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 -

Ole Sejer Iversen -

Ali Black on doing academia differently...caring, connecting & becoming

Ali Black is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia. Ali tells stories of courage and care and connection, stories that grew out of painful interactions with ‘the academic machine’ and feeling like failure. She talks about creating a different way of engaging in academia, one that is based on intentionality and meaning, on connecting to what is important, on being and becoming, and on creating a more caring and collaborative culture. An important step in this was reaching out to colleagues and forming a women’s writing group to write together and to explore their versions of slow scholarship.

“How we might cultivate ethics of care and caring where we acknowledge our human dimensions and actually care for one another as part of our work.”

“Failure is actually…an invitation and a gift to go’ well what do I want to do differently, what isn’t sustainable, what am I not prepared to do anymore’.”

"… it is finding the ‘and’ in the ‘yes’"

She talks about (times approximate) …

2:11 Long career, working in three unis, career interruptions for children, family bereavement

5:40 Writing about the blurring between the personal and professional; pressure to put on a professional face despite whatever is going on in the rest of life; the academy needing to recognize we are human beings and these personal things happen; cultivating ethics of care and caring for one another as part of our work

8:18 Inviting women friends/academics to share stories about what is it like to be in the ‘afternoon of our lives’, meeting for writing workshops, giving feedback, connecting

13:00 Stumbling across slow scholarship, trying other ways of being an academic, being more deliberate and intentional

14:55 Common themes from the stories – understanding the complexity of lives that we’re all living and how amazing to negotiate all these things

16:48 Importance of sharing and particularly responding to say ‘I hear you’ or ‘you’re amazing’

18:15 “We’re in the arena and need to be valuing each other for having the courage to stay in the arena and to do our best and to care”

19:00 Caught up in the managerialism, constantly feeling like we’re not enough, important to try to change the local culture so we can change the wider culture, and care for one another, doing those things that don’t count but count in terms of the quality of our lives and our values

21:37 Being part of the academic machine and the tension of perpetuating the functioning of that machine, but being more alive when you follow what matters to you

22: 37 Story of moving to a new university, accepting a lower position ‘to get a foot in the door’, meaning a salary reduction and being on probation for 3 years, and feeling like a failure, not being valued and wounded as a person and academic

26:37 The ‘wise women’ writing became a saving space, finding her own ways of working on what mattered to her, creating a promotion application that was “like me” and getting promoted – getting there without playing the game perfectly; “In the end I can only be myself and I’m very good at being myself”

30:05 Encouraging that might not have to do things the ‘system way’, but doing it our way within some of their frameworks; but not all happy story, having depression, but recognizing that“Failure is actually a gift because there’s no-where to go, you’re at the bottom of the heap, so you can only decide well what will I do now so it became an invitation and a gift to go well what do I want to do differently, what isn’t sustainable, what am I not prepared to do anymore.”

31:20 Office surrounded by inspirational messages, planning, decorating diary

On her desk: “Is this task vital? Does it really matter to me or someone l love and care about? Give my energy to what matters to me and to what inspires me” – as a result, not going to faculty meetings any more, anything that is deadening to the soul or joy or sense of hope

33:54 Say yes to the spaces and places to contribute that you’re going to like a lot more, find meaningful or fit your values; if we said yes to everything we’d be overwhelmed overworked and wouldn’t be able to focus on what matters to you, changing your framing for service, meetings

35:56 Importance of knowing ourselves, strengths, values

38:25 Making time for human interactions, inspired by slow strategies suggestion from slow scholarship article, valuing quality over quantity, valuing thinking, that we need time to think

41:10 Counting in some different ways, valuing time and thinking, and organizing spaces differently to engender intentional conversations taking to meet and discuss ideas – connecting caring listening important

42:58 Taking care of ourselves before we take care of others; planning weekend spots with cups of tea, cats, sleeping in, family, leaving no space for work – weekends as sacred self care, family care times

44:23 Still working long hours but on things that matter

46:02 Importance of down time for creative thoughts to gel, need to stop thinking activity is productivity, making time to think and to write; importance of writing as research, and turning it into a collective process – “supporting the productivity of the academic machine while also being fulfilled for the personal the human being … it is finding the ‘and’ in the ‘yes’

49:25 Self care practices, reading widely, getting inspired, being content to be me but the best version of me, becoming intentional, creating a vision board

53:11 Being, belonging, becoming … and ‘becoming’ takes the pressure off, always becoming

56:40 Encouraging us to find our own groups and making local connections, and pointers to related links

1:00:31 End

Related links

If you are a woman in academia, please contribute your voice to this survey on women in academia for research by Ali and Susie Garvis:

Ali's Research Whisperer post "Saved by slow scholarship"

Websites Ali has created to support women and their listening/storying/connecting

Blogs Ali finds inspiring

On Being

Brain Pickings

The Slow Academic (Agnes Bosanquet)

Research Whisperer

Slow Scholarship reading

Berg, M., and Seeber., B. (2016). The slow professor: Challenging the culture of speed in the academy. Canada: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division.

Mountz, A., Bonds, A., Mansfield, B., Loyd, J., Hyndman, J., Walton-Roberts, M., Basu, R., Whitson, R., Hawkins, R., Hamilton, T., & Curran, W. (2015). For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 14, 4, 1235-1259. Retrieved from

Link to ‘Wise Women’ memoirs and the ‘invitation’ I sent out

Manuscripts we have written about our collective writing or the blurring of personal/professional

Black, A.L, Crimmins, G., Jones, J.K. (in press). Reducing the drag: Creating V formations through slow scholarship and story.  In S. Riddle, M., Harmes, and P.A. Danaher (Eds) Producing pleasure within the contemporary university. Sense Publishing.

