22 June 2008

pressure and emptiness

One evening over dinner at the workshop last week we talked about differences between industry and academia.

At a one-day workshop held last fall for Martin Vetterli at EPFL, there was a very good panel of people who had been both in academics and in industry. I remember clearly that St├ęphane Mallat gave his perspective on the issue: The two have different main challenges in their jobs. In industry, there are deadlines where there is great pressure to deliver and a lot (millions of dollars, future of a start-up) on the line. In academia, there is a kind of emptiness one gets from working on a problem for several years without seeing any fruit from your work.

When I brought that up, folks had some interesting thoughts to add-- that most people in big companies never feel that kind of pressure in industry, and that in fact the pressure of teaching in front of 300 students for the first time could be more stressful than any work deadline. I wish more people felt that way. Maybe profs would be more prepared for their courses!

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