E003 From Managing Teams in Telecomm Industry to PhD. How Do Projects Differ Between IT & Academia?
May 24th 2020
Dr. Maciej Jedynak holds a PhD in Computational Neuroscience (Cum Laude), an MS diploma in Computational Physics (Cum Laude), and a Postgraduate Diploma in IT systems design. Indeed, he was never faithful to one single domain; during his studies he coauthored a publication on complex networks, only to move to the field of particle physics, where he did his Masters and stayed for one more year of PhD studies, working for CERN and BNL experiments. Being faithful to unfaithfulness he quit and moved to industry, where he earned a long track record of IT projects. In particular, he has years of experience in telecommunication companies where he worked as an IT Specialist, responsible for IT project development, from requirements analysis to maintenance on production.
Currently, Maciej works on human brain functional tractography at Grenoble Institute of Neuroscience as a postdoctoral researcher and a member of the Human Brain Project European collaboration. In this episode, Maciej reveals why he decided to leave his well-paid and diverse job in the Telecommunications industry to embark on the academic journey. What are, in his mind, the similarities and differences between the academic and the industrial life? How to make sure that you will work for someone whom you enjoy and respect? How to actively (rather than passively) look for jobs?
Maciej’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maciej-jedynak-05353a2/
The episode was recorded on May 24th, 2020. This material represents the speaker’s personal views and not the views of their employer(s).
Natalia 00:16 Thank you very much, guys. Today we have a wonderful guest Maciej Jedynak who is a former physicist. It’s hard to describe Maciej in one sentence because he has a very broad experience in multiple branches of science and industry and it’s really hard to wrap it up in one sentence.
I was thinking about how to introduce maciej and I think, the best person to introduce maciej is maciej. Thank you maciej for coming and I would like to ask you about your long long story with a lot of turns, and how did you find yourself in the place you’re now which is a positive position in Grenoble and in the human brain project. Please tell us.
Maciej 01:20 My pleasure. Thanks for the invitation. My name is Maciej Jedynak. I’m currently working in France in the Grenoble as Natalia said. I will soon turn 40 but I’m a postdoc so my career in science is you could say it is not going very well because I started it quite late.
I think I did my PhD when I was 37 or something like that but by education, I’m a Physicist. I graduated from Physics in Warsaw Poland. And I did computational physics or computer-aided physics which was due to my interest in computational problems, mathematics, and kind of a mixture between coding physics, modeling, and applied mathematics.
I chose of taking out Physics for my studies. I graduated in that. Nevertheless, my first interest was not only graduating but working scientifically was already in my third year, when I got involved in a project on complex networks which was a very fresh subject at that time. I think it was quite easy to publish something because It was a very new field.
I got involved with a PhD student who guided me and a colleague and that was my first contact with science not for just studying but actually for conducting some research and publishing. I did not publish myself, I mean, I did not write the paper but I did computations. That means I kind of participated in the process.
As it was complex networks, so you could say it was something like this Greek mathematics not really physics and I wanted to have real experiences with, you know with something, that we can like basic physics. I changed the field. I didn’t stay in the complex networks which perhaps, I’m sure would have been, of course, much better for a career in Science as I said it was a Fresh field but I moved to particle physics and also complex systems a bit.
I spent six weeks in Germany on a scholarship. I also saw how people work abroad but after the scholarship in Germany, I already chose particle physics. In the meantime, my last vacation before graduation that I spent in the USA where I worked as a graduate research assistant at the University of Iowa in hydro sciences. It was a very technical project, it was purely engineering and it was not really science because Iowa is a state which leads from farming so they have a lot of money for weather prediction and especially tornado prevention.
It was a very applied project, and a concrete aim, not basic science but rather solving technical problems of farmers who get their crops destroyed, and in the city that is being determined by tornadoes. My project was a very tiny thing but I also tasted how it is to work with very applied problems, not just research. I was quite lucky to do these two scholarships before my Master’s graduation. I saw quite a lot of the world for my age but still, I stayed in particle physics.
