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04/30/2020

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Betty


This is so helpfully concrete and inspiring, thank you!

I know it's not the point of this post, but I'd love to hear why you left academia and how your thoughts about it did and didn't change after you left. (Did the grass look greener, once you were off it--or did it look even browner?)

interested

I second Betty, on all counts.

Katharine

Thanks for reading and for your interest, Betty and interested. I've written a backwards-looking piece about my reasons for leaving that I shared with the members of my dissertation committee, but it's appx 2,500 words and currently too self-indulgent a document to submit as a post here.

The TL;DR version is 1) I wasn't excited by or good at my research after the dissertation, 2) I loved but was no longer being challenged by teaching and service after 5 years on the job, 3) I wanted to make more money, and 4) I wanted to learn how value-creating industries outside of academia worked and ascend to leadership positions beyond department chair / associate dean / dean.

In my 10 months since leaving academia, I have learned so much and now make more money than I did as an assistant professor. I am glad that I got to live my first career dream of being a philosophy professor, but I love what I am doing now. But also I have the good luck of being temperamentally happy and melioristic.

Samuel Kampa

Extremely helpful, Katharine! I agree that philosophers have latent project management skills and would be particularly good at implementing Agile methodology. (Side note: Out of necessity, startups like the one I work for are Agile.)

When you're an academic philosopher with teaching responsibilities, you're managing a lot of crap at once (to put it poetically), and you're quickly shifting gears in response to external events (e.g., the forced transition to online education during COVID-19). It hadn't occurred to me before, but I feel like I now understand why and how an academic philosopher would transition to project management.

I hope this is one of many detailed domain-specific transition guides in this alt-ac series.

Alepersichetti

Thank you so much! I think that it is a profession that I can enjoy as a backup. Dear Marcus, more posts like this are extremley useful. I encourage more of them on this format!

Katharine

I find it interesting that I had to fight a "scarcity mindset" before I sent my draft post to Marcus. Although I think of myself as usually having an "abundance mindset," in which I believe that there is enough good things to go around and I don't have to hoard good things for myself or limit other people's access to good things, I kept thinking: I worked very hard to figure out this path, no one created a guide for me, and I don't want y'all to enter the profession and steal my job opportunities.

Those thoughts are all sub-optimal for me to have for my own sake and for the sake of alt-ac pursuing readers. In fact, it's in my own self-interest to promote the profession of project management: the more organizational leaders recognize its value, the more job opportunities there will be for project managers and Agile practitioners, the more prestige there will be for the profession, and the higher salaries there will be for those of us who do the jobs well.

In short, if a scarcity mindset is holding anyone back from sharing their own guides to alt-ac success, consider the above argument against keeping to yourself the practical steps.

stuck in nowhereland

Super cool and helpful, Katharine! I'm glad to hear that you landed well.

Out of curiosity: did you find job opportunities in a variety of different locations that you could choose from, or were you restricted in ways similar to what one finds as an academic?

FWIW: Even as a 'successful' academic, I threaten to leave the profession every few years. Living in crap towns has been difficult on my family, and I'm seriously considering backup plans in which there might be some choice of location. (A more interesting job with decent pay and benefits wouldn't hurt, either.)

Letitia Campbell

Katharine, thanks so much for sharing some of the details of how you made this transition. I've been curious about this!

I am not currently looking at a transition out of academia, but I am interested in learning more about some of the project management methodologies that you describe here — like the agile approach, or 30-day sprints. I've experienced some of those indirectly working with IT teams in higher education, where some of the culture of software development shapes the team's work.

Can you recommend resources (books, websites, articles) that I might look at to get a basic introduction to some of these? Would you recommend taking one of these courses, even if I don't have an intention of taking the exams? In the longer run, that might be possible. In the more immediate term, I am thinking about how useful some of these might be for the significant redesign of my program that must happen this summer with our fall uncertainties in mind — so something I could access online would be great!

B Nguyen

Hi Katherine. Thanks so much for sharing and this article is very useful and inspiring for those who want to transform from non-PM job to the PM. I think getting Agile certificate is also very important for you to have success in the first two projects.

Katharine

My answer to stuck’s question about location: I knew going into my career transition that my family and I want to continue living where we are for at least the next five years. During my final year as a professor, we bought our dream house. Another reason why I left academia was so that would be able to earn a living in our current city even if I was not employed by the university.

So even though I don’t want or plan on moving in the near future, I am confident that it will now be easier for me to find a well-paying, enjoyable job outside of academia in another part of the US. I regularly looked on LinkedIn and other job sites during my active job search to explore what job titles interested me, and I found lots of them inside and outside of my local area. I’m not actively searching for a new job, but I browse the job postings once a week to see what qualifications are required and to make sure I have a plan for staying competitive in the market. It heartens me to see that there are still project management jobs advertised in major cities despite the COVID-19 economic slowdown.

Hi Letitia! https://www.scrum.org/ and https://www.scrumalliance.org/ cover the basic terminology well, and they draw from the freely accessible Scrum Guide: https://www.scrum.org/resources/scrum-guide

Here are two books that I have read and recommend highly: Gil Broza’s "Agile for Non-Software Teams" and Ryan Ripley's and Todd Miller's "Fixing Your Scrum: Practical Solutions to Common Scrum Problems.”

Here are the project management podcasts I enjoy:
Agile and Project Management - Drunken PM Radio – Dave Prior
Leading Agile SoundNotes – Dave Prior
Agile Uprising Podcast
Manage This – The Project Management Podcast – Velociteach
PM Point of View
Projectified – Project Management Institute

I wish you well on your learning, and I hope that you write a guest post in the fall to share what you have implemented!

Mark Leonard

Some other considerations:

I find certifications very useful to create a framework for learning new subject matter and understanding some of the challenges inherent in positions like project/scrum management. Other key factors are how you present your personal values and strive to continuously learn.

The right certifications can be vital to getting through the initial screening layers and landing an interview and many organizations may focus on the checkboxes of hiring. However, knowing Katharine in real life. I can attest that her ever present, demonstrable drive for self and team improvement, respect for others, and consistently positive outlook have contributed far more to the relative ease of the transition than the certifications could have achieved alone.

My recommendation is to find a way to develop and display your enthusiasm for whatever subject area you have chosen. Contacts, colleagues, and hiring managers will register those soft skills more readily than the certs. Look for organizations that value those attributes. May be quite a bit more difficult, but worth it.

Katharine

^ that's my manager, whose background is in psychology. Thank you, Mark, for being an advocate for me and a great leader in our organization.

I have found my colleagues in my non-academic jobs as equally helpful, interesting, and committed to doing a good job as my academic colleagues.

Nikhil

Hey Katharine, this is such an inspiring article. It's good for you to Choose the project management path for your career. One can choose between different project management methodologies such as"
1. Agile
2. Waterfall
3. Scrum
4. Kanban
5. Hybrid
You can gain some more insightful information on What is project management? and how it is beneficial for the project managers.

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