My proposal is with my advisor. My courses are done, my qualifier passed. So I am now in the phase of my doctoral study known as ABD – all but dissertation. I’m a PhD candidate in Disaster Science and Management, and that means that I have to take a good hard look at the next phase: finding a job after I complete my archival research this semester. A bulleted list is at the bottom, after some musing and disambiguation, but I am looking for a remote job doing research to support disaster policy.

Now to the matter of disambiguating what I’m looking at, because an easy thing to focus on is the ‘Management’ part of the degree. In a small series of interconnected fields, ‘Homeland Security and Emergency Management’ tends to be the umbrella term – it’s definitely the one that tends to show up as available in autocompletes. And to a certain extent that’s obvious and makes sense: the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in the Department of Homeland Security, and most of the relevant policy and action is in the vein of managing responses to emergencies, with additional focus on recovery and sometimes maybe some mitigation (shout-out here to my friend Karen, who started the MS program at the same time as me and has, since graduation, done incredibly cool things at Delaware EMA). But I have leaned hard on the ‘Science’ portion of the degree program.

I completed ICS 100 and ICS 200, and was signed up to take ICS 300 in May 2020 (this was canceled for obvious reasons), but my focus overall has not been on Incident Command Structure or personally implementing it in the field: I prefer looking at patterns and underlying structures and policies. My thesis involved learning to program and then examining social ties and how they impacted evacuation; a recent invited talk revolved around explaining that work to a group of engineers with an eye to how social science can help improve building design requirements and guidelines. This was a fantastic experience, exactly in line with my favorite parts of disaster science.

Fundamentally, I want to solve a problem once and then look at a new problem. The idea of being on the response side of a disaster – of many similar disasters over the course of a career – is soul-crushing. Over the last two years I’ve done some elements of supporting response, rapid data gathering and AARs and helping to assess themes that informed policy as it came out. It became a running theme that if anyone on the broad project needed to know a data point, I likely had it. Everything I touched became a spreadsheet. The high pressure and rapid pace of supporting an active response was fulfilling, but I think a very different set of pressures than those of dealing directly with the public. And that’s what I want in a job.

I also want longevity. I’ve been a freelancer and a contractor, but in the last year, looking at job postings that arrived as part of mailing lists I’m on, I’ve been known to get starry-eyed about things like 401k matching. This leaves me a bit conflicted, because some of my work left me with a dataset that could help inform a curriculum revision project that I know an agency wants to do, and it would be an incredible project that I could write up and propose, and we’d be able to use empirical evidence and data-driven decision-making to improve a whole field!

But also it would inherently be a short-term contract and I’d rather propose a project from a consultancy that, no matter what I was working on, would let me keep medical insurance. So my passion for saving the world, in one of the disciplines where that is most directly a reasonable goal, is significantly tethered to such practicalities as paying the bills. As I’ve said in at least one cover letter at this point: I like novel problems. I like solving them. I like them to be the subject rather than the structure of my work.

And that, combined with a discovery over the last semester and a bit of TAing that, while I’m passionate about mentorship and I care in the abstract about teaching, I’m not passionate about teaching itself, means that I’m not particularly looking in the realm of academia, either.

So where does that leave me? As disasters become more pressing and entities from business to government want to know how to thrive even after this seemingly endless pandemic subsides, I’m highly trained and deeply invested in the field. But Disaster Recovery is sometimes about disasters and sometimes about specific computing failsafe implementation. Many of the job postings forwarded to me as a matter of course are academic or government. And ‘researcher’ is so broad a keyword as to be meaningless, as is ‘analyst.’ Which means that this whole post is a description of what I’m looking for in a job. If you see a posting that you think matches this description, please forward it to me!

In short:

  • Nearly done PhD in Disaster Science and Management
  • Would like a job after, with requirements:
    • Remote, with hybrid a possibility even after the pandemic is over
    • Supporting policy or providing in-depth disaster analysis
    • Consultancy of some kind preferred
  • Job, postings, and relevant keywords to search for all appreciated, in roughly that order

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