Loch, S., Black, A., Crimmins, G., Jones, J., Impiccini, J. (in press). Writing stories and lives: Documenting women connecting, communing and coming together. Book series Transformative Pedagogies in the Visual Domain, Common Ground Publishing. Eighth title Embodied and walking pedagogies engaging the visual domain: Research co-creation and practice. Kim Snepvangers and Sue Davis (Eds).

Loch, S., and Black, A.L. (2016). We cannot do this work without being who we are: Researching and experiencing academic selves.  In B. Harreveld, M. Danaher, B. Knight, C. Lawson and G. Busch (Eds). Constructing Methodology for Qualitative Research: Researching Education and Social Practices. Palgrave MacMillan: UK and US

Black A.L. (2015). Authoring a life: Writing ourselves in/out of our work in education. In M. Baguley, Y. Findlay., M. C. Kirby. (Eds). Meanings and Motivation in Education Research. UK: Routledge, Research in Education Series

Black, A.L, and O’Dea, S. (2015). Building a tapestry of knowledge in the spaces in between: Weaving personal and collective meaning through arts-based research. In K. Trimmer, A. Black, and S. Riddle. (Eds). Mainstreams, Margins and the Spaces In-Between: New possibilities for Education Research. UK: Routledge, Research in Education Series

Black, A. (2017). I am Keith Wright’s daughter: Writing things I ‘almost’ cannot say. Life Writing, Reflections section, Taylor & Francis. DOI: 10.1080/14484528.2016.1191980

Black, A.L, and Loch, S (2014). Called to respond: The potential of unveiling hiddens. Reconceptualizing Educatonal Research Methodology, Vol 5, No 2, Special Issue.  


Manifesto of care:

Anna Cox on family, work & strategies for making the changes we want

Anna Cox is a Reader and Deputy Director at the UCL Interaction Centre (UCLIC). Anna shares her early career experiences, the challenge of lecturing a large class, and how she and her partner created flexible work practices to manage family and work. She also talks about the research studies she and her students have been doing on ‘work life balance’, including the ways in which people are different, and strategies such as creating microboundaries and frictions to help us take more control of our work.

“The longer people are in this job, the more busy they get. You always seem to get more stuff. No-one is ever going to take anything away from you. So therefore it is down to you to say no to things and that’s really hard. I think lots of people struggle with that.”

“Making changes is hard so we need to be thinking, what are the strategies that will help us make the changes we want to make.”

She talks about (times approximate) …

1:45 Background in cognitive science and HCI, and early career learning curves e.g., performing in front of large classes, dressing the part, being mistaken for a student instead of the lecturer, coming to be an institution

10:10 Taking a risk, giving up a permanent job for a temporary one in moving to UCL to pursue a research career

12:35 Co-editing an HCI textbook and taking maternity leave during the process

15:55 Experience of having first child, maternity leave, returning to work and taking advantage of being able to work flexibly to juggle family, partner needs….but all parties needing to be flexible

 22:13 “I suppose some people might think that I had to compromise on things like travel but I’d never really it very much so at the time it never felt like something I was giving up”

24:05 Getting research funding on balance, through an unusual ‘sandpit’ process mixing an initial face to face and then virtual meetings (interesting experiences of getting ‘kicked out’ of the environment but where participants didn’t feel like they had been able to go through the usual ‘goodbye’ rituals)

27:29 Digital Epiphanies project and a network (Balance Network) funded, and using a PhD student to extend that work

28:13 What is a Digital Epiphany? Related to post traumatic growth, can we track computer activity and give people feedback so that they get to their own epiphany about balance?

30:45 Studying academics, and professional services staff, and patterns of work relative to role and type of life they want and helping people understand what their preferences are so they can create the support they need

33:23 And what can an organization do – not have one policy for everyone!

34:09 “The longer people are in this job, the more busy they get. You always seem to get more stuff. No-one is ever going to take anything away from you. So therefore it is down to you to say no to things and that’s really hard. I think lots of people struggle with that.”

34:45 Work on how people handle their email, and what is the best way to handle it; the difficulty people had in following instructions about either keeping on top of email or only looking at it once a day; more efficient if they try to minimize time dealing with email in clearly defined times, less disruptive to rest of work and deal with email quicker

36:38 Work of Marta and how people use smart watches to manage when and how they respond to messages. The strategies people are adopting to work around the technologies and evolving practices.

41:50 Own use of insights from the studies? Going through stages of using tools to track how much time working on the computer; times of year particularly busy that can be predictable but never really plan for it; putting in work around deadlines; using tools to help justify taking a break afterwards.

43:13 “Is the reason that there is so much on my to do list that I don’t work enough? And it was very interesting to track how much time I worked and then say actually I do enough. And there is just too much work. I feel like I need that evidence.”

43:55 Times switching off email from the phone, removing work account – creating micro-boundaries, to make it harder to slip back into behavior you don’t want to do

45:05 Other examples of micro-boundaries: different email accounts, different devices and apps; creating frictions; becoming more conscious of what you are doing and reflecting on data that tells how we are living our lives;

47:35 “But making changes is hard so we need to also be thinking what are the strategies that will help us make the changes we want to make”

49:05 Questionnaires for understanding work-life boundary preferences, and then thinking about what strategies to adopt to help us gain control again

51:35 Reflecting on own personal balance – overall pretty happy. But the irony of the enormous work to put together the Athena Swan award submission in part about the things to support flexibility and balance.

53:40 Getting too much? “You recognize things when the other things you want to do in your life start becoming more difficult to include… then that is a good sign you need to think about what you are doing and change things”

55:05 Broader changes? Creating a culture where more and more papers become expected and impact on early career researchers. Thinking about number of deadlines, more journal focus, job ads/promotions, more men taking parental leave and its influence on understanding of working part time, and all of us thinking about working less and spending more time on things we care about.

