Austin Z. Henley

I work on AI + dev tools.

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Leaving academia


See the discussion of this post on Hacker News.

Yep, I'm leaving academia.

Recently, I resigned from my tenure-track faculty position.

It is an odd feeling. I went through 6.5 years of graduate school so that I could become a professor. Then I went through 3.5 years of being a professor to pursue tenure.

I've even been moderately successful at it. In fact, I did my mid-tenure review recently and received positive feedback.

My university, department, colleagues, and students have been fantastic.

Why am I leaving then?

I'm not happy.

I remember attending a new faculty symposium my first year where I asked a more senior professor, "is it normal to think about going to industry every day?"

Based on their reaction, I guess it's not.

At first it came in waves. I thought I was just burnt out after my first semester. I wasn't surprised by that. I did a lot that first semester.

That feeling went away for a semester or so. Then it came back. Then it went away. Again and again.

But for the last year, it has been persistent. So I made up my mind to go to industry.

I've previously spent about two years time intermittently working in industry settings. I enjoyed the fast pace and working on problems that have a human on the other side waiting for your solution.

There is also a lot to enjoy about academia though. I'm glad I went the route I did. It taught me many lessons. The freedom and unstructured time to explore fuzzy problems is unmatched.

I have no doubt that I'll miss it.

Now I want to learn some new skills. In particular, I've been craving to learn what it takes to ship a product from start to finish. I've been consuming every book and podcast I can find on entrepreneurship, product design, economics, and management.

What's next for me then? Stay tuned... 🙂