I did not want to stay in the US and I guess, the reason was that it was a very convenient place and I really liked the time I had there. I surely liked the people. I like the way they worked but I still had this feeling that I would like to try more things before I choose and also I was not ready to undergo such a change and change the continent, be far from family in a small town surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of miles of cornfields.
It will be a huge personal change as well. I did not choose to stay in the US and I did my master’s in particle physics in Warsaw but collaborated with two big particle physics experiments, one in CERN in Switzerland and the other in VNL in Brookhaven national laboratory in new york on long island. After graduation, I stayed for a PhD studies which I gave up after a year, so you could say it was a kind of failure because I invested a year of my life into that.
Probably, it was not also very appreciated by my advisor who would have preferred that I stayed but that was also something I learned if you don’t feel quite in place or you are not satisfied, don’t be afraid to change even if you lose a year of what you had already invested, don’t be afraid to change.
I could have chosen to finish it and spend even three more years just to get the diploma but I think it’s better to just follow your intuition even if it’s at some cost and after parting ways with my alma mater I started working in the industry. I also hold another diploma in IT system design Postgraduate diploma and I started to work for a software company that was somehow affiliated with orange at that telecommunication company.
I’m sure, you have heard of it that I spend there a couple of years and it was quite an insight time because telecommunication was then really cutting-edge technology. At that time, there were no smartphones, there was no fast internet on mobile phones. Everything that was developing and you really had a feeling that you are working in maybe not a high tech industry but you get to touch interesting technologies and new things that are being developed. The companies I worked for had over 10 million customers.
I also got the feeling that the projects I’m participating in, are really being used by people so that’s also something that might play a role for you in your future work because if you work as a scientist it’s not always the case that your results will be used by anyone or if they will change the world.
Natalia 10:13 How did you deal with the fact that you know, if you work in the industry, then you don’t really sign your name under the project. Was that a problem for you or that was fine?
Maciej 10:31 No. I never thought about it. It’s like when you work for a corporation like I did, so as a specialist who works behind the scenes and don’t have face-to-face contact with the customer but develops a system. You never meet customers, so you don’t get a chance to show off with your work, but people from within the company know you, so they know what you did, they know that you did that project, you did this system, or whatever.
It’s not officially signed but obviously, you know good products and want to perform well. You want to be reliable to your peers, to your colleagues, and so on. It’s not officially signed but obviously, you have your good reputation is a big word. And it’s a natural drive for everyone just to perform well and fulfill their duties.
Natalia 11:59 Interesting. Last week we had Anika here, who is a consultant now and she did say the same so she said that she now gets her rewards and her social approval from her colleagues and that’s just a different way of incentivizing people than academia does, but it’s good as well for her.
Maciej 12:21 I guess it also depends on your personal priorities, for instance, when I was participating in these experiments in CERN and BNL, I did not contribute very much to them. As I said, I quit after one year. I did some work, but it was nowhere as much as needed for a PhD or even saying that I accomplished the milestone or something, but still, I was added as a co-author to two papers that appeared during that year because it’s simply a matter of regarding yourself well. I was somehow included in the list that contains the names of authors.
I don’t know why I don’t want to speculate, but it’s just that some people are chosen maybe because I did my master’s or on that experiment and I did some things and they decided to add me. I think it was a faculty of physics that was choosing who to be a khalasar.
I already had a number of publications with my name. I didn’t really feel like I contributed. I didn’t care to have it. We had another one with my name and it was more important for me to do something useful that would actually work, operate well and have the feeling of creating something contributing in a meaningful way. I didn’t care about the name more than the product and the outcome of my work.
Natalia 14:08 At some point, your adventure with corporations stopped. Why is this the case then? Is it that you lost distance of purpose at some point? or For what reasons did you choose to change?
Maciej 14:22 I think it has always been very important for me to learn and to acquire new skills. When I quit my PhD studies and changed totally from physics and moved to the company, I was learning a lot of courses because it was enterprise programming and distributed systems and I don’t know things like that.
