PhD in Progress Podcast

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PhD 008: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Deciding to Leave Grad School with Doug Swanson

June 5th, 2014

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This week, I talk to former PhD student Doug Swanson and current Chief Technology Officer of Malwarebytes about his decision to leave grad school and his advice to current grad students who might be considering an exit from academia.

Thanks again to Doug for his time and insight! It was definitely a personal topic, so we appreciate his participation. Do you have more questions about
possibly leaving grad school?

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6 comments
ChetBreaux
ChetBreaux

This is the best episode I've heard (I'm still behind!). This is such an important topic that is rarely discussed. Leaving graduate school is such a complex event, mostly because even a phd is bound up in the discourse of being a student. If you decide to leave you're "quitting" or you "had to leave". Those terms and labels are typically ascribed to bad students, not adults that make a decision to pursue other avenues of employment. 

Let's say I ask a friend for advice and it goes like this- "This job really sucks. I work 60 hours a week, make 5 bucks an hour, and have an uncertain future in this industry". Any friend would immediately say, "quit that job!" When it's grad school, though, people tend to question motivations, work ethic, and commitment. These conversations about leaving grad school need to enter the larger conversation. I've seen way too many people stick with it just because of the social pressure and end up in a really bad place. 


I'm really glad you guys tackled this subject, and I'd love to see it addressed more often. As everyone mentioned, it has crossed everyone's minds while in grad school. 

Steve P Lee
Steve P Lee

Thanks for the podcast!  I appreciated Doug's honesty.  I also thought that his perspective on the importance of knowing himself was also valuable for anyone considering leaving grad school.  I think that many grad students go through this "mid-PhD crisis" as they question what they want, and learn more about themselves.  I'm looking forward to listening to more of your podcasts.

PhD in Progress Podcast
PhD in Progress Podcast moderator

@ChetBreaux Thanks again for the thoughtful comment! We're glad we could find a friend who was really interested and willing to talk about his experience. 

PhD in Progress Podcast
PhD in Progress Podcast moderator

@Steve P Lee Your comments have been great and very supportive, we appreciate it! It's very important for most grad students to be asking themselves the questions that Doug did. I'm not sure I would have had the personal courage to leave unless I was truly dissatisfied. 

It's great having a listener like you, Steve!



Jason McSheene
Jason McSheene

@buffalomatt Isn't he? He was so honest during his interview... it was a real treat. Next time I'll make him play some guitar for us!