I’m into my second week with Sigma, and on Monday they published a blog post with the news. I wrote the bio (the middle part), and they wrote the first and last bits. I feel really honoured and grateful to be so well thought of, and delighted to be working with such great people. If I weren’t already highly motivated to finish my thesis, the knowledge that I’ll have more time to spend with these folks would put me there. Can’t wait to make this move!
People have been asking me what I’m going to do after I finish my PhD, and I’ve always said I’m considering various paths. Well, I’ve come to one important conclusion, and I don’t think it will hurt my future if I post that publicly.
I’m going back into industry.
I would love to continue doing research into techno-spirituality, but I can do that without going into academia. After much thought and some discussions with other people, I have concluded that starting work in an academic institution is just not realistic for me at this point in my life — I’d have to start at the bottom and compete with all the other new PhDs, who have much longer careers ahead of them than I do. With my 35 years of professional experience in industry — PLUS a PhD — I am much better positioned to return to user experience consulting. It pays a lot better, too.
But I should be able to meet both needs. That is, I am confident that I can find a way to continue my research (albeit not full time) while working in industry. My topic ties in with several areas of application (no details in this post; that’s for later) and I like to think I will be able to integrate it into my work. Or I can, perhaps, work less than full time and continue the research on my own time. I may even be able to collaborate with people in academia. (I do hope so!) Although lots of things would have to be addressed to make this happen, the upshot is this: Returning to industry doesn’t have to mean giving up doing research that really energizes me.
I’m taking steps to increase my visibility within industry and to explore my opportunities with UK consultancies. And of course I won’t say anything publicly about discussions or negotations with potential employers until I have something established.
And all this while doing my data analysis and writing it up.
Free time? What’s that?!? :-)
My studentship (aka research fellowship) pays relatively little. It’s probably enough to cover the costs of a UK/EU student who’s sharing a flat with one or two others, but for me it is definitely a reduction in income from when I was working. I’m not complaining about this; I have always considered it part of the cost of getting this PhD and making this change in my life, and have been willing to put up with it, drawing on my savings if and as needed. I do have some additional resources — the rent on my Maryland house brings in somewhat more than the rent I pay on my UK flat (now that the maintenance costs have settled down to very small), and my late husband’s Social Security (at about a 3/4 rate because I started drawing it early). I’m sure I could get some freelance work if I were allowed, but my student visa prohibits me from working for myself or running a business while I’m in the UK, so I have been looking to find a company that would hire me on a zero-hours basis. I have been discussing this with a terrific UK company, but they aren’t ready to make it happen yet, so that’s on hold for the time being*. One main stumbling block is the amount of time I have available for work — the university is paying me to do my research, after all, and they (rightfully) expect me to spend the equivalent of full time on it — but I do have my own time for my own purposes.
So I have been considering whether I should start drawing the company pension from my long-time US employer, with whom I am still on the books as a “casual part-time” / “zero-hours” employee but for whom I hadn’t had any work since I left the US almost a year ago to come to the UK. If I start drawing it before I turn 65, however (another four years from now), I won’t be able to do any more work for them, ever. (This is company policy, AFAIK, not law; but I’m not sure of that, and in any case it really doesn’t matter.) Do I really want to close that door?
Three weeks ago I became very glad that that door is still open. I think the main reason I hadn’t had any work since I moved is that I belong to a section whose clients are US Government agencies, and almost all of them want contractor personnel to be physically located in the US. But three weeks ago I got an email from someone who had gotten my name from my manager, and it resulted in a few hours of work over two weeks and the possibility of more of the same, a little further down the road. I have to work out the tax implications of getting paid in USD while doing the work from the UK, and I’m hoping that a visit to the IRS office in the US Embassy London will help me sort out what’s what. I had feared that the shutdown would close that office, but the site says they’re open with reduced staff. Good thing I’m arriving in time to spend all day Thursday there if I need to. Better take a book.
No, make that TWO books.
Back now to organizing the papers in my literature review. PhD work is neverending. :-)
*Whenever I say “for the time being” in my brother’s presence, he starts speculating about a Time Being who appreciates all these things that we humans do for him (or her, I might add).