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How to Live in Paradise

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Advice for Prospective, New, and Disgruntled Professors
USENIX Security PhD Forum Talk 2015
David Evans
http://www.cs.virginia.edu/evans/paradise

Published in: Self Improvement
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How to Live in Paradise

  1. 1. How to Live in Paradise Advice for Prospective, New, and Disgruntled Professors David Evans www.cs.virginia.edu/evans/paradise USENIX Security PhD Forum 13 August 2015
  2. 2. Encore, Reprise, or Retread? 2014 2015
  3. 3. Encore, Reprise, or Retread? 2014 2015 San Diego
  4. 4. Encore, Reprise, or Retread? 2014 2015
  5. 5. Encore, Reprise, or Retread? 2014 2015 San Diego Washington
  6. 6. Encore, Reprise, or Retread? 2014 2015
  7. 7. 2014 2015 San Diego March 2015
  8. 8. Encore, Reprise, or Retread? 2014 San Diego Washington Yesterday
  9. 9. 2014 2015 San Diego Washington
  10. 10. 2014 2015 San Diego Washington 15 years of wisdom
  11. 11. 2014 2015 San Diego Washington 15 years 15 + 1 years
  12. 12. Almost everyone hates their dissertation by the time they’re done with it. The process inherently tends to produce an unpleasant result, like a cake made out of whole wheat flour and baked for twelve hours. Few dissertations are read with pleasure, especially by their authors. And aside from that, grad school is close to paradise. Many people remember it as the happiest time of their lives. And nearly all the rest, including me, remember it as a period that would have been, if they hadn't had to write a dissertation. Paul Graham, Undergraduation
  13. 13. Grad Student = Paradise – dissertation Professor’s Paradasical Paradox And aside from that, grad school is close to paradise. Many people remember it as the happiest time of their lives. And nearly all the rest, including me, remember it as a period that would have been, if they hadn't had to write a dissertation. Paul Graham + dissertation + dissertation__________ _________________ Professor = Paradise
  14. 14. Professor “Real Job” Work with whomever you want Work with obnoxious, incompetent people Work on whatever you want Work on what your boss/customers want Work whenever you want Work when your employer wants Own your own work Employer owns you Say what you want Say what your employer wants Fail without consequences Failing gets you fired If you get bored, can go do something else for a year Maybe you get 2 weeks vacation
  15. 15. If a professor’s position is such paradise, why are so many professors miserable? Professor’s Paradasical Paradox
  16. 16. My meta-meta-advice: read/listen to lots of the second type, but ignore most of it “Committee” Advice Individual Advice Probably correct (lots of people agree on it) Probably wrong (just one arrogant person’s opinion) Generally agreeable (lots of people agree on it) Usually disagreeable (everyone’s experience is different) Always uninteresting (lots of people agree) Often interesting (someone was motivated enough to write it)
  17. 17. Quiz! Committee or Individual?
  18. 18. The truth is that no ideal strategy has yet been found, and that every approach has strengths and weaknesses. Given the current state of the art in this area, we are convinced that no one-size-fits-all approach will succeed at all institutions. Because introductory programs differ so dramatically in their goals, structure, resources, and intended audience, we need a range of strategies that have been validated by practice. The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense. ACM Computing Curricula 2001, Recommendations of the Joint ACM/IEEE Task Force on Computing Curricula Edsger W. Dijkstra, How do we tell truths that might hurt?, 1975
  19. 19. Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Me I’ve been extremely lucky I started my career back when everything was fun and easy I had no major responsibilities until well after tenure
  20. 20. plug book dori-mic.org A Tragicomic Tale of Combinatorics and Computability for Curious Children of All Ages The BEST babies' book about computational universality I've read. Scott Aaronson
  21. 21. Reasons Why You Might Listen to Me
  22. 22. Reason #1 I’ve taught over half a million students, learned something from many of them, and many have gone on to do amazing things.
  23. 23. Reason #2 I managed to become a tenured full professor without the ignominy of a single journal paper.
  24. 24. Reason #3 I believe enough in what I’m saying that I’m willing to buy anyone who wants more support/details/etc. a ridiculously expensive coffee to discuss it.
  25. 25. How to Spend Your Time time = values
  26. 26. How much should you Work?
  27. 27. Goal: no more than 10 hours per year
  28. 28. Goal: no more than 10 hours per year
  29. 29. Tenure-Track Dilemma Things that Matter Personally Fulfilling Intellectually Satisfying Socially Gratifying
  30. 30. Tenure-Track Dilemma Things that Matter Personally Fulfilling Intellectually Satisfying Socially Gratifying Things that “Count”
  31. 31. Things that Matter Personally Fulfilling Intellectually Satisfying Socially Gratifying The Real Situation Things that “Count”
  32. 32. Typical Grad Student’s Schedule
  33. 33. Typical New Professor’s Schedule
  34. 34. Typical New Professor’s Schedule Block out time for family, exercise, sleep, fun Schedule time for doing things that matter Long, uninterrupted blocks Take real vacations!
  35. 35. Myth of Linear Payoff Energy Value
  36. 36. Real Payoff Curve Energy Value
  37. 37. “Trough of Mediocrity” Energy Value Abyss of Embarrassment Pinnacle of “Extraordinariness” Trough of Mediocrity
  38. 38. How to Be an Extraordinary Teacher
  39. 39. Two Simple Steps! 1. Respect your student’s time 2. Focus on how you want to impact students five years from now, not on what they can do in 2.5 hours at the end of the semester
  40. 40. Aspire to do Better
  41. 41. What to Aspire To
  42. 42. Teaching != Grading It is not your job to help employers filter students. Picture: tru.ca
  43. 43. My Grading Scale Gold Star – Excellent Work Green Star – Got most things I wanted Silver Star – Some serious problems Average:  It is not your job to help employers filter students.
  44. 44. Unbounded Expectations!  - exceptional work - better than I thought possible - breakthrough! - deserve a Turing Award!
  45. 45. Raising Funds
  46. 46. 21st October 1941 Dear Prime Minister, Some weeks ago you paid us the honour of a visit, and we believe that you regard our work as important. … it seems to us that we have met with unnecessary impediments. …The cumulative effect, however, has been to drive us to the conviction that the importance of the work is not being impressed with sufficient force upon those outside authorities with whom we have to deal. A.M. Turing (+ 3 others) Winston Churchill Alan Turing http://www.cs.virginia.edu/evans/paradise/turing/
  47. 47. Target Your Audiences Your proposal should be appealing to both thorough, competent reviewers and lazy, grumpy ones!
  48. 48. Write Fewer Proposals Ask for feedback – early enough to be useful Don’t write proposals because of pressure from administrators, desire to appear “productive”
  49. 49. Get the least restrictive, lowest management, funding you can (NSF, industry gifts) Don’t Diversify
  50. 50. Be Open
  51. 51. Follow Norms, Buck Conventions
  52. 52. www.cs.virginia.edu/evans/paradise evans@virginia.edu

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