Advice on soft skills for academics

Julia Hirschberg sent this along to the natural language processing mailing list at Columbia:

here are some slides from last spring’s CRA-W Grad Cohort and previous years that might be of interest. all sorts of topics such as interviewing, building confidence, finding a thesis topic, preparing your thesis proposal, publishing, entrepreneurialism, and a very interesting panel on human-human interaction skills.

I took a look at a couple of these and they look like useful advice for grad students. I wrote back to Julia that I used to have a hard time as a professor convincing students their evening would be better spent having dinner with the invited seminar speaker than revising their homework.

Advice to grad students is a longstanding, niche writing genre. There are even widely-cited classics, like the transciption of Richard Hamming’s talk You and Your Research, which has been recommended to me more times than I can count. There’s also a later YouTube presentation, which I haven’t seen (yet!).

Hamming’s advice on lunchtime behavior reminds me of one of the reasons I like places like Google—they still have active round table tech lunches. We try to do that once per week after the Stan meetings. If you’re in town and want to join us, drop me or Andrew a line.

P.S. I got the term “soft skills” from a friend of mine who’s going through soft skills training at Amazon before they’ll let him speak to customers—things like giving presentations and staying on topic.

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