Chris Alexander

On Engineering

The slow pace of academia

14th March, 2012

Having just got back from Silicon Valley (more on that another time), the inefficiencies and slow pace of just about everything in the UK has now become apparent.

One such example is in academia. Last night I sent some reasonably time critical emails around 6 (15 hours ago) and as of now (9am) they have yet to have a response.

Meanwhile emails from later in the evening have been replied to and resolved before I even woke up.

Note that this is not by any means a reflection on the people doing the emailing. More on the fundamental differences between the work ethics and approach to business between the UK academic / entrepreneurial scene and whats happening in the US.

Update following on from Shirley’s comment below.

I had not intended this post to be negative about one or the other cultures surrounding the work-life balance question that was raised - it was more intended as an interesting observation that I made. (The academic question I mentioned has since been answered, in work hours). As I say in my follow-up comment, work life balances will of course be different depending on where you go. However, as I noted this morning, it was particularly stark for me this morning having the experience in the UK (by all means not one that was unexpected) compared to what happened in the Valley.

It is also interesting how tech journalists in the UK are so quick to compare the UK scene with the Valley, but are not used to just how different the cultures are. In the valley, you don’t take a break - we had one entrepreneur who was running a business all day then came out for dinner with us from 7 to at least 11 two nights in 3 days - and they had a family at home. This rarely happens in the UK. Note this is not a criticism of the UK (or the Valley) - just an observation of their differences. Perhaps the tech journalists would like to work Valley hours, then perhaps they can comment on comparing the UK to the Valley.

Work-life balance is something that I have been, traditionally, absolutely atrocious at. That is not to say that I have not been working on it - for I have, and I feel that I have greatly improved in the past year or so. Still a long way to go though!