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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Leaving academia for Industry

This week, Matt Welsh, a faculty member at Harvard Computer Science, who I know well because we have worked in the same area of wireless sensor networks, announced that he was quitting his hard-won tenured position to go to Google. Here's his blog entry about it: http://matt-welsh.blogspot.com/2010/11/why-im-leaving-harvard.html .

As I noted in my comment on his post, I think everyone should do what they have passion for. Matt has clearly identified what he finds satisfying and what he does not:

I also admire the professors who flourish in an academic setting, writing books, giving talks, mentoring students, sitting on government advisory boards, all that. I never found most of those things very satisfying, and all of that extra work only takes away from time spent building systems, which is what I really want to be doing.
As someone who most enjoys learning through teaching, and working with students to help them grow, I can't imagine making such a decision to leave academia. But I wish Matt all the best, and know he'll do a great job at Google, just as he did at Harvard.

Matt's announcement did provoke in me some soul-searching about why I sometimes feel a tad disappointed that none of my own Ph.D. students have made it into tenure-track faculty positions (well, so far, anyway). I think it's mostly a sadness that they either don't share the same passion for teaching, mentoring, and basic research, or in the few cases where they do find academia attractive, gave up perhaps too soon. But ultimately, what I do wish for each of my students (indeed, for everyone) is that they find work that matches their passion and does not limit their potential for growth.


1 comment:

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