each other as people and think that is a win win win. So just acknowledge academic friendships. Retreats give two days to build the friendships a bit more.

1:04:46 End

Related Links

Writing retreats: http://www.anchorage-education.co.uk

Rowena’s many great books on academic writing: http://www.anchorage-education.co.uk/books-rowena-murray/

Including: ‘How to Write a Thesis’: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Write-Thesis-Open-Study-Skills/dp/0335244289

Lucy Hinnie: http://www.lucyrhinnie.co.uk

Lucy’s #remoteretreat: http://www.lucyrhinnie.co.uk/remoteretreat.html

Inger Mewburn: https://researchers.anu.edu.au/researchers/mewburn-i

Article about Inger’s thesis bootcamp - https://thesiswhisperer.com/2015/01/16/how-to-write-10000-words-a-day/

Kirsten Ellis on shifting goalposts, motivation, flying & being a working mum with a disabled child

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Kirsten Ellis is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University in Melbourne. She discusses how she deals with changing goalposts around performance outputs, being passionate about her research, having success at getting grants but trouble getting published. She discusses the impact that repeated rounds of redundancy have on morale and culture, and on being open and authentic at work. Authenticity comes through as theme throughout. And she talks about how she manages being a mother of three teenage girls, including one with a disability, as well as having a mother who is sick. Her non-negotiable going flying time every week is a key part of how she cares for herself so she can care for others.

Notes: For context, she also mentions a session with me around values. This was done as part of a Career Development Workshop that I ran at Monash at the beginning of the year, where I first met Kirsten. The audio quality is a little problematic in places but still understandable hopefully.

“Tell me to do amazing research and I will. I’m passionate. Having a matrix that says you have to submit blah papers per year is not going to motivate me.”

“If I look after myself first, I’m a much nicer person and can look after everyone else and bear a much greater burden the rest of the week.”

“Authenticity, this is part of me… my work is not completely separate to everything at home. I am a whole person.”

“Know your strengths, know your weaknesses…leave the ones that don’t matter to you, and work on the ones that are going to make a strategic difference.”.

She talks about (times approximate) …

1:30 Kirsten introduces her background in multimedia, starting PhD, and permanently employed 3 months into PhD as a lecturer, the advantages and disadvantages (missing mentoring, everyone very junior). Has been at Monash Uni since ’95 and at senior lecturer level (second level) and received her PhD 10 years ago in Oct.

4:55 Reflects that her honours student maybe didn't get as much support due to her inexperience; and as faculty they used to publish where ever they wanted, now there is much more pressure. Persistence beyond stupidity is her motto – serves her well as an academic. A lot of grant success. Also a lot of grant failure. So persistence an important aspect.

6:50 Goal posts changing. Originally encouraged to send out papers to count three times. So understands that the national research assessment exercise ERA is trying to stop this. Her research is in children and disability but her preferred publishing venues were not ERA ranked as high/A*. Told “not allowed to publish there anymore”. Driven by politicians who want to be accountable.

9:05 “Management in universities an interesting thing. One of my big bugbears is: Tell me to do amazing research and I will. I’m passionate. Having a matrix that says you have to submit blah papers per year is not going to motivate me to do amazing research. Tell me to do amazing research and it’ll get published because it is amazing, it will break new ground, it will help people. That’s going to inspire me, that’s going to make me work hard. But telling me I have to produce an unreasonable number of things per year. I don’t know that many people are motivated by the big stick, especially people in academia. You’re a HD (high distinction) student before you arrive. So they’re managing people the wrong way around for the type of people they have.” Discusses how the message comes down from vice chancellor level to the message she then gets that she has to publish 5 high quality papers in X venues and guess those venues 3 years in advance.

11:15 Strategies: went ERA chasing for a while and got a whole lot of rejections. De-motivating. And got confused about what she needed to do to get published. Grants above professor level but can’t get published but what she is doing has really good social impact. Discusses her work developing software for sign language teaching, 100% uptake in the market but can’t get published, very applied, can’t prove learning. Her strategy now: “I want to do amazing research that has huge impact. And if I do really good research it should get published.” So shifted from chasing ERA to focusing on research. And should be able to publish. Other strategy is using creativity as antidote to bean counting measures. Creative work eg braille keyboard. A lot of people like to have a clear separation between work and home. But for her sitting at home in front of the TV at night building new circuits is fun. “I’ve made it in the world. I get to have a job where I get to play with play doh and make a puppet without having to put up with children.” Using it in a grown-up way and doing good in the world. May also address gender gap as it appeals to different people. Easy to do creative things with technology now.

16:55 Importance of re-framing. Did a session ‘with me’ around values (Note: ‘with me’, Geri Fitz, at a Career Development Workshop GF ran at Monash) – recognizes equity and making a difference in the world are things she values so if she can do research around this it is motivating but ticking boxing is not. How to hook into people’s own motivation.

18:05 Is she benefiting from emphasis on impact? Impact becoming more important in other countries but not so much in Australia at the moment. Starting to have impact stories and that will make a difference to the acceptance of her work. Faculty is also changing. Great things happening and getting support through those mechanisms and clear definitions of where she needs to target, more acceptable to her work. Works in sign language teaching. But only 5 people in the world working on this. So won’t get high citations. How do you define quality? Is it popularity ie number of citations? “What is popular is not necessarily what is important.” And sometimes hard to get published when breaking new ground and proposing things that haven’t been done before and people aren’t there with you but doesn’t mean it’s not unique, important. A problem with the reviewing process, overwhelmed, reviewed by junior people, different reasons for rejecting the paper – is it rejection bias to get down to certain number of papers rather than a problem with the paper?

21:40 Most frustrating thing is not the rejection on paper but that this information is not distributed into the community, losing out on papers that could add value but don’t fit in the box of what is acceptable. A loss to the community. Her response: Using mentors. Taking feedback and speaking to people about what she is not getting quite right, how to present it so people can understand it. Discusses an issue where reviewers raise a critique about not focusing on children but it’s the teachers/parents who need help. Shows they don’t understand the context. All people she has approached for help have been helpful. Feedback is often around re-framing.

24:20 Being a senior lecturer level impacted by these publication issues? Explains the Australian context and what it takes to advance to the next step of associate professor. First time applied for senior lecturer, told she didn’t have ARC grants but a 10% success rate, hard to get, and hadn’t needed one 3 years prior. Shifting goalposts. Need to jump through hoops but the hoops are getting smaller and higher every year. Can miss a hoop because don’t know how they are going to change.

26:30 “Love my work! Do stuff that interests me.” Talks about how she spends time exploring/learning things to “put in the toolbox”. “It’s not about the technology it’s how we use the technology”. But have to learn those technologies. Often tech is a solution looking for a problem. She has things in her toolbox and can apply to a problem.

28:30 Biggest challenges now? Re-vamping a unit so the unknown and exciting. Department is growing and have now started an assistive technology group. Now feels she has more of a community happening, no longer on the outer, has a place. So change is not always bad. Some fantastic things happening. One course she’s not inspired about but have to take your load.

29:30 Has a daughter with a disability so a challenge being a mum working, with a disabled child. Difficult but also modelling for her three daughters. Mother is sick. Balancing out time at home and time at work. Careful about looking after herself. Always had a horse riding lesson every week but has hurt her hip. So need a certain amount of adrenaline to function. So now flying! That time when all problems go away. Just there and have to concentrate to survive. That puts the week in perspective. “ It’s a non-negotiable that I have this time every week.” Can be flexible when that time is. “If I look after myself first, I’m a much nicer person and can look after everyone else and bear a much greater burden the rest of the week as ensured my footings are strong first.” “Very important to me. It’s almost like mindfulness.” Did mindfulness with students with one of her courses. “My activity is a form of mindfulness. It’s where nothing else matters for a couple of hours a week. And that’s enough for me. … Resets everything and makes the world function better.”

32:40 Other strategies? Using creativity, children would say craziness. Reflect on stuff a lot. Having a growth mindset. Recognising you don’t have to be perfect, reflecting on what didn’t you get right, what would you change. In everything. In teaching. Continuously improving.

34:25 Importance of protected time each week. And strategies in place to be able to function eg with handling mother being sick. But we don’t talk about these sorts of things enough together. Using time before meetings to say hi, build relationships, not sit on the phone. How she also tries to care the sessionals (casual lecturers) below her. How does she have those conversations? Overshare … “authenticity, this is part of me… my work is not completely separate to everything at home. I am a whole person.”

37:38 Been through three rounds of retrenchments. Has effects on her. Thinks management don’t understand the impacts or manage the process well or recognize how much damage it does to culture. Impacts mentoring, collegiality, if concerned about yourself, hard to mentor others. Establishes competitive rather than collegial environment. No easy solution. Complex. Articulation of vision from the top can help to understand and process the changes, understanding where they are coming from, the reason. It’s not only about the bad news but the way it is delivered. Change often comes from government. But if we can have an articulation of why things are happening it can help make more sense.

43:20 Being a female in IT has some advantages, and some disadvantages. She is currently participating in a women’s shadowing program, to see why some of those decisions were being made and to understand the process more. Shadowing a Dean of Education in another faculty. Key insights? Book about ‘managing clevers’, managing smart people who are already motivated, get more out of them if give them freedom. And understanding structure of uni. Leaders at every level, always power relationships.

47:00 How does she play out her leadership role? Importance of being realistic and having a career plan, being strategic, whether in or out of academia, what skills are needed. “Know your strengths, know your weaknesses…leave the ones that don’t matter to you, and work on the ones that are going to make a strategic difference.”. So having a plan with staff she works with on. Tradeoffs of being in a teaching and research role rather the 3yr limited research only role. Permanent position enables taking a long-term view with research. If you are on a 3yr contract, difficulty of taking on a PhD student.

50:27 Two ways of moving through academia: those with a commitment to being in the one city because of family/other commitments; others who can move around because that works for them, easier for those without family. Different journey. So importance of having realistic conversations with people you work with/lead. Changing landscape of academia. Fine as long as people know what they are participating in.

52:15 Dealing with sick mother, and 3 daughters, one disabled? Actually working 0.8 not full time. Kids at an alternative school. Drops them off/picks them up. Works every evening. But that works for her, not a burden, a joy. Three teenage daughters. Always struggled going to conferences. Problem when submitting a paper of predicting what space her daughter will be in at the time of conference travel. Makes sure she writes those statements about “Relative to opportunity” on grant applications to explain impact of her circumstances on her academic track record. Not a whinge. But stating the facts and where the impact is.  Helping people interpret what they are reading.

57:20 Daughter with aspergers and anxiety. Thinks there might be clusters around IT/engineering. Wonders if there are things we can do as organisations around this to support people with children where there are clusters. Having conversations together. “You will get to the other side of this.”. Does this face to face. Not on facebook. Authenticity of connections.

1:01:46 End

Related Links

 Kirsten Ellis: https://research.monash.edu/en/persons/kirsten-ellis ; https://sites.google.com/site/drkirstenellis/

Book on leading clever people: Goffee R. & Jones G., 2009. Clever: Leading Your Smartest, Most Creative People, Harvard Business Press.  https://www.amazon.com.au/Clever-Leading-Smartest-Creative-People/dp/1422122964

Book on Growth Mindset: Dweck, C. 2009. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books.  https://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Carol-S-Dweck/dp/0345472322

Janet Read on charm bracelets, finish tape & the work to be a complete academic

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Janet Read is a Professor in Child Computer Interaction at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK. Janet’s path to academia was via maths teaching, and then falling into a PhD after she had a family. Our discussions are wide ranging and throughout she is incredibly thoughtful, reflective and proactive in how she goes about unentangling processes and challenges, always striving to understand and develop, not just herself but also those around her. Because this ends up being a long conversation, the high level topics are below, along with more detailed notes, and has two parts - see below.

We have a problem right through the whole system, understanding what the academic does.

So the complete academic probably collapses on a Friday evening with a glass of wine. And gets up on a Saturday and starts doing work again.

Daughter (9yr old) said “Mum when you are working at home, the children don’t know if you are being a mum or not.”.

Deep work is the valuable work for academics... A really hard thing for academics is finding that deep work space.

[Management ideal] It’s the encouragement, understanding individual needs, motivate, say well done. Wouldn’t it be nice to get “a well done”!

In the first part, up to about the hour, she explores her own journey learning how to do research, how to supervise students, and how to support good learning experiences. She has some really interesting things to say about today’s university process-driven culture and argues that we need to do much better at understanding students and how to better support the learning experience, not equating attendance with learning.

In the second part, she talks about being a complete academic, that one of the challenges is that no-one really knows what an academic actually does. She talks about how she deals with the demands on her time, the potential costs of being too efficient, being proactive and looking after your own needs, creating a collaborative group culture, wishing for encouraging and supportive leadership and saying ‘well done’.  

  • PART 1:
    • 02:40 Path via teaching to a PhD, and into academia
    • 18:50 Learning to supervise PhD students
    • 32:45 Getting to understand processes, value of reflective writing
    • 39:08 University culture, process management, monitoring attendance, supporting the student learning process
  • PART 2:
    • 1:01:09: The complete academic
    • 1:06:05: Understanding what the academic does, being efficient
    • 1:14:20 Speaking up, looking after yourself, managing time
    • 1:22:45 People management & leadership

With more detailed notes, she talks about (times approximate) …

PART 1: Path via teaching to PhD and Academia:

02:40 Janet talks about her unusual path to a research/academic career via a maths degree and high school teaching, wanting to have children and working part-time, having to change schools to do this, resigning in response to an unreasonable unfair workload demand compared to male colleagues, moving to a local college as an IT lecturer, and landing in university by pure chance to cover classes when someone went off for an operation, so never had an interview for her current job!

09:10 Moving on to do a PhD part-time while working, with four kids, cats. Well supported but no-one on university team did research. Advised to go out and meet people, get work published. First experience at Sunderland HCI conference, heard Leon Watts ask a good question and thought ‘I want to be that guy’. He was gentle, constructive, and clearly coming with deep knowledge. Dead cool!

