2019 Year in review

Welcome 2020! A new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past year, so I wanted to take a step back and think about it. 2019 was one of the most successful years for me professionally (and personally) with a range of experiences and productive outcomes. Quite a few achievements I’m really proud of happened this year. This post is mostly a note for myself to remind me of all those 🙂

I started the year on a positive note – I allocated quality time for me to do some coding for a novel graph analysis method I developed for writing analytics. Recovering from my laptop loss from the previous year (noting how important backing up your work is), I redid it from scratch, and made a version better than what I had last time. Coding up those interactive automated revision graphs was probably the first successful outcome in the year for me.

My biggest achievement this year was completing my PhD from the Connected Intelligence Centre. Even at the start of the year, I hadn’t started writing my thesis and I was still finishing up data analysis. Even when I started writing my thesis in February, I was unsure if I could complete it before the August deadline. The main chapter seemed like a monster job since most of the analysis had to be done newly and I hadn’t written it up before. The best decision I made at that point was to start off with this hard chapter instead of the starting or the easier ones, where I had already written stuff (like a lit review or an introduction). A pat on the back – I stuck with the deadline of completing it before I flew out to LAK19 in March- it was quite intense, both emotionally and physically taxing, but I made it! I emailed the first version of this chapter with an overall skeleton of the thesis to my supervisors when I was on a bus home – I was literally making use of every minute I had before flying out to the conference.

My participation in LAK19 was quite a success. I’ve written a whole post on it before, so I’m not gonna dive into details. But I presented a full paper and got some amazing comments, facilitated a workshop (almost solo since my co-organizers couldn’t make it at the last minute) and joined the SoLAR executive committee. I had received the ACM-Women in Computing Scholarship to attend this conference.

While I was writing the rest of my thesis, I applied for a Lectureship at UTS Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation and got it! I decided to go for this one over postdoctoral research positions to stay long term in academia. Searching and applying for jobs are such an ordeal and my skills were dusty; I’m super glad mine went smoothly since it was the only job I applied for, and the timing worked out perfectly.

I had to start the lectureship in July, which pushed my thesis submission deadline a month earlier. I couldn’t take a break after thesis submission, so I took a small break after sending out the full draft of my thesis to my internal reviewers in June. I went home to India for 2 weeks, which just flew by. I worked super hard to submit the final thesis after my return, to the point where I didn’t really want to take another look at it anymore! Finally, I submitted my thesis on the 25th of July, 2019.

I started lecturing right from the first month of me joining the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation. It was pretty hard, truth be told, as I was trying to juggle between a few different things. First time teaching a subject from preparation to delivery, handling student queries, the admin, the mentoring, managing difficult students – it was a handful. I even dropped my plans to take part in the 3MT competition coz my schedule was so tight.

In the meantime, the reviews for my thesis came back. I passed with flying colours and the reviews were extremely positive, with appreciation of it being one of the best theses the reviewers had reviewed! Both reviewers accepted the thesis for publication without any changes. I did make some minor changes for final publication based on their comments and my degree was conferred on the 12th of November 2019.

I also got a few invitations (both internal and external to my university) to take part in events, which went really great. I was invited as a panel speaker at Intel, Sydney where we discussed ‘Artificial Intelligence Today for Our Tomorrow‘ with some great minds. I co-organised a workshop with our Faculty staff on Data in September for the Festival of Learning Design. I gave a short talk at UTS TeachMeet “The Future Starts Now“ in October,  hosted by the School of International Studies and Education, UTS – Video of Highlights here. I visited the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE) at Deakin University, Melbourne in October to participate as an invited delegate at the “Advancing research in student feedback literacy” international symposium – had good conversations and set plans to move the research forward in our upcoming work.

I received the Future Women Leaders Conference Award and visited Monash for two days in November for the conference, where there were a series of workshops and talks supporting future women leaders in academia from engineering and IT. I also created from scratch and published a podcast (Episode 3 of SoLAR Spotlight) that month – lots of learning happened in putting it together, from preparation to editing. I do have regrets in turning down some good opportunities that came my way, just because I was not having enough hours in a day to manage everything. But I guess it is a part of growing as an academic, since you prioritize and decide what is more important, and try to achieve work-life balance. In the end of November, I co-organized a workshop at ALASI. That was the end of work-related events in 2019, but the best was yet to come.

I went to India in December for my long-awaited wedding with my sweetheart. It was a big fat south Indian wedding, so lots of prep and stress, but loads of fun! Here’s a picture from the wedding 🙂

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