The Trial and Tribulation of Life as an Academia

Its the first week of January, and I already felt the spirit of New Year has deflated a little…

Perhaps because I spent the last weeks of 2017 in Bali. So, upon returning I felt a little overwhelmed.

As many organizations, we academics also felt a lot of pressure in December. Its the end of semester, which means piles of marking to go through. Having done this for over ten years now, I already work out strategies. In the beginning of the semester I develop Course Planning, which state clearly the assignments and grading required for the course. With this planning I can see what I need to do to ensure that the grading part is less painful. I try so hard to disciplined myself by doing the marking as soon as the assignments, quizzes and exams took place. For some assignments (less complicated with clear answers) I enlisted the help of one or two graders. Of course there are some assignments (projects, essays) and examinations that I must do myself. But, I can safely say that I managed to do it.

What I did not take into account is at the same time, we also have to fill in our achievements of the year for performance measurement purpose. The performance measurement systems in our institution this year are a little different than last years. We have to put every documentation about our research and community service activities online. Its a lot of work, but I know that it will safe us a lot of time in the future. But, still it means I allocate some time to do it. Another things that we lecturer need to do is to supervise our students, undergraduate and masters students. The time to do this cannot be stated clearly because it in itself is a mini project that depends on the subjects, the students and stakeholders.

In the meantime, the girls are having their semesters break from mid December until 1st January. So, this is where the dilemma kicked in. With some of the works are unfinished, I know it is a little risky to leave for several days. But, all our works (my husband happened to be a lecturer too) are pile up until end of January! If we waited to have a break until then, the girls will have to take several days leave from school. It is really a tough decision to make. My mind go through to other countries, particularly in UK where I have studied before. I remembered that there lecturers have a long break during summer and Christmas-New Year period. Of course, here in Indonesia we have long breaks during Idul Fitri, but it is the only time that coincide with School breaks. We also have several long weekends, but that only work for short vacation.

If only we have more synchronized holiday periods during the end of year, it would really helped us to have more quality time with our family.

Academic life is a quirky life. From the outside it looks as if it was a less stressful job, compared to business jobs. But I am sure that every academics will agree that we also have our trial and tribulations.

Perhaps it is just me? I wrote about how to balance work with family. 

Then, the other day I read from LinkedIn, a post from Joos Buijs, a researcher, whose work I have been following for sometime now. I read a lot of his article and I also joined the MOOC on Process Mining that he ran. I am really proud to obtain this certificate.

Joos, with Professors Will M.P. van der Aalst and Colleague at TU/e has helped me and students by providing free open source software to conduct process mining. We looked up to them.

So, reading his post entitled “I (finally) decided to leave academia, here’s why” really intrigued me and I immediately read it from my mobile phone. You can read the article here.

I read it with mix feelings. In one hand, it gives me a confirmation that I am not the only academics that feel this way. But, at the same time I am amazed that everything I have been experiencing also happened to academics in developed country as the Netherland.

He said that the reason he is leaving the academic life is because he must do a lot of management stuffs rather than actually doing what he loves which is data science. It really resonates with me and perhaps my colleague in my department. I love teaching.

I love supervising students.

One of the group meeting with my students

I love research. I love presenting my works.

Presenting at Seminar

I love doing community service.

In fact last year I managed to challenge myself to do community service for micro and small entrepreneurs.

After giving a talk on Business Process Management for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. Hope that they find it useful.

I love it all. But, sometimes we must do a lot of administrative works that are not really related to those stuffs.

One thing that hit me so much is the next paragraph where he explained that he is working long hours per week.

“Secondly, and probably even more important, I do not know of any colleague that is spending <50 hours a week on this job. This is not a bad thing, if you do what you love this comes natural. But for me it is time to do as I say, and really show that “I’m married to my wife, not my boss”. I realized family time was really suffering, and even if I was having a good time in the evening/weekends I could not always enjoy it as much as I wanted to.” (Joos Buijs)

This is exactly what happened to us academics here in Indonesia too. We may work from 8 – 4, to lecture, supervising students and other stuffs. But, when we go back home, we still work in front of our laptops, doing research and sometime administrative works. This sometimes stretch over weekends. I cant remember the last time I went for a holiday without bringing and opening my laptop!

While I wish Joos the best in his future endeavor. It gave me a lot to think of. I love my job so much. But, I cannot afford to love it more than my family.

So how can I love both?

I did not yet have the answers. In the mean time, I try to sneak in family time when possible. Like this time when we brought the girls for a conference in Phuket, Thailand.

Bringing the girls at Conference in Thailand

Be Strong Working Mom!

About 6 years a go I wrote my thoughts on working mother struggle to balance motherhood and work. I wrote it when I just had my second daughter. I am sure that many working mothers in Indonesia face the same problem. In Indonesia, women are allowed 3 months maternity leave (there are no official paternity leave). So, come the third months we must make a tough decision on how to take care of our baby when we go back to work. Some are lucky enough to have their family, usually the grannies to help look after the baby. But, for those who live far from their parents like me must seek other help such as hiring a baby sitter or a maid. That was the choice that I made. But, I have a friend who prefer to put their baby in a day care. Each method has its pluses and minuses, and I would not go into details about them, because either way it is a difficult choice.