13:25 Got PhD. And got the bug (not the book :-)). Got into child-computer interaction at the right time when it was accelerating. Wrote a book with Panos [Markopoulos] while doing PhD. Quite a lot of luck but also some of it active on her part going out travelling and doing things.

14:36 Every single time she asked for money for travel she got it because no-one else was asking for it. So had opportunities. Sad thing now about how PhD work is funded in the UK as doesn’t typically come with travel funding so doesn’t support the process of delivering a really useful researcher at the end of. So was lucky, met some great people, made friends with everybody.

15:40 Lots of networking, mainly with men, over beers; much less good at networking with women. Went to a couple of women meetings and they felt a bit like moan fests and didn’t want to be somewhere with just women but lot of women in academia felt they could only go in women spaces. Networks better with women who don’t have a gendered position.

16:34 And British HCI Community was really good to her. Joined committee, went to conferences. But the changing academic situation means that regional things like this become less important and people don’t publish there so much and then the community I lost which is a shame. When she first started, BHCI was well regarded. Now they go to one conference a year and send students to regional conferences but they don’t get to meet senior people.

Learning to supervise PhD students:

18:50 Now been trying to run PhD schools at their university to invite PhD students from the UK as networking for the students. PhD system in the UK is broken. Can’t get PhD students from EPSRC grant money and push for doctoral training centres (DTC) so puts all students in one place, turns out cloned set of PhD students, any uni that doesn’t have a DTC becomes second rated. What you want is a student working with a supervisor who is passionate to get that work done. Ultimate success story. If you have a supervisor with 10 students they’re not getting s good experience from that. Once read you can’t supervise more than 6 students at the one time ideally. At times she has had 14! Crazy. Currently has four. Would like to have 3 full-timers and a couple of part-timers. Currently 1 full-time, 1 part-time, 2 overseas, and named on a couple of others.

21:40 Learning to supervise students? Back when she did her PhD, had a dedicated supervisor. At time her PhD finished he quit and department had just Janet left to take on supervisions as she had a PhD and was research active. So she took on being director of studies of three other PhD students he was supervising, felt a rookie. Happy to take them on. At the uni, was supposed to put people on teams so they could get some experience. But didn’t want to get people put on teams if they couldn’t do the work. A tension there. Wrote an essay on this: ‘Supervise to fit or fit to supervise?’. Also read papers on supervision, and so not going to be beaten down on decision not to put people on just for their ‘tick’ box.

24:43 So went out and found three friends, experienced professors in the UK, to help out on these supervisions. They did this for free. Great. They were all different and she learnt from them. One was like a butterfly thinker. Absolutely brilliant at the beginning of a PhD, though less brilliant these days. Would work with a part-time PhD more than a full-time. Others were better at sitting back and letting the student say what they wanted to do and gently pushing them back to where they thought they should go. Some more hands off, some more hands on. Students all different too so might be different for different students. Learn as you go along. Supervision changes.

26:40 Core lessons around supervision? Maybe a bit of a dinosaur but still maintain that you should be supervised by someone who is an active researcher, who is publishing, and who knows the community you are publishing in. Should be no supervision under that line. Need to know methods, how they publish, what others are doing. But prevalent in universities. Many years ago made a ‘Doing a PhD with me’ booklet, saying here’s what you can expect. When she was first supervised didn’t know what her supervision team brought, how she worked with the, publishing protocols, their limitations. Will tell them what her experience and style is. Lays it out. They also have to express what they think they’re getting. It’s kind of like a contract, as a trigger for a conversation. Where you start from important. Was asked to reflect by Head of Department on PhD success, what made some more successful than others, what they were doing as a team, about supervision process. Had a big conversation about that. One of the key things was also understanding what skills the student brought.

30:50 Got to do a Doctoral Consortium when she did her PhD. And they asked them to line in order of how far into PhD. Struck her though that years into a PhD is not a good measure. Was about understanding your maturity. So how do you figure out how far you are in PhD? And how to know you are finished? Has another booklet on ‘How do I know I’m ready to be examined for a PhD’. Has a checklist. And has a cosy model around progress. Written up somewhere. About assessing how much you know, how famous you are, how significant your work is, against learning outcomes for a PhD.

Getting to understand processes, reflective writing practice:

32:45 Influence of teaching background? Early days could teach without a lot of paperwork, but now unis are doing this too. Quite analytical because a mathematician at heart. So likes to understand processes. Knows they’re noise but likes to try to tidy them up. Detangling problems, step-by-step as you do in teaching maths. So says build a website, being published, meeting your community, identifying your heroes. And from this had a charm bracelet, could win charms. Has used this in Doctoral Consortium. What students want there are your pearls, your wisdom, the nuggets. So used the charm bracelet in a BHCI consortium to try to help them understand the low/high points, that it is a journey, understanding that others have done it. So has a gun for the night when you felt like shooting yourself, a rope when you have untangled a really complex problem. Used as props to help people understand the process. If only there were props for academic writing. All academics should have charm bracelet. When started PhD had a fight to get topic agreed at the uni. Wrote an essay about being in the tunnel and not coming out (reflecting a Thomas the Tank Engine story).

37:45 Reflective writing? Comes and goes. One of aims is to build a blog page. But then thinks has to write something. Had done the 750 words/day challenge, spent a week reflecting on teaching with students (teaching in Hanoi). Good to express. Sometimes have to rant but not to the wrong people.

University culture, process management, monitoring attendance, understanding the student learning process:

39:08 Don’t work in the greatest university in the world, ok, a modern university so has modern uni behaviours, like no confidence in itself or its academics, doesn’t trust the academics, everything has to be double checked, quality audited. Creeping to old ones too. But in that space has great colleagues, who will stop her when she gets to the ‘quit’ moments. Have honest conversations. Gets grumpy about justice issues, wants things to be adequately explainable. Gets angry about things in the background, shady dealing. Believes we should be entirely transparent, justify what we do. A lot in many universities is decided by a little gaggle of men in the corridor, sometimes women. A lot of decision making without reasonable or adequate awareness of other people and not being involved in the decisions.

41:30 Interesting thing about women, not just women, a family thing going on. Putting in for an Athena Swan thing. About realizing people with any caring responsibilities – sometimes less likely to get involved in these peripheral things but this is where things happen. Even promotions, promoting people they feel are safe. Would be interesting to turn it upside down and let the professors run the place. Would have happier staff, people feeling that someone actually understood what they wanted to do, a set of processes. The amount of process management has probably doubled in the last four years. Gone crazy. And the responsibility devolved down to staff from above a tragedy, nobody has thought about the quality of teaching or student experience. Equate student experience with attendance and grades. Who cares if they are attending if they are engaged with the learning process in any way that suits them. Instead have an attendance rule. Had a rule they had to sign in to classes. She would say ‘sign in and leave’ if it was clear they didn’t want to be there. Can’t do that anymore. Have to swipe in with electric cards. All pretend activities that make someone in uni think the students are engaged. What happens when your managers don’t understand education and the modern student. The modern student is not the student the academics were when they were at uni. She used to go to only 4 classes a week herself, got to the end of the year, crammed, got through. Top 5% can get away with this. Wrong approach, how can we give our students good experiences they can learn from.

47:05 Talks of own kids going through uni. Eye opener to see the other side of the learning process - given powerpoints, Moodle, then exam at the end of the year. How do you find what you want to revise when they are all on Moodle. Can’t search. She now chooses to stack her ppt slides so one set of slides at the end so they can search on it. Other thing is student email. No student reads email. But we talk to them via email. So we completely misunderstand them. Doesn’t know the answer. Communication is a challenge. The answer is not to not understand the student.

49:20 Deadlines at midnight Sunday. Then they get sick Sunday afternoon but can’t contact the tutor. Deadlines should be on a weekday. Only come to that knowledge by observing, saw this with her own daughter who got a migraine at the weekend and couldn’t email the tutor. Universities typically lag behind the school system. Predictive scoring, personalized learning trajectory. Can criticize. Uni just starting, trying to show student at risk. These work in schools where you have a relationship with your teacher but doesn’t map to the uni environment.

53:14 Brought in originally to deal with Tier 4 students on visa who have to be in attendance – government made it the university problem, they have a legal requirement to mark attendance. Now mark everyone to not discriminate. Stephen Fry, one of the smartest guys on the planet, he never attended at Cambridge. Think in the future unis will start to credit learning from somewhere else, dual role in giving out knowledge. An interesting way to think of unis. Has read history of unis. First unis in Germany. Prof would announce a lecture on topic. People came to listen. People access their education because they are curious. Now end up with a curriculum. John Ruskin, great philosopher’s story. Once with a curriculum, hard to get credits. Versus making your own curriculum.

57:30 Quality – remember being shown a graph of number of first class degrees awarded by competitors. They were lower. Drive about not giving out enough firsts. Policy changes. Now give out more firsts. In the UK, 70 was a first. Now closer to 80. Classification of degrees an interesting space. A tool for governments. Same with PhDs. Can be a broad difference but considered enough. Also does external examining of courses. I do believe you have to be a complete academic. And will say about standards and say “you are overmarking”. 

PART 2: The complete academic:

1:01:09 What makes a complete academic? Teaching, research, administration, outreach. Have to teach some of the time. Have to do research. Good friend Scott MacKenzie says research isn’t research until it is published. Some outreach. Just finished doing 5 weeks in a school. STEM important. Innovation strand because if only writing papers, not making a difference. By making or changing something. Likes the impact agenda of the REF. The REF in the UK (research excellence framework) a lot wrong with it, have to capture publications that are ranked, just gone through a big review, the Stern Review. Downside of ranking that uni equates whether a publication is ref-able so if you want to go to the British Computer Society can’t go because it isn’t counted (though REF doesn’t say this).  National conferences low in the ratings. Impact agenda – have to tell a story. Likes that. Hard but it says your research does more than just an academic paper. People can play the game too.

1:04:26 Has to write two impact cases in next two days. In her group, all say together, brainstormed, came down to four, now wanting to invest in these. But need money. Great work with children in India, Mumbai, in Africa. Put in for money to do this but didn’t get it. If in a big institution have lots of people behind her. Also discusses lead in time that no-one notices.

Understanding what the academic does, being efficient:

1:06:05 We do have a problem right through the whole system understanding what the academic does. So the complete academic probably collapses on a Friday evening with a glass of wine. And get up on a Saturday and start doing work. Has spent a lot of time reading time management books. Has conversations in her group, most have young families, she now has young grandchildren. Sometimes just want to have coffee with a daughter. Nice to be able to do those things. Has four children, when two youngest were little, older ones noticed, 9yr old said “Mum when you are working at home, the children don’t know if you are being a mum or not.”. Says to group don’t work at home when you are being a parent. Look after the kids or work from home. Productivity Ninja book – says there are different types of work you can do. Can decide to delete your inbox as low effort job. And another great book called Deep Work. Talks about how people do deep work. Deep work is the valuable work for academics, completely engrossed. Really hard thing for academics is finding that deep work space because there’s so much noise and clutter. Can be in the building for 8 hours and come home and not think she has done anything.

1:10:05 Has all these sheets at home, when children were young and doing her own PhD. Printed out on A4 paper. Would count in and count out the hours.  Counting in if had overworked. Had a nice female head of dept, once said, ‘Janet if you can do 100% of the job in 80% of the time because you are super-efficient, then don’t feel you have to fill the other 20%.”. She is efficient can do full time job in 3 days. If you are good at your job, if you are not careful you have this terrible protestant work ethic guilt and what else can you take on. Very subconscious. Academics find it very hard to accept doof (?) work. Clears work before holidays. Doesn’t think about work. But we're really bad at understanding and giving ourselves rewards [when we get things done with time to spare]. Trick is to work fast 3 days a week and then walk in the hills. Shouldn’t have to justify that. Last head of department said they were interested in outcomes not hours. But that is hard. Many years struggling with children etc. Feel guilty that she had to make up the time. Management problem to deal with people who also take 7 days to do 5 days work, helping them do good enough work on a job.

Speaking up, looking after yourself, managing time

1:14:20 Sometimes go into carnage, meltdown. Fascinated especially about academics as never really studied. Has a bullet journal book, makes a list of projects, when she has 53 projects, recognises too many, and that’s when you go the head and say you are in carnage, important to be able to do this. Example June 17, emailed head of dept and said I am going to be in carnage next semester because she had looked ahead. Smart academics, look ahead. Needed something taken off her. Didn’t happen. So carnage did happen. But she could say she had warned them. In academia this sort of thing isn’t taken seriously. People have to be honest. IT’s the number of projects you end up, not necessarily the size. Saddest thing then is that things that really matter get left. The book you are trying to write. Deep work. Importance of protecting that time. Shut up and write days. Protect your time, protect your space. Another colleague, taking the journalistic approach to writing, writing every day.

1:17:40 Interesting when you go into academia, no-one tells you these things. You have to find them out. Why does no-body learn. You have to look after yourself. Does some sewing, sailing in the summer, running. For a little while did the miracle morning. Meditation, affirmations, visualisations. Has moments when she goes on off things. Meditation, read on the bus. Don’t pretend I am magic. Sometimes on a roll. Great productive day. Other days a rubbish day. Every so often you get on top of things. Great under pressure. Written 5-6 big EU grants. Never got one but likes writing them with great team. Deadline juices it. If you need the adrenaline to get it out of you, hard to get started early. Other people can never work like that, need everything ready 6 days before. Have to understand the people around you. Have to understand each others’ team practices and how you want to work. Collaborative management task.

1:21:25 Think the Uni assumes people don’t have anything scheduled apart from teaching. And will suddenly put a meeting on the Wed and say you have to come, telling you on a Mon. Easy to say I’ll come because it is scheduled. That’s a trick you have to learn, to say no I have actually something that is more important than your meeting and stick to that. Talks of another book ‘Lean In’ – often listens to self help books when she goes running. Play them over again. Sandberg said she would put an appointment in her diary that sounded like something else when she wanted to go home.  About protecting time.

