Gina Maffey contemplates her next career move, having applied for positions both inside and outside of academia.
Contributor Gina Maffey
The bus turns down another road, and once again I stare at the buildings trying to gauge their familiarity. Is this a new route that we’re driving along or is it just that the last journey has already become fogged in my memory? It’s my favourite part of the week this, my three hour jaunt on a Thursday morning to my Portuguese lesson. For half an hour on that journey there is no one translating on my behalf, no one explaining how things work here and I am alone, independent and travelling. It is liberating.
I watch people get on and off the bus. Fascinated by the way things work, and with only a few weeks of Brazilian life behind me, still comparing everything to a European model. As the city shifts from high-rise flats to sprawling suburbia, my present preferred topic of contemplation swings into view: What am I going to work on in Brazil?
My story chimes with many that have already appeared in the NatureJobs postdoc series, as I try and decide whether to pursue an academic position or not. There are opportunities here in Brazil to take an entirely different path and step out into the ‘real world’, but there is that continuous nagging pull back to the university.
This pull is accentuated by two things. Firstly, at present the majority of people I am engaging with are academics, which is due to my husband’s post at the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso. Meetings, encounters and excursions are all peppered with potential: “that topic hasn’t really been explored from that angle”, “we should look at this funding call”, “that would make a nice paper”. These comments continually dangle at the back of my mind, stirring themselves into research questions and project proposals – the academically trained part of my brain doesn’t seem ready to let go.
Secondly, there is the warmth that emanates from the academics we have met. We were warned on arrival that “Brazil likes strangers”, and that statement has been proven time and time again. There are continual offers of collaboration, that if pursued move from “it would be nice if this could happen” to “let’s make this happen”. I am sure that many of these offers will unfortunately lead to dead ends, but Brazilians could undoubtedly write the rulebook on the potential of networking.
In addition to this warmth there is a striking characteristic of female camaraderie among the academics we have met. Despite my husband holding the project funding, I tend to be the one that is approached first by female professors; and communication is often sustained primarily through me to both my husband and I. I am not alone in this observation; others at the university had noted this behaviour as well. I know that this perception will not hold true for all Brazilian academics. And, I am sure there are similar examples of comradeship from all over the world. But, the fact that I, and others, have noticed it does make me think about gender balance and the unfortunate loss of female role models as you move up the academic triangle.
So my current concern is: how am I going to influence this statistic?
As the bus turns in towards my stop I reach up to ring the bell. I am hedging my bets, in the past week I have applied for one job outside the ivory tower and one postdoc inside of it. The irony being that the job outside works with researchers inside, and the postdoc inside works with communities outside. I guess, for now, it doesn’t matter where I get off, I’ll likely be returning to campus in one way or another very soon.
If you’re new to Gina’s adventures and love them as much as we do then here are the first three parts to her story: