Friday, August 23, 2013

Why I left Academia

In May of 2005 I graduated with my PhD in Computer Science, and shortly thereafter, set sail for Middle of Nowhere PA (tm) to teach at a small liberal arts university. Teaching was something I loved and wanted to do. Yet, now, I'm writing Java programs at a company in Pittsburgh. And every time someone at my new job hears that I left a tenure track position to be a software engineer, they ask why. I've had a lot of practice at the answer. 1. I like to do new things. After 7.5 years, teaching wasn't new to me anymore. 2. I like intellectual challenges. There are not a lot of opportunities for that when teaching the same classes over and over. Most faculty satisfy this need via research. That's fantastic, when you can make time for it. But unless I wanted to work during the weekends, it wasn't happening in any great quantity. 3. For everything I did that I really liked, (aka, working with students) I had to do 10 things that I didn't like. The second question I get is: But what about all the time off? I suggest anyone who thinks faculty have it easy read this article, particularly the addendum. What is that bad for me? Not quite. It was more like someone who works 4 10-hour days a week then has a 3 day weekend. I worked 10 totally packed months, then got 2 months off. That works for some people. It didn't work so well for me. I may go back to teaching someday, but for now, I'm enjoying writing code. I get to solve puzzles, learn new things, and create something on a daily basis. It's a blast :)