Friday, April 3, 2015

Getting that Dream Academic Job - What We Learned from Isenberg School Panelists

Today was a jam-packed Friday with multiple strategic planning committee meetings plus a great event hosted by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter -  An Academic Career Panel.

Coming back to the Isenberg School of Management were 2 of our PhD graduates in Management Science, Dr. Amir H. Masoumi, who received his PhD in 2013 and Dr. Davit Khachatryyan, who also received a PhD in Management Science from the Isenberg School in 2010.  Amir is now an Assistant Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management at Manhattan College in NYC and Davit is an Assistant Professor at Babson College. Also, joining them on the panel was Dr. Chaitra Gopalappa, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at UMass Amherst who received her PhD from the University of South Florida, also in 2010.

The panelists were selected - many thanks to the Chapter President - Michael Prokle for all his efforts on this -  for their different trajectories in obtaining a tenure-track academic position.

Amir went directly into academia. Davit worked for PriceWarterhouseCoopers (PWC), the top consulting company, and was based in Virginia for 3 years, with projects in the healthcare, financial, and government sectors.  Chaitra had a postdoc at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for 3 years and then worked at the Futures Institute in Glastonbury, CT in healthcare modeling and policy.

I had the pleasure of introducing the panelists and Michael Prokle moderated the panel and the Q&A segment.
Some tips from the panelists on the academic job search:

From Amir: You need to be very organized and star the job search in latte summer. Amir, during his doctoral studies was not sure whether to pursue an academic or industrial position, but in teaching at the Isenberg School (we had a 2 course requirement at that time), he knew that he absolutely loved teaching and wanted academia.

He emphasized to be very prepared for interviews, both at conferences, and at the campus visits.  He advised the students to research the college/university webpages, that of the department that is interviewing you, and the faculty pages, as well. Also, study the institution's Wikipedia page, which will have what the place prides itself for. He would have campus sports topics, for example, that he could talk about during breaks in conversations at interviews. Amir (I am biased as to his great talents, poise, and personality, since I was his doctoral dissertation advisor) received his job offer from Manhattan College in December of that year, and couldn't be happier there. Amir's research is on perishable product supply chains with applications to blood supply chains and pharmaceuticals.

From Chaitra: Chaitra has taught at USF and really enjoyed it and while completing her doctoral studies looked at both academic and industrial positions. However, the prestigious CDC postdoc caught her eye and, although she was the only one hired on such a fellowship that year who had an engineering background, she very much enjoyed working across disciplines, and still does.  She emphasized the importance of having an "elevator" speech during your job interviews and the importance of doing your homework on the institution. She also said that one has to have a list of different questions to ask on the interview and these should be different for different audiences. You will be meeting with faculty, administrators, staff, and students and you need to be prepared.

From Davit: Davit during his doctoral studies had had an internship with GE. He is an applied statistician.and an expert on time series analysis. He wanted to experience practice and through his consulting work at PWC realized that much of the data was not well-organized and he had to spend a lot of time cleaning up data and also much more time computer programming than he had expected. He enjoyed working with clients and his expertise in analytics - probably one of the hottest areas now on the academic job market - enabled him to secure a faculty position at Babson, which was ideal for him, since he wanted a job in the eastern Massachusetts area. Davit admitted that Amir had helped him on the academic job market by offering him tips - although he did tell him that he had started the search "too late." Nevertheless, Davit got his dream job in an ideal location!

During the Q&A the importance of Resume (CV) building was emphasized from the first year of doctoral students, in terms not just with respect to classwork, but in terms of publications, conference presentations, and, also (I did not suggest this) taking part in UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter activities. Students get to meet and interact with our speakers, hold officer positions, practice their communications skills (soft skills were further emphasized by Davit) , and build up their resumes. Also, this is a very supportive and collegial group.

The students had prepared a wonderful reception beforehand - thanks to Sara Saberi, our treasurer, and we enjoyed the discussions afterwards, as well.
And, to top off a terrific panel, I took 5 students plus Amir out to lunch at the Blue Wall in the UMass Campus Center. The other panelists had to head back for meetings.

We topped off a great lunch with gelato for dessert!
Thanks to our panelists and the students for their great teamwork with the chapter!