58:00 Getting ideas to try to out from other podcast stories; tells a similar story of seeing in an application about someone holding a daily stand up meeting for their team, and then implementing that for her team on Slack using a bot for a daily check-in by the whole team; advantages of increased visibility all round

1:04:45 Good academic life – getting to spend lots of time with her kids and feeling challenged and fulfilled at work and having control over what you do at work.

1:05:40 End

Related links

Digital Boundaries Project

Related publications including microboundary papers:

Microboundary strategies booklet & self-study diary on communication habits

Marta Cecchinato – research on work-life-balance

Links to questionnaires:

Kossek, Ellen Ernst. "Managing work life boundaries in the digital age." Organizational Dynamics 45.3 (2016): 258-270.

Kossek, Ellen Ernst, et al. "Work–nonwork boundary management profiles: A person-centered approach." Journal of Vocational Behavior 81.1 (2012): 112-128.

Kia Höök on challenges of success & value of slowing down and re-connecting

Kia Höök is a professor in Interaction Design at KTH in Stockholm Sweden, director of the Mobile Life Centre and an ACM Distinguished Scientist. We talk about her early research career, and her experiences securing a large amount of research funding with some colleagues then co-leading a large research centre, building a culture, and managing relationships with industry partners. She also talks about how her year-long sabbatical gave her time and space to reflect on the challenges of success and to reconnect to what is important, to re-set her own rules and to re-think how she wants to engage as an academic.

"You end up in a situation where everything you do you do in order to be able to work more…and that is not a good life.”

“All of that stuff that you get worked up about, is it really that important, or even if it is important, can I have a different attitude.”

“It is about finding your core, knowing yourself, slowing down, and being more empathic with other people.”

She talks about (times approximate) …

 [Research background]

1:57 Evolving research foci from information searching to social navigation to affective computing – carving out new research areas

8:57 Developing the proposal for 10 years funding for the Mobile Life research centre

[Shaping and running a research centre]

11:27 Learning how to interact with industry to win their funding support, what are their drivers, who to speak to

15:57 Learning how to manage a large research centre, learning the hard way – IPR, growing a research group, sharing the funds among the four leaders, the challenges of cross-fertilisation across the four groups

19:07 Reflections on wishing they had shared research methods across the groups more and thoughts on what they could have done instead

23:17 Strong culture based on seminars, the Swedish Fika – the ‘enforced socializing’ every week -, joint trips

25:07 The challenges when some of the four leaders leave and the changes in dynamics

27:28 The challenges when some of the key company partners are no longer there and contributing matched funding; now knowing what to look for to see something going on with industry; being able to shape relevant research agendas

29:32 Practical suggestions for how to work with industry partners, e.g., needing to communicate what the research means, connecting the dots for them (“what are we seeing that they should care about, translating that”), making everyone work for 3 months with a partner and having people from the partner sit in the research centre, joint workshops

34:12 Lessons on managing people, building a culture – the challenges of having researchers from different disciplines, putting together teams based on competences and personality and creating safe creative spaces

36:40 Moving from being a researcher who can control the research to being the vision person - scaling up the vision, seeing the connections, … but then losing contact with the reality of the research

[The sabbatical experience – reconnecting with what is important]

40:34 The amazing invigorating sabbatical experience, time for reading, writing, connecting with the passion, sitting under a tree talking philosophy – “reconnecting with why we are doing this”, why it is important

44:22 Not only reconnecting with research, reading etc but reconnecting with herself; time alone, being lonely, unraveling strong personal ‘survival’ rules that were about being productive and efficient to function managing a household and work

46:35 “You end up in a situation where everything you do you do in order to be able to work more”

47:09 “And that is not a good life, you don’t live to constrain yourself in this way. It is not helping your creativity.” But taking time to get down from this, crash landing in Florida

48:27 “I actually do believe that one can change” - now recognising the emotional state and what might be an alternative emotional state she could transfer herself into … feeling collected, slowing down, listening to very small signals in your body, the benefit of Feldenkrais at work

51: 27 “What you have to remember is that all of that stuff that you get worked up about, is it really that important, or even if it is important, can I have a different attitude”

52:00 Being leader, the worked-up Kia did not spread a good work environment around herself – strong bodily signals you give off – so trying to listen to the alternative self that is more collected

54:21 Being flattered as an academic with invitations, awards etc but not being able to do all of it, needing to make choices, have new rules now about what to say yes and no to

56:39 “You have to know why you are doing it so if you do it because you are flattered and because it’s a notch on your belt or are you doing it because you are actually learning something important or you are communicating your research or whatever. So I have to think about that.” Making people email her so that she think first before replying/agreeing or not

57:42 Other changes – putting effort into the book she is writing, accompanied with the kind of exercises that connects her to what she is writing about, trying to do things she enjoys

59:00 Conflict of caring for students, keeping promises and looking after her needs, needing to promise less

1:00:21 Also needing to think about what the organization tells us we need to do to be a success and taking a stance about what is important, and what is enough funding

1:03:19 Risk of being flattered by recognition for your work, by prizes, “but if you don’t have a core, if you don’t know why am I doing this research, what is it that I am changing in the world that I actually believe is good” … “it is about finding your core, knowing yourself, slowing down, and being more empathic with other people ... it is a much slower way to success but one I do believe in … If you don't have your core, then it doesn’t matter if you get to be the ACM distinguished whatever, that is just shallow”

1:06:02 Hard to get recognized internationally when you are in Sweden, longing for that recognition, now not taking that so seriously

1:07:27 The struggle that comes along with the success, the sick leave because of stress, the colleagues who aren’t always supportive or happy for successes, the gender aspects

1:12:28 End

Related Links

Mobile Life Centre

The first iphone was released June 29 2007.


