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Playing Pyramid Games


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I gave this presentation (slides only) at the Dutch postdoc retreat on June 25 2009. I was asked to talk about my move from a PhD in cell biology to running your own software company. I decided that telling my specific story wouldn't be very interesting to all, instead I tried to distill the 10 lessons I learned to help people understand science and decide whether they should stay or leave science.

A version with notes is also available.

Big thanks to Matt Wood for his slides design.

  • I have to admit that leaving science was psychologically very hard for me, but I have found a great deal of personal satisfaction outside of the academy.

    One aspect of doing science that I think this presentation might touch on is that when you do leave you leave with an incredible toolset that can be used in many of the other pyramid games out there.
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
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Playing Pyramid Games

  1. 1. Playing Pyramid Games Alexander Griekspoor
  2. 2. 1
  3. 3. Money 1 Air 10
  4. 4. Money 1 Air 10 More Money Thin Air 100
  5. 5. Money 1 Air 10 More Money Thin Air Loads of 100 Very Thin Money Air 1000 Image source: wikipedia article on Madoff
  6. 6. PI Postdoc You! Graduate Student
  7. 7. Science == Pyramid Game
  8. 8. Game Theory
  9. 9. 10 rules that made me understand Science
  10. 10. ...and step out of it.
  11. 11. WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, OF SATISFACTORY QUALITY, AND OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, ARE LIMITED IN DURATION TO THIRTY (30) DAYS FROM THE DATE OF ORIGINAL PURCHASE. SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW LIMITATIONS ON HOW LONG AN IMPLIED WARRANTY LASTS, SO THE ABOVE LIMITATION MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU. THE LIMITED WARRANTY SET FORTH HEREIN IS THE ONLY WARRANTY MADE TO YOU AND IS PROVIDED IN LIEU OF ANY OTHER WARRANTIES (IF ANY) CREATED BY ANY DOCUMENTATION, PACKAGING OR OTHERWISE. THIS LIMITED WARRANTY GIVES YOU SPECIFIC LEGAL RIGHTS, AND YOU MAY ALSO HAVE OTHER RIGHTS WHICH VARY BY JURISDICTION. 7. Disclaimer of Warranties. YOU EXPRESSLY ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT USE OF THE MEKENTOSJ SOFTWARE IS AT YOUR SOLE RISK AND THAT THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO SATISFACTORY QUALITY, PERFORMANCE, ACCURACY AND EFFORT IS WITH YOU. EXCEPT FOR THE LIMITED WARRANTY ON MEDIA SET FORTH ABOVE AND TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, THE MEKENTOSJ SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS”, WITH ALL FAULTS AND WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, AND MEKENTOSJ AND MEKENTOSJ LICENSORS (COLLECTIVELY REFERRED TO AS “MEKENTOSJ” FOR THE PURPOSES OF SECTIONS 7 AND 8) HEREBY DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES AND CONDITIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE MEKENTOSJ SOFTWARE, EITHER EXPRESS, IMPLIED OR STATUTORY, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES AND/OR CONDITIONS OF MERCHANTABILITY, OF SATISFACTORY QUALITY, OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, OF ACCURACY, OF QUIET ENJOYMENT, AND NON-INFRINGEMENT OF THIRD PARTY RIGHTS. MEKENTOSJ DOES NOT WARRANT AGAINST INTERFERENCE WITH YOUR ENJOYMENT OF THE MEKENTOSJ SOFTWARE, THAT THE FUNCTIONS CONTAINED IN THE MEKENTOSJ SOFTWARE WILL MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS, THAT THE OPERATION OF THE MEKENTOSJ SOFTWARE WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR-FREE, THAT THE MEKENTOSJ SOFTWARE WILL BE COMPATIBLE WITH THIRD PARTY SOFTWARE OR THAT DEFECTS IN THE MEKENTOSJ SOFTWARE WILL BE CORRECTED. NO ORAL OR WRITTEN INFORMATION OR ADVICE GIVEN BY MEKENTOSJ OR AN MEKENTOSJ AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE SHALL CREATE A WARRANTY. SHOULD THE MEKENTOSJ SOFTWARE PROVE DEFECTIVE, YOU ASSUME THE ENTIRE COST OF ALL NECESSARY SERVICING, REPAIR OR CORRECTION. SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE EXCLUSION OF IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR LIMITATIONS ON APPLICABLE STATUTORY RIGHTS OF A CONSUMER, SO THE ABOVE EXCLUSION AND LIMITATIONS MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU. 8. Limitation of Liability. TO THE EXTENT NOT PROHIBITED BY LAW, IN NO EVENT SHALL MEKENTOSJ BE LIABLE FOR PERSONAL INJURY, OR ANY INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, Game Theory INDIRECT OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES WHATSOEVER, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, DAMAGES FOR LOSS OF PROFITS, LOSS OF DATA, BUSINESS INTERRUPTION OR ANY OTHER