Michael Ekstrand

Five-Year Plans

Published on 3 Oct 2016 and tagged with academia, career, and planning.

Shriram Krishnamurthi at Brown wrote today about his pivot into CS education research. I found the whole article fascinating to read, but found this paragraph at the end intriguing as I am thinking about my research agenda over the next few years:

When I became a professor, I decided it would be good to take on “five-year plans”: pick a topic and work with it for about five years (with a trailing year or two to disseminate results). That's long enough to really get into its guts, understand it at depth, make real contributions, but also not become stale. (And most of all, not become too attached to my insider status, which would breed conservatively sticking to it and cranking out papers with rapidly diminishing returns.) I've done that now on five projects, and it's worked well for me. This would be my sixth five-year project. In some ways, this is the most terrifying one because it's the one I'm least prepared for: when I read @markguzdial's writings, I feel I'm not just a novice, I'm trying to reach a different planet. But I've muddled through before, and I'm excited to try doing so again.

We talk about 5-year plans a lot in academia; forming one is common advice to new faculty. But I think this is the first time that I have seen the suggestion of thinking of a career as a sequence of 5-year plans that don't necessarily all focus on the same agenda.

I'll be thinking about this as I work on my 5-year plan.

Now, go read the whole article — Shriram some very good thoughts on imposter syndrome and the pressures of academic structures.