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Jobs I Could Have Applied For

Remember how I said the job market is fucked? In what took an alarmingly short span of time, I have compiled the entirety of the job market for my area of academic specialization (English literature, textual studies, digital editions, digital humanities) for tenure track / permanent Digital Humanities academic jobs. Spoiler alert: it is five jobs between the US, Canada, & the UK, more or less.

First, the MLA Job Information List for the United States. Texas certainly has brisket & tacos on lock, but I still don’t think that would be enough move to a state that explicitly authorizes & encourages student concealed carry on its university campuses. The Wesleyan gig looks pretty sweet though, and I’m sure 500 people definitely won’t apply for it.

The Academic Jobs Wiki has two more possibilities for my academic research profile:


Or let’s say I was applying for Digital Humanities jobs in the UK. Realistically, this is it:

Note that this is not an entry level position, but more equivalent to Associate Professor rank in the US/Canada.

What. A. Bonanza! Five jobs in the United States and one in the increasingly unhinged United Kingdom.

I am so glad I didn’t adjunct/postdoc/scrounge for another shot at a permanent academic position starting in 2018.

Jobs I Accepted

In my last post, I ran through the jobs I applied to from Fall 2015 to Spring 2017. The only job not on that list is the one I’m in now, back in Victoria.

With Brexit looming and knowing that we wanted to get out of the UK when my European Union-funded fellowship finished in June 2017, I noticed an opening for a Digital Systems & Data Strategist at Dogwood. Dogwood is a non-partisan, non-profit activist organisation, based in Victoria, British Columbia, that works to combat climate change by a focus on returning decision-making power to British Columbians in politics and around environmental issues.

The job ad featured a great lede: “We currently have an opportunity for a tech savvy innovator to oversee and implement aspects of Dogwood’s digital and data infrastructure, inform digital and data strategy and champion our testing and analytics program. As a member of the digital team, this role provides support to our field, and communications teams in identifying, implementing, and adopting our digital tools.”

Although I’d put out applications for a few nonacademic positions before this position came open, those were usually at think tanks, research centres, etc. This application was pretty different than those in that my PhD was incidental. In fact, it became a single line on my resume at the very bottom of the first page: “PhD in English. University of Victoria, BC, 2016.” Of course I’d read up on how to translate a CV into a resume, the #altac job search, and so on. Still it was a bit strange to go from 18 representing my academic record since my undergraduate days to 2 pages, one of which was a table listing and classifying all of the various & varied technical skills I’d picked up doing digital humanities for the last few years.

Luckily, such a grab bag was part of what Dogwood was looking for, which makes sense once I got deeper into the interview process. Nonprofits, even successful ones, tend not to have full digital departments, so it’s a near certainly that staff will be faced with troubleshooting unfamiliar systems, picking up random bits of knowledge here and there, and generally called on to do something slightly different every day depending on what needs to get done.

After three rounds of interviews — which included both technical questions and queries about my current favourite television show — I was offered the job in late March 2017. The director of Human Resources apologised to me for taking two weeks to actually make a decision, which I found hilarious given the absurdly long time scales that academic hiring usually sees. My parter & I cancelled some travel we had planned and headed back to British Columbia on 4 May, and my first day was 15 May.

Dogwood has around 25 employees or so, concentrated in two offices in Burnaby (Metro Vancouver) and Victoria, with an organiser in Courtenay on Vancouver Island. I am one of two permanent staff who manage all the digital systems we use every day, including Salesforce, NationBuilder, Marketo, WordPress, and a host of single-purpose tools and platforms. Overall, I am responsible for our website, a sprawling, customised WordPress installation with a whole whack of plugins, integrations, media, and sections. Troubleshooting website issues, coordinating a monthly retainer with our offsite developers, and undertaking long-term planning/roadmapping of the website are what I do for around 70% of my time. The other 30% are one-off special projects for particular tools, domain management, meetings, etc. I am, more or less, a systems administrator, which is why my title has actually shifted to Digital Systems Strategist.

I just passed three months in the role, and things are going well. It’s intensely rewarding to feel like I’m making a difference on a daily basis, a feeling that I was struggling to capture in my academic work. Other than a few ongoing publication projects I’m involved in, I’ve pretty much disengaged from academia, and don’t have many regrets about doing so (except for missing out on the exciting work many of my colleagues in DH are up to). As a result, I’m starting to shift my online presence from an academic and a digital humanist towards my new reality and identity as a tech/digital person in the nonprofit & activism space. This website will probably be redesigned shortly

A few random observations:

  • Having an 8-hour workday is a bit of an adjustment after six years of managing my own schedule as an academic.
  • Weekends are great, as are holidays where no one actually expects you to be working. Dogwood provides four weeks per year of holiday. Also, if you don’t take a jet airplane during a year you get an additional week (jet travel is hideously carbon intensive and a major contributor to man made climate change).
  • I use the skills I learned during my PhD every single day, but almost never use specific knowledge from English or digital humanities.
  • Nonprofits strike me as a great way to step sideways out of academia, as they seem to value skill sets and temperaments more than private sector companies.
  • Choosing to be where you want to live rather than chasing an academic career to god knows where was certainly the right call for me. I see the Olympic Mountains every day, and the air is a lot cleaner in Victoria than it was in central London.