COMMERCIAL DAMAGES OR LOSSES, ARISING OUT OF OR RELATED TO YOUR USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE MEKENTOSJ SOFTWARE, HOWEVER CAUSED, REGARDLESS OF THE THEORY OF LIABILITY (CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE) AND EVEN IF MEKENTOSJ HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES. SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE LIMITATION OF LIABILITY FOR PERSONAL INJURY, OR OF INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, SO THIS LIMITATION MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU. In no event shall Mekentosj's total liability to you for all damages (other than as may be required by applicable law in cases involving personal injury) exceed the amount of fifty dollars ($50.00). The foregoing limitations will apply even if the above stated remedy fails of its essential purpose. 9. Export Control. You may not use or otherwise export or reexport the Mekentosj Software except as authorized by Dutch law and the laws of the jurisdiction in which the Mekentosj Software was obtained. disclaimer 10. Government End Users. The Mekentosj Software and related documentation are "Commercial Items", as that term is defined at 48 C.F.R. §2.101, consisting of "Commercial Computer Software" and "Commercial Computer Software Documentation", as such terms are used in 48 C.F.R. §12.212 or 48 C.F.R. §227.7202, as applicable. Consistent with 48 C.F.R. §12.212 or 48 C.F.R. §227.7202-1through 227.7202-4, as applicable, the Commercial Computer Software and Commercial Computer Software Documentation are being licensed to U.S. Government end users (a) only as Commercial Items and (b) with only those rights as are granted to all other end users pursuant to the terms and conditions herein. 11. Controlling Law and Severability. This License will be governed by and constructed in accordance with the laws of The Netherlands, as applied to agreements entered into and to be performed entirely within The Netherlands between The Netherlands residents. This License shall not be governed by the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, the application of which is expressly excluded. If for any reason a court of competent jurisdiction finds any provision, or portion thereof, to be unenforceable, the remainder of this License shall continue in full force and effect. 12. Complete Agreement; Governing Language. This License constitutes the entire agreement between the parties with respect to the use of the Mekentosj Software licensed hereunder and supersedes all prior or contemporaneous understandings regarding such subject matter. No amendment to or modification of this License will be
  12. 12. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ Rule1 of pyramid games
  13. 13. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ You don’t talk about pyramid games
  14. 14. PI Postdoc You! Graduate Student
  15. 15. PI You! Postdoc Graduate Student
  16. 16. Find yourself a different job!
  17. 17. True.
  18. 18. True. But not me.
  19. 19. Think again
  20. 20. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ Rule2 of pyramid games
  21. 21. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ The game is not Fair
  22. 22. “I work as hard as the girl at the next bench, she gets a Nature paper, I don’t. Science is not fair.”
  23. 23. Science doesn’t care about you.
  24. 24. But you do!
  25. 25. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ Not everyone is suited for the game
  26. 26. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ It’s as important to discover what you don’t love doing, as it is to find out what you do You need Passion
  27. 27. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ Think beyond the next step
  28. 28. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ Try new things! Spread the risk Collaborate! Do what you love doing!
  29. 29. “Making a career in science is all about luck.”
  30. 30. True.
  31. 31. Bullshit
  32. 32. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ Create your own luck
  33. 33. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ work hard
  34. 34. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ Bend the rules (carefully) Distinguish Be creative yourself! Think outside the box pyramid!
  35. 35. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ The most important rule of pyramid games
  36. 36. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ Don’t be afraid to step out
  37. 37. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ Stepping out != Failure On the contrary!
  38. 38. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ One more rule...
  39. 39. ➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓ Pyramid games are everywhere...
  40. 40.