EECS Department Colloquium Series

How to Have a Bad Career in Research/Academia Pre-PhD and Post-PhD (including How to Give a Bad Talk) David Patterson video

Yoshua Bengio

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
306 Soda Hall (HP Auditorium)
4:00 - 5:00 pm

David A. Patterson
Pardee Professor of Computer Science, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, UC Berkeley

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This talk collects advice that I wish I had been given when I started graduate school and after I got my PhD. This presentation is a reprise of one I first gave 20 years ago, at the midpoint of my career. I believe the advice even more so now.

The first piece of the talk is advice for Ph.D. students (or students thinking about a PhD) and the second piece is for careers in research or academic positions for those with Ph.D's. Each piece is further divided into a tongue-in-cheek presentation of how to have a bad career at that stage, with the second half offering advice on alternatives to a bad career (i.e., a not bad one).

For graduate school, the bad career advice is:

  • Concentrate on getting good grades (aim for Ph.D. valedictorian)
  • Graduate as fast as possible (winner is first of class to get Ph.D.)
  • Minimize number and flavors of courses (takes time, puts perfect GPA at risk)
  • Don't trust your advisor (a.k.a. oppressors of the people)
and suggestions along similar lines about going to conferences and  writing papers.

For your post-PhD career, the bad career advice is:
  • Let Complexity be Your Guide (Confuse Thine Enemies)
  • Never be Proven Wrong (No Ammunition for Skeptics)
  • Use the Computer Scientific Method (Faster than the Scientific Method)
  • Don't be Distracted by Comments of Others (Avoid Feedback)
and similar recommendations about technology transfer and giving talks, which incorporates “How to Give a Bad Talk” as a bonus.

Also, after Q&A, I’ll spend 5 minutes reviewing my life story and lessons learned in my nearly 40 years of being a CS Professor at UC Berkeley.

David Patterson is likely best-known for the book Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach written with John Hennessy (President of Stanford) or for UC Berkeley research projects Reduced Instruction Set Computers (RISC), Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks (RAID), and Network of Workstations (NOW). All three helped lead to multi-billion dollar industries. He also served as Berkeley’s CS Division Chair, the Computing Research Association Chair, and President of the Association for Computing Machinery, and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame.

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