People management & leadership

1:22:45 Not person managed at a university. One daughter a manager at Clarks. Manages a team. -he is such a good manager. Hadn’t understood management until she watched her daughter doing management. That is active person management. She gets the best out of those people. Thinks to herself “Why have I not had the luxury of that kind of management”. Even her appraisal processes are really robust but at universities you don’t get any of that. All a bit ad hoc. Would have thought the least you would do is … not manage as in manage … but it’s the encouragement, understanding individual needs, motivate, say well done. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a “well done” from time to time. The other day emailed boss to say “hi had a great day today…” and did get an email back saying great. But want a little bit of encouragement. They have a finish tape (like on school sports days) and anyone who finishes something they’ve been struggling with can come and get the finish tape and tape it to their door to prove they finished something. And have certificates and rosettes ‘great work’. But the university don’t do this. Partly because of idea of academic freedom. Not really true. But also this idea that no-one quite knows what you are doing.

1:25:35 Final comments “I love my job” 87% of the time. I hate it when I am expected to do administrative tasks, not a snob about tasks, but they used to be done by administrative people. Think that is the administrative creep going on. Hate it when endeavours, hers and people she identifies with, are thwarted by some sort of random decision making that happens elsewhere (government, university). Derailing. Other 87% it’s a great job. “Still enjoy my job.”. If she didn’t like it she would quit. Lucky to have a spectacularly good team of people. Could be …. But a great team of people. Has some Readers promoted. Maybe you end up working with nice people because you are lucky, or you create the culture of being with nice people. Would love to manage them really. Management versus leadership. Leader is at the back, making sure no-one is getting lost. About enabling, helping people do things. Have done a course, read about leadership. Very few good books on academic leadership, partly because the context is so different. How do you help them bring out what they are good at. One of heads as leaving, said “Whatever you do you’re a star, continue shining, but don’t do admin, you’re rubbish at it.” Sometimes we don’t want to hear the reality of what we should and shouldn’t be doing. One of the tricks of leadership is helping people understand what they should be doing, what they’re bad at and could be fixed, and what things they should avoid at all costs. Got to know people, understand them.

1:30:34 End

Related Links

Janet Read - https://www.uclan.ac.uk/staff_profiles/professor_janet_read.php

People mentioned:

Leon Watts - http://www.cs.bath.ac.uk/leon/

Scott MacKenzie - http://www.yorku.ca/mack/

Janet’s book: Child computer interaction: advances in methodological research” Panos Markopoulos, Janet Read, Johanna Hoÿsniemi, Stuart MacFarlane. Springer.  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10111-007-0065-0

Resources Janet has created:

Essay ‘Supervise to fit or fit to supervise?’

Booklet ‘Doing a PhD with me’

Booklet ‘How do I know I’m ready to be examined for a PhD’

Paper on cosy model

Charm bracelet

UK initiatives:

Athena Swan - https://www.ecu.ac.uk/equality-charters/athena-swan/

UK REF - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_Excellence_Framework

Stern Review of the REF: https://www.bisa.ac.uk/files/Consultations/ind-16-9-ref-stern-review.pdf

Books mentioned:  

 “How to be a productivity Ninja: Worry less, achieve more and love what you do.” Graham Allcott. https://www.amazon.com/How-Productivity-Ninja-Worry-Achieve/dp/1848316836         

 “Deep Work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world” Cal Newport. https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Work-Focused-Success-Distracted/dp/1455586692

 “Lean In: Women, work and the will to lead” Sheryl Sandberg. https://www.amazon.com/Lean-Women-Work-Will-Lead/dp/0385349947 

 

Kylie Ball on supporting early career researchers, virtual mentorship and wellbeing

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Kylie Ball is a Professor in the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Faculty of Health at Deakin University in Australia. She is also Head of early- and mid-career researcher (EMCR) development and publishes a very impactful blog targeted to EMCRs called The Happy Academic. We have a wide-ranging discussion about the EMCR support initiatives she has put in place, including workshops, mentoring programs and virtual resources, as well as the blog which she talks about as a form of virtual mentorship that can have a wider reach. We explore her own strategies for physical and mental wellbeing and how to form good habits. Themes throughout are around how much there is that we can actually take control of and make choices about, and we get a good sense of how to create a kinder and more supportive culture within our faculties.

"Leadership can happen at every level. …Every researcher is leading something."

"We forget that we’re in a career where there is so much choice and flexibility. Seeing busyness as within our choice and there are things we can do about that really helps to give that sense of control."

"I’m a big advocate that we can all find opportunities to be kind and it’s never a wasted act."

She talks about (times approximate) …

1:50 Kylie discusses how she got into research, instead of being a clinical psychologist that she had thought she would end up doing, and still has drive to help people

04:20 Discusses research area around helping people have better health behaviours, translating research and having broad impact, and how long this can take

06:50 Examples of where her research has had impact; how the relationship was built; and the long time frame to impact

08:35 Recognises this as a privileged situation. More difficult for newer people coming in on short term contracts. And recognizes she might be able to help.

09:10 Her own experience of short term contract, moving interstate for a one year contract; fortunately a permanent position did arise; but not the case now. Mentors many people and sees many people concerned about the future, and raising the same sorts of problems.

10:10 Her role as head of early and mid-career researcher development. Keen to defines this inclusively, roughly as academic level A-C (entry level, associate, to lecturer, to senior lecturer). Wanted to know what the challenges were so spoke individually to all ECRs in the institute – 54 – and 15-16 senior people. One of the best things she could have done. Some based on another campus. Well set up between campuses for virtual meetings.

13:30 So met and got a good sense of needs, coming up repeatedly: how do I establish myself as an independent researcher; how do I get my first grant; how do I achieve work life balance. Universal issues in this field. Gave a good sense of what people were struggling with. Then set up a range of initiatives to address this. Included: workshops mentoring matches; other professional development; also virtual resources like the blog.

14:35 Workshops: looking at most pressing needs first, grants and fellowships, so first workshop with internal people to present eg strategy, lead times, planning, how to find sources, the process, compliance, internal funding scheme (great for pilot data, experience, confidence). Can see the trajectory of research funding from this first step. Most of workshops fully subscribed, tried to limit to around 17:25. Reasons for good buy-in? Culture very much around encouraging students and ECRs to get along to everything offered, can get something out of everything, fostering a vibrant research culture; also that this is what they had asked for.

18:30 Other workshops around how to be a strategic researcher. Great to have internal expertise but also good to bring in external experts for fresh ideas, also level of perceived credibility of external. About saying no to things strategically, time management, writing. Another workshop around leadership – broad and difficult to do in a one-day workshop but as exposure to some of the challenges of leadership in academia and tendencies that impede us becoming the best leaders we can. Type of leadership? Leadership can happen at every level. Everyone is leading something. Qualities of a good leader in an academic context? Learning to take the step back from being the drive in everything and putting others forward and supporting them. A challenge of mid-career stage. Being willing to hand over the reins to others. Not trained in that.

22:20 One of the other workshops from last year addressed that issue – mentoring for mentors. Idea is lots of use mentor others but have not had any formal training in that. Sometimes junior people come with issues and say struggling herself. But don’t have to have all the answers, can say “this is what I may do in this situation; have you thought about these different options”. Useful for getting some confidence around this.

23:46 Mentoring scheme – not a formal scheme as people didn’t want to commit to this but asked early career people if they wanted a mentor. Sometimes their supervisor might provide some of this but sometimes there is a risk that discussions with supervisor can be very operational. So have tried to match people up with someone more arms-length from within the institute. Have also facilitated external mentor when people asked for this. Set up general guidelines around this. Eg meet 3-4 times per year, mentee brings the agenda and drives meeting, and provides a few resources such as types of questions to get best out of mentor. Almost all now have at least one senior mentor. The ones who have chosen not to feel they are well supported already. Left loosely structured (no fixed time limit). Uni does have a structured program with contracts, outputs etc but a deterrent for some people. Depends on the situation. Just flagged that either mentor or mentee felt relationship not working well … sometimes relationship naturally progresses. It’s very natural for mentoring relationships to have a set period of time. Also think people can benefit from having a number of mentors.

28:25 Digital resources – three main aspects. Lots of senior staff had given presentations, lots of resources existing but sitting on people’s computer drives so wanted a repository to store these that are relevant to early career issues eg powerpoint presentations, resource sheets, templates, grant and funding related resources eg successful grants. Collated in a dedicated place. Used? Refers lots of people to them. Workshop resources also stored there too.

30:45 Been running 18 months now. Did an informal evaluation after 1 year. Had conducted a survey before starting, as baseline, asking people what they thought about support available to them and also about generic things like job satisfaction, morale, perceived academic competence, work-related distress, work life balance. A year after assessed again and found good results. Satisfaction with program very high. Perceived competence, academic capacity, morale increased and decrease in workplace distress. Subjective feedback that favourably received. Part of the happy academic. Can’t underestimate their impact on harder outcomes like retention rates, productivity and KPIs like publishing.

33:20 Connectedness from workshop. When asked about the needs, social element identified as critical, being connected to other ECRs, having a support network. So try things like put an hour at the end of the workshop for social get together. Also set up regular ‘shut up and write’ sessions. Part is to progress writing but part is the social situation and people talking to others they might not talk to. Do SUAW about every month. Limit to 12 people and they sign up. Part is pragmatic re room available but generally found haven’t had people wanting to come and can’t, also find people can’t attend at last minute, but people who have gone along have found benefits. Shared office with one other person.

36:10 Describes institutes and school structure at Deakin. How is wellbeing being promoted in policy? In Kylie’s role. Also fortunate in having a head of school who is committed to these issues of wellbeing so a number of initiatives. Eg: Have had a consultant come in to work with people one on one, a mindfulness expert run mindfulness workshops regularly (quite popular, running it again this year), also have a team that are focused on creating fun events throughout the year eg easter bbq, celebrations for events through the year. Keeping a focus on fun.

38:40 Role of KPIs in stress/reduction? Senior staff tried to convey a culture of delivering excellent teaching, research, yes there are KPIs and need to be agreed on in performance evaluation discussions, but the message is yes targets but they shouldn’t be the end driver so don’t e.g. have a strong focus on checking citations. Citations are out of our control. You can control submitting X papers per year but you can’t control how many citations you get. So while KPIs are there and they’re important, and we need aspirational goals for these things, we also try to balance that with a view to aiming for excellence in what we do and that’s not always easily captured in some of these metrics. Flexibility in performance reviews that all staff won’t be doing all things at all times … so might be some flexibility in workload allocation. Hate the word balance.. becomes another stress for people, “do I have balance?”. Going to be times we feel one particular part of our role takes over, so long as you can see that it’s a short term thing so in grant season (gives writing grants example). So long as you can see it is not forever and you have some strategies in place to cope with that. About perspective, insight, reflection, choice. Choice is critical. We forget that we’re in a career where there is so much choice and flexibility. Seeing busyness as within our choice and that there are things we can do about that really helps to give that sense of control.

43:56 Often our own worst enemies in this field. People have to be a little bit obsessive, perfectionistic to persist with the things we do but think stepping back and reminding ourselves that we do have more choice than we probably realise and rather than doing everything automatically, saying yes to everything automatically, … try to encourage ECR people to build in white space, thinking and planning time to step back. Can’t see it when you are on the treadmill.

45:05 Own strategies? Three main things: 1. Down time with family. Has 10 yr old daughter. Likes to switch off completely and spend time with her. Challenging to switch off. Mobile phones, blurring. Tries to get away eg to beach. Symbolic in a sense to get out of your normal environment, into nature.  Amazing how restorative that can be. 2. Exercise. A mad advocate that exercise can cure almost anything, and help with almost anything, a life line, Mental health strategy. For physical health. Time out. Tries running three times a week. Doesn’t need equipment. Can do anywhere. Doesn’t’ cost anything. Feels a million times better after 6-8 kms, mind much clearer. Feel much better. Evidence for that enormous. The ironic thing is that when you get busy it is often the first thing to go but it can be the best thing to help you think more clearly. Has tried to be consistent since high school. Doesn’t write it in the diary but has a regular time set up. Know from behavioural research, the value of regular habit.

48:50 Other non-negotiables? Not really. Being a single parent, more stressful trying to block non-negotiable things, being more flexible works for her. One thing is Friday night is non-work night. Switches everything off. Came up a few years back when was on brink of burn out and working with a coach who asked what was the one thing she could do. Friday night ‘switch off’ was it. Small changes but they do add up.

50:20 Third thing she swears by is meditation. A time to step back, reflect, and put down things carrying all day. Aim is to do it every day for 10 mins. Doesn’t happen every day. Training mental skills of attention and focus, skills we are at risk of losing because of social media, emails, interruptions, meditation a buffer against that short attention span. Lots we can be doing to improve our own mental/physical wellbeing but the challenge is lots of us know thus but how do we put it into place.

52:15 Tips as behavior change expert? Write it down, book it into your calendar, make it an appointment. The other is about trying to make some of these automatic. Setting up your environment so you need less conscious effort to do it, to make it a habit, things that cue us towards some of these behaviours. The other is social support, who hold you accountable.

54:00 The Happy Academic blog – started when she took on role as head of early and mid career research and development. Was hearing the same kinds of challenges again and again, not just in own institution but people internationally. Can’t reach all these people one on one, gets lots of requests for mentoring but can’t do it all. Thought a blog might be a good virtual way to help lots of people. Virtual mentorship. Feedback suggests it is achieving that aim. One of the most satisfying things she did last year. Always wanted a career where she was helping people. And loves writing. So this ticks a lot of boxes. Now takes a couple of hours to write a post, also jots down ideas in prep. Questions that people ask are a source of ideas. Schedule – tries to post once/month.  

58:25 Blog post on kindness – sparked by a PhD student who finished and wrote a lovely card, saying “thanks for all your support and in particular thank you for your kindness, a quality which I feel is often missing in academia”. That resonated. Also consistent with stories over the years. Academia can be such a cut-throat and ruthless environment. And dealing with critique, rejection, awards, promotion. Hear all the time how thick-skinned you need to be to survive in this field. So wanted to highlight that this doesn’t have to be the norm and there are small things we can do that might a spot of joy in someone’s day, a question about how your day is going, can I get you a cup of coffee. I’m a big advocate that we can all find opportunities to be kind and it’s never a wasted act. Came across some great resources on kindness.

