"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Difficult Decision

This past Thursday, May 31, marked my last day as "secretary" at Think Tank.

On Friday, June 1, New Think Tank launched successfully with money in the bank, a great new website, and solid plans for upcoming projects. It was my first day as "operations director" at New Think Tank.

On Friday, June 1, I also learned that I had been offered the "other possibility" I've been mentioning for the last few weeks -- the job working with scientists, humanities/social sciences people, and policy makers to find ways of better understanding and working to overcome obstacles to science-based public policy on things like energy and the environment.

This job is, as Comradde Physioproffe eloquently put it in comments the other day, a "fucken awesome" opportunity. I'd be a fool not to take it, even though as operations director at New Think Tank I'd be making slightly more money. Such opportunities don't often come twice nor do the compunding of circumstances that 1) made the job available at exactly the right time and 2) made me exactly the right person for it.

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Yetserday, I accepted the offer. I will start in mid July.

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But it is also not without some regret that I find myself leaving New Think Tank just as it's getting off the ground. Getting a new nonprofit incorporated, organized, and fully operational in the course of a mere three weeks is no small task. It took an impressive amount of effort on the part of everybody involved, and it would not have been possible at all had not Think Tank Boss, hereafter New Think Tank President, already been contemplating a break with Think Tank. This break, however, we had not anticipated happening, if it happened at all, until 2013.

Moreover, while New Think Tank is still ideologically committed to free-market answers to social and economic problems, part of its mission is to participate in public policy debates in a more rational, informed manner than Think Tank did. Unlike policy people at other similarly aligned organizations, the New Think Tank staff who will remain after I leave are much more interested -- and I say this knowing it firsthand -- in actually solving the problems and working with others to do so than in winning political battles.

And that is something. Something different and potentially very important. If New Think Tank President plays hir cards right -- and there's every reason to think ze will -- New Think Tank has the potential to fundementally change the conversation between Right and Left, much the way Grover Norquist did years ago but in the opposite direction, towards dialogue and collaboration rather than polarization and stalemate. And. That. Really. Is. SOMETHING.

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So, despite our differences in politics, it isn't without regret that I part ways with a quirky, creative, and resourceful bunch of people with whom I have enjoyed working and for whom I predict Great Things in the years to come ...

But I also realize that the longer I continue working for a "free-market" organization, no matter how promising its future nor what my role within it, the harder it will become to ever work someplace with a different ideolgical bent. Likewise, the longer I stay in an administrative position -- albeit now a higher level and better-paying one -- the harder it will be to move on to doing other kinds of work.

Both of these things have become eminently clear to me over the last few months, and now the stars have aligned in a way that could not be more perfect. It is, therefore, time for me to go.

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And, after all,  too, it is what any good pirate worth hir salt would do ...

Ching Shih, a 19th century Chinese female pirate captain, commanded 1800 ships and more than 80,000 pirates.


  1. Thanks! After I see how the news goes over tomorrow at New Think Tank and I get a job description written up, I'll email you ...

  2. Congrats!!! That's fantastic news!!

    And it is funny how the stars sometimes align and things just pop up in the nonacademic world, isn't it? Goodbye, "job market season" ... :)

    Congrats again!

  3. Based on how you describe this new opportunity, it sounds to me like you have absolutely made the correct decision.

    --Comradde PhysioProffe

  4. It wasn't really all that difficult. There are some thing I've intentionally left out of the description of the new job that shade things a little, and there's also the fact that at New Think Tank if I stayed, the money a year from now would be not a little better but potentially a lot better, whereas at my new job, salary will stay exactly the same for the first two years.

    But beyond that, the move required some consideration, especially given how fast so many totally unpredictable things happened -- how spectacularly Think Tank fucked up, how resiliantly everybody at New Think Tank proved to be, and how quickly I went from being "secretary" to "integral" personnel (my name is on the founding documents and the bank account, for crap's sake!). And, in a way, even though I'll be starting the new job in a much better position all the way around than I was in when I started at Think Tank, I will have to work hard at building a whole new set of relationships and gaining the trust of a whole new and larger set of people, so that two years from now,when it's time to start thinking about "what's next" in terms of salary and other things, I can be as integral to the new organization as I am to New Think Tank.

    That's no easy business, but the more I think about it, the more I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead ...

  5. OMG, thank god that u pick up the challenge! Congrats! and you will always have us! = ur readers!