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Posthumous Honor (Well, Sort Of).

4 February 2013

Now that my job search, a thing that seemed to have a life of its own, is dead and buried, I feel like it’s worth reflecting a bit. What I’ve learned is that once again, who you know is more important than what you know. Even places that were interested in the type of systems research that I do rejected me without even a phone interview, when it seems like the fit would’ve been strong. But the one place where I was introduced by a friend who knew my skills hired me. However, I was not wholly ignored by the academic world.

I found out yesterday that I was offered an in-person interview for an Assistant Professorship in Health Policy/Management. A mid-sized public university on the Atlantic Coast in Dixie. The job would be heavily teaching. They told me that it’s a teaching/research position with a 2-2 teaching load (2 classes per semester, 2 semesters per year), which is a lot if they expect you to get any research done. But the University is a historical teaching school, and much of the faculty has no real research experience. I get the feeling that if you publish occasionally and teach well, tenure is on the table.

I wrote back a polite note saying that I had accepted another position already, thanking them for their interest, and wishing them well in finding a good candidate. And the department head wrote back to me after that telling me he’d be open to collaboration, etc.. So I feel like there was a decent chance I’d have been offered that job if I gave a good job-talk. I obviously made a fairly short list.

But I just want to stop again and attribute this success to where it belongs. Yes, I deserve some of it. I’ve done good work the past four years and published some fairly interesting stuff (that no one has paid any attention to), and won a couple of grants. That’s what I did. It’s not nothing. It’s enough to make me vaguely interesting to at least two universities looking for healthcare delivery researchers. It’s enough to have PECMC offer me a job.

But vastly, vastly more credit goes to AA, and to the online community. Without AA, I firmly believe I would be dead. I had no ability to do anything other than drink. And drink for obliteration and waste. I drank until I fell down every night. I sat in the bathtub with diet 7up and vodka, a useless lump. I smoked and drank and cared about smoking and drinking. That was my life, even though I was married. Even though I saw a shrink. Nothing mattered but my ability to check out of life by getting drunk. I went to rehab, but without AA there’s no way in hell I’d have stayed sober. I owe AA my life.

And I owe the online science community an enormous amount too. Through my interaction with other scientists and engineers, I discovered a whole world of interests, ambitions, and causes that I’d never have discovered otherwise. I learned about what it means to be an academic, how to write, how to compete for grants (though, both my major funding successes came before my involvement on twitter). I learned incredible amounts about how to compete for professorships. And I learned, most of all, that I was worthy of competing for them.

I never thought that I had any value, academically. I drank my education. I don’t remember my math, not like I should. I will never be qualified to be a professor of engineering. But I am qualified, and useful, in the world of health care delivery. I have something of value to contribute there, at the level of a professorship. If it weren’t for the online science community, I wouldn’t. I’m a better academic because of you.

So, as I bury my job search, hopefully for decades, I am finding myself just profoundly grateful. I’ve now been offered an interview for a tenure-track professorship, even though I won’t compete for it any longer. I have found communities that buoy me and sustain me. That aid and support their members in the things that matter in life: relationships; careers; connections. And now I get to be a part of giving it back. What an astonishing privilege for a useless drunk like me.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Syd permalink
    4 February 2013 16:35

    I am glad that you are getting attention because of what you know and your approach. That’s a really good thing. And your humility will serve you well, especially when there are so many blowhards in science. Networking is one of the best ways to be “successful” in any field. Although it’s done differently now, it is still a valuable thing.

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