Katie Siek on dual careers & children, mentoring & lobbying, & dealing with illness


Katie Siek is an associate professor in Informatics at Indiana University in the US Katie shares her experiences being part of a dual career couple and has some excellent advice for faculties on how to handle this better. She talks about the challenges having children and learning to take proper time off with her second child. She talks about her passion for mentoring, recognized by a special mentor award and learning how to lobby upwards to effect policy change; also about building her group and their wall sit challenge. We finish with her very personal story of managing an invisible illness at work, and she calls us to have more open and honest discussions about these issues and to advocate for and support one another.

“I like to call it a dual career opportunity [because] it's really great to have your partner who is committed and passionate about the areas and understands your struggles.”

“I would encourage all my colleagues not propagate the Amazon Warrior woman myths.”

[To create change] “Get involved with your faculty council, see if you can create policy at the university level.”

[Dealing with an invisible illness] “How do you show you're a good colleague and you're there, and [also give yourself] that time to recover.”

[Supporting colleagues with illness] “Advocate to administrators that if you allow someone to recover now they're going to be a stronger colleague…next year in two years or whatever they need.”

Full Transcript- click here

She talks about (times approximate) …

01:59 Her computer science background and the experience of her mother having cancer being the motivation for shifting her PhD topic to health informatics.

04:50 Coming back to Indiana as faculty, being part of a dual career couple, and both getting an offer –a two body opportunity. This was in contrast to previous positions in Colorado where only Katie was tenure track and her partner had a research position.

07:40 Getting pregnant during tenure process, and also going out on the job market to find a tenure position for both of them while pregnant.

11:40 Advice for how to handle dual career couples, for faculties to go after both people.

15:20 What she has learnt in having a child, getting out of algorithmic thinking and getting balance and the difficulties juggling baby and work (but worth it).

20:04 What she would recommend now – if you have leave do it correctly and don’t propagate the amazon woman lore.

23:37 The different experience with her second child. And the importance of a male colleague encouraging them to ‘do it right’ this time.

26:02 The pros and cons of remote participation at a PC meeting.

29:44 Strategies for making transitions between work and home and doing shifted working windows between them.

33:27 Her special mentor award for her women in computing group on campus and her passion about diversity work.

37:44 Strategies for how she practically manages her passion research and her mentoring passions, e.g., being selective about events, finding collaborators

40:38 Lobbying upwards and learning how to get involved in the Faculty at a policy level. Having people to ask for feedback.

47:28 The wall sits.

50:25 Reflections on setting up a group coming back to Indiana and establishing the family in the community.

55:41 Looking after her own health and wellbeing through goal-setting around running.

59:33 Dealing with illness, invisible illnesses, being an advocate for one another.

1:10:07 End 

Related Links

Yvonne Rogers - https://uclic.ucl.ac.uk/people/yvonne-rogers

Kay Connelly - https://wphomes.soic.indiana.edu/connelly/

Judy Olson - http://www.changingacademiclife.com/blog/2016/6/6/judy-olson

Book: David Sedaris (2001) Me talk pretty one day

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 http://www.mobilelifecentre.org

The first iphone was released June 29 2007.

Fika: https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/fika/

Lars Erik Holmquist http://blog.siggraph.org/2012/07/qa-with-siggraph-2012-mobile-chair-lars-erik-holmquist.html/

Oskar Juhlin http://www.mobilelifecentre.org/people#oskar-juhlin-

Annika Waern https://katalog.uu.se/empinfo/?id=N13-228

Barry Brown http://www.mobilelifecentre.org/people#barry-brown


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: http://saul.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/pmwiki.php/GradTips/GradTips

GroupLab: http://grouplab.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/

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!