My name is Neesha and I’m a 5th year PhD student. This was my third trip to Grace Hopper and wow has it grown! The last time I went was in 2009. Back then (only 4 years ago), the career fair booth was a collection of tables – one table per sponsor. Now, sponsors have giant booths. Before, while crowded, the crowd was manageable. Now, there were times where I had serious thoughts that “there better not be any problems, because a crowd this big can easily cause a stampede.”
The first time I went, I was halfway through my Master’s and was going because a large contingent from our department was going. I didn’t know what to expect and mainly went hoping to have fun, make some new friends, and learn about grad school and career options. The second time I went, I had a poster and so I went hoping to maybe talk to a few people about the poster. I had also just started my PhD, so I was a lot more interested in any talks on the PhD process (which seemed, and still seems much more scary than a Masters). This time, there was a big group going again, and so while I expected to bond and make some new friends, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to actually get out of the conference.
In the end, I did bond with and make a lot of new friends (see Figure 1). However, I also ended up doing a lot more contemplating about my future than I expected to do. I wandered the career fair a couple of times looking for swag (see Figure 2), and ended up in a couple of conversations about my own future that I didn’t expect. I also attended a few sessions that related to looking for an academic job.
I’m completely undecided as to what I want to do when I finish. And I know I need to start making some more plans. I probably have about a year, plus or minus a couple of months left for my degree. But I continue to flip back and forth between industry and academia – usually depends on what new news there is about the next terrible cut universities are getting or how few academic jobs there are.
While I’m not anymore decided than I was before I went to Grace Hopper, I do feel like there are more types of potential industry jobs out there than I was originally considering. I talked with ThoughtWorks and really liked their goal of looking for employees who can learn and spending about 20% of their time on pro bono work. I talked with EA and walked away with contact information and “to get in touch when I’m about 6 months from graduating.” The recruiter there thought, with my research, there were some definite possibilities as to job opportunities (and I had never actually really considered working for a games company before, even though that’s my research area).
I also learned a lot about Liberal Arts colleges in the states. And while I’m not sure if I want to leave Canada, the talks did make me start thinking about what kind of academic job I’d like, should I get one. Do I want to focus on teaching or research or a more even split? Do I want to aim for a research university or a college? If I’m looking at a college, or even a new university that doesn’t currently have grad students, what would I continue to research and how could I potentially involve undergrads in it? Or even grads?
So many things to think about. But, I know, whether I end up in academia or industry, I hope to attend Grace Hopper again in the future.