5 Key Takeaways from the Pracademic Career Panel
5 NOVEMBER 2023
By Stella MIn
The ADSA Career Development Network recently hosted a discussion featuring three pracademic data scientists, Drs. Julia Lane, Matthew Martinez, and Bradley Voytek. Learn more about each panelist and five key takeaways from the career panel.
👉Don’t forget to check out our previous panels to learn more about career paths in data science.
About the Panelists
Dr. Julia Lane is a Professor at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She was a senior advisor in the Office of the Federal CIO at the White House, supporting the implementation of the Federal Data Strategy. She co-founded the Coleridge Initiative, whose goal is to use data to transform the way governments access and use data for the social good through training programs, research projects, and a secure data facility. She holds a PhD in Economics and an MA in Statistics.
Dr. Matthew Martinez is a Senior Data Scientist at Meta and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). His research interests are centered on developing a deeper understanding of the multifarious relationship between race and ethnicity and educational outcomes. Matt earned his Bachelor’s in Sociology and Philosophy from UTSA, a Master’s in Sociology from Baylor University, and a PhD in Applied Demography from UTSA.
Dr. Bradley Voytek is a Professor in the Department of Cognitive Science, the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute, and the Neurosciences Graduate Program at UC San Diego where his research lab combines large-scale data science and machine learning to study how brain regions communicate with one another, and how that communication changes with aging and disease. After his PhD at UC Berkeley, he joined Uber as their first data scientist—when it was a 10-person startup—where he helped build their data science strategy and team before returning to his academic career.
5 Key Takeaways from the Career Panel
1 There are multiple routes back to academia
Each panelist took a different path back into academia. Julia initially followed the traditional path, progressing from her PhD to a tenure track position. She later strayed from this route and has given up tenure twice for opportunities that piqued her interest, but she continued to build upon her publication and grant record along the way. Bradley postponed a postdoctoral opportunity to become Uber's first data scientist. He was fortunate enough to fund his postdoc position, which allowed for more flexibility in timing his return to higher ed. From there, he progressed through the standard tenure track route and has since been promoted to full professor. Matthew left academia upon earning his PhD but began teaching courses on nights and weekends after learning about the positive experience of his manager.
The experience of our panelists suggests that there are multiple routes back into academia. Other routes have also been highlighted by two guests who were featured in our previous career panel about tips for landing a data science faculty position. Andrea Jones Rooy also offered some insights into their journey during our career panel in January 2023.
2 Publications and grants are vital
For those who want to obtain a tenure track position, publications and grants are still the coin of the realm. This may require working nights and weekends, which may be easier in some positions where work is more confined to the hours between 9am and 5pm. As Julia said, it's also easier to dedicate this extra time toward publications and grants if you're passionate about the work - because it doesn't feel like work.
3 Know your value
A point that was made repeatedly throughout the discussion was the importance of knowing the value of you and your work and the willingness to advocate for yourself. Advocating for yourself and what you believe in isn't easy. You may ruffle some feathers but it's important to stand up for what you believe in and seek opportunities that will enable you to grow and thrive.
4 Be kind
Assertiveness is important to career progression, as is kindness and respect. Every person has the potential to affect your life in different ways. Your willingness to show kindness and respect may encourage someone to advocate for you in a critical moment when you need support.
5 Enjoy life
At the end of the conversation, Matthew shared wise advice about setting boundaries around work and life. He emphasized the importance of following your values and not worrying about what others think you should do. Don't forget to enjoy life.