1:01:25 Another of virtual resources is sending an email out highlighting some of the successes. Aim is that we don’t often celebrate these enough. Other thing that it can be good to share more is the rejection and failures side and how we have dealt with these. A hard thing to share. Another post on rejection showed some brave people who posted about their failures. Need to be careful, don’t want to focus on what doesn’t work, but recognizing we’ve all had rejections and your not alone and how we have dealt with it.

1:03:45 Last post around saying now – key messages that resonated? Post got a lot of responses. People seemed to like was thinking about saying no is thinking about saying yes. Saying no to one thing means you are being strategic about saying yes to the other things that are already on your plate or are more important. You can’t do it all. Doesn’t mean you are not a good person.

1:05: 40 Criteria for what to say yes to re mentorship – isn’t taking on more people now. Currently stretched, and referring people to the virtual mentorship through the blog. Advice from a coach previously was to consider yourself a free referral service, so she tries to find another link or mentor.

1:07:58 End

Related Links:

Kylie Ball - http://www.deakin.edu.au/about-deakin/people/kylie-ball

Happy Academic Blog – https://happyacademic.wordpress.com

Indago Academy - Inspiring Research Excellence. Kylie's newly launched  development consultancy business- https://www.indagoacademy.com

Blog post: “Let’s make kindness the next academic disruption” - https://happyacademic.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/lets-make-kindness-the-next-academic-disruption/#more-877  

Blog post: “the foolproof approach to saying no” - https://happyacademic.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/the-foolproof-approach-to-saying-no/

 

Carman Neustaedter on research identity, work tracking surprises, and taking perspective

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Carman Neustaedter is an Associate Professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada and is also Director of the Connections Lab (cLab) research group. He talks about the importance for him of taking time to reconnect with his identity and values, and building in regular time for reflection, both on the bigger issues of where he is going and also on day to day work like writing challenges. He also discusses feeling overwhelmed and deciding to track his work time over a whole year, which led to surprising findings about how he actually spent his time and how he worked fewer hours than he thought he did. He also touches on issues around handling reviewer critique, managing his email inbox and how he structures time and prioritises family. A thread through a couple of stories is also the importance of being able to take on the perspective of others, whether these are the critical reviewers or colleagues.

“It’s really hard to figure out who you are because you’re often so focused…, you don’t stop to step back and say who am I and what is my path. But it’s so valuable to do.”

“It’s easy to slip into the habit of doing work at all sorts of hours. … It’s about choice and recognizing ahead of time what my priority is and making sure that priority is my family in the evening and at the weekend.”

“When I’m working, I’m really on and working really hard but then I purposely stop and say you know what it’s family time now, they deserve my time.”

“It’s really valuable for all walks of life just to empathise and understand others.”

He talks about (times approximate) …

2:09 Start

2:39 Current position, PhD from Calgary, experience working in Kodak Research Labs for three years before moving back to academia; how he got to the industry position as a post doc; finding it routine, and the decision to come back to academia and loving it.

5:02 Trigger for coming into academia – working with students, the agency and flexibility. Considered thinking to come back. Lucky to land something back in Canada, close to family. Obvious move back. Now in academia 8 years.

6:19 Experience of shifting back into academia – a struggle, paid far less, working way harder, so many things coming at him, hard to transition back into. Having the break allowed him to understand the situation a lot more, more reflection on own lifestyle and work-life balance. At Kodak, emails stopped coming in at 5pm on Fri and not much at weekend and as an academic getting emails from students at all hours. Had to adjust to it.

8:04 Other challenges in trying to set up as a new prof – establishing his identity and setting up a research group, what to focus on and how to present it to the world; critical to have a web page early; trying to establish identity and use that as framing for everything else he was trying to do. Finding the focus tricky but the job hunt helped as had to figure out ‘who are you, what’s your vision for the next few years’. “It’s an especially challenging task… it’s really hard to figure out who you are because you’re often so focused with your head down on your work, you don’t stop to step back and say who am I and what is my path. But it’s so valuable to do.”

9:54 How to do that practically? “It’s time. I can work on another paper or spend a half day thinking about what my identity is and how I want to project myself… it’s important to reassess that identity.” Example of using a hike or run on sabbatical last year to do this figuring out. Answer was realizing he had actually accomplished a lot and pretty proud of it and to continue on the same track, with tweaks. “Being happy with what I accomplished was really key.”; talking of being, purpose; “About what’s important and that thread weaves through the work we do, what we choose to do for [service, teaching, research] and weaves through how we balance work and family life and the personal endeavours we want.

12:09 Values as a researcher – being real, true to yourself and what you do. Talks about example of writing papers in a certain way, telling people what you did and why and not being afraid of the scrutiny. A tough profession when we have so many people critiquing us but it’s ok to show you and what you’re doing and stand up for it.

13:29 Handling the critiques – a long process but now tries to empathise with the reviewer and think about where they are coming from. Trying to connect with the reviewer, sees it as a conversation, understanding their perspective. More often than not getting critiqued rather than praised about the work we do. Probably not a lot of professions that get critiqued that much.

15:59 Other ways for helping handle this? Likes to go running, several times a week early morning, time to get out there and gives chance for reflection on what I’m doing, think up new ideas, and reconnect with myself”.

16:54 Other routines? Particular about when he works, tries hard not to work on evenings or weekends. Family and evening routines makes it easier to achieve. Weekends are family time with wife and kids. “When I’m working I’m really on and working really hard but then I purposely stop and say you know what it’s family time now, they deserve my time and so I’ll spend it with them.” Not like that before he had family. Notices he works more when he is away at conferences. “It’s easy to slip into the habit of doing work at all sorts of hours.”  “It’s about choice and recognizing ahead of time what my priority is and making sure that priority is my family in the evening and at the weekend.”

18:59 Hard when requests for stuff keep coming in.  Gives example of email on weekend with a request. Has a habit of inbox at zero 80% of the time. So if something comes in at the weekend it bothers him. Needs to handle it by getting it out of his inbox and onto a to-do then he can leave it for Monday. But if it sits in email he will think about it. Didn’t always do this but helps to keep his weekend to himself. Other email strategies – touching email only once;

21:49 Talks about tracking his work for a year. 2014, approaching tenure time, felt he was working tons of hours, feeling overwhelmed. Decided to figure out where he spent his time. Used a spreadsheet and recorded in 15 min time blocks. Tracked tasks, time of day, weekend. Tracked for a year. What time of day, who it was spent on, and how the numbers came out.

23:19 How tracking for a year was a pain but why he kept doing and the slivers of insight he got on the way.

26:00 Results surprising. Thought he did way more service and teaching than research but not the case. Research time was actually 67% over the year. Teaching was only 15% and only 18% was service. “So it was way different than what I thought. I was spending most of the doing the research stuff I really loved and not a lot time doing the teaching things that I thought was taking up a lot of my time.” On average worked about 39 hours a week. Felt over 50 hours. “It felt like I was completely overwhelmed and working all the time.” Didn’t realise how many hours he was actually working.

26:50 Flexible way of handling his day, on campus between 4-8 hours, will work from home when he can. Works early morning time. Helps kids. Finish up in the afternoon. Email in the evening. Some days only 4 hours. Flexibility of the job to let him do this lifestyle structure. Balances out with 10 hr day.

28:22 What contributes to it feeling so much more? Asked himself some tough questions about why feeling overwhelmed, exhausted. Maybe a lot of it comes down to choice.  So many demands on attention can be overwhelming, A lot of contact points. So many things coming at him overwhelming. The sense of responsibility and loving helping people. Feeling obligated and wanting to help.  Lack of getting to what he wants to do, don’t feel he has as much as choice as he wants to. Teaching feels a little more like work, less control over it. Loves teaching, reinvigorates but freedom of choice issue.

32:09 How does it feel now with requests? Looking through time makes it easy to recognize this is happening and use it to leverage different choices, and also figuring out when he works best and how to adjust his schedule. Talks about how he structures his work now. Also gives example of writing the discussion section that he finds hard, and timing it before a run or a break (drive into work) so he can then think back on what he just wrote and see if new insights come up.  Works well except for keeping notes. Wouldn’t have tracked that as work time. 34:54 “Work is on my brain a lot of the time. It’s hard to get it off my brain.” Think best ideas come when he is not working. Never know what you are going to see that is going to spawn a great idea. Fluid work and locations makes it even muddier. Even though ideas flow in non-work time, easy enough to separate them and not linger. Gets a note down and then get back to the personal stuff.

38:19 Not managed so well … when family visiting, guests, etc. But also forces you to engage with family and friends more.

39:09 Criteria for making choices, saying no? “Doing what I know I love to do”. Gives example of telepresence chair service role. “It’s stuff I love doing so it’s not really like work.”

40:34 Sabbatical experience. Three months recognized missed his normal job and couldn’t do research full on. Needed the breaks. Realised how much he valued them when gone. Feeling of guilt for not working. Tension of should and wants. Wanting to get away from the job but then realizing he really loved it. His choice to re-engage with some teaching and service while on sabbatical. Still mental turmoil, would he wish he stepped back more. But felt good at the end of the year. Accomplished more than planned. Happy with what he did because he was making choices, saying no and also saying yes to things he really loved.

44:54 “It was a turning point, and I realized moving forward - get back that choice. Really think about what I want to do and don’t be afraid to do that.”

45:29 Seeing career moving forward. Knows research direction, more admin work in department coming up, understanding internal politics. Talks about getting to know people more now and seeing where they are coming from. Tries hard to understand people from their perspective. Easiest way of getting policies through is understanding people’s perspectives and incorporating them. Talks a lot with people, prep work, understanding people. Came out of empathy training some years ago (in context of running a study) but “it’s really valuable for all walks of life just to empathise and understand others.”. Created less butting heads, faster to get on same page, accomplish more. But takes time/work.

50:51 Gives other examples of other situations where empathy helps, from family/kids to co-author/grad student and teasing out what is going on. Involves a lot of listening. Aim to get the best work, mutual goals.

52:59 Tries to foster a lab culture, about being dependent on each other, helping each other. Learnt from advisor Saul Greenberg. Shared responsibility in helping people out, a team, a family.

54:49 Final thoughts – “I think so much of our time is spent with our heads down and trying to get things done. I still really struggle with lifting my head up and getting that broader perspective. But I really think scheduling in even a little bit of time every once in a while to get that perspective back is super important.”. Advice from Joanna McGrenere – schedule time on sabbatical for personal reflection. Applicable beyond sabbatical. Schedule that time block eg for a run, walk, or silent drive. Making it a point of your regular routine is so incredibly invaluable. Recognise you are doing good stuff and how to keep that path going forward and how to have time for yourself.

57:35 My reflections on harmonious passion.

59:55 End

Related Links

Saul Greenberg podcast – on supervising, building a lab, creating good work life balance  

Sheelagh Carpendale - http://pages.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/~sheelagh/wiki/pmwiki.php

Joanna McGrenere - http://www.cs.ubc.ca/~joanna/

Jolanta Burke podcast – on burnout, harmonious passion, positive workplaces & helping others

Some articles on passion, obsessive passion and harmonious passion:

James Wilsdon on impacts, responsible metrics & evaluation practices

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James Wilsdon is a Professor of Research Policy in the Department of Politics and Director of Impact and Engagement for the Faculty of Social Sciences, and Associate Director in the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield in the UK. He has been involved in many policy and think tank initiatives. Of particular interest here, he chaired an independent review of the role of metrics in the management of the UK’s research system, publishing a final report in 2015 called The Metric Tide. More recently he has chaired an expert panel on Next Generation Metrics for the European Commission. In this conversation we talk about his experiences working in both policy think tanks and in academia, about the increasing focus on research impact for academics and how the UK has created some culture change in this direction. He also discusses issues around metric-based systems of assessments for academics and calls on us not to indulge processes of evaluation that we know empirically are bad science.

“Impact is a team sport.”

“A new breed of brokers and boundary spanners … placing a premium on a skillset that is not the traditional academic skillset.”

“Metrics are a technology and there is nothing intrinsically good or evil in them, it’s all about how they are used.”

“It is incumbent on us not to indulge processes of evaluation that we know empirically are bad science.”

He talks about (times approximate) …

01:40 Introduction of background as professor of research policy, politics of science and research and director of research impact for faculty of social sciences; and working outside of academia as director of science policy for the Royal Society

03:40 Moving from an academic context, working out of academia in policy jobs, and keeping a foot in academia through PhD and collaborations, and then coming back into the academic system proper; not being strategic about PhD and future plans when at the think tank; bridging brokering skills becoming more valued as academia more concerned with impact

06:55 Moving from think tank to university – pluses and minuses of both; pace and speed of think tank, shorter cycles, but can be too swayed by pressures of speaking to think tank audiences; in university time for longer deeper research when you get the funding; just different; think tank more proximate to power and potential to impact policy debates, in university setting harder to earn that seat at the table; impact.

10:30 About having impact as an academic? His role is facilitating academics having impact, part networks, part credibility; for faculty supporting academics at different career stages to strengthen their approach; also in the UK, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) that has 20% of its weighting on impact and needing to think about impact case studies now for next REF cycle; an industry of box ticking around the REF just as much as anywhere else; argues reason to do impact is not the REF but to have real impact, as starting point, so starting with the substance

14:30 Describing REF – institutional assessment done at disciplinary or departmental level, university makes subject-based submissions to a particular panel eg politics that assesses research outputs over 6-7year period of all the politics departments in the country in their area and scores accordingly; 65% on research outputs, primary unit is journal article, 15% about research environment, 20% on impact, here through narrative case studies. Not all academics expected to have an impact case study, usually 1 out of 10. Real money attached to it, as research funding allocated to universities on basis of scores, strategic research funding very valuable to institutions.

17:42 At what costs? Huge debate. Considerable amount of effort. Have just gone through a government review of the exercise, led by Lord Stern. Conclusion was exercise was working effectively and valuable because a trusted accepted mechanism on both sides and provides the accountability for allocation of substantial money. On uni side, while cumbersome and takes a lot of work, a self-governed process. A lot of the debate rests on what’s it purpose is it good value for money; if purpose just to allocate that grant could do it with a lighter touch or purely metric basis. Reason for Metric Tide review.

