3.05.2009

Guest blogger: Laura Haas, Distinguished Engineer and director of computer science at Almaden Research Center

Laura Haas is a Distinguished Engineer and director of computer science at IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California.  She is going to be a visiting professor at ETH Zurich.

I am about to leave for Zurich, Switzerland, and a 4 month sabbatical at ETH (think of it as the MIT of Switzerland).  To say that I'm excited is an understatement!   IBM Research's (mini-) sabbatical program is a wonderful program that we don't take nearly enough advantage of.  A mini-sabbatical allows researchers to get out of IBM for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, to get fresh ideas from deep interactions with new people, to develop strong(er) relationships at key universities, and to grow technically and professionally.   I hope that my sabbatical will help send a message to our research teams on the importance of renewal to research – surely if I can step out of my comfy (and busy) Director role to learn and grow, it will inspire others to be willing to do the same.

So what am I planning to do in Zurich?  Well, besides skiing, eating lots of chocolate (and other delicacies), hiking, and generally enjoying Switzerland, I have set a few goals for myself.  I would like to write a retrospective on the foundational work we did in the mid-1990's on heterogeneous information integration in the Garlic project.  I intend to explore with a colleague from the University of Toronto some new ideas on a simpler, more powerful model for information integration.  And I hope that I will have the opportunity as well to join one of the ETH projects in their systems group (my hosts), and contribute to their research while absorbing new ideas and learning about new areas.

If all goes well, this should be good for me, good for my team, and good for IBM.  Now let’s just hope I don’t eat so much that I roll back home.

2 comments:

  1. Maybe it's just me, but this seems like a wildly inappropriate time for this sort of post. "Yes, we just laid off a whole lot of good people. But, hey, IBM's about to pay me to eat my way through Switzerland for a few months! Is that great, or what?"

    D'you see what I'm getting at, here?

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  2. It's just another example of the division of humanity into two subspecies -- the privileged who keep their jobs and go on fun junkets, and the unwashed masses who lose their jobs and become invisible.

    While some compassionate companies are reducing hours and pay across the board to avoid layoffs, IBM is laying off thousands despite record profits, and then encouraging the survivors to live like privileged plutocrats.

    Thomas Watson is surely rolling over in his grave.

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