Reflections on ASIS&T and moving away from academia

img_6614.jpgMy final commitment as a full time PhD student was to attend and present at the ASIST conference. I got a paper accepted to this conference a while back and was scheduled to present my work on Tuesday November 13th 2018. The conference itself went very well and I am pleased I travelled so far for my trip. On Sunday November 11th I attended the doctoral workshop where we were assigned our own mentor. My mentor was Professor Caroline Haythornthwaite from Syracuse University (New York State) and she partly specialises in research of learning. Caroline and I were matched based upon our research interests and her expertise in terms of my doctoral work and I feel the meeting between us was beneficial indeed. Caroline gave some sound advice on how I can ground my literature in the information science domain. She gave some excellent examples of work that will help me in editing my literature review and enabled me to see how my work fits in with others in this field. We also chatted about my career plans and how I am embarking on a non-academic career next week. Caroline and I both agreed that this is the right thing for me to do (as I feel it is) and that there is no harm in investigating academic work in the future (we shall see!). The meeting with our mentors was followed by a panel session. We had experts in academia and those who have also pursued careers outside of academia. The discussions in the panel sessions surround academic careers and presenting ourselves when ready to apply for jobs. We also talked about issues in the workplace for academics and then moved onto other careers too. This part for me was the most interesting as I have chosen to undertake a job outside of academia. We heard from those who had been successful outside of academia, especially those who could tell us what we could do. We discussed the application of skills learned in the PhD to jobs outside of academic and it was nice to hear that this is actually welcomed (I have had a lot of people express their annoyance that I am leaving academia!). As students we learn a lot throughout our PhD journeys and we develop lots of skills – it is more about how we apply these skills to our work that interests those outside of academia than how many publications, presentations etc we have.

The main conference itself started just after the doctoral workshop with a keynote from Dr Ramesh Srinivasan, who explored the use of digital technologies which influence our world. This was followed by a variety of other activities including a new member induction and a welcome reception after a choice of paper and panel sessions. By this point on Sunday, I was wrecked (my brain was still in UK time you see).

The Monday followed a similar format and I was able to attend some paper and panel sessions myself. The morning panel session surround embodied information practices and our speakers (Professor Christopher Lueg, Professor Pan McKenzie and Dr Michael Olsson) talked about their own work in relation to how information practices and our experiences intertwine We even ended the session with a martial arts demonstration to evidence the embodied information practices we heard about. Other sessions that I attended were papers in the data sharing category and these papers focused on data reuse, reputation, trust and norms in data sharing and the use of web archives. You can see from the programme that these papers were very varied and something that might not initially interest me. However I was intrigued to find research in these areas and explore the information practices of data sharing in the many contexts the presenters discussed. Seeing as though I am going into a career that focuses on data and statistics, I supposed this session was important for me!IMG_6627.JPG

The Tuesday of the conference was the day of my own presentation – something I was quite nervous about. As I normally freak out (behind the scenes) when I need to present to a larger audiences I made sure I prepared fully for this one. This included a dry-run session with some members of my research group and also discussion the paper with some students in a class before my trip away. This helped me to decide how to present my work and tweak the presentation (and potential discussion points) so that I was prepared for what was to come. When the time came for my presentation I was cheered on from afar (i.e. Edinburgh!). I appeared not to be too nervous until the few minutes before I talked, but once I was up in front of the audience and presenting the nerves disappeared and I talked about my work with ease. For those of you who did not make my presentation you can find my slides here. You can also find a recording of a dry-run that I recorded in preparation for the conference here (apologies if you are unable to access this video – I had issues with the upload). I am pleased that my director of studies encouraged me to apply for this conference and for the support given by my supervisors when writing the paper. Had I not had their help, my paper probably would have been rejected completed. I am also thankful for the review of my paper carried out by Professor Brian Detlor – without his expertise the paper would have made no sense at all. For that, I appreciate his efforts and work.

I travelled back home to Edinburgh on the Wednesday and Thursday so I decided not to attend any of the additional sessions offered. My travel adventure getting to Vancouver was a bit of a nightmare but the return flights home were smooth and I am pleased to have my feet back on the ground.

I now embark on a new chapter of my life, studying for my PhD part time whilst working a full-time job. I know this will be a challenge, especially as my experiences of starting my new job will probably be slightly hindered by the impending jet lag that I am going to experience (it has not hit me fully yet). This means that I will have a change in PhD working pattern (working two days of the week) and a change in contact availability (i.e. not checking emails daily). I will also probably struggle at first with managing my PhD time and will probably feel like I do not want to continue with my work. However, as long as I am able to work from my own office with fellow PhD students to hand I think I will be able to cope okay with it all. I have given myself an unofficial PhD deadline as to when I would like to submit. I know that my PhD work will suffer in terms of slowed progress but I think having this deadline in my mind will help. Despite these challenges ahead, I also know that taking a new job was the right move for me!

Obviously the tourist version of Lyndsey took lots of photos in Vancouver (see them below):

 

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