Lars Erik Holmquist

Oskar Juhlin

Annika Waern

Barry Brown


Cliff Lampe on the joy of academic service, faculty meetings & peer networks

Cliff Lampe is an associate professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He also plays numerous key service roles in the HCI and CSCW peer communities. He talks about faculty meetings and peer service being joyful, the importance of social capital and relationships, how he decides what to say yes/no to, how he manages his work. He also talks about concerns around the production of busyness, the push for quantity not quality, and the increasing community burden of peer review. He challenges to think about new models and to play our role in making academia work. If nothing else, he will change the way you think about faculty meetings and peer service.

“Academia runs on social networks and relationship development is something we spend not enough time training PhD students to do”

“Academia requires a rich heterogeneous set of people to make it work and we can all play different roles”

He talks about (times approximate) …

01:45 On being a Michigan boy… building a career in Michigan

04:44 On being willing to work hard and having 80 different jobs

06:38 On work being its own reward… being joyful … and loving faculty meetings

09:51 Being a better participant in meetings by attending to what is being talked about

11:00 Experiences in coming back to Michigan as a faculty member after having been a student there

15:00 Being a bad grad student by only having one paper published but being good at knowing what makes an interesting research problem

18:00 His first faculty job, what was challenging eg re-establishing work-life-balance in a different way, and what clicked eg building relationships

21:34 Social capital building and reciprocity in academia

23:20 Taking network building out of the shadows – Phil Agre’s paper ‘Networking the network’

24:42 Mentors, Judy Olson, and the generosity of senior researchers

27:10 Paying it forward with his research group, advisees

28:38 Various peer service roles

30:10 Always being dedicated to service – “if you can do something you should do it”, loving the service work

33:00 How he decides what to say yes to – and saying no to things that he thinks he won’t particularly add to or if someone else can do a better job or if he’s just not interested – working to his strengths

35:32 How he fits it all in, being unwilling to rob time from his wife and son, and his practical strategies

38:02 High commitment to teaching as well, doing client-based classes, and his service learning perspective – the intersection of teaching and research and service being compelling

40:38 Practical strategies for managing the work, differentiating between managerial work and creative work, setting up bundles of like work in the same day, delegating and letting go

44:08 The importance of humour, not taking anything too seriously, having a strong capacity to let things go – “if you project positivity everything becomes more positive; we can choose how we react to things”

48:12 The problem of the “production of busyness” and the “cult of being overwhelmed”, and wanting us to slow down - artisanal craft research - where we take our time, and appreciate the heterogeneity of different types of research, the willingness to listen to each other

51:38 Also concerned about the burden of review and service load for volunteers; the continuous amping up of expectations re numbers of publications that is going to break the community or degrade its quality -  thinking through options to make this more sustainable

54:40 Over the next 5 years we need to fundamentally re-think how we disseminate our work

55:44 What a good academic life will be, what sort of senior professor he wants to be

58:02 Encouraging everyone to get involved in service and to choose how we think about service – academia requires a rich heterogeneous set of people to make it work and we can all play different roles

1:00:27 End

Related Links

Why I love academic service:

Phil Agre’s article on Networking the Network:

Cliff and others serving SIGCHI:

Cliff's article on Citizen Interaction Design:


Reflections to kickstart the new year!


This is a very short reflection [07:55 mins] from me on 2016 and the wonderful diverse stories we have heard. And looking forward to 2017 as we continue to explore together how to create a better academic life.

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

            Email: gerifitz at  or Twitter: @ChangeAcadLife

Wishing all of us a balanced, authentic, vibrant, joy-filled academic life for 2017, whatever that may mean for each of us!

Contributions via Twitter to end of year reflections - thanks! 

  • [marta] overall learning about career paths, hearing how everyone goes thru hard times and how they come out of it + practical tips
  • [anna] that there's no one-way to be successful in academia. Every podcast has told a different story
  • [anna] the power of personal stories. I feel like I know all of these people now even if we've yet to meet.
  • [ari] The resounding wish of everyone to see more empathy in academia for everyone's struggles, choices, and circumstances.
  • [jenny] I am loving the @ChangeAcadLife podcasis. So many interesting stories and valuable lessons to learn. 

Lone Malmborg on academic performance measures, benchmarking and strategies

Lone Malmborg is an Associate Professor and heads the Interaction Design Research Group and the People and Computational Things Section at the IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark. She talks about what is happening in Denmark and ITU around performance measures for academics. She reflects on the impacts of what gets counted and how counts get benchmarked and what this means for things like publication strategies and stress levels. She also shares strategies that she has tried out in her own section to turn individual counts into cooperative activities, as well as her personal strategies.

[On performance measures:] “We know that big ideas take a lot of failing but we can’t afford failing. If we’re stuck with performance measures, we have to get the foundation of the model right or fair so we’re not measuring ourselves against something completely impossible. What is giving people stress is not having given tasks, but always having tasks you can never fulfil.”