20:24 REF as it has evolved, now been through successive cycles since the mid 80s and it (REF) has now taken on range of purposes: allocation of funds; accountability mechanism; benchmarking function; driving culture behaviour change through the uni system, affecting wholesale change. In Thatcher times, focus on improving productivity of unis and still has pronounced effect eg UK has most productive research system in the word based on pounds in papers out. Now in part driven by the REF. Productivity a part of that. But in terms of behaviour change, introduction in 2014 of impact as a focus alongside outputs has had a massive cultural effect, positive effect in terms of creating an incentive structure/economy and enabling a more strategic and professional approach to impact, and supportive of a more diverse career paths in the system. China as alternative example, cash bonuses for publications, personal profit, but led to huge problems. In British system, had focus on outputs, now a focus on impacts and by and large a good thing.

25:24 How it now impacts appraisal discussions with staff.  Now have research, teaching, impact. A good thing, good research will have impact. Accepts some areas of research where impacts much longer term e.g., particle physics. Value as part of portfolio of what they do, now system in place to support academics doing it (impact) and doing it better and rewarding them. Now have a body of case studies from the exercise by topic, institution, discipline – a great resource. Means we can be much more strategic of understanding of how impacts arise. Most impact case studies were based on some kind of multi or interdisciplinary research, and often collaborative. Impact is a team sport.

29:20 Funding in UK to support that interdisciplinary emphasis? On the cusp of biggest shake up of funding system in the UK. Since mid 1960s a set of discipline-based research councils (see links below). All are about to be drawn under umbrella of a new mega funding agency, comes into being April 2018. Existing councils will still exist as committees under that body but goal now better support and enable cross disciplinary work. That’s the ambition. A big shift. Other things that have happened alongside that to further incentivise greater inter-disciplinarily are two big new strategic funding sources: global challenges research fund from aid budget, development money so research relevant to needs of developing worlds and in collaboration with partners in eligible countries, starting with their problems, and more global impact; and other is around industrial strategy, pump priming commercial realisation, not been as good at that e.g., as Germany to do the translational funding, more immediate commercial impact with industry partners.

34:45 Also opening new career paths. He talks about this as a new breed of brokers and boundary spanners that the system now demands and placing a premium on a skillset that is not the traditional academic skillset. Has flow on effects for how we think about doctoral training, early career research. But how does a boundary spanner submit e.g., to the politics panel? An inbuilt tension in the system over time. If you push the system towards more interdisciplinary work should you come back and evaluate people in the politics department? A question for the REF in 2027. Now is the time to start thinking about this. If you push all the incentives in the system towards new ways of working design, how do we design the assessment system in 10 years time? Incentives drive behaviour so how do we have complementary incentives systems. Two schools of thought on the new mega structure, negative is its terrible monolithic and inhibit diversity in the system, positive is it allows us to be more strategic and more collective intelligence to arise. By and large he is focussed on the positive.

38:00 What are the issues around metrics? The Metric Tide (report) was commissioned by the minister on role of metrics in management of university system. REF is by peer review over a year, it is labour intensive not metric driven. Looked at whole system for the REF. Committee had mix of great people, and did consultation, workshops, etc, a big process. Conclusion was that in the narrow context of the REF, more negatives in going hard to a metric-based systems than positives, in that yes you might remove some of the burden of the exercise but you shake off a lot of what was good about the REF. Current allows for a whole diversity of different outcomes, journal articles a part but can also put in books or arts-based outputs. Metrics tend only to cover journal articles. In politics area, about a quarter of the outputs were books and monographs but you don’t get metrics for those. Another reason is concern for diversity e.g., gendered nature of citation practices. Also re impact, currently recording through narrative case studies and can’t easily convert that to a metric. New metrics coming up e.g., social media measures but again could unleash perverse behavioural consequences like twitter bots if included in REF.

42:55 Interpreted mission more broadly though and in the broader sense of how metrics are interpreted and used in the university context, they expressed a serious concern about rising pressure of quantification on academic culture and how to manage that sensibly. Argued for scope to govern and manage systems of measurement much more sensibly, intelligently, and humanely in terms of their effects. A lot of that is about being responsible in the way you design and use metrics. Metrics are a technology and there is nothing intrinsically good or evil in them, it’s all about how they are used. Came up with set of principles for how metrics should be used eg diversity of indicators. More awareness now than 2-3 years ago, not just their review but growing chorus of voice gathering in volume and intensity internationally eg San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment that came out 2012 or 13, pushing hard against emphasis on journal impact factors, the Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics which was closely aligned with what they were doing.

Seeing in the UK more universities adopting policies and statements of good practice in terms of how they will use bibliometrics and altmetrics. Also having an impact on the REF in not going to bibliometrics.

46:50 Impact on own CV and presenting academic persona? Would never use journal impact factors and h-indices to make decisions, would look very bad. Wouldn’t use it in a panel because he thinks there are better ways of dealing with filtering applicants. “I think to simply look and say they’ve published in Cell therefore they’re better than this person… is the worst kind of sloppy practice. And we know this is statistically illiterate…. A very hard-edged reason why this is bad practice. It is incumbent on us not to indulge processes of evaluation that we know empirically are bad science.” All sorts of subtle signifiers we use and academia is full of these. “All we can do if you’re on an interview panel or evaluating stuff at a departmental level is try to be very conscious of what you’re doing, being quite reflexive about it and do stamp explicit bad practices.” Hasn’t experienced resistance to this where he is. “It’s my friends who are the hard-core scientists and who have looked at this and realised what utter bullshit it is.”

50:33 End

Related Links

James Wilsdon - https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/politics/people/academic/james-wilsdon

UK research funding councils – Higher Education Funding Council - http://www.hefce.ac.uk

Research Excellence Framework (REF) - http://www.ref.ac.uk/2014/

The Metric Tide report – https://responsiblemetrics.org/the-metric-tide/

San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - http://www.ascb.org/dora/

Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics - http://www.leidenmanifesto.org

 

Luigina Ciolfi on giving back, mentoring, and finding your own work-life strategies

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Luigina Ciolfi is a full Professor of Human Centred Computing at C3RI – The Cultural, Communication and Computing Research Institute  and member of the Communication and Computing Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University (UK). A common theme of the conversation is her passion for giving back. We talk about peer service organising a conference, and about her early career experiences as a junior faculty with responsibilities for a program, and what sorts of training and support were or could have been useful for her. In giving back now to junior faculty, she also talks about recent training experiences to take a coaching/mentoring approach and the value of this. We then talk about some of her recent research studying how nomadic workers and how work-life balance plays out for them and how there is no one strategy that suits everyone. She reflects on her own strategies here and also on the challenges of working in a different country to your families.

BONUS full transcript available here

“To keep the good work [of the research community] going it’s only fair that I contribute to it”

“Junior faculty struggles are for both men and women.”

“Mentoring is just supporting someone to make decisions.”

“Balance is not something that everyone aspires to…There’s no strategy that fits everybody.”

“Knowing yourself is part of being confident about your strategy and it takes time to know yourself as a professional, to know what you can achieve. It’s a learning curve.”

In summary, she talks about (times approximate) …

02:00 Discussing the experience of chairing the ECSCW conference and losing a good friend who was going to be the papers co-chair

09:15 Talking about her Masters in Siena, Italy and moving to Limerick, Ireland for PhD

15:22 Transitioning from student into a faculty position, role of mentors, experience of submitting proposals; early demanding lifestyle of teaching, research etc as an young faculty; early teaching experiences a lot work; wishing she had some shadowing opportunities

Experiences around learning curve to be a teacher and program director; advice re handling problematic people; wish for training, e.g., mediation training, respectful training language; the meta skills of academia

26:45 Most recent course on coaching techniques and mentoring skills; the people skills being important; discussion of most interesting skill/technique – ‘what will happen if’ scenarios to help decision making, helping them think but not giving direct input; how to answer to ‘what would you do’ questions from coaches/mentees

32:00 Discusses research on work life balance, the research project that led to this, and the most recent work.  Everyone having different strategies and giving examples of these strategies. Blurring, balance and boundaries.

40:50 Discusses differences with academics compared to other professions. Having a lot of freedom, less bound by constraints, having strong ambition and passion, but also a lot of similarities with other knowledge workers. One person’s story about a revelation moment listening to ‘Cats in the cradle’ song, recognising himself in the song, and the trigger to be quit his job and be a freelancer. Rather than giving instruments for balancing we could be giving instruments for re-arranging.

47:40 Reflecting on working ‘more than is healthy’; partner support and weekends for more than work, though can be exceptions. Working less weekends and evenings now than used to as junior academic. Reflections on working more as a junior academic and why and what she might have done differently. Discusses strategies now eg stopping when she is tired, knowing yourself.

53:55 Structuring own time. Not a morning person so leaves menial tasks until the morning. Being reflective about own patterns and practices. Tends to schedule meetings in the morning. Upsides and downsides of a mainly research position.

55:05 Being active on social media and how she uses different social media tools. The support of others in the same situation. Use of scheduled posts. And the cats.

59:10 Discussing other strategies, eg one day of a weekend completely work-free, role of partner, visiting mother, downside of not having any scheduled hobbies but doing other things. And not working in the evenings unless a good reason. Not ever having email notifications or social media notifications on phone.

1:01:30 Final thoughts – having part of your family in different countries. Common, complicated. Making choice of staying in Europe even though heart might say going somewhere else, as a conscious choice to be closer to family. Feeling the tension of being far away from family. Common situation but not a common strategy. Distributed roots and always difficult to think of the very long term, just accepting you are at home in more than one place.

1:06:49 End

Related Links

Lui’s home page - https://luiginaciolfi.net ; https://www.linkedin.com/in/luiginaciolfi

ECSCW2017 - https://ecscw2017.org.uk

Dave Martin - https://ecscw2017.org.uk/2017/02/21/announcing-the-david-b-martin-best-paper-award/

Charlotte Lee - https://www.hcde.washington.edu/lee

Liam Bannon - http://www.idc.ul.ie/people/liam-bannon/

Daniela Petrelli - https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniela-petrelli-518b1658

Fabiano Pinatti - http://www.wineme.uni-siegen.de/en/team/pinatti/

‘Cats in the cradle’ lyrics - https://genius.com/Harry-chapin-cats-in-the-cradle-lyrics

Nomadic Work Life project - https://luiginaciolfi.net/projects/

Managing Technology Around Work and Life project - https://techworkandlife.wordpress.com/

Choosing an Academic Publication Venue: A Short Guide for Beginners - https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CcqRitAeUEuTJRiGAtWSPFVDoJZh7JAz/view

Reflections on 2017 & creating kinder better work cultures

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As with the end on 2016, this is a short podcast (18:58) where I reflect on the year that has been. (Does this make it a tradition now?) I also add my call to increasing compassion and kindness in the workplace and discuss the benefits of doing this and various options for how to play it out.

I would also love to hear your feedback and  ideas for what and who you want to hear about in future podcasts:

            Email: gerifitz at changingacademiclife.com  or Twitter: @ChangeAcadLife

Wishing all of us a balanced, authentic, vibrant, joy-filled academic life for 2018, whatever that may mean for each of us!

Related links:

Kylie Ball's blogpost on making kindness the next academic disruption: https://happyacademic.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/lets-make-kindness-the-next-academic-disruption/

Book: ‘Awakening compassion at work’ by Monika Worline and Jane Dutton: https://www.amazon.com/Awakening-Compassion-Work-Elevates-Organizations/dp/1626564450

Compassionate management: https://hbr.org/2013/09/the-rise-of-compassionate-management-finally

Random Acts of Kindness: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/random-acts-of-kindness.htm

Chancellor et al, 2016. The propagation of everyday prosociality in the workplace. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2016.1257055; Chancellor et al 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28581323

TedX TU Wien "The craziness of research funding. It costs us all": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66_DRDYJz4g

Michael Muller on principled engagements, value tensions, liking people & giving back

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Michael Muller is a researcher at IBM Research in Cambridge MA. We cover a lot in this conversation, Michael reflects on his long PhD process in cognitive science, long in part because of chronic diseases that he still deals with. He talks about the decision to move to industry and his experiences working in various industry positions since then, including interpreting participatory design methods for a North American industry context, finding out he wasn’t suited to management, and loving the work he is doing now. A theme across many of the stories is the tension arising from navigating organisational demands and his own deeply held values, and throughout you can hear his deep care for people.

Work in any organisation involves some kind compromise of principle at one time or another.”  

“I’m a white American boy, got all this honour and privilege, let’s do something constructive with it.”

“Mentoring very quickly becomes two ways.”

“I like the work I’m doing, I love the people I’m working with. And it’s work I can hold my head up about. It’s work that I’m thinking is making good kinds of changes. That’s a good life.”

“That’s the core spiritual practice… Take care of people… be in relationships in which we are exchanging affection and support.”

He talks about (times approximate) …

01:30 Introducing his cognitive psychology background and now working in a research organisation in industry (IBM), scored like academics, managed by objective and the processes in trying to get criteria for preferred publication venues changed; cushioning of researchers in the organisation

07:30 Discussing reasons for his 9 year PhD – two chronic diseases, costs money, working part-time, and moving across parts of Psychology Dept at Rutgers

09:15 Going to work in an industry organisation straight after, seeing academic psychologists not very happy, story of his role model Mark Altan (?) who was dedicated to teaching, received a teaching award which he was told was a ‘kiss of death’, told not going to get tenure, and went to work at Bell Labs. Michael lost his role model. A shearing between surface and deep values – “Didn’t fancy being in an academic environment in which each time I wanted to do something kind or considerate or useful for students I would be jeopardising myself”. Advisor told him “Michael you will have to learn to be a mediocre instructor like the rest of us” because he was being too dedicated to students. So he went into industry, thinking industry jobs were relatively stable compared to not getting tenure.

13:55 After finishing degree with 4 hours to spare, finished winter at uni as a research assistant then took his first job at IBM in Charlotte NC but was not the place then as it is now. Within months, the choice was stark, he could stay at IBM or stay married – he chose love and found some way to get them out. Spouse depressed at isolation. Then went to Bellcore for 8 years.