Jobs I’ve Applied To

The job market in the humanities is fucked. Everybody knows this. Most academics at every level pretend it isn’t so. I get it; some simply have no idea, some don’t want to have any idea, some think they’ll nab the brass ring of tenure one day anyways. And some will! More power to them. This blog isn’t about that. Instead, I just want to post about my experiences on the job market over the last 15 months or so.

First, I’m a digital humanist who has done research in book history, early modern drama, and cultures of knowledge. Theoretically, as a digital humanist I am either the saviour or destroyer of the humanities. So I wanted to list out all these applications to show that no matter how theoretically cutting edge the Chronicle of Higher Education or the New York Times thinks your field is, the job market is still fucked.

Second, I have noticed that academics almost never talk about the job market in any given subdiscipline, even though it’s usually a pretty small group of folks who are at all viable candidates.

This list essentially covers late Fall 2015 – early Spring 2017, centred (mostly) around the 2016 – 2017 academic hiring year. I finished my PhD from a Canadian university (Victoria) in mid-2016, while also working as a European Union-funded research at King’s College London. So I put applications in for both Canadian and European jobs, but none in the USA.

Where noted I was short listed and/or interviewed for a position. Otherwise I was autorejected by human resources (common in the European context), rejected in person by a committee member, or just never heard anything one way or another (thankfully quite rare in my case)

Academic Positions

  1. Assistant Professor of Publishing – Simon Fraser University (short listed / campus visit)
  2. Assistant Professor in Digital Humanities – University of Amsterdam
  3. Lecturer in Digital Cultures – Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London
  4. Lecturer in Book History and Communications – Institute of English Studies, University of London
  5. Lecturer in Digital Humanities / Information Studies – Humanities and Arts Technology and Information Institute (HATII), University of Glasgow (short listed / virtual interview)
  6. Lectureship in Digital Humanities – University College Cork
  7. Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities – University of Ottawa
  8. Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in New Media and Digital Humanities – St. Francis Xavier University
  9. Assistant Professor in Digital Humanities – University of Helsinki (short listed / campus visit invite, declined because we’d left Europe)

Running total: 9

Reasoning that if I was competitive in the permanent, tenure job context (although falling just short) that I would have a good shot at a postdoctoral fellowship of some kind, I also put this set of materials in for a Fall 2017 start date:

  1. Chancellor’s Fellow in Digital Arts & Humanities – University of Edinburgh
  2. Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship – University of Toronto Scarborough
  3. Killam Postdoctoral Research Fellowship – University of British Columbia Okanagan
  4. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowships (IF) – University College Cork
  5. Trinity Long Room Hub Visiting Research Fellowship COFUND – Trinity College Dublin (short listed / virtual interview)

Running total: 14

Wanting to get back to Canada with my Canadian spouse, I also applied to some PhD-adjacent positions in Canada, both, as it happens, in Ottawa:

  1. Research Analyst – Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)
  2. Research Associate – Conference Board of Canada

Running total: 16

With regards to the nine academic positions, I personally know five of the nine folks who ended up being hired. They are awesome people! I’ve collaborated with several of them in the past and continue to do so. I’m thrilled they’ve gotten permanent positions. The job market is still fucked.

Not having received offers from any of these, my spouse & I planned our move back to Canada. She is a dual Canadian-Irish national, and if we had stayed in the UK my status would have derived from her European Union rights. In QUITE THE TWIST the UK has decided to leave the European Union. Anti-immigration sentiment was pretty high throughout 2016 and still seems to be going strong. Not to mention the prices that were already going up as the economic effects of this delusion-based politics began to play out. Happily, my post-PhD Canadian work permit was still valid, so we began to plan our move back to British Columbia!


Next post I’ll describe the non-profit job I did end up taking, back in British Columbia.

ESTS / DiXiT 2016 Report

NB: This is a report on the final convention in the core DiXiT programme, held before and jointly with the 2016 meeting of the European Society for Textual Scholarship and directly after a two-day workshop on optical character recognition and text digitisation. Hosted and facilitated by the University of Antwerp and the Centre for Manuscript Genetics, these events took place from 27 September to 7 October 2016.

Although I’ve been to Belgium a number of times, I have always seemed to be on my way to somewhere else. As an Early Stage Researcher in the Digital Scholarly Editions Initial Training Network (DiXiT), events sponsored by the network take me all over Europe, often by train, and often through Brussels Midi/Zuid. Happily, though, a series of training events and conferences this autumn finally allowed me to spend over a week in Antwerp, a city in the northern, Dutch-speaking region of Flanders. This report will cover four separate events in varying level of details:

  • Demystifying Digitisation: A Hands-On Master Class in Text Digitisation
  • Internal DiXiT Meetings
  • Pre-Conference Workshops
  • European Society for Textual Scholarship

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Little England; or, On Not Applying for Jobs in Britain

For those unawares, the United Kingdom voted narrowly in a June 2016 referendum to leave the European Union. According to the BBC, turnout was 72%, with 51.9% voting to leave and 48.1% choosing Remain. 17.4 million people voted Leave, mostly in England and Wales; Scotland voted heavily to remain, as did Greater London and most larger city centres. To those of us living in the UK as immigrants (EU or from another country), who pay our taxes, make our NHS contributions, and are just living our lives, this was devastating. Friends & colleagues, not to mention me, have likened it to a death or similar traumatic event.

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