You can learn for maybe one year or something and then
again, every other project is the same path you know in a sense you have requirements, requirements analysis, many meetings with people which seems futile very often. That’s the character I think of corporate work, unfortunately.
You would choose events or things like that and everything seems the same after a while. I simply lost the sense of developing myself you know, of learning new things. And I knew I wouldn’t like to get promoted to manager’s position because I always liked technical problems and engineering problems. I just changed my job.
I changed the company in Poland. At the time, there was another telecommunication company that was, in the beginning, a small startup and now it’s a major player on the market. I think they are first now in terms of the number of customers. They were very successful, and then at some point, they were recruiting specialists from other telecommunication companies.
I just changed my employer, and it was a change. Because the new company was being run in a kind of Google way like old Google. They had hammocks in conference rooms and stuff like that. I did not feel controlled at all by my boss. It was just important that I fulfill my duties and I could do it in any way I wanted. I could leave my work at noon and I would say anything.
When I felt that I’m getting to this kind of a plateau, you know stagnation, I changed my employer, and again I had to learn many things because the new one was operating mainly on open source whereas Orange was rather paying for professional systems to commercial companies.
It was a very different way of business planning and doing business for IT specialists. It was a different system. I had to learn some stuff, but again it doesn’t last forever. You just learn these things and again you feel the plateau. I was always very lucky to have a pretty good working environment. I always had bosses that I could learn from, who are giving me freedom, but at the same time, I feel some personal development but as I said it’s transient, it’s always temporary.
When I was working for another company, I just realized that if I change the employer again, it will be the same story. I was not considering it, but it was more and more clear to me that I want to
go back to science, and I started to look for opportunities that were not so easy because I was already over 30. I was like I don’t remember 32 or 33 and I found a degree program in Barcelona and I got accepted there. I was quite happy because I also was looking forward to living in Barcelona, which is a beautiful city.
It’s important if you choose your future career not only the points that you will on your CV matter but also your quality of life. I very much appreciated living in Barcelona, and again, I was very lucky in terms of joining a very good group, a very good lab. I had very good advisors who again did the same thing as with my bosses from the industry were giving me a lot of freedom, but also an opportunity to learn.
I was again very happy to do new things and learn a lot, and I defended my thesis four years later, a bit longer than expected. I guess I’m just slow or maybe it was difficult for me to go back to academia after almost eight years in the industry, where you know, your tools just get rusty and you don’t use mathematics.
I was not programming in companies. I was more like a system designer. I was not programming on my own. I guess this is why the PhD took me more time than expected because I had to again start doing maths and programming and things like that.
Natalia 20:19 I want to tell you that here in the Netherlands, four years is an extremely long time like 350 years. Four years is like a typical piece of contract. Most people try to prolong and typically before the date of the start of the contract and the defense day, there are between five and seven years in the Netherlands.
Maciej 20:46 I did mine in four. It was all some Faculty of physics. It was a kind of computational neuroscience. I can answer questions from people who already did neurosciences from here. After getting the diploma, the PhD title, I found a postdoc in INCRA NAM, where I am working currently and my motivation was to find something close to real brains because my PhD was in theory and I was not sure if the equations that we write and equations that we solve are how closely related to real brains and real neuroscience. I wanted to do something with real-world or real brains.
A colleague recommended me a very interesting project which I really appreciate and I enjoy working here since then, I have numbers when I summarized it. I think like I have a lot of experience in complex networks particle physics, complex systems in the US in Germany, now in Barcelona neuroscience in France working close to medical data.
I have experience in modeling, in data analysis. I have experience in the industry. But then, in my career you know it’s like either you go one direction and you get far, if you start many directions and you take only a few steps in every direction, you don’t get very far.
On one hand, I could say that I have a really broad range of experiences which is great because you don’t get bored, but on the other hand, you know I’m almost 49, a postdoc and I don’t even know if I will stay in science because it’s very demanding and I’m not very fast with republishing recently. If I was to compare industry and academia I gave it a thought.