16:13 Sometime was in Seattle for a CHI conference, went to Participatory Design Conference nearby, first one in North America and “got religion”! A year later he began to think with two colleagues about how to adapt participatory design (PD) to the American context (though says Susanne Bodker still doesn’t think it was Scandinavian PD); became the existence proof this could work in industry. Industry attention span is brief so they shortened PD methods down to less than 60 mins and conducted a series of conversion experiments. Glory days. They were revelations to people. Showed it was fun, information rich. Local management in Bellcore got it. But then baby Bellcores started taking each other over.

20:30 He was doing something pioneering in North American industry context, had thought they were following the Scandinavian model, but with modifications for industry attention span and culturally had to make changes, mostly by intuition, mostly got it right. Said ‘workplace democracy’ over and over again but sometimes got push back and this probably delayed their promotions.

22:55 Eventually made the mistake of trying to get a promotion when at Microsoft and within 10 months Microsoft and manager explained what a bad mistake that was! He was given a performance improvement plan – could see it was designed to be non-survivable and the criteria for success were not well spelt out so he could be fired at any time without protections. Accepted that judgement and went away.

24:30 Had moved from New Jersey because of spouse at the time found her spiritual life in nature, and a job came up in US West Advanced Technologies in Boulder Colorado – called Terry Roberts (manager) about it, moved there. A different kind of job, interviewing telephone operators to help them lose their job but was also able to show they were doing important knowledge work. CHI 1995 presentation explaining this (link). But he was deemed by management to have helped the wrong side.

27:10 He talks of observing operators’ work in a bunch of places, their work being monitored by management, the tension of having sympathies with the workers but reporting to management. He reflects on having just listened to Mark Ackermann talk at ECSCW17 about the far right organising on the internet. He was helping management use technology to displace labour. Principles in a grey area. Lost sleep over it. “I’d say work in any organisation involves some kind compromise of principle at one time or another.” Making it an explicit topic of conversation.

30:55 Eventually his work supported using technology to reduce operators so not a clean story. “A politically pure person would have walked away from that job.” Tells Arnie Lund’s story when he worked in a ‘doomed organisation’ and was made to lay people off then lay himself off -because they knew he would hate it and knew he would do it with care for the people. That was their gift to the employees. “So I tried to do things with care […] but at the same time I was hopelessly compromised. That’s the life in an organisation.” Thinks it also happens in academia. “If we work in organisations, organisations have their own logic and it’s a little bit more reptilian, cold blooded, than the logic that most of us bring to each other.”

33:50 Continuing to work in industry contexts, for family reasons. Discusses options for moving to academia. Currently has an unpaid academic role at Wellesley College. Paying back white male privilege. If could find a way to increase work in academia without letting people down (the only social scientist now in his group) he would do it. Mentors students in internships.

37:45 Doing mentoring, “I’m a white American boy, got all this honour and privilege, let’s do something constructive with it.”, can open doors, and ongoing relationship with students/mentees. Has roughly same job title as started with 1984 because he tried the ‘manager thing’ at Microsoft and it didn’t work. Managing not his skill set but can mentor, also has friends who are female, LGBTQ, native American, etc, and can understand he has had a blessed life so helping to open doors for others. An ongoing mentoring relationship but also responsibility of person to walk through the door. But opening the door an important first step.

40:40 Discusses doctoral consortium and career development workshop mentoring experiences. “Our own failures are an important part of what we bring to those.” Some about careers. And it’s thinking together. “Mentoring very quickly becomes two ways.”. Gives example of Shion Guha. Reflects on internship mentoring and transitioning to peers/colleagues.

45:55 What is keeping him excited at work? Asked by IBM to work on employee engagement. Doing engagement surveys, find out if there are issues, do an intervention in Jan, but can be too late in next Nov to find out if it worked. So trying to use data from IBM’s thriving social media ecosystems (Bernard Geyers, David Millen’s work) but first attempts didn’t work; now fixed and can get monthly reports. So can describe, predict and now into fixing it by gathering ideas to increase engagement. Making the experience of work a better experience, and helps the organisation. It’s fulfilling.

52:56 Other part of job is to help IBM think about leadership position in AI and ethics. Collaboration with Vera Lia0, bringing qualitative methods. Returning to some participatory themes and design fictions and value sensitive design to explore.

54:56 Navigating long working hours. “Our work could expand to cover every waking moment that we have and then cause us to have more waking moments. We all have to work out work family balance.” Talks about current partner and “supporting each other as they both over work” and her passion for justice, where both are “trying to make positive change in the world, make up for the good stuff we’ve got”. And the work content is extremely interesting. “I like the work I’m doing, I love the people I’m working with. And it’s work I can hold my head up about. It’s work that I’m thinking is making good kinds of changes. That’s a good life.”

59:00 How he maintains his health and wellbeing? “I love people that’s a very healthy thing to do.” “That’s the core spiritual practice… Take care of people… It is to be in relationships in which we are exchanging affection and support.”

1:01:03 End

Related Links:

Michael Muller - http://researcher.watson.ibm.com/researcher/view.php?person=us-michael_muller

Wendy Kellogg - http://researcher.watson.ibm.com/researcher/view.php?person=us-wkellogg

Scott Robertson podcast - https://changingacademiclife.com/blog/2017/7/27/scott-robertson

Susanne Bødker - http://pure.au.dk/portal/en/persons/id(87d4fbb6-b38c-449e-b87d-59f693b7d6f0).html

Terry Roberts - http://terroberts.home.mindspring.com/IntDesUAPortfolio/index.html

Mark Ackermann - https://www.si.umich.edu/people/mark-ackerman

Arnie Lund - https://www.linkedin.com/in/arnielund

Shion Guha – https://www.shionguha.net

David Millen - http://researcher.watson.ibm.com/researcher/view.php?person=us-david_r_millen

Matt Davis - http://researcher.ibm.com/researcher/view.php?person=us-davismat

Vera Liao - http://qveraliao.com

Wellesley College - http://cs.wellesley.edu/~oshaer/index.html

CHI conference - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conference_on_Human_Factors_in_Computing_Systems

Participatory Design Conference - https://pdc2018.org/about-pdc/

Usability Professionals Association - https://uxpa.org

CHI95 paper: Telephone operators as knowledge workers: consultants who meet customer needs - https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=223904.223921

Human Computer Interaction Consortium - https://hcic.org/hcic2018/index.phtml

Value Sensitive Design - http://www.vsdesign.org

Evan Peck on making choices, accepting trade-offs, and liberal arts as a great middle way

Evan Peck is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Bucknell University in the US. Evan has a passion for teaching and also wants to do good research but when he was looking around for a faculty position, he decided he didn’t want to trade off family life and life quality to do it all, as he considered he might have to at a top-rated school. He also wasn’t sure about industry where he could have better life quality but would miss teaching. He is now an evangelist for Liberal Arts Colleges, like Bucknell, as a middle way for PhD students to include when considering career options. Evan talks about his decision processes getting there and his current experiences as a new faculty in learning to be deliberate about his use of time so that he can include teaching, research and time for family. He also has a great blog post written on this topic.

"It's all trade-offs."

“Put on the calendar, this is when I am done for the day and this is the amount of time I have to get work done and if it doesn’t get done it happens tomorrow and not through dinner”

“So have to be deliberate about how you use your time.”

“In Grad School it’s really easy to fall into this trap that your identity is the work you are doing and that’s why these rejections feel so much more personal”

He talks about (times approximate) …

01:30 Start

02:15 Background starting out at a Liberal Arts College and having a broad education, teaching focus, courses capped at 30 students

04:30 Path getting to Bucknell  via an UG degree at a Liberal Arts College and a PhD at Tufts Uni with Rob Jacob on Brain Computer Interaction, having a child during Grad School and starting to think about what measures of success and impact means and what he wanted

06:00 Up to then a typical grad student perspective re rankings and top school as measures of success; realised “even if I were to be productive at the rate of someone at a top school, I think I would be miserable doing it” – something about the pace, can fit others beautifully but grants and away from teaching not how he wanted to spend his time, or emotionally or the stress of the tenure process

08:20 “They say, here are the things that are valuable to us and if those don’t align with the things that are valuable to you ... things you don’t want to do are more taxing … if you are at a university where the benchmarks involve things that you don’t what to spend all your time doing… then it can seem very overwhelming”

09:00 Thought he was going into industry because he thought academic was two pillars, either research or teaching focussed. Loves doing research but not all the time. Had industry internship and saw good work life balance, didn’t consume them, not their entire identity and this aspect appealed to him. And getting to end of grad school was a grind so it seemed attractive.

11:15 After having a kid, shifting own work habits. If he continued his old schedule he would lonely see his son half hour a day. So getting up early and trying to set boundaries on the upper limit.

12:42 How to put up boundaries – scheduling wise, almost “put on the calendar, this is when I am done for the day and this is the amount of time I have to get work done and if it doesn’t get done it happens tomorrow and not through dinner”. Priorities becoming much more important and industry seemed more appealing as could see structure in industry. And in appealing places to live. Factors line up.

14:15 Very lucky in lab culture and advisor who was very sensitive to family issues, told him to go be with his family; the only he can figure out how to do 3 CHI papers is to work 15 hrs a day, may be different for others.

Challenges when you set these boundaries – could be more productive without boundaries but “It’s all trade-offs”. “First level says I’m missing out on something, second level says would I trade it” and no he wouldn’t, helps come to terms with those decisions

16:20 Role of supervisor in setting culture, and previous grad students who had children so wasn’t breaking new ground

17:15 Comparing self to others – very challenging, easy to compare yourself to the best teacher and the best researcher, very tempting – but remembering they only take one of the jobs

18:15 Heading back to liberal arts via advice to apply everywhere, supervisor a wealth of good advice, can always decide you don’t like it later; hoping grad students think about this more in advance; having options and opportunity to figure out priorities on the fly; “I really like my job. Many ways I could have missed it. How could I mitigate this for other people coming on?”

20:35 Being more deliberate? Written about in blog post. Perception that things fit cleanly into categories of academia vs industry, research vs teaching school but not does not fit reality. Representation of academia at conferences most visible but not representative. Muddied when you visit these places. Careful to say this is about him, he wouldn’t be able to do all, others he knows can.

22:20 “What are the things that I take joy doing?” Knew wherever he went he would want to spend significant time in teaching, loves getting students excited about computer science. “The question was, if I’m spending time in this [teaching] is it going to be rewarded or not? Will the people around me say this is part of you excelling in your job or is it something…that’s an obstruction to your research?”

Told at one place the way to succeed was to make sure students don’t hate you but don’t do too much more. Feels like he is doing fewer hours because it is investing in things he wants to be doing.

25:00 First year of teaching really taxing but didn’t feel like he was doing as many hours as in his PhD. Something he wanted to invest time in. Towards end of PhD everything felt like a grind, exhausting. If teaching more then getting faster feedback. So the feedback loops are a lot faster but slower feedback loops in research can be tough. Took a long time to get first paper accepted. Can go years without those reward feelings it takes your toll.

26:40 The big shift to grad school. Difference in identity between undergrad and grad school; “In Grad School it’s really easy to fall into this trap that your identity is the work you are doing and that’s why these rejections feel so much more personal” because this is what he chose; Handling rejection by keeping on working, but pretty demoralising when rejections start piling up, but also short term thinking so did finally have a year when work comes through. But again a comparison point. An exhausting way to go about things,

28:40 Importance of making this message that there are alternatives in Liberal Arts schools. Integrating teaching and research. Saw another lab member to go to a liberal arts and still be able to do research so had a hint.

30:00 Making the decision in the end. Thinking about mobility in academia, some directions harder than others. One concern was about moving out of liberal arts to focus on research? And many school sin very rural areas. Big family decisions. Are these places we want to live? Factors that played into decision – visiting the campus and the faculty and getting a sense of people’s lives there. At Bucknell and some others, impressed with seriousness of work and also talking about other aspects of life – sole identity not inside the office.

32:35 One of the interesting side benefits of smaller school in a more isolated place is the community that forms around it is very strong, most people live within three miles of each, a real sense of community and that the community values not just you but your family; had meals provided for a month and half after daughter born. Those factors really important on the family side. And not conceding professionally either to deal with family side.

35:00 Biggest challenge moving from grad student to faculty member – working on 10 things at once, now time splintered, needing to be much more organised, needing to be productive with small pockets of time, need to be more deliberate about research. Understanding what your strengths are, the rhythm of the semester, being reflective. Different strategies during semester vs during summer. Now uses a calendar. Setting in calendar these are the time to do research, otherwise can always improve lectures. “So have to be deliberate about how you use your time.”

37:20 Learning process re being deliberate: Understanding where he can be high impact. Always concessions. “How can I be high impact given I’m not going to publish 4 papers a year, that I don’t have grad students, what topics are more high impact, what resources do I have and voices do I have in the community that other people have?” So in the first year he determined that his time in the classroom most valuable, working to what he was strong at. At some point “I only have this much time. What benefits the students the most? If I only had 2 hrs to prep for this, how am I going to spend those 2 hrs?” A little structure one year helps the next. Slow process getting the pieces that work together.

40:15 Always been reflective and strategic thinker to some degree. People around in grad school very reflective. Seeing value on reflecting on the structural pieces that help. More honed now out of necessity. More constrained about his resources and so has to think more about what would be valuable. Letting grad students know there is a huge spectrum of jobs. Could be miserable in grad school but be an excellent professor. Feel like he is a much better professor than a grad student. “Fits me a lot better.” Thought was a one off for a long time, not knowing what the landscape was. After faculty position, talked to senior grad students and same things came up. And they would be amazed that a place like this exists. 

43:40 [Option of liberal arts college] should be a liberating thought. In PhD where you start out with big visions about how you are going to change the world and do research and then realise it is only small corner of research and keep working, still excited, but somewhere along the lines think “Oh no, I’ve been working on something for 5, 6, 7 years, and maybe I’m in the wrong profession, or maybe I still love this stuff but the way but the way the jobs line up don’t seem very exciting. That’s just horrifying.”