Today, I read an article about a member of parliament in Kumamoto, Japan that is barred from bringing her 7 months old baby to the parliament. So, it does not just a challenge in emerging economy like Indonesia. It is a universal challenge for working mother all over the world.

I can really relate with Ms. Yuka Okata struggle. There were times when I have to bring my girls to my workplace because of so many reasons. But, I was lucky that my colleagues and workplace is quite understanding. Nowadays, two of my friends often bring their babies to campus. But, in other situation where the workplace does not allow for this option, then juggling between work and motherhood can be a constant struggle for the mother, baby and the family. This will also affect the employer.

Other countries offered better solutions. If you read on to the story from the Telegraph, member of Senator Larissa Waters in Australia is allowed to bring her baby and even breastfed her baby girl inside the Chamber. During my IVLP trip to America, I got a chance to speak to a female senior faculty at MIT. She said that in the US there has been a move in the university to allow female faculty member to take longer maternity leave. At the same time, female lecturers are given longer period to obtain their tenure to allow them to focus on raising a family. Swedia, is at the front of this issue because parents are allowed 480 days paid parental leave and 60 days are reserved for the father.

Other solution that would also helpful is to provide more childcare units. In Indonesia, it is still very scarce.

I just hope that working mother are not left alone making the hard choice to care for the child or continue working.

Until that time comes, let us working mother encourage each other and stay strong!





Why Change is So Hard?

As a human we don’t live in an empty space…We live in our environment. Unless you are an exceptional human being, most people tend to conform with their environment. It does not mean that we are happy with it. Most of us just don’t wanna face the hardship of changing. We fear the unknown. Its a natural trait.

Last year I had an opportunity to teach Change Management course. One of the book that I used is  Cadle and Yates. One of the things that they proposed is a Change Equation that goes as follow:

D x V x F must be greater than R

This equation means that for a change to happen the Dissatisfaction (D) of current situation times the Vision of what could happen (V) times the achievable First Step (F) must be greater than the Resistance to Change.

Lets take an example. Say that you are unhappy with your current job. But, you would not change to another job if the level of your dissatisfaction of your current situation is great enough, or if you don’t have ideas whether other jobs would be better (more beneficial) for you, or if you do not think that the first steps on the way to get the new job is easy enough.

Now, that is only you against yourself. Consider if the change involve several people, an entire organization or even an entire country. We can now see, why Change in a certain environment would be difficult. Some people may be dissatisfied with the current situation, but then again some might not. Some may have different visions. Finally, some may willing to go the extra miles to get to their vision. Some may not.

But should we do nothing?

One of my lecturer once said, you probably cannot build an entire wall by yourself. But you can certainly help by putting one brick.

I guess, if we cannot change others, at least we can change ourselves. For the better of course.

Stay positive!


A New Chapter

30th October 2015 marked the last day that I served at the faculty office. The past four years are full of challenges for me. I studied about management in my first and master degree, but to put the theories into practice certainly require patience and perseverance. So, I was really relieved that I managed to do the job. Perhaps not to the best standard in every aspects, but I knew I gave it my best shots.

The past few weeks I have been busy preparing reports for my successor. Then, cleaning up all the files. Scraping through the files I found hundreds of meeting invitation. Which means most of my time was spent in between meetings 😀 I also found so many documents that can be sorted into dozens of classification. As I sat there sorting and organizing, I really felt that I have learned a lot.

Now, I will return to my main job. A lecturer. Returning to my department I must first clean up my old office. It has been neglected since I spent most of my time at the faculty office. I was really amazed as I went through all those files…I truly am a keeper. I found examination papers, assignments from 2006. Piles and piles of them. I felt so bad to throw them away. But, with limited capacity, I must gave priority for new things.

Pile of very old exam papers and assignments!
Pile of very old exam papers and assignments!
More old documents
More old documents

So, here is to a new beginning.

Back to where I came from :)
Back to where I came from 🙂

I wish I can be more organized. I wish I can balance work and life (read: family) better. I wish I can be a valuable human being 🙂

Why do people choose to be a Lecturer or professor?

I came across an interesting question at Quora today:

Why do some people prefer to become professors or faculty when they can have a better life outside academia?


It is such a valid question. I sometimes ask myself the same question. And it was really encouraging to read some of the answers. One of the best answer can be found in this link:

I also particularly love this quote from an anonymous

A famous professor once said: when I was an engineer I was happy one time a month, when I got my paycheck. When I was teaching I was unhappy one time a month, when I got my paycheck.

Create Good Karma

If you cant move the entire mountain, do you give up and run away? Or do you take one small step at a time to climb the mountain until you realized that you get to the other side without actually move the mountain.

If you are on a ship going somewhere and suddenly you realized that the captain has lost his compass. He no longer knows which direction to go. What do you do? Just go with the flow wherever it takes you even with the risk of sinking in the storm? Or do you try with your fellow passengers to save the ship no matter how difficult it is?

Every little step count

Every little effort will make a different

Because every thing that you do will get you somewhere, rather than keep you standing still

Life is about moving. Its about creating Karma.

So keep on moving and create good Karma.