Friday, February 21, 2014

After academia

I met yesterday evening with a guy who, like me, left academia and entered finance.  He told me how he was so glad he left, because of "the pettiness, the infighting," other stuff, I can't remember.  He said he was glad he had gotten a PhD, for some reason, I can't remember.  It wasn't really convincing.

I hear this line of commentary/criticism often from people who have both left academia and who have remained within it.  Here's what I think:  universities are institutions like others, and some of them are large and complex.  So their institutional dynamics are complex.

Having been out in the corporate world for a while, I don't view academia as being particularly messed up.  Complicated, yes.  Threatened and challenged, for sure.  For-profit (and non-profit) corporations have their own difficulties and tendencies to fight through and surmount.  Universities and non-profits at least have the benefit, for the most part, of being populated with people who by and large, in principle, aligned with their employer's mission.  This alignment is not easy to maintain, for many reasons, but that's a good starting point.

As for the people in academia, I have no qualms.  I have only good memories of the people in my department, I learned lots of valuable stuff there, both in the classroom and outside of it.  I miss seeing them.  I wish they had done a better job of supporting me when I was on the job market, but maybe they did a better job than I thought they did, and I just shot myself in the foot because of my own internal conflicts and contradictions.  That's life.

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