44:45 Goes to a bigger picture of computer science education. All these students at all these universities, computers impact us in all parts of life, and students not at big research schools. All PhDs graduating, passionate about these ideas but not connecting pieces well. The best educators who leave or go to industry, not because it is best fit, but their personal priorities don’t map to the big research schools.

47:26 End

Related Links

Evan Peck: https://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~emp017/

Evan’s blog post on “The jobs I didn’t see: My misconceptions of the Academic job market”: https://medium.com/bucknell-hci/the-jobs-i-didnt-see-my-misconceptions-of-the-academic-job-market-9cb98b057422  

Rob Jacob: https://www.cs.tufts.edu/~jacob/

Liberal Arts College: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_arts_college

Scott Robertson on missing tenure, persevering, and connecting to mission & community

Scott Robertson comes from a psychology and cognitive science background and is now a Professor in the Information and Computer Sciences Department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Scott shares the experiences of being rejected for tenure twice and how he dealt with that. His story is one of perseverance and courage, doing what you care about, and the importance of mentors and being part of a community. He is now in a tenured position and enjoying the freedom to follow his mission around civic engagement and to get back to acting.

UPDATE: Scott has just been made Chair of his department! So not getting tenure is definitely not the end of a story!

“You have to do what you care about”

“So [failure/rejection] is survivable, not just survivable but also then you can go on to the next thing and make the best of whatever situation you are in.”

 “[Don’t] define yourself by your position or your affiliation [but] by your mission in life.”

He talks about (times approximate) …

01:30 His early career as a child actor eg on the Brady Bunch! Current acting interests and how it has enriched his academic and personal life – acting like HCI as understanding other human beings. And inhabiting another world.

05:38 Time to focus, becoming present to the moment, a centreing exercise

06:35 Discussion of early career: social science at UCI, then cognitive psychology masters, then cognitive science PhD at Yale; first using a big Vax computer in a statistics class and getting interested in computing at Yale; dissertation in how people use text editors and presenting at the first CHI in ~1981, feeling intimidated by Don Norman in the front row; HCI as his direction then

10:30 End of the story: full prof at Uni of Hawaii but not a straight forward to get there; started usual ass prof pathway in a psych dept publishing in HCI; tenure evaluation ‘what is CHI/HCI’, not publishing in APA journals etc; failed to get tenure

12:10 Still an issue for several people, feeling misunderstood in their dept, ‘what is HCI’ still

13:00 Mentors who helped at these transition points; feeling part of the CHI community but alone in the Dept so able to rely on mentors in CHI community eg Gary Olson wrote a letter, Jack Carroll helped figure out next step to IBM

14:45 Incredibly devastating – work hard, trajectory going nicely, so quite a shock; “when you look back on it you wonder why you spent so much time thinking about it” but did take a long time to settle it; move to IBM a smooth transition though intimidated as no idea how to be a researcher in a company

16:20 Felt out of place in the year after tenure denial as have to go back to the institution, the so-called terminal year; tenure denial because of vote he missed by less than half a percentage point so felt like it was random – those kind of things did occupy his mind for quite a time

18:10 Thinking back, it did allow him to move on; “so it is survivable, not just survivable but also then you can go on to the next thing and make the best of whatever situation you are in.” Doesn’t believe that ‘everything happens for a reason’ as he was often told, but “I do believe that you can turn a situation to your advantage if you focus on it and try”

19:10 In industry/research labs at IBM and US West in Colorado, doing quite different work than what he would have done in a psychology dept; chairing the CHI conference during this time and a talk he gave about the importance of the CHI community, an anchor.

21:08 Going back to academia, starting trail to tenure a second time, this time in an iSchool; better fit however also missed tenure so two tenure denials; continuing story of ‘what is CHI’ and also had decided to change research interests, looking at e-voting systems and political participation which might have cost in terms of publishing but another close decision

23:55 Shift of topic area – wanting research to have some impact and where he could make a difference; realised not the voting machine per se but the education beforehand where the real challenge is for technology

26:40 Awareness of impact/risk re tenure? Didn’t think the shift of topic was not a good idea. “I feel like you have to do what you care about.” Never thought of them as risky decisions, never focussed on the tenure issue, focused instead on what he cared about. No regrets about anything.

29:04 Experience of second denial, again surprised as had good feedback; a good lesson re having to be clear with non-tenure professors about how they are going; went through appeal process but a waste of time, should have moved on more quickly; did win an appeal that process not followed correctly but same outcome when done over again

31: 45 Still glad he went on a new direction of tech to support political decision making so easy to slide into current research on use of social media for political decision making

32:15 Same people around to support eg Jack Carroll, “so important to have a mentor all the way through” not just in tangible way but other intangible ways of advice, listening, see at conferences and ping him when he needed support/advice

34:30 Dealing with the second tenure denial, focussed more on it than the first time, later in his career; and partner/wife also an academic in humanities going through tenure process that also didn’t work out – spent half of marriage living in different places, decided not to do that any more

36:50 “Need to keep a confidence of some kind, that you are doing the right thing. It’s important to have your community.”

37:50 Difficulty putting down roots, friends in local community, getting back into theatre when in Philadelphia, dislodging from that difficult when moving on; value of getting back into theatre, like CHI, people interested in others and wanting to impact them

41:10 Moving on to another faculty position in Hawaii, the only one he got. Most of these transitions, only got one option each time. Prepared also to go back into industry and would have seen it just as ‘next step’ and how to make the best of it

42:45 Can’t help having something in your mind that you didn’t live up to expectations, being nervous coming back to conferences because people would know it happened but very different experience, people on his side

43:54 “When something like these things happen I think it is important to just pick yourself up and put yourself back into the game”; practical tips eg centering, who am I at the core, did these really change me, being able to see it as an external event; not an easy thing

45:00 Hawaii hard for partner’s work – not landed a job there yet but has a community;

46:00 Perspective on where you are at any given time has changed, from thinking it would be a model of prof with tenure staying put, to more jumping from one thing to another, “people are going to have to re-define themselves several times during their career … think tenure model will come to an end”; “Wouldn’t define yourself by your position or your affiliation [but] by your mission in life”; Scott’s mission around civic engagement

48:30 Tenure process at Uni of Hawaii, now in a computer science dept, supportive colleagues, tenure process opposite of everything before, smooth; one thing that has changed for academics is need to bring in money but harder to get  but also more needed to support students; success rates down around 10%; half of all writing and effort goes into proposals but not a total waste of time, making up your dream, what I want to do, creative writing of an aspirational document; if don’t get the grant then re-work it, “Persistence is extremely important”; also dealing with rejection in acting

53:00 Celebrating tenure and then having to think about what to do now so deciding to write more for general public; can’t do this though before getting tenure

55:22 Liking the computer science department, interested in work of colleagues doing things he doesn’t do, more so than when in psychology

57:00 Final thoughts – now can tell this story, “my responsibility to say that these things happen, and you can preserve through these things, but the critical issue is knowing who you are, …research direction and who you are as a person.” And realising you can jump across icebergs and be fine. And focussing on the larger community.

01:00:39 End

Related Links

Scott Robertson - http://www2.hawaii.edu/~scottpr/

Art Graesser - http://art.graesser.us

Gary Olson - https://garymolson.com

Jack Carroll - https://ist.psu.edu/directory/faculty/jmc56

Mary-Beth Rossen - https://mrosson.ist.psu.edu

CHI2017 Career Development Symposium - https://chi2017.acm.org/careerdev.html

CHI Stories - https://chi2017.acm.org/stories.html

Margaret Burnett on pioneering, mentoring, changing the world & GenderMag

Margaret Burnett is a professor of Computer Science in the School of EECS at Oregon State University. She is a pioneer woman in computer science whose work has been honoured with numerous awards, including ACM Distinguished Scientist. Her passion is to change the world by designing more gender-inclusive software. In this conversation, she shares experiences being the first woman software developer at Proctor & Gamble Ivorydale in the 1970s, and creating two start-ups as well as a women’s business network in the 1980s. She also talks about her work in academia, in particular about her GenderMag project, as well as practical experiences including mentoring and management using dove-tailing strategies as well as managing family life by drawing fences. She also tries to do one thing every day to make the world a better place. An inspirational person in so many ways!

“Don’t ever say yes unless you know why you are saying yes. ” “No one person can do everything.”

“Try to do something every day that makes me feel like the world is a little better”

 “Please help me change the world! … When people change their products [to be gender inclusive] everyone likes them better.”

She talks about (times approximate) …

1:30 Being the first woman software developer hired by Proctor&Gamble Ivorydale and navigating how to fit in as a women in this era and in this industry, “not having a vocabulary”

8:00 Pulling up roots and moving to Santa Fe New Mexico, following husband; starting up a new business, and doing freelance programming

11:54 Dealing with reactions to being a woman in IT and a client who didn’t want to deal with her because she was a woman

13:27 Moving into academia – influence of professor as an undergrad; being dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ to a new town pregnant with first child, doing a Masters degree at Uni of Kansas and starting another business; dealing with two careers and daycare issues

15:30 Going to social events where everyone wanting to know what husband did for a living but not wanting to know what she did for a living; deciding to start an organisation of professional women to help them network, the ‘Lawrence Women’s Network’; starting to teach a course at the university and discovering she really liked teaching, which became the motivator to go and do a PhD

17:45 Doing a PhD to become a faculty member, the second woman to ever get a PhD; Going back to university to get a PhD from Uni of Kansas in Computer Science

18:25 Starting in faculty job, promoting women’s issues but almost sub-consciously and serving own interests, bringing women into her lab, win-win-win team working style; how she includes her undergrad researchers into work;

21:35 Her academic children and grandchildren all over the world

22:30 Now 25 years at Oregon State; Taking more academic risks after tenure; Considering it a badge of honour if she gets all 1s on a paper ... 5s are good too … but shows she is ‘out there’;

24:45 Whenever she says ‘yes’ she has to have a reason; Reasons for saying yes and for not saying yes

27:25 Reflecting on ways she has changed – loves taking risks academically. GenderMag as an example; the beginnings of GenderMag, with Laura Beckwith, looking at software and whether there were gender biases at the user-facing part of it; reading literature from diverse disciplines, hypotheses ‘dropping into her lap’; clustering tendencies, women tend to take a bursty style, men tend to take a tight iteration style when problem solving; gender differences in the way people use software, spending about 10 years running studies

31:20 Working with a medical company where (mostly women) practitioners hated their software; collaborators especially Simone Stumpf very good at helping keep an eye on the practicality

32:50 Led to method, GenderMag – gender inclusiveness magnifier – now downloadable, and a CHI17 paper about research-backed personas built into a method and a vocabulary about problem solving and information processing style; study with Nicola Marsden, multi-personas that don’t invoke stereotyping

37:00 The story of a Distinguished Speaker talk on GenderMag- changing the language from ‘you’ to the personal ‘Abby’; average is 1 feature out of every 3 they evaluate they find a gender inclusiveness problem with their own software

39:18 Not advocating for a pink or blue version but thinking of it as a bug; “If there is a feature that is not gender inclusive then…there is a barrier to some segment of the population”; tooltips as an example; also risk aversion

42:15 Getting the toolkit and methodology out into the world – still learning; GenderMag teach resources; talking to industry; downloadable kit; needing top-down and grassroots interest; call to listeners who might have ideas for changing policy, changing the world

46:24 When people change their products [to be gender inclusive] everyone likes them better

47:00 “Try to do something every day that makes me feel like the world is a little better” – something ‘that counts’

49:20 Dove-tailing work strategies through setting up collaborations, and saying no - “No one person can do everything. My bit is GenderMag … that’s my corner of the diversity world.”  Drawing the boundaries, the purposeful yes.

51:40 Managing the group: weekly group meeting, project sub group meetings, various GenderMag meetings, one-on-one meetings with graduate students; collaborative writing style; involving students in reviewing papers (mentoring dove-tailing with professional workload)

55:10 Other mentoring strategies – ‘pushing’ people forward, encouraging people to consider ‘the brain is a muscle’ and it’s ok to be ‘bad’ initially;

59:30 Managing life and work with kids – drawing fences around the day, avoids “always feeling like it is the wrong thing”, but no extra hobbies until after the kids graduated; “don’t have the fences anymore because I don’t need them so much anymore and energy patterns have changed”

01:04:04 End

Related Links

Margaret’s home pages - http://eecs.oregonstate.edu/people/burnett-margaret ; http://web.engr.oregonstate.edu/~burnett/

The Lawrence Women’s Network - https://www.lawrencewomensnetwork.org   

The GenderMag Project - http://gendermag.org

Laura Beckwith - http://hciresearcher.com//

Simone Stumpf - http://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/simone-stumpf

Nicola Marsden - https://www.hs-heilbronn.de/nicola.marsden

CHI2017 paper: “Gender-Inclusiveness Personas vs. Stereotyping: Can We Have it Both Ways?” - http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=3025453.3025609

ACM Distinguished Speaker - http://www.dsp.acm.org/view_lecturer.cfm?lecturer_id=3543#lecturer_id#

Andy Ko on being reflectively self-aware, deliberately structured, & amazingly productive

Andy Ko is an Associate Professor in the Information School at University of Washington. Building on Andy’s blog post, “How I sometimes achieve academic work life balance”, we explore lots of different perspectives about how he works at being structured and productive. The conversation ranges from his experiences doing a start up, learning planning skills from his mother, putting them to work at college, and adapting priorities while working in industry. Now back in academia, he shares his very deliberate practices around things like managing his PhD supervision, co-writing papers, running efficient meetings, quantifying time and tasks, managing to-do lists and the like. A common theme is that these are ‘simply’ skills and habits that are developed through repeated practice, discipline and self-awareness, and working to your strengths.

“That paradox of being structured and flexible at the same time… never enough time to do all the things we want to do… so there has to be flexibility… The only thing you can predict is how much time we have.”

“We all have different skills…and abilities to be self-aware and disciplined …most of this is practice… For anybody thinking about how to use their time more effectively they just have to first think about what skills they already have and... how to build practices around them… slowly incrementally over time… Much more about a process of learning and being reflective…and less about borrowing a particular strategy.”

