Monday, 15 July 2013

Changing Places... and Names

The observant among my two readers might have noticed the name of this blog has changed. While in a sense I'm still learning and doing research, I'm no longer teaching as part of my job. So a name change seemed only appropriate.

As for teaching, that was the one aspect of my previous job that I was going to miss. However, as it turns out, I will be speaking at two conferences already in September, iOSDevUK in Aberystwyth, and BrightonSEO in, erm, Brighton. And unlike academic conferences, the organiser actually pays you to speak (in the form of accommodation/travel, or both).

One big worry when freelancing is that there won't be any work available. However, after 6 weeks I have pretty much had the opposite experience (though it might be a bit early to draw any conclusions yet). I'm currently working at a Birmingham start-up, Whisk, improving their linguistic analysis. It turns out, there is quite a demand for linguistic analysis 'in the wild' world of business. At the moment I'm doing about 8hrs a day of research, and no teaching or admin. Compared to the past years at the university, this seems like paradise. And of course, no pressure to produce publications no-one will read.

But as with the fairy-story paradise, it remains to be seen whether I will get chucked out at some point, when I have to do a boring contract to pay the bills. Or sit at home waiting for a phone call from a recruiter. At the moment though I'm optimistic that this will not happen anytime soon.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Career Change

Interesting times... after 19 years at my current university, from Research Associate to Computer Officer to Lecturer, I have finally decided to leave academia to work as a contractor/consultant in IT and NLP.

I was thinking of writing a post about my reasons for this rather radical step, but I think it would quickly turn into a rant, and I don't want to dwell too much on negative things. To summarise, I am no longer happy with the way higher education is developing in this country. It's less and less focused on what I believe to be the point of academia, namely broadening people's horizons, and preparing them to be adaptable to anything life will throw in their way. But with the rise in costs students increasingly just care about assessments, and I can't really blame them. A further aspect is the importance of targets, especially in recruiting PG students, where bums on seats are all that counts. And the continuous fragmentation of the job, where there are so many little tasks to deal with at the same time that it is difficult to concentrate on one thing only at a time.

There have also been many positive aspects to it: curious students, friendly colleagues, interesting topics to work with. But I no longer feel that working in academia makes best use of my skills. It was a tough decision to make, but I don't want to say to myself in 20 years time "why did you not do something when there still was time?" And, given that I originally came on a one-year contract I think I managed to stay on for quite a long time.

Anyway, from June 1st this year I will be looking at HE from the outside only.