I would say that the main thing, the main difference or traits that I can identify about an industry and academia is that in an industry you solve trivial problems which are trivial in a technical sense. They are triggered. It’s like you know there is a client, the customer, he or she comes and they want something, you create an order and make a database record.
I don’t know you transform this order, you displayed it on the webpage and it’s really triggered that there is no mathematics, there are no complex questions that you need to answer but on the other hand, you have a very complex environment that we think of corporations. To accomplish a simple task can be demanding, it can be tedious, it can be time-consuming, also the solution that you provide has to be very robust.
Because imagine that you provide a solution which fails in 1% of cases and the company I worked for had 10 million clients. Of course, not every client uses your project unless you are very successful but in general, you don’t want problems in your solutions. They have to be very robust and then academia I would say, is the other way around, so the problems and the questions we are asking are simply difficult.
It’s really exciting to know that you are probably the first person in the world to see an answer to a certain question that someone asks and you know about brain connectivity and you get to be the first person ever who sees the answer. This is one of the exciting questions being asked in academia and much more difficult in sense of complexity than the problems that we are solving.
You know the tools that you need to engage like mathematics. On the other hand, you know the software, the code, you write does not have to be necessarily scalable, easy to maintain, well-documented, understandable for contributors, finance, and so on. It can fail because if it fails, you just find a bug and you know you’re cool, you correct it and that’s ok.
It’s not a problem. You submit some jobs to the cluster and they fail, you look for an error and you correct it and that’s all and when you provide a project in the industry, you rather cannot afford it. It happens and much more of your energy goes towards robustness and quality. It depends on what do you like. If you like complex problems which you can start tackling clumsily and then you improve it, you know academia is fine when you write, when you are okay with working on a simple problem that is not challenging, and you have to spend for example three months on it and you don’t get bored.
You can go to the industry. It does not have to be Universal what I’m saying because maybe, my position was simply like that and at the same time, you could get a position in an industry where you solve complex problems like a data scientist for instance, but that was the main thing I guess, I was missing at that time. I didn’t hear of data science honestly. It was rather an age of data mining but data mining was more like working with databases and not statistics and Mathematica.
I was missing this kind of job and I didn’t see many opportunities at the time for me to work in the industry, and at the same time solve complex problems which I wanted to do so. That’s the main difference between academia, science, and Industry
Natalia 28:05 I have a question. Were people often report that are
switched between academia and industry with the different quality of teamwork, so how do you feel about that? Did you experience better teamwork in the corporation than in academia or not?
Maciej 28:22 When I was doing my PhD, I was doing it alone. So, I was not collaborating with anyone when I was working in the industry. I was not coding. I was not programming. I was not developing solutions. I was more designing solutions. I was like an internal person in the company who operates internally, knows the system, knows the people, and can provide cross-system solutions for a certain project.
But developing this solution was being ordered in external companies which were paid by us. My relationship with people providing a solution was that I was a representative of their client, someone who is paying their invoices. It’s a kind of a specific relationship you have when you work in science.
You don’t pay your collaborators. They have very different motivations in business. Everything drives much more motivation because there is money behind if you make an error a bug that causes monetary loss to the company and someone will come to you very quickly and will be motivating you very hard to fix this bug very soon.
Natalia 30:10 For some people, this is motivating and for some
people, it is demotivating, right? Because it feels dirty to some, or a motivation technique to a lot of people. It’s dirty.
Maciej 30:27 No. It’s not only money that you are being paid. It’s just that behind every project, there is money. Companies operate for money. Every project that I was working on was invented, designed, implemented, and, used just to earn money for this company. Even if it’s not your own money that goes to your pocket, the people that you work with, this is just their motivation.
Things have to be delivered quickly. They have to work well. They have to be robust etc. The fact is that there is money behind that creates a drive which you feel even if the money does not go to your pocket.
Natalia 31:14 I understand it’s just this notion for a lot of people especially academics that there’s money as a driver. It’s very
off-putting in the sense. It’s also a matter of millennial and third generation type of mentality.