She talks about (times approximate) … 

01:30 Her early studies, then working, and making a decision to pursue a PhD opportunity that was offered to her; PhD on limitations of formalisations

06:35 What drives her now in her research – wanting to do things that makes a difference to people, working with seniors, having agendas with a political and social part around technologies

10:00 Getting funding resources for these sorts of societal challenges being easier than for basic research; Challenges with different value systems between funding agendas with expectations vs seeing seniors as resourceful people and quality of life – a fight to get this agenda on board

12:37 Not being able to get the big funding for these areas in the same way as other areas of science

13:48 What’s going on in Denmark now re benchmarking all research and measures at IT University (all faculty ‘have to’ spend 1 million DKK (Correction: should be 878,000 DKK) each year) but being difficult when you don’t need to spend money on expensive equipment

15:34 Impacts of benchmarking of funding on culture in the university; Measurements being about efficiency, and not trusting people to do their best – introduced in all sectors; and what makes an ‘efficient academic’

18:00 Started counting teaching, ‘student production’ and various bonuses eg if students graduate on time, and how this can lead to lower requirements at exams

19:30 Now counting publication - all publication channels grouped into levels and credits/points for publication channels, and numbers of authors; Measuring how much people teach, publish, how much external funding they attract.

21:23 Long process set up by Ministry of Science and Education; being a member of one of the groups setting up the publication channels/levels; implications for new publication venues; and difficulties arguing for HCI conferences.

24:44 Creates all kinds of strange publication strategies – rather than picking exactly the right journal in terms of the topic, you pick the publication venue that gives you the highest credit; Universities then having very different ways of handling this – ITU ‘harvest’ twice a year to see points for publications, but no points or visibility for publications rejected or proposals rejected – how much work that is not recognized

27:10 Very unhealthy in terms of allowing yourself to fail, risky to try out new ideas, and supports research strategy where you never fail, but good research requires a lot of failing – see the consequences of this is boring research

28:35 Strategies for helping people in her section to deal with the stress – moving to a collective model to give people the feeling of helping each other out; Series of workshops with all section faculty once/year to discuss funding strategies and having access to an external company that helps write the applications; value for junior faculty to learn the process

32:00 Retreat idea first invented as a paper writing retreat around a conference deadline – structured writing activities – coming with an idea and leaving with a draft paper; taking shared responsibility; value of support of external companies

35:44 strategies for helping people manage stress

39:40 Her strategies as head of section – writing retreat, creating new relationships between people as side benefit, changing the way people work together

41:37 Personal strategies for dealing with this – having something very tangible as an output that satisfies her in another way e.g., cooking, eating together, something you can see the immediate result of

43:50 Being quite seriously ill giving her a new perspective, to focus on what is important; liking her job, her colleagues, but work being never ending and able to work for 12hrs/day easily; so buying a country house after illness and being immersed in picking up the weeds or painting the house that keep her attention on other activities

48:30 Going into a new managerial position and trying to make some decisions about how to be a good manager and not put stress on her colleagues; one example is avoiding sending emails to people in the evenings, also leaving office at 4:30 then people shouldn’t feel bad if they leave at 4:30; People shouldn’t work for free but can’t see how performance measures can be done in 37 hr work week

51:08 Finding arguments for other ways of benchmarking our research, not against national average but other departments in our area; a way of compromising that if we have to have benchmarks, they need to be more realistic; No other area with this amount of quality control that we have – acceptance rates of conferences as a form of quality control so why do we need another one

53:33 “Everybody is doing it the best they can. We are so longing for the honour of being a good researcher. It’s what drives us, we want to be the best.”

54:07 We have so many ways of making sure that people are doing good work. We are just creating stress that prevents people from doing deep thoughts; We know that big ideas take a lot of failing but we can’t afford failing

55:00 If we’re stuck with performance measures, we have to get the foundation of the model right or fair so we’re not measuring ourselves against something completely impossible. “What is giving people stress is not having given tasks, but always having tasks you can never fulfil. … We have to take this feeling away one way or another. … It’s so unhealthy.”

57:29 End

Related Links

Lone's blog

Give&Take Project

Ben Kraal on moving from academia to industry

Dr Ben Kraal recently started working as a User Experience Consultant, having chosen to leave a contract research (and teaching) position after 9 years in academia for a position in industry. He talks about his early career, doing a PhD and then working for 9 years on time-limited university contracts. He reflects on the challenge of being legible within an academic system when you are not in control of your own research agenda. And he talks about making the decision to leave academia for industry and how he is now able to be more present and engaged at home and he gets to do all the parts of his research job that he loved in his new industry role. I encourage you to also look at Ben's blog post on academic burnout and the Guardian article below that happened to also come out today.

“It’s a job that doesn’t ever stop. That’s ok if you are enjoying it and I think I’d gotten to the point where I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. And my family had long stopped enjoying that fact that I had ever enjoyed it.”

He talks about (times approximate) …

01:20 From degree to industry to a PhD position

05:16 Going back to academia, doing a PhD at Uni of Canberra

09:20 Moving cities to take a post-doc research position

12:46 Working on research projects

15:20 Moving into more teaching work

21:15 Publishing interdisciplinary work, boundary crossing, and using an editor for papers

23:15 Working on soft money, shorter contracts when soft money runs out,

26:30 Being an illegible person in the university system

28:52 Making the move into industry, making the choice to stay in Brisbane

31:08 Talking at a practitioner conference, taking students along, making connections, framing his expertise to be relevant to industry

35:40 Telling the university, he is leaving

36:53 The family’s reaction to his leaving, and getting to the point of not enjoying the work, the increasing pressure of meetings and impact on working at the weekends

39:00 Now much easier being engaged, being present to the family at weekends

40:25 Breaking the news to his students, colleagues, tying up final research work

43:14 What he is enjoying about his new job; doing all his favourite bits from being a researcher; and the long commute

48:15 Not doing email on weekends, “which is fantastic!”, because the firm doesn’t! Not doing email when he gets home; being told he looks so much happier when he comes home

50:50 “The pace is faster than the university but the rhythm is more consistent.” … as an academic having multiple plates in the air, “and if you can keep them in the air someone gives you an extra plate”

