I got a reminder today about the aspects of my current day job that made me want to change careers in the first place. Due to others failing, on multiple occasions, to do what they had been asked to do (all well within their job descriptions), we had a 48 hour outage of a production system. I am the face of that system to the users, so the majority of the pressure and blame came to me. I handled a couple of things badly while sorting this out (one ill-advised email, for example) and I am attempting to learn from those things.
However I now remember one of the things that first attracted me to an academic life. While there are projects and papers that you work on with others, in general the academic life is a relatively solitary one. You succeed or fail based upon the work you put into things.
- Writing as an ultimately solitary activity. While you can collaborate on a paper, that really means you each work on individual pieces or you conceptualize it together then pass it back and forth until its done.
- You get credit and blame for what you do. If your writing partner drops the ball and you write the paper yourself, then you end up with the writing credit.
- There are few things that actually qualify as emergencies (although I realize that students don’t necessarily agree with that statement).
I crave that. Especially today.