Friday, January 30, 2015

Pivoting

To make a long story short, I’ve decided to scale back my involvement with the streamdrill company to a purely advisory role. The reasons for this are naturally very complex, but in the end, I wasn’t seeing the kind of traction or the prospect of traction necessary to keep going at the pace I was going, splitting time between family, the university jobs, which paid my bills, and doing the dev work and marketing for streamdrill.

In fact I still believe the base technology is pretty compelling, so we’re going to open source the core, to allow me to continue to work on it. That’s something I had been wanting to do for some time, because in the Big Data community, having some part as open-source is necessary to get people to try this out. At streamdrill, we always had more of a focus on providing some directly usable end product, so this won’t hurt the company (which Leo is planning to continue.)

So the big question (or maybe not) is what to do now. In fact, I already got plenty to do… .

So I’m still at the TU Berlin, and let me whine about the situation here for one paragraph ;) It’s not ideal. I sort of have accepted for myself that my interests are just too applied for academia (one simply does not write software at my level anymore, people told me it’s suspicious and I should stop it). In terms of career I have moved up to a point where the work I’m expected to do is mostly teaching, advising students, and stuff like grant proposal and project management. And while I seem to do OK, this makes me deal with stuff I find extremely painful. On the plus side, it provides good job security and somewhat fair pay, but that will only get you so far, soulwise.

And the workload is pretty high. I have to do about a professor level of teaching, and am currently supervising about 5 students writing their master thesis and something like two to three Ph.D. students.

I’m sort of managing our side of the Berlin Big Data Center project. Luckily this project aligns well with my interests. It’s about bringing together machine learning people and people who build scalable distributed infrastructure. We’re closely related to the Apache Flink project, which is also really picking up lately. There’s lots of mutual interest, so I’m definitely looking forward to that.

There is also another project which is potentially coming up, so my current workload is two projects, half a dozen students, and about 20 or so students to supervise in four teaching courses.

I’ve recently started to join the InfoQ editorial board and try to cover about one Big Data related news item per week. And I’m again taking part in the 3rd batch of the Data Science Retreat starting in February.

And there’s still more stuff I’m interested in:

And then there are even other odds and bits. I mean why is everything so complex nowadays? Just frameworks wrapping frameworks. CSS frameworks? I mean, c’mon! What about things which did one thing well and weren’t a pain to set up?

I want to keep attending more non-academic meetings. I’ll try to go to QCon London for at least one day, and I’ll be also speaking at Strata in London in May.

Still, the whole situation is hardly ideal. Maybe it’s asking too much of a job to have perfect alignment between interests and job related activities, but I think there’s room for improvement. Stay tuned.

Posted by Mikio L. Braun at 2015-01-30 17:03:00 +0100

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