53:00 Will probably miss teaching - “Better at being a teaching academic than a paper producing research academic”

54:40 “Because I’m illegible in the university system, I’m actually interesting in the commercial world”; Discussing the way the academic system looks for people going deeper and the challenges of being cross-disciplinary

57:25 About Tom Rodden’s experience not being his experience, as Tom was able to be in charge of his own research and able to tell a coherent story, being legible into the wider system; And Marcus Foth also being able to tell a legible story; and being able to tell his own story in a way that is interesting to industry

65:00 Lucky to have had long term contracts compared to others not employed for more than a year at a time “so the university can keep them in a box”

67:07 End

Related Links

Ben on researching the airport of the future: an interview with Gerry Gaffney:

Ben’s blog post “On Academic Burnout”:

Ben's review of 2016:

See also a 2 Dec 2016 Guardian article on experiences with casual/short term contracts: 

Symplicit: Customer-Led Innovation Consultancy - where he is now working:

People he mentioned:

Inger Mewburn:

Helen Purchase:

Vesna Popovic:

Previous interviews he mentioned:

Tom Rodden interview:

Marcus Foth interview: 

Tom Rodden on doing good work, metrics, failure, funding, and family

Tom Rodden is a Professor of Interactive Computing and Director of Research for the Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham. He has led the Mixed Reality Laboratory and founded and co-directed the Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute. He is currently Deputy CEO of the UK research funding council, EPSRC. In this podcast we cover lots of issues from personal career choices, what drives his research and dealing with insecurities and rejections, to bigger issues around funding models and metrics and what universities are about. He also discusses being part of a two-academic family and their strategies for managing this.

“There’s always another, whatever it is, there’s always another […] and it’s only a job”

“Research is never perfect, it never pans out perfectly and actually remembering the things you’ve done and the successes you’ve had is important.”

"I am not an income source, I am a researcher!"

He talks about (times approximate) …

01:20 Early days of the EU COMIC project

05:30 Worrying about whether the system now allows the same space and risk taking and the impact of metrication of research

07:00 His role as Deputy CEO of UK funding council, EPSRC and journey to this current secondment

08:50 Understanding his skills as a researcher – energy and enthusiasm, making connections and focusing on doing interesting things rather than thinking strategically

12:10 The difference between drive and ambition and targets, and where achievements become the incidental things along the way

13:50 The tendency to focus on the things that are failing than celebrating successes

16:20 Managing rejections, taking a while to not personalize the failure, and taking solace in the statistics and that you don’t always get ideas right the first time

20:20 Advice from his grand supervisor - Do good work and everything else works itself out.

21:30 Unpacking metrication and the responsibility to interpret metrics – that citations don’t equal impact and influence; and that metrics aren’t the issue, it’s the pressure that the institutions puts on individuals

26:40 The path of a new idea and taking a while to be socialized and understood; and the dilemma of needing to think of your career over 30 years vs the next 3 years

29:00 Understanding the rhythm of a university and that they are complex and slow to change; and having informal mentors and people you can talk with

31:00 Creating the space to do good work, and thinking of your work as the resources to build a good narrative, then figure out how to match it the funder’s expectations – the craft of doing projects

33:25 Talking about different funding models - remembering that the income is only the means to deliver the research and remembering there’s good and bad funding, thinking about whether the type of research you do matches the funding model

37:40 Building a research identity – moving between fields vs being focused, enjoying opening up new questions but also beating himself up about not having a deeper focus

40:00 Always being able to find people that you feel are doing a much better job than you, and this is at every level. “Still the case for me. I still get nervous about things.” But having a better armory of coping tactics now.

 42:30 Strategies for when both partners are academics and having a family – changing tactics, throwing selection not time to problems, understanding each other’s pressures and job dynamics,

47:38 Compartmentalizing, being tactical, planning in rewards and the Achilles heel of marking procrastination

50:45 Remembering ‘there’s always another’ and ‘it’s only a job’!

Reflecting on the incredible freedom and flexibility and opportunities in this job

55:20 Every yes is a no, but also being careful not to give up the bits of the job you love too quickly - the mid career challenge or ‘the problem of demonstrating competency’

58:40 Final reflections

59:34 The ‘go home’ announcement!

1:00:45 End

Related Links:


REF Research Excellence Framework -

Steve Benford – 

Boriana Koleva -  

Roger Needham -


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

Saul Greenberg is an Emeritus Professor and Faculty Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Calgary in Canada, where he led the GroupLab, doing research in the area of HCI/CSCW/Ubicomp. He discusses his experiences picking and supervising students, strategically building a research lab and community, taking control of our own work-life balance, publication strategies, remote working, and moving into retirement. 

"Work will never end and it’s up to me to balance my life. [...]  The question I would ask myself is: if I said yes, which I really want to do, what should I stop doing?”

He talks about (times approximate) ...

02:43 Being a supervisor, how you pick good students (or not) and still learning right to the end

07:05 Students finding their own topics or working on yours, growing a lab, nurturing promising students

12:50 The strategic things to think about when designing/creating a lab, creating a community and a culture, and what wasn’t so successful in setting up the lab

20:50 Choosing where he wanted to live to do the outdoor activities he loved, then choosing the job

23:00 Tele-commuting, partitioning work, walking the talk with remote working and lessons learnt

29:00 Realising work will never end, making choices, and his strategy for deciding whether to say yes or not

36:00 Sharing teaching materials as a by product of making teaching easier – “you can be both selfish and give things away”

38:00 How academic life has changed, increasing pressure to publish, and making hiring decisions

43:20 Making the decision to retire and move into emeritus status

45:30 Final tips (lots of pearls!) – no easy solutions, being strategic, scheduling time, not being driven by the next conference deadline, don’t let your work take over, don’t get into the vortex of more intense colleagues, and it’s a great job, we’re our own worst enemies

48:50 End

Related links:

Saul’s Grad Tips:


Yunan Chen on getting tenure, the two-body experience & negotiating motherhood

Yunan Chen is an associate professor in the Department of Informatics at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS), and the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (ICTS) at the University of California, Irvine.  Yunan shares her experiences moving from a medical degree in China to a PhD at the intersection of medical informatics and human computer interaction in the US. She also speaks out about her tenure experiences, being part of a long distance relationship, and the struggles negotiating academia and becoming a new mother.  

