Leaving tenure-track academia?
September 3, 2012 8:17 PM Subscribe
Should I quit my tenure-track academic job in computer science?
I am a tenure-track professor at one of the top schools in my research area (computer science). Two years in, I'm really not sure this is the job for me. I entered academia because I love doing research, but as a professor, I'm finding that I must context switch constantly (advising PhD students, teaching, departmental and professional service, grant meetings, etc.). This means that I cannot focus on research for long periods of time. I had hoped that I'd be able to make progress despite such context switching, but I'm just not able to focus deeply enough. From talking with other professors it appears that the only way to get long periods of research time is to dedicate the hours in the late evening and early morning to research. As someone who needs 8+ hours of sleep a night, this doesn't work for me.
I'm not sure I like the non-research aspects of my job. I don't really enjoy teaching. I find advising/managing PhD students frustrating because (as is standard in CS) I need them to produce deliverables for the grants from which they are paid, yet most do not realize that they are employees in this regard and either complain about or simply avoid doing what I ask of them. In addition, graduate school isn't a very happy time for most people, and I dislike being the person who is, in some ways, responsible for my students' unhappiness.
I enjoy some of the professional service aspects of my job, but ultimately these don't really count for tenure.
I miss working as part of a team of equals.
I work almost every evening and weekend in order to complete the bare minimum that is required/desired of me. When I am not working, I feel guilty because of the pervasive "pre-tenure professors must work 24/7 if they want to get tenure" attitude. Almost all of my colleagues (male) have stay-at-home wives. I (female, unmarried) do not.
At age 33, I'm not sure I want to continue to live like this until I (maybe, if I'm lucky) get tenure at age 40. I would like to have a job that does not necessarily demand every waking second of my life. I would like to be able to focus on research for more than a few minutes at a time. I would like to get married and have a family. I would like to be happy. As a result, I want to quit and move to industry (probably a research job) however I am worried that I will regret doing so for a) the lack of freedom, b) the lack of "prestige", b) the ultimate lack of job security, d) the fact that as a woman, I will be a pretty undesirable hire in the tech industry once I reach my 40s, and e) the fact that quitting will likely preclude me from ever moving back into tenure-track academia should I want to do so.
TL;DR: Should I quit my academic job? If you left your tenure-track academic job in CS for a job in industry, do you regret it?