Maciej 31:33 Well. It could be. It’s more the question of what does the company provides I’m not sure if I would enjoy working for a financial industry that doesn’t produce anything. I don’t know they need some risk assessment for credits and they give ninja mortgages. Do you remember this 2008 crisis? Ninja was no income and no job, for instance, I don’t know whatever it would be or what does the company provides you if you are with your risk assessments and the stock market decision system. For example, you contribute to a real estate bubble, or whatever.
If people get homeless because of what financial corporates do, I wouldn’t enjoy it whereas working for a telecommunication company was quite fine because you provide services to those people who can benefit from like the internet or GSM internet. People who are unemployed and they don’t have access to the fast internet, they can at least have the internet on the foul and look for a job or blah blah you know at least it’s not damaging for the world.
For me, it was more a question of what does the company provides. There is always money behind. You cannot avoid it in the industry. I guess that’s the main difference between these two worlds but again it’s my personal view.
Natalia 33:26 Let’s get back to the steam work thing for a while. During your PhD, you were working on your own. I understand it but then you went for a postdoc in Grenoble and you were working on some bigger projects. It is like a flagship project by European Union. They all together moves on beyond euros right and it’s actually about thousands of researchers working together. It’s a little bit like a corporation in science. How do you experience this teamwork right now? And how does it compare to the teamwork you experienced in the corporation?
Maciej 34:18 It’s a good question. I cannot answer it because I’m only now starting to learn the HBP. I really cannot tell you. It seems like there is the effect of scale. Wherever there is a big scale, it’s much more difficult to navigate things to change. It’s like working for a corporation or working in a start-up with three people. In the startup, you can change your course very quickly. You can adapt to the changing environment. You can be agile and so on.
It feels like HBP is more like a corporation. You know, certain plans milestones cannot be quickly adjusted. Everyone has to adopt and so on and it seems like that and probably at some scale, it’s just inevitable. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. I’m just saying that it’s specific working for a corporation in a specific environment.
Probably, HBP is not like that because those people don’t work together whereas, in corporations, you’ll see the same faces every day and you also need to maintain good interpersonal relationships because you will do the project with the same people all over and all over. When you work on a project, it’s not only your aim to deliver the final product but you also want to maintain good relations with other people. Because you know that after this project, there will be another project with the same people.
You have to keep that in mind that HBP will be finished in three years. I don’t know I’m just starting to learn but I confirm what you said that it can be like a corporation in the academic world.
Natalia 36:21 The next question I have for you is this when you were talking about your story on many occasions, you were mentioning that you were lucky with your bosses and with your projects and that your supervisors were very supportive and I honestly, I don’t like the notion of lack. I think that lack exists but it’s better to assume that it doesn’t.
Do you think that you were always getting on well with your bosses and your supervisors? You are very compromising and have some teachers that let you live well with people around you.
Maciej 37:16 I don’t know. I think I trust intuition a lot. It’s this gut feeling. If you just get this feeling with someone, work with this person.
Natalia 37:31 When you were choosing projects, you are choosing a person for the topic.
Maciej 37:36 My first work, when I quit my PhD, was where there was a former colleague three years older than me and we together worked in the States on particle physics. I just knew him. I knew he was a decent guy when he told me, and now I’m a co-founder of this company. We did this and we are looking for people, I didn’t know what the subject would be about.
I just had a feeling like I would like to work with him more. And it’s very important because, you know, it just creates your working conditions, your environment and you can be stressed every day or you can just enjoy your work.
It depends on your environment, on your boss, also your colleagues. When I changed, I went to Orange and I already knew my boss to be because I worked for him from within this small company of my colleague. I could take this decision already knowing who would I
work for then. When I changed my employer to this, another cult recognition company I mentioned, I just like the people who interviewed me.
I was interviewed by two people. One would be my future boss and the other would be my future peer colleague from the team. I just liked the interview. I like the way they ask questions. I liked you know you just get the feeling about people and then when I was applying to Barcelona, I got this position or this PhD scholarship because I cared to go there personally for an interview which I don’t think people always do. After all, it can be a long journey or something and it’s just a PhD.