“We don’t talk about our stress publicly.” “Give yourself a break after the baby.” “It’s ok to be lost [after getting tenure]”

She talks about (times approximate) …

01:35 Moving from medical school in China to a PhD in the US

09:00 Applying for faculty positions, getting applications rejected, moving to Irvine

12:41 Challenges being a new faculty member, learning paper and grant writing

17:20 Having great mentors

19:30 Having a baby, learning about life beyond work

21:10 Having a long distance relationship with a partner who is also an academic, working hard

22:10 No longer being able to count on evenings/weekends for working

24:00 Having a baby puts in a boundary on time, and using time more wisely

25:30 The first year with the baby, after tenure

27:08 Making the mistake of thinking it was still possible to be on a Program Committee, “if others can do it, maybe I can … but it turns out to be very difficult” … “First time I realised my life is forever different” … “My time is not as flexible as before”

30:20 Posting to Facebook that she “just feel very tired doing this”, one lesson, “I didn’t have to do it”; Her advice “give yourself a break” and “no-one talks about the challenges”

33:00 Trying to build a work-life balance and family life little by little, and moving to a bigger house and lowering expectations lower (ok if home not perfect, a bit messy) to achieve a better and happier life

38:48 Experiences of a mother support group, struggling with being a good mum and being a good researcher and quitting the support group, and stopping feeling guilty

41:38 Final thoughts: talk to a lot of people, we don’t talk about our stress publicly, don’t be afraid of approaching others, don’t be too harsh on yourself, things get easier

43:58 Being on academic mamas Facebook group and learning from other people’s experiences

48:00 Being lost after having a baby and after getting tenure, and finding what to do next, but it’s ok to be lost

51:45 End

Katherine Isbister on finding your fit, being productive 8-5 and praising yourself

Katherine Isbister  is a full Professor in the Department of Computational Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is a core faculty member in the Center for Games and Playable Media. Katherine talks about her experiences working on the west and east coasts of the US, and in Japan, Denmark and Sweden, and working in industry and academia. She talks about the importance of fit, being an interdisciplinary researcher, and how she lives out her commitment to work life balance.

“Reflect on your productivity and praise yourself”

“Make sure you’re having fun with your research practice”

She talks about (times approximate) …

01:05 Challenges finding a PhD topic

06:10 Post-doc experiences in Japan and dealing with cultural challenges

09:00 Moving to work in a start up in industry, teaching a class at Stanford on the side, and teaching becoming appealing

13:45 Applying for academic jobs, moving to upstate New York, writing a book

16:10 Experience of the tenure process and having wonderful mentors

19:00 Moving to Denmark and dealing with cultural fit and family issues

23:20 Having a baby during the tenure process

26:20 Love of writing papers, wordsmithing, writing tips

29:10 Dealing with different cultural contexts and politics and having a critical mass of people around you

31:30 Challenges of being an interdisciplinary researcher with broad ideas, the value of mentorship, and looking for closure when things don't feel right

34:25 Setting strict boundaries on family time, learning to work within 8-5 and trade-offs

38:05 Week end review, trouble shooting, praising yourself and planning the next week

40:35 Challenges talking to people about how many hours you work

43:50 Final reflections

45:30 End

Final notes:

Clifford Nass

Laurence G. Boldt, Zen and the art of making a living, Penguin 2009. 

Latest book: Isbister, K., How Games Move Us: Emotions by Design. MIT Press, 2016.

Rafael Calvo on technology and choices for mental health and well being

Rafael A. Calvo is an ARC Future Fellow, Professor and Director of the Positive Computing Lab  at the University of Sydney. He is also a co-author with Dorian Peters of the book, Positive Computing, published by MIT Press. Rafael describes a fascinating academic journey that spans physics, philosophy, computer science, and cognitive and affective computing. He talks about his current work on Positive Computing and designing technology to support people’s mental health and well being. He also shares experiences in managing his own mental health and well being, that includes some great tips.

“[a setback] was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me”

He talks about (times approximate) …

01:42 His current work and his varied career path – “sometimes they seem disconnected but there is a very strong thread in the middle”

08:30 His work on Positive Computing technologies, impacts of technology on people’s mental health, challenges of email

10:00 Responsibility to design so that we don’t hinder people’s health and well being, changing the mindset of designers to look beyond productivity … with examples eg the psychological benefits of effort in endorsements

14:45 Engaging with psychology theories and working with psychologists and interdisciplinary partnerships

19:18 Looking after his own mental health and well being and the impact of too much travel

20:50 Learning to say no, how you decide what to say yes/no to, email strategies, choosing admin work he can contribute what other people can’t, exaggerated risks of saying no as a young academic

26:56 Looking for opportunities where he doesn’t have technology, blocking times without interruptions, and more strategies

29:40 Keeping use of devices for work and home separate

35:10 End

Final notes:

Book: Calvo and Peters, ‘Positive Computing’, MIT Press 2014 -

Book: Wulf, Schmidt and Randall (eds) ‘Designing Socially Embedded Technologies in the Real World’, Springer 2015 -

Time Management software: RescueTime  -

Paper: Cox et al, Design Frictions for Mindful Interactions: the case for Microboundaries, CHI EA 16 - 

Video: Brad Feld on tech and well being - 


Mary Czerwinski on managing people, managing stress, and the work to do good work

Mary Czerwinski  is a principal researcher and research manager at Microsoft Research in Redmond, US. Mary shares some great experiences about her role as a manager and how she plays this out practically in enabling and protecting people, and establishing a culture in a group. She also talks about some of the key insights from her own research work on stress and how to manage stress, from email management strategies, to designing technology interventions as well as some very easy practical interventions that we could all try out. A theme throughout is the importance of getting to know yourself and your values, and of planning– this is the work to do good work.

