Today’s Defectors contributor post comes from Paul Brown, Director of Curriculum, Training, and Research at Roompact. Not sure what we’re doing here yet? All is revealed here.
Those that know me, know that I’ve always tended to follow my own lead. My career path— especially recently— has been no different. When I graduated with my undergraduate degree from SUNY Geneseo, I took a safe route. Not quite ready to enter the “world of work,” I went straight on to get my Master’s Degree in College Student Personnel from Western Illinois University. In saying it was a “safe route,” that is not to say I wasn’t interested and passionate about the field—it was quite the opposite—but staying within the known world of academia was relatively easy.
After Western, I worked at Miami University and American University in residence life and academic affairs roles. That finally brought me to Boston College where I was a full-time PhD student in Higher Education. My initial goal in seeking a PhD was to become a faculty member. I loved teaching. I loved research. It was a good fit. As I progressed through my PhD, however, a side gig developed. I began going to colleges, universities, and conferences to speak about my research into the influence of digital and social technology on the college student experience. I began traveling more as a result of it and became hooked. I also started blogging and participating in knowledge communities online.
Having this kind of academic and creative freedom felt amazing. There was almost a point where I considered pursuing it full time. The realities of working for yourself, however, including funding your own health care, paycheck instability, and an itinerant lifestyle- which wasn’t for me. I wanted something “in between.” I wanted something with the stability of having an employer, but with the creativity of being your own employer.
I was open to making a career switch, and since I studied technology’s impact on college students, this opened up the opportunity for me to work for higher education-related technology companies. Out of sheer luck, I found Roompact, my current employer. Roompact makes residential education and curriculum software for college and university housing departments. It has been a perfect fit—combining my residence life and higher education background with my passion for and research on technology.
My current job has the creativity and flexibility that I craved. Working for a relatively young company means we are often figuring out new processes and solving new problems that none of us have ever encountered before. There’s no one to ask about how to do something. You rely on each other, use your network, and be willing to try, fail, and learn. This happens nearly every day.
Working at Roompact has also given me personal flexibility. Flexible vacation means I can continue to do speaking engagements on the side. Having a role that is more project based means I can break out of the traditional 9-5 weekly schedule. And finally, being able to work electronically means that I can do my work from almost anywhere in the world.
The transition was (and is) not without its challenges. It has challenged me to re-think and examine my identity which had been wrapped up in colleges and universities for so long. This hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing, just different. It has also challenged me to maintain and grow my network with friends and colleagues to stay in “the conversation” within the field. I remain passionate about the work we do to help students.
Making a jump to a higher education adjacent field has been an amazing experience for me and one that I don’t see ending anytime in the near future. The truth is, work should be something you’re passionate about and that challenges you. My current job has that and it doesn’t seem likely to stop anytime in the near future.
A career is a journey and not a destination. Right now, I’m very happy with where that journey is taking me. As I evolve, so does my career.
Paul Gordon Brown is currently the Director of Curriculum, Training, and Research at the residential life and education software company, Roompact. While he was a PhD student in Higher Education at Boston College, Paul started a successful speaking and consulting business coaching colleges and university on the impact of social media and technology on college student learning and development. For fun, Paul travels the world and delights in finding weird and offbeat roadside attractions. Reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @paulgordonbrown.
The Defectors (series 2) is sponsored by Presence. At Presence, we’re working to solve all of the higher ed problems you’ve always heard couldn’t be fixed. If you love asking questions, finding solutions to intricate problems, and learning about new people and places, we want you to join our team. Check out our open positions and apply today!