Sunday, September 30, 2012

Careers: Give Passion the Opportunity to Follow You

Cal Newport has a nice piece titled "Follow a Career Passion? Let it Follow You" in the 29 September edition of the New York Times.

In it he partially debunks the notion that the right thing to do in making career decisions is to "follow your passion."  He notes that, for one thing, it's awfully hard, before you do things, before you have had a chance to know what it feels like to master something, to even know what your passions are.

He does not say, but I think it bears noting, that faced with the imperative to follow passions but not having enough experience and self-knowledge to do so, we often grab off-the-shelf "passions" that are not infrequently "aspiration-challenged."

Traditional advice, he suggests
assumes that we all have a pre-existing passion waiting to be discovered. If we have the courage to discover this calling and to match it to our livelihood, the thinking goes, we’ll end up happy. If we lack this courage, we’ll end up bored and unfulfilled — or, worse, in law school. 
But this generates unhelpful stress. It turns career path decisions into life-sized existential crises under the threat that the wrong choice will ruin your life and prevent you from ever experiencing real passion. And, he adds, it can actually get in the way:
Every time our work becomes hard, we are pushed toward an existential crisis, centered on what for many is an obnoxiously unanswerable question: “Is this what I’m really meant to be doing?” This constant doubt generates anxiety and chronic job-hopping. 
He argues that it's important to realize that what makes a job or career a good one does not lie exclusively in the content of the work. It lies in a feeling of autonomy and a feeling that one is good at something and having an impact. And:
These traits can be found in many jobs, but they have to be earned. Building valuable skills is hard and takes time. For someone in a new position, the right question is not, "What is this job offering me?" but, instead, "What am I offering this job?" 
Sometimes we have the unfortunate tendency to think about engagement and interestingness as if they are traits of the object or activity -- as in "this book/class/conversation is not interesting." But that's backwards: we create interestingness and engagement.  I think Newport hits the nail on the head when he notes that he survived the first few years of grad school because he recognized "that my sense of fulfillment would grow over time, as I became better at my job. So I worked hard, and, as my competence grew, so did my engagement."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Women Learning Javascript: Free Dinner on Wednesdays in SF!

There may be no such thing as a free lunch but there are free dinners out there.  This one is with a group of women learning Javascript every Wednesday evening in SF, just a block from Powell St BART.  Click on the link below for information and to sign up.

RT @eeblet: Women in the SF Bay Area: come learn Javascript! Free dinner! @WomenWhoCode @ZooskEngineers @Codecademy

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bob Moses in Conversation at Mills

Bob Moses (aka Robert Parris Moses) is one of my lifelong heroes. As a grade-schooler following the Civil Rights Movement and SNCC he stood out as "that guy I want to be like" and his rich and varied life's work make him a worthy role model many times over. This is a pretty awesome opportunity to meet someone who was an actor in lots of the "history you read about in books" and to hear about some important and provocative ideas in the contemporary dialog on education as a national priority. -- DJJR

The Center for Urban Schools and Partnerships at Mills will host Bob Moses on campus on
September 20
4:00 pm-6:00 pm
Lokey School of Business, Room 101 

In conversation with the School of Education's Dr. Ruth Cossey, Dr. Moses will discuss 

Quality Public School Education as a Constitutional Right

Dr. Moses has been a life-long leader and activist for racial, social, and educational justice. He was a leader with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Mississippi Voter Registration Project, and Freedom Summer in the 1960s.  As a MacArthur "Genius" Fellow, he founded the deservedly renowned Algebra Project.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Microsoft Research (MSR) is looking for a Research Assistant Cambridge, Massachusetts


Another in the "what's out there" series

Microsoft Research (MSR) is looking for a Research Assistant for its Social Media Collective in the New England lab, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Social Media Collective consists of Nancy Baym, danah boyd, Kate Crawford, Megan Finn, and Mary L. Gray, as well as faculty visitors and Ph.D. interns.  An appropriate candidate will be both passionate and knowledgeable about social media, have strong writing and organization skills, and have experience working on research projects.  Minimal qualifications are a BA or equivalent degree in a social science discipline and some qualitative research training.

Job responsibilities will include producing literature reviews, coding ethnographic data, editing manuscripts, and organizing events.  The RA will also get to collaborate on ongoing research and, while publication is not a guarantee, the RA will be encouraged to co-author papers while at MSR. The RAship will require 40 hours per week on site in Cambridge, MA.  It is a 1-year only contractor position, paid hourly with flexible daytime hours. The start date will likely be in September.

This position is ideal for scholars who are applying to PhD programs in Communication, Media Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, Information Studies, and related fields who want to get involved with research before entering a graduate program.  Current New England-based MA/PhD students are welcome to apply provided they can commit to 40 hours of on-site work per week.

To apply, please send an email to Nancy Baym ( with the subject ?RA Application? and include the following:

 - 1-page personal statement, including a description of research experience, interests, and professional goals

- CV or resume

- Writing sample (preferably a literature review or a scholarly-styled article)

- Links to online presence (e.g., blog, homepage, Twitter, journalistic endeavors, etc.)

- The names and emails of two recommenders

We will begin reviewing applications on September 11 and continue doing so until we find an appropriate candidate.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Labor Day Announcement

On September 10, Brigid O'Farrell who has taught our "sociology of work" course will give a dinner talk for the Alameda National Women's Political Caucus.

Eleanor Roosevelt: Worker Advocate 

Come to a riveting presentation about a little-known aspect of Eleanor Roosevelt. Author Brigid O'Farrell will talk about her latest book, She Was One of Us: Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker Eleanor was born to privilege and married to a U.S. president. But she was also a committed lifelong advocate for workers and a proud union member for 25 years. O'Farrell reveals the First Lady's deep ties to the American labor movement and their mutual struggle for human rights.

Monday, September 10, 2012
Buttercup Grill 
229 Broadway, Oakland

Plan to arrive by 6pm so you can order your dinner before the program begins.For more information, contact Program Co-Chair Ellen Augustine, 510-428-1832,

And here is a link to O'Farrell's Labor Day article for AlterNet: "Is this California's Last Labor Day."