Philip Guo (Phil Guo, Philip J. Guo, Philip Jia Guo, pgbovine)

Motivation, Momentum, and Marketability: New Faculty Edition

Three months ago, I wrote Motivation, Momentum, and Marketability. Back then I was thinking mostly about framing personal or team productivity in terms of the three M's: motivation, momentum, and marketability.

Now that I've started a new faculty position where I'm advising half a dozen students on research projects, I realize that my main job is to provide the three M's for my students:

  • motivation: This is the most obvious ingredient to productivity yet the hardest to initiate and sustain. Every student is motivated by something different, so it's my job to discover and nurture their inner motivation. The best students I've worked with aren't simply human subroutine calls. And I suspect that those students who are callable as mere subroutines aren't going to work out well in the long run. I think of this step as turning potential into kinetic energy.

  • momentum: Once students are properly motivated, my job is to keep their work moving along smoothly day after day, week after week. I provide cover fire so that they can march forward toward our shared goals. Fire and motion. I often take on the most unglamorous parts of the grind (e.g., setting up software environments) to clear the path for my students to advance as rapidly as possible. And I meet with them on a regular basis to get them unstuck, nudge them off of local maxima, and help them back out of potentially dead-end paths.

  • marketability: Finally, it's my job to nudge my students' nascent ideas toward what is most likely to appeal to the academic “market” at the moment, namely peer-reviewed publication venues and grant funding agencies. It's also my job to frame the outputs of their hard work in the most appropriate scholarly light when writing papers and making presentations.

Every time I'm in a research meeting with a student, I try to remind myself to make some progress on those three M's.

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Created: 2014-09-12
Last modified: 2014-09-12
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