Maybe, you apply for ten and whatever you get but I just found this one, and I was particularly interested in the work of my future advisor. I sent him an email explaining why I came personally. I don’t know but that was one of the factors which played on my side. It also gave me a chance to meet him, and again I just thought I could work for this guy. I liked the contact. I like how he interacts with people and so on. You are right, it’s, on one hand, luck in the sense that I never had a huge failure which I know happened to many people.
I know many people in science complaining a lot about their bosses. It never happened to me but I don’t feel like it’s only my bond. It’s a little bit of randomness and a little bit of luck. You also have to take care of that. In my case, it was mainly kind of a feeling that I was following.
Natalia 41:08 Whoever wants to ask questions, please don’t hesitate to ask questions in the chat. My next question is, you know, you have a long career path so far and it was just you who moved from academia back to industry and academia again, and do you have any regrets. Is there anything that you would do differently if you had the chance?
Maciej 41:47 I very rarely think as I very rarely ask this question to myself because I think it can very easily get you as you said to regrets which never help. On the other hand, it’s good to learn from your own mistakes. I don’t think I would change anything. Although, it didn’t get me far as I said I’m almost 40. You can’t say that I did a career but I wouldn’t change anything and I prefer to focus on the future I guess that’s more useful.
Natalia 42:29 Then the question would be how do you see your future? and, how do you see yourself in like five to ten years from now?
Maciej 42:35 We’ll see. Maybe, we can do another interview, when HBP is over. I will know more before we finish because it’s already eight. I wanted to belong some conclusions from my story if you allow me. I can share my good conclusions or advice although I know their success as you see. I still have advice and then we will ask if anyone has questions.
When I look back at my decisions, I can clearly say that I can tell two different attitudes toward looking for a job. I would say passive and active. Passive is something I would call when you simply open the newspaper or internet and you look at the available positions. You say, okay I open some webpage and you list all the ads that are looking for specialists with your skills. It’s passive because you simply look at the market and see what’s there and what does the market has to offer me.
This is what I was very much doing in the beginning as I told you I started to work with a former colleague and so on. The job was rather finding me. It was not myself finding the job. I would say the other attitude is active in the sense that you have some vision of yourself, you know what do you want to do? Who do you want to be? and then you look for the specific thing that will provide it to you which is, of course, much harder because there is no such offer. It can get you to a place that did you kind of invented. You know, you are making yourself and you are getting there.
I’m not saying which one is better. It depends on your priorities and that’s my second conclusion that I think it’s crucial to take your decisions on the basis of your values. It might sound too serious or too bloated or something but if you take the decisions only motivated by short-term consequences or local conditions, I think you are quite likely to not regret them but have afterthoughts and not be satisfied.
I would say that it’s very important to identify your core values which could be, for example, you know I want to do something useful for the world, or my main value is that I want to work with and I need to work with people or I need to have contact with nature. Because when I live in a big city you know it’s killing me and I think that your decisions both personal and professional it’s good if they stand from that. Don’t really be afraid to look deeper at what’s meaningful for you and derive your short-term decisions from that.
I would say there is a basis which is your values, then there is your strategy which you construct, and then there are individual decisions.
The strategy could be, for example, I want to work remotely because I hate traffic, I hate huge cities, and I know people who are programmers. You have your values, then you have your strategy and then you have your decisions and, then you take your decisions.
When you look for your employer, you keep in mind, okay it’s not only my skills that I want to put to work it’s also that I need to learn this
and that to be a freelancer and work remotely or I want to find an employer who allows working remotely or something like that so just take into account the whole system in which you operate, not only your duties and salary, you know.
I would say don’t be afraid to change if something doesn’t work for you, just change it. Don’t feel like it’s a failure. Don’t feel like I don’t know I need to earn more money, or I need to prove myself, or I don’t want to have this record on my CV that I quit after six months.
If it doesn’t work for you, just change it and don’t be afraid to do it and finally define success. We often say this guy is successful, that girl is successful but we don’t know if they are successful because we don’t know what is success means to them. It’s not necessarily a lot of money. It’s not necessarily being recognized. You just don’t know what is success for them. The question is if you know what is success for you, so I would say define your own definition, find your definition of success and strive towards that.