He talks about (times approximate) …

1:54 Andy’s background and research area, and taking time in sabbatical to read deeply about learning science to support current research

4:04 Sabbatical just after tenure, and its relation to taking two year’s leave to do a start-up, “a good stressor on my productivity skills”, clear trajectory from career grant to start-up

6:14 The start-up process story – wanting to apply research in practice, and different goals of co-founder, resolving conflict of interests, getting in touch with potential customers, raising venture capital, building team and product, market plan; support of faculty important

09:44 Lessons learnt? Biggest mistake, not doing enough user research, forgetting enterprise customers were also users

11:54 Coming back to academia, hiring replacement CEO, CTO, and ongoing involvement as chief scientist (patent work and strategic R&D), now 1 day a week for the company

13:14 Previously working 60 hours a week, conversations with families/kids and getting consent from them re not being so available and ok with it, becoming talented at productivity, needing to be ruthless aboutprotecting time and using it wisely

15:24 Fundamental idea of having to invest time, economic model of how much time committed to different parties, “doing the most I can within that time” and then context switching

17:05 Compromises? Being present in the company 8-6 every day, then needing to be flexible eg meeting with students in evenings or at lunch; accepting research having to go slower, with result of sometimes helping eg student having to grow, and sometimes not; becoming more reflective about how much he gave and how much was needed

19:25 For supporting students with publications: “What’s the thing that they need to me, it’s not so much about how much time they need from me but what they need from me”; explicit discussion, developing more self awareness for self and students, and other downstream effects; confounded by getting or having tenure (how critical it is to get a publication done now)

21:24 New skills for managing different projects, keeping track of people’s state – capturing information 5 mins after a meeting about to remember for next meeting, and scheduling 5 mins before next meeting to catch up – using Apple’s notes app and document for each student as log of interactions, progress, challenges etc; also helps with context switching and shorter meetings

24:22 Shortened meeting times, there’s something about a 30 min meeting, more focused, forcing function of having to reflect on the purpose of the meeting sometimes even solves issue before the meeting; scaffold meeting by defining purpose, build prep/reading into the meeting time, more efficient use of time; value of physical documents, can’t hold smart phone, nudges towards engagement

28:15 Attribute most learning to deliberate practice … being organized, impact of watching mum being organized

30:39 At college, being obsessive around to-do lists because he was bad at remembering things; still do to-do lists, tools better now, task capture easier; helps a lot with faculty life with multiple responsibilities; using Omnifocus, 4000 open to-do items spanning 3 yrs, the discipline around future planning … “because that little tiny commitment muscle is practiced enough every time I remember... I capture it too”

36:12 Story of professor and research of prospective memory, learning about memory and opportunity to reflect on practice, capturing metadata around tasks, being very deliberate about what can fit in the time, and the value of having data to support that, and requiring discipline to capture that data in the first place; hard to begin those practices, because hard to judge what the future value will be

39:34 Setting a quota for types of work, being rational about commitments, we say numbers (50% research 30% teaching, 20% service) but ignore them entirely so tries to be committed to those numbers and to reciprocity principle eg with reviewing

41:54 “That paradox of being structured and flexible at the same time, that’s just the nature of the work we do. As researchers and scholars, we have this great privilege of all of this time in which to pursue our curiosity and do things that are valuable to the world and yet there is never enough time to do all the things we want to do so we are constantly balancing what we want to do and what we have time to do and trying to fit things into the time we have so there has to be that flexibility in balancing that structure as we don’t have predictable paths that we follow in the work we do. … The only thing you can predict is how much time we have.”

42:55 Usually does an 8-5 or 6 day – knows that when he burns out, thinking isn’t as clear, forgets to do things, stares at email longer than he should; using self awareness around own cognition that is valuable, doing things that are appropriate for level of consciousness and energy at the time

44:55 Most common reaction/question since the blog post – could never do what you do or how do I get started;

“we all have different skills we have developed over our lifetimes and abilities to be self-aware and disciplined and I do believe that most of this is practice, I’m really not much of an innate talent mindset… but the reality is that I have had a lot of practice at a lot of these things ... that allowed me to develop a certain set of practices that are very structured and mature. For anybody thinking about how to use their time more effectively they just have to first think about what skills they already have and how to build upon them, how to build practices around them. … build slowly incrementally over time … Much more about a process of learning and being reflective about that process and less about borrowing a particular strategy. … Very personal processes very tied to our ability to self regulate and discipline our behavior.”

47:24 Now researching software developers and their self-regulation skills – even teaching novice students self regulation skills increase their productivity, self-efficacy and their growth mindset because of awareness

50:52 End

Related Links

Andy's blog post: “How I sometimes achieve academic work life balance” - https://medium.com/bits-and-behavior/how-i-sometimes-achieve-academic-work-life-balance-4bbfc1769820

Jacob Wobbrock - https://faculty.washington.edu/wobbrock/

Start-up: AnswerDash - https://www.answerdash.com

Tool: Omnifocus - https://www.omnigroup.com/omnifocus

Gloria Mark on service, multitasking, creativity and fun

Gloria Mark is a Professor in the Department of Informatics at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at University of California Irvine. Gloria talks about her experiences as chair of a major conference, not just the work but also the rewards. She talks about how she moved from a Fine Arts background, painting murals on buildings, to a PhD in cognitive science and now studying the relationship between media use, attention and stress, but still being able to be creative in work. She also reflects honestly on her own struggles to manage her screen time and stress but above all she reminds us of the importance of fun and fulfilment in work.

“There are opportunities all around us and very often we are blind to them. … You have to be willing to give up a particular path that you might think you are on.”

 “Email is a symbol of work… a reminder there is work there” 

“You can practice creativity in so many ways, in conversations, in writing, in just thinking of ideas.”

“It’s important to keep some kind of fun in what you do because otherwise it’s not worth doing and it’s very important to have fulfilment.”

She talks about (times approximate) …

1:30 Organising a major conference as a tremendous amount of work but being fulfilling, and value of CHI stories for understanding who are the people behind the research

4:50 Taking on a big service role as conference chair, its fit to her ‘big picture thinking’ strengths, growing into the role and learning about people

8:40 Greatest moment seeing it come together walking around the exhibit hall

10:10 Everyone has a particular talent they can contribute, encouraging volunteers and matching skills/interests and what they can contribute

11:00 Career path starting with a fine arts degree, painting and drawing, painting building murals … but not being able to see a future painting in a studio

14:00 Decision to do something practical using her maths skills, but finding bio-statistics boring, needing to earn a living and applying for a research assistant position

17:20 Being asked: “Do you think you can do research on the discovery process of artists?” Of course! Loving reading on cognitive psychology and being yelled at at her first conference

20:00 Getting into cognitive psychology PhD in decision making

20:30 “One philosophy that guides my life - it’s what Einstein says, chance favours the prepared mind. I love that. There are opportunities all around us and very often we are blind to them. But if you are really aware and open, important to be open.” “You have to be willing to give up a particular path that you might think you are on and you have to be willing to change, to veer away from it or to change completely.  And of course … you have to do it intelligently and weigh the risks and the benefits of whatever choice you can make.”

“If it connects to something that is really a part of you that is worth the risk. Because you can’t do something that you feel is not who you are or is against your belief system.”

22:50 Themes from research studying issues around multi-tasking, stress etc. How this research strand started from a personal experience, moving in 2000 from Germany working in a research institute doing only research, to an assistant professor position in the US to do teaching, writing grants, committees, service work … “to what extent am I the only one [multi-tasking]?”

25:20 Patterns seen in studying multi-tasking – sped up and intensified through use of digital media, and the more people switch attention through different screens, the higher their stress because of limited capacity of attentional resources and not replenishing resources

29:30 Extra stress in re-orienting to a new context, every email involves some new topic - “Email is a symbol of work… a reminder there is work there”; online a lot, reading email at breakfast,

32:50 Measured average duration of attention for people on any computer screen is a little over 40 secs, a cost when switching so frequently

33:40 Knowing this from research but making a difference to personal patterns? More insight – as habits are hard to break

34:40 First habit to break? To be more aware of physical environment, going outside more, interacting with people more, shifting attention from screen; but hard to break away because there are rewards for being online –the Las Vegas phenomena and random reward hits

37:30 “Another reason it is hard to pull away is because we are all caught up in this web of interconnections” – have to solve the problem on a macro level, need to think about organizational policies eg batch email times

40:25 Study cutting off people’s email in the workplace for 5 days – stress down, screen attention duration longer … variety of individual responses but at the end of the 5 day period realised life went on. But Information is too seductive

42:40 Looking after herself, honouring the art piece of her? Discovered she can be creative in different mediums not just visual and art training good for science “because I learned how to do lateral thinking” – “you can practice creativity in so many ways, in conversations, in writing, in just thinking of ideas”

46:20 Not good at pulling away from work. Too stressed and manifest in sleep patterns. Take vacations but sometimes vacations can be stressful. Don’t do enough of trying to alleviate stress. One thing that helps – “try to take care of a task as soon as possible because delaying on a task makes stress worse”. ... “It’s like a treadmill”

50:00 Final thoughts? Important to do things that are fun and interesting.

52:43 End

Related Links

Gloria's home page: https://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/Home_page/Welcome.html

CHI2017 conference chaired by Gloria with Sue Fussell - https://chi2017.acm.org

Chris Frauenberger on post-docs, parental leave & multiple dreams

Chris Frauenberger is a post-doctoral researcher and principle investigator at Technical University Vienna. Chris shares his experiences navigating various post-doc positions, taking parental leave, negotiating with his partner about family-career choices, dealing with an uncertain future, and being strategic about trying to build up a CV and visibility to maximize the chance of getting a permanent position.   He also reflects on what happens if this doesn’t happen and being able to pursue other dreams.

 “It’s hard to say no to something because then you are effectively jeopardizing your CV and that’s a bit of a silly game”

“Sometimes it’s really healthy to take a step back and think about what are the kinds of dreams that you have and if you’ve got enough dreams to do you feel less anxious about that one working out”

“I’ve done all the things that I think I can do… but there’s a limit to how much control I have over the rest”

He talks about (times approximate) …

1:30 Moving to the UK as a PhD student and experiences; Shifting to a Post Doc position in Sussex and shifting topics

13:40 Finding participatory design aligning with his values and it becoming one of his central fields

15:50 Not being strategic about the decision of where to next, but relying on things ‘feeling right’, just doing things; no point not being happy with decisions

19:35 Family situation, negotiating agreements to handle both partner’s career needs, but at a cost of lots of travel between London, Graz and Brussels for three years

22:30 Tensions and tradeoffs in making decisions about moving to Brussels for partner’s opportunity, leaving professional networks and career imaginations, versus financial security, time with son but (always feeling a but); in the end still a quick clear decision

25:20 Being emotionally hard to leave the UK, the difficult of thinking about doing participatory work with language issues in Brussels; making a deal with partner about next move being his if something came up

27: 30 Enjoying the good life in Brussels, looking after children, but still trying to publish, write grant applications

28:50 A lot of uncertainty around career but also a lot of security financially; but “what do I do with my career” and after two proposals fail “What if I don’t get back into that loop?”, checking out options in design companies

29:55 Third grant proposal finally getting funded – straight after the call, being hit by the reality of having to “move all this to Austria now”, almost a frightening thought that it had come true; but no regrets

32:00 The three years in Brussels show on his Google Scholar page – not just about writing journal publications but whole social networking you miss out on, not being asked to do service roles, not having visibility; also tiring without support structure around you

34:00 Motivation to work on papers while on parental leave; driven by sense of unfinished business and carving out time to work on writing around running a household

38:10 Anything different to support networking and visibility? Strategic twitter use but it still can’t replace the many small conversations you have when you meet people face to face

40:30 Problems not having parental leave officially sanctioned and impact on applying for grants where this leave isn’t formally recognized since he was technically ‘unemployed’ not on parental leave

43:15 Experiences taking on principle investigator role, being able to do what he wanted to do, employing good PhDs, steering/shaping and being able to step out and let it run

45:35: Learning curves? Leading from behind, giving as much freedom as possible, leading by asking questions but depends on having the good people to do this with – felt natural

47:20 Do differently next project? Shaping the environment, more of a research studio, getting to a more integrated way of working around a table

50:15 Reflecting on being nervous at the beginning of the project about publishing and dealing with paper rejections in the first year – concern about “what if this project doesn’t yield the currency that I need” after three years not publishing

52:15 Focussing on raising profile, saying yes to everything, lots of reviewing, service roles internationally and within the faculty – becoming more visible, setting up a good CV profile to be considered for jobs

54:30 Huge relief of next project funding after other proposals falling through, other applications not coming off, but wanting to stay where he is, which makes for vulnerability and having little leverage; making it hard to say no because of CV; but liking many of the service roles for conferences and communities, and having influence

59:25 The future after this next project? Not wanting to be in the same emotionally draining situation as at the end of the current project, diversifying in also thinking about career choices including outside of academia - “If that’s the case [of something not working out] I’m going to pursue one of my many other dreams”… wanting to stay in the academic system but recognizing that it “might spit him out

01:02:50 Academia quite hard in having to live with rejections and needing to find a way to distance self, but if things “don’t work out then you have to embrace that as a positive thing” and you go to a different dream

01:05:00 Having an absolute last parachute of going back to Brussels if really needed but not wanting to; taking best of three years to be in a place and tiring to re-build it

01:07:38 “That’s how I calm myself down, saying I’ve done all the things that I think I can do and like to think they’re working out well, but there’s a limit to how much control I have over the rest

01:08:00 One of the downsides of this constant worry is impact on doing actual research, instead time is spent on writing proposals, doing things for profile; having more future certainty will provide more freedom to do that

01:09:40 Looking at what kind of position he wants to have, by looking at others and how busy they are and how little they do get their hands dirty, “it’s not entirely positive”; ambition to have a small research group

1:11:40 Concerned with increased push to performance measurement, how to find time to write, do research and chase next job;

1:14:00 PhD time the best of your life but not believing it when you are a student!

01:15:45 End

Related Links

Outside the Box project - http://outsidethebox.at

Ole Sejer Iversen - http://www.engagingexperience.dk