“How you choose to look at stress...” “Honouring your calendar”

She talks about (times approximate) …

01:45 Her current work and background

04:20 Managing and leading a research group

07:15 Establishing a group culture, dealing with issues, conflict resolution, one-on-ones

11:10 Insights from research on stress, managing email, choosing how you look at stress

17:00 Knowing the rhythm of your day, your priorities, and planning

18:20 Personal interventions, the ‘tools in the toolkit’ e.g., deep breathing, mindfulness techniques, new work on DBT, Pop Therapy

25:05 Challenges now with escalating pace, needing to say no more often, importance of prioritizing based on knowing what are your values

28:50 Wish for the younger generation: prioristing the important things and still having time to accomplish what you want to in work, needing to make time for family and self

30:08 End

Final notes:

Pop Therapy -

Mindfulness – loads of resources

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Jon Whittle on the digital brain switch, drama and dance

Jon Whittle is a full Professor in the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University, England, and also a Chair of Software Engineering and Head of Department. He covers lots of themes including making career shifts, changing strategies when proposals get rejected, making multi disciplinary work work, creating balance, and leading by example. He lives work-life balance, describing himself as an artist and a scientist.

“You have to give yourself a break” ... “you can do very simple things” that make a difference.

He talks about (times approximate) …

01:15 His varied career path between Scotland, US, India and England

05:40 Changing fields and how to move into a new community/field

12:40 Experience in the US tenure system, difficulties getting grants, and changing strategies

15:20 Working in multi-disciplinary projects, lessons learnt and how to bootstrap multi-disciplinary team work

19:40 Work life balance (WLB) – living it as an artist and a scientist, researching it in the Digital Brain Switch Project

26:00 Being Head of Department, leading by example, structuring time, setting expectations, handling email, giving yourself a break

33:32 Three things to maintain a healthy balance – delegate, learn how to say no, be organised

End 36:40

Final notes:

Digital Brain Switch’ project

EPSRC Sandpits

Judy Olson on her career and blooming where you are planted

Judy Olson is Bren Professor of Information and Computer Sciences in the Informatics Department at UC Irvine. Judy reflects back on her career, on changes she has seen particularly the increasing expectations of hiring committees, on common issues people deal with, on blooming where you are planted, on paying it forward, on dealing with imposter syndrome, on the value of good colleagues/collaborators and on her work plans after retirement later this year. 

“What would Olson do? Follow your passion. Hang out with good people.”

She talks about (times approximate) …

01:40 Her career trajectory

06:20 Changes in academia, embracing interdisciplinary work

08:00 Being proud of working 25 years on long distance collaboration and broader impacts

10:10 The stress of getting a job now and the increasing expectations of search and promotion committees; Needing to talk to senior faculty, start a dialogue and collect data to change this

17:00 Common issues she has mentored people about – when you can say no, time management

19:55 The T-Shirt – ‘What would Olson do?’ … finding the things you really like to do

23:20 Bloom where you are planted, figuring out where you fit, what you can do and the choices along the way

25:10 Imposter syndrome, getting nervous before every talk, always rehearsing a talk

27:55 Retiring, getting to like writing grant proposals, and writing about couples who work together

32:10 End

My summary of what Judy says is about being authentic, being strategic, not being afraid to make changes and finding good colleagues.

Final notes:

Learning from Notes’ was a CSCW92 paper written by Wanda Orlikowski 

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time’ is a time management book by Brian Tracy, published 2007. 

ACM-W 'Ask Judy' column - example post

Liz Gerber's project - Design for America

Carl Gutwin on academic life, making choices, getting perspective


Carl Gutwin, a Professor in the Computer Science Department at University of Saskatchewan, describes himself as a gentleman farmer in Saskatoon who happens to be a university professor as well.

"Even with all the bumps, being an academic is the best job in the world"

He talks about (times approximate) …

2:40 How he moved into a computer science degree and PhD program

8:30 How he decided on a faculty position, and the experiences of setting up a new lab, learning how to teach, applying for grants etc

10:50 On being told that “the best part of this job is the flexibility, you can work any 80 hours of the week that you want”

12:00 On working in academia while others were making money in the tech boom and how after 3 years you figure things out more

On always wanting to be a scientist …  where the best thing really is the freedom and flexibility, especially after getting tenure

15:40 On the practical things to help deal with the stresses of early career, on making choices and the advantages of being a medium large fish in a medium small pond

17:50 On first having grad students and moving to the other side of the desk, being a supervisor

21:30 On appearing to be calm, prioritizing work and life – a continuous struggle

On getting the perspective even as a young academic to realize that it really doesn't matter whether you get that paper submitted – there is always another deadline and every paper will find a home

On dealing with rejection and good old reviewer number 2

27:50 On now working more of a regular work week and cycling to work in the snow.

31:15 And how even with all the bumps, being an academic is the best job in the world … make it through those first three years and things do get better after that … we could make institutional changes … we have the chance to change the way it works … and you just have to decide what you want and go and do it!