Natalia 48:46 The question is what is a success for you.
Maciej 48:56 I think it’s relevant for work and not for the sake of this webinar because it’s simply personal. And I’m not sure if it should get involved because I don’t want to dilute the message with my own views. Everyone has their own views and their own definitions of success. I don’t want to impose anything by saying, you know, I consider this great, I consider that awful, and so on. What I want to say and what I want to convey is simply give it a thought and stop for a moment to ponder on this and define it just to have clarity about it.
Natalia 49:44 The question that just came to my mind right now is did you like doing all these shifts in your career? Did you ever get
this impostor syndrome that you know many people have in academia know the syndrome that you’re not as good as other people think you are or you were always self-confident.
Maciej 50:04 No. When I got back to academia, I felt very much like that because I forgot mathematics and physics a lot. I was really slow I was not doing very well. At the same time, I was 10 years older than every one else working on their PhDs. I was supposed to be more experienced or much more experienced and better. But I was slower. I didn’t know the tools that people use today. I have to learn everything on my own. I was feeling like that for sure.
Natalia 50:45 Nevertheless, you graduated with a PhD, so I guess you were not falling behind that much.
Maciej 50:56 That’s also a consequence of my decisions because I never actually finished a project I was given by my boss simply because very early I realized it can be just too big for me. I just didn’t feel good enough to eat this, you know, huge dish. I said okay instead of trying to do it and fail. I would just eat a small piece here and small pieces there. I didn’t really do the project.
I just cut some parts of it and I studied them quite deeply and I was able to publish more than one thing because of that I had some chunks of the huge project. But I never really even started. I didn’t even start the huge project. l simply think it was a good decision, and it was a good sense of my abilities, and the challenges and I fitted it quite well. If I had tried to accomplish everything that was given to me,
I think it would either take seven years as you said or I would have never finished and wrote my thesis without publications or something like that.
I think it was tactics and decisions that led me to doing a couple of things but easy things which I was capable of finishing in a finite time. I think that was the main factor for success.
Natalia 52:48 I also have a question related to your relationship with social media. You know, like in science these days, social media is like a means of communication and promoting your work to a large extent and I know you in person so I know that you are very silent on social media and like to spend your time doing the tasks and without promoting yourself on Twitter or Facebook. You even deleted your Facebook account.
That’s unique. In my circle of friends, there is no one who is not an attention freak and takes care of his privacy. And I think it’s quite difficult to find you other than knowing your email account.
I’m just curious if this is something that in the end, hoped you or cuts some of your opportunities because I also have this dilemma right now. Because there are these two schools. One of them is you should take care of your social circles and your visibility online and promote yourself even as a scientist.
It’s still very important to be always connected, always out there, always hustling around, and talking to people. The other school is the one represented by Cal Newport who is very much against social media and is a professor of computer science. He wrote this well-known book called deep work and he is a big proponent of deep work. In his view, this is the key because the key to success is to provide original content and value and this is something that you can only do by deep work and not on social media.
I’d add these two schools and I myself torn sometimes because social media takes so much time and you also know enlargements that it can also cause anxiety and can cause these dopamine shots and then dopamine deprivation. Sometimes, I myself kind of hesitate which one of these schools to go for big books. I think both have pros and cons but in the end, the day is only 24 hours.
You have to choose how you spend your day and you choose to spend your day on deep work and other than that, in free time cheating away from your computer, going mountaineering and being in the nature. You’re pretty much never on social media which I admire. I don’t know if I could do that. You know, that’s pretty scary to think that you might disconnect yourself completely from social media.
It seems to be out at first. It seems to be such an obvious thing today that I don’t know if I could completely disconnect the way you did.
Maciej 56:33 If you want to show off with your work on social media, you have your own work first. I don’t feel like I have anything. Currently, I’m working on a magnificent project. I love it a lot but unfortunately, I haven’t published anything under my name yet.
