Claire Mathieu caught me on IM a few weeks ago – she was in the middle of a discussing a quote with Valerie King by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, at Barnard College’s commencement. You can read our discussion on Claire’s much-more-prolific-than-mine blog. I’m not sure at what point it became clear that this discussion would become a public blog post, but I did want to point out that as a result of the public-ness a lot of my comments hit the editing room floor. (Hence my relative silence in the edited conversation.) Why? Not because of my crude mastery of the English language. Or not only, at least. Mostly due to tenure concerns. We had some email exchanges to decide whether that was necessary – I ended up playing the better-safe-than-sorry card.
I wish that wasn’t the case. I don’t think that my opinions were particularly worrisome, but apparently there is an undercurrent of reservation pre-tenure. Which doesn’t seem like a psychologically healthy thing or – in the more professional aspects of research direction – a limiting factor for the field. This came up in a second conversation with Claire on choosing research problems. (A conversation I entered knowing it would be made public, so less was cut.) In humming and hawing over the decision (which really didn’t take as long as I’m making out it did), I alternated between “Maybe it’s better that people say things like that in public?” and “Should I be more reserved?”.
Anyhow, these conversations have been great for me – a wee bit of mentoring-like contact over the distance. Hopefully there will be more. Overall, a reminder that the positives outweigh the distractions of staying signed into IM.