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Your Research Career Chandu Thekkath Microsoft Research Silicon Valley.

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Presentation on theme: "Your Research Career Chandu Thekkath Microsoft Research Silicon Valley."— Presentation transcript:

1 Your Research Career Chandu Thekkath Microsoft Research Silicon Valley

2 Assumptions and background
You: Graduating or recently graduated Ph.D. Experimental system scientist Research career in industry or academia Me: SW Engineer (‘83-’89). Ph.D.(‘89-’94) Systems researcher (‘94-present) Worked in industrial labs (DEC, Compaq, Microsoft) One year on sabbatical at Stanford Research manager for 3 years

3 The talk Personal, prescriptive, and sometimes contradictory
Based on my experience and many researchers I interviewed: Fresh Ph.D.s to Turing award winners 1 year out of school to over 2 decades in the field Mix of software and hardware systems Some theoreticians Both men and women No guarantee any of this is repeatable


5 You Things that matter Choice of areas, topics, and projects
Who you collaborate with and how How you position your research and yourself to the external world Your management and how you are evaluated You Projects/Ideas Collaborators External Visibility Management

6 Topics, areas, and projects
Picking the problem is usually the hard part Spades and toothpicks (Roger Needham) Lofty goals vs. concrete results Solvable vs. high risk problems Topics that are fun and meaningful to you Would you use the system? Would anybody? Plan to evaluate your system (if not use it) Problems that annoy you Find a way to make it less annoying

7 Topics, areas, and projects
Technology leads systems research The bleeding edge yields nuggets Immerse yourself; fortune favours the prepared mind Inter-disciplinary projects Conferences outside your area Be open and broad and experiment with many areas Research career spans years Change topics. Keeps you alert/inventive Choose projects that you will learn from

8 Topics, areas, and projects
Develop good taste Like wine tasting, the more you do it, the better you get at differentiating good from mediocre Accept ideas and input from others Be willing to work on other people’s ideas; they will sometimes work on yours Avoid the tyranny of the LPU and the paper chase Focus on learning more than CV building

9 Your colleagues and collaborators
Good systems research requires collaboration Multiple researchers with different strengths People who are smart, inventive, different from you (and nice to hang out with) Move on if you make a mistake Don’t obsess over credit; evens out Don’t antagonize people (we are opinionated and full of ourselves) Hang around people whose work you admire. Try to become technical friends with them

10 Your colleagues and collaborators
Neither a minion nor a manager be Collaborate as a peer (hard if collaborator is senior and in a hierarchy) Use your colleagues Advisors, users, critics (c.f. conference PC) Look for external collaborations Not always easy: geographical, organizational, political hurdles

11 Promoting yourself externally
Your research and user community Publications, talks, participation in conferences/workshops Making your system available externally The product division in your company “Technology transfer”: transferring your knowledge or research artifacts Funding agencies

12 Publishing Number of papers vs. number of citations
Publish only things of which you are proud. Weak papers can mar a strong CV. Huge difference between writing a paper vs. writing the best/definitive/seminal paper on a topic 5 papers a year vs. 1 SOSP paper, 5 times in a row. Avoid boondoggles, however attractive Ultimately, where you publish will reflect on your CV Your peers may judge you by your submissions (not just your publications)

13 Publishing Write papers that Be generous with credit. E.g.,
Teach your readers something Contain results that can be reproduced Be generous with credit. E.g., Don’t get hung up on author order If you are not presenting at the conference, Use other prestigious venues (e.g., colloquia at top-tier universities)

14 Publishing Papers get rejected for many reasons. Don’t lose confidence and self-esteem Find venues to talk about rejected work if you think the work is good. Ask for advice from your more experienced colleagues Fix the shortcomings of the research. Take your time, re-evaluate your decision to republish Be a conscientious reviewer/PC member Word gets around if you are a sloppy/indifferent PC member

15 Technology transfer Don’t confuse research, advanced development, and product development You may do all three at times, but be aware of what you are doing Product folks have a different mindset Respect them; they are smart but they march to a different beat. Don’t expect your research system to be immediately useful Gestation period can be a few years Develop a research pipeline

16 Technology transfer Use product development to learn about real problems Real usage reveals real problems Move between research and product development (gasp!) Work as an advisor or architect Attend design reviews

17 Management & environment
Management style matters in research Top down vs. bottom up can make a huge difference Research is best done from the trenches rather than from the hilltops Make sure you know how research is actually done in the organization “Research” or “Researcher” may not mean what you think Do you have freedom to pursue your research agenda? If not, how much of it is directed by group lead/manager Can you live with this?

18 Management & environment
Is research your primary responsibility? Or is it done in your spare time Is it done only for a fraction of your time Will you be rewarded for doing only research? No product impact for an extended time? Do projects have to be “approved” or “funded” By somebody (e.g., your manager) By some group (e.g., a product division) Do you have enough resources for Travel and equipment Visitors/collaborators/interns

19 Odds and ends Living your life and being a researcher at the same time
What fraction of your social/family life are you willing to give up. Pick a balance that works for you. Being happy is more important than being a star researcher Know when to give up If you are not having fun being a researcher, do something else. Many fulfilling non-research careers available for a Ph.D. in CS

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