Am I prepared yet? Reflections on my first year as faculty

1. Expect to be overwhelmed and be ready to adapt

  • Being(mostly) in total control of your own schedule: Pretty much the only thing set in stone is your teaching schedule. Any other structure you impose on yourself is of your own doing. Don’t forget that you can change large parts of that structure if you don’t like it. There’s no rule that the meeting schedule you started with in the beginning of the semester is the one you have to end with.
  • Being(mostly) in total control over your work environment and culture: You can choose how many students to work with, the sort of equipment that you have available, how meetings are structured, the values you want your lab to embody.
  • Being (mostly) in total control over your research agenda: Since you have control over which students you’d like to hire and how to spend your research funds, you can indulge your scientific curiosity. Since you’re mentoring students who take the leading role in the day-to-day operations of the work, you can explore so many more of your ideas. There’s something really magical about meeting with a student, pitching a vague idea, and seeing that idea come to life in a few months.

2. Take advantage of the resources your university provides to help deal with being overwhelmed

3. Don’t lose sight of the fact that your university exists for students

4. You will never have more time than you do now

5. Befriend your administrative support staff

6. Justify and document your research purchases

7. Apply for funding early and often.

8. Get to know your colleagues

9 & 10. “Your university is investing in you. Part of the expected return on investment is service to the university” vs. “Counter point: Limit your service responsibilities pre-tenure.”

11. Get a post-tenure mentor at your university.

12. Assemble an advisory board of mentors outside of your university.

13. Befriend other junior faculty and share your experiences and strategies.

14. Be adaptable in your time management strategy.

15. Know your students — professionally and personally.

16. Do not collaborate with everyone who would be a good collaborator. You need tenure letter writers who have not worked with you.

17. Set aside distinct blocks of time for teaching prep that is adequate. Stick to those blocks of time — no less, no more.

18 & 19. “Ask your department head to repeat teaching assignments pre-tenure” vs. “Teach multiple things early on to reduce required prep in future years when you will have less time.”

20. Be known to your department head.

21. Invite leaders in your field to give a talk at your department.

22. Take on as many compensated opportunities to speak as you can.

23. Invite yourself to give talks at other universities / labs

24. Take advantage of industry resources. Industry resources are more than just money — also data, equipment.

25. Effective mentoring is a skill & a teaching relationship

26. Don’t take a teaching release your first semester

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  3. Subscribe to my mailing list (spam frequency: In Practice? Once a year. In Theory? Once a month.)



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Sauvik Das

Sauvik Das

Assistant Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. Formerly at Georgia Tech. Ph.D. from CMU HCII. HCI, Security, Data Science.