I got some rewards, so I could show off with that. But I would say that if you choose between social media fever and being hectic with it or deep work I would say deep work is a necessary prerequisite. First, do your deep work and then consider if you want to distribute over social media or not.
I’m still in the first stage. When I accomplish the first stage, I will try to advertise it somehow. I rather doubt it because in my private life I used Facebook for a long time and it didn’t work very well for me. I think I’m happy that I deleted my account after all.
I think it works the same way for science. I very much prefer to focus on something I find meaningful than starting, discussing, and judging the plethora of other things and unfortunately, this touches also the subject of publications in academia. I think there are simply too many papers on the market and people are forced to publish a lot. They’re forced to play this game to keep their positions. They do publish a lot but not all the papers.
I think that many of them could be merged, so there will be fewer papers, or maybe, they should even not be published at all. On the other hand, negative results which are often valuable, it’s much harder to publish because everyone wants you to confirm a hypothesis rather than reject it and this is why people don’t publish negative results. Many labs are spending taxpayers’ money for the same kind of experiments because they are looking for the same results which never show up and this publication fever is something repulsive in science to me.
I would prefer to publish one paper in three years but a good one rather than publishing five papers that would basically take the time of the readers and not necessarily provide them valuable content. Social media is kind of the same category of question I would say.
Natalia 59:53 I understand and I think you have a very idealistic view of social media because many people who are beautiful, don’t have any content to share. They have a way of creating a false impact. They just talk about problems but without any solutions, or just chit-chatting.
There are a lot of people who build a following. It doesn’t substantiate by any scientific content and it’s kind of a reinforcement hook. They also get more attention as scientists because of the Twitter following which is again built on not creating content but rather just retweeting.
Maciej 1:00:54 I wouldn’t say, my view is idealistic but I agree with what you said. If I get valuable results someday, I will decide to open an account on Twitter which I don’t have. We’ll see if I do it I won’t stay there. I will just try to distribute and disseminate information about our research and I wouldn’t stay there. I wouldn’t check my account every day for sure. But it’s a matter of your lifestyle. It’s not professional career development.
Natalia 1:01:33 Guys do you have questions. Please share if you have any questions because if you don’t, then we’ll soon wrap up as we are talking for over an hour. You have a last chance to ask questions. Okay, thank you so much, Maciej. Do you still have some wisdom to share?
Maciej 1:02:00 If anyone from the audience or later sees this video or wants to ask me anything later, I will be happy to answer and to help if I can be of any help to anyone. I’m really happy to do it so my email account is on protonmail as Natalia said. I don’t use social media and I also try to draw back from Google. It’s my name dot my family name at proton mail. And Natalia will share it with you.
I hope it will be useful for everyone and feel free to ask me questions if you feel in any way close to what I said.
Natalia 1:03:01 If there are no further questions for now, then thank you so much Maciej for sharing your exciting story. I’m curious to see what you’re doing next. When I hear your story, I feel it can be just anything. How about politics?
Maciej 1:03:23 I was for some time involved in activism. But I didn’t talk about this today. That’s not a good career.
Natalia 1:03:40 Okay. Thank you so much, Maciej for all your advice. It was very valuable. I have to think more about what you said but I could agree with what you said about passive and active strategies to look for a job and that we should start from values. I’m 100% agree with what you said about the differences between academia and industry and the types of problems we solve. I’m still curious about what is your definition of success. But I will just ask you after the webinar if you don’t mind.
Maciej 1:04:28 Send me an email if you want the answer. Okay, I wish you guys good decisions and a lot of satisfaction from your work.
Natalia 1:04:35 Thank you so much, Maciej.
Maciej 1:04:36 Thanks for having me, bye.
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Please cite as:
Bielczyk, N. (2020, May 24th). E003 From Managing Teams in Telecomm Industry to PhD. How Do Projects Differ Between IT & Academia? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/career-development-strategies-e003-from-managing-teams-in-telecomm-industry-to-phd-how-do-projects-differ-between-it-academia/