This is actually a translation of the title of a German piece I had written long ago (1998) on request of my high school
For better or for worse - those positions I defended back then did not change a lot. Today I probably hold even stronger opinions - however I rather declare them my personal opinions only. I sincerely do understand that there are people who are happy to play the game - and don't read any irony or critique into this.
I mean it. I have met academics who indulge happily and mischievously in optimizing their track record (tweak metrics) - just in the same way as a minority of corporate workers who have fun with metrics in the corporate world.
In 2012 I have blogged about my trading academia for being a computer consultant for small businesses here:
It’s a small-talk question, innocent and harmless. I have worked in the IT sector for about 15 years, about 10 years specialized in a very specific niche in IT security.
In the coffee-break during the workshop or when indulging in the late night pizza after 14 hours in the datacenter … you start talking about random stuff, including education and hobbies. And then you are asked:
But why is a *physicist* working in *IT security*?
Emphasis may be put on physicist (Flattering: Somebody so smart) or on IT security (Derogatory: Something so mundane). The profession of a physicist might be associated primarily with Stephen-Hawking-type theoretical research. In this case the hidden aside is: Why did you leave the ivory tower for heaven’s sake? Or simply put:
Young Jedi, why Did You – The Chosen One – Succumb to the Dark Side of the Force?
I have probably given different and inconsistent answers, depending on details as the concentration of caffeine or if the client was an MBA or a former scientist.
The gist of my story was (and still is - concluding from those many stories shared by contemporay post-ac / alt-ac movement):
- Simply ignore people who explain to you that they had such high hopes for you, you missed your true vocation.
- Degrees in fundamental science are fun and mind-altering in a sense. You hone your analytical and mathematical skills (Yes, now I am using that pitch, too!) - but this does not mean they can be translated to real-world jobs in an easy way. At least not in a way that can be explained the HR consultant with a degree in sociology.
- You are accountable for doing that translation to the real world - you better to do that start while studying. I didn't - and I know I was lucky.
- Expect your not fitting in (academia, global corporations...) as a matter of fact in life to be dealt with through doing something. You may blog about it but better take action first.
- The same goes for: Your not being fond of working long hours. There are people - academics as well as corporate colleagues who either like it or feel over-working is forced upon them. Which is their pleasure or problem - not yours.
Though I still agree with my own post it sound a tad too justifying myself. We should be more unapologetic about our life-style choices. Just do it - as the well-known brand told us.
But it seems a point of equilibrium has been reached. Peace and quiet. As an engineer 'in the making', focused on renewable energies, I am reconciling 'anything with anything'. Finally.
I have still not decided what 'science' means to me: Is it a world view, a collection of disciplines (I am biased in favor of natural sciences) or is it defined by the social system called scientific community?
I have left academia more than 15 years ago, trying to avoid the nomadic post-doc's lifestyle. It was a negative decision and not at all an easy one, I was not yet drawn to something new. I cannot leave blog posts on 'Leaving Academia' uncommented, see the following articles (highly recommended reading): The Cult of Academia und A Nerdy Break-Up: Leaving the Academic Life.
Here is my take on this: The Dark Side Was Strong in Me.
Fast-forward: I have finally found out, that
my destiny was to start a business of my own and
that I am not comfortable with being part of any large organization or system - be it academia or a global corporation.
But it took me some years to realize that, because academia was not igniting my entrepreneurial spirits yet. Rather the opposite: Though you have been trained to become a very specialized expert for many years - more trained or more specialized than any other professional, 'the system' still makes you feel you are still 'a student' who has to jump through more hoops, do more post-docs, write more papers, apply for more grants etc.
Adding more trivial conclusions: Nice to analyze all this in hindsight, but I could have got there in an easier way. Maybe. And if you have problems with systems (sample n > 1) you should not blame it on the systems.
In December 2012 I was able to report on a milestone - not because something has changed dramatically in 2012, but because I have finally reached a Zen-ny state of contentment: 2012: The Year We Make Contact.