Along with a host of smaller goals for 2010, there are two major things I have to get done this year. In this post, I'll talk about those two goals and look back a bit as well.
Finish my PhD
Yes, this will be the year that I finish my PhD. I first enrolled in 2004, studying part time while working as an academic at RMIT's School of CS and IT. My main role at the time was the operations manager of the delivery of the African Virtual University project. Like all good roles, it was at the edge of my comfort zone when I started, and I spent a lot of time trying to do it well. In hindsight, I might have been able to delegate some of the work, but I think that was part of the learning experience.
Delivery to Africa wrapped up at the end of 2006, and I saw it as an opportunity to focus on my research, which had been terribly neglected for the three years of my enrolment. I quit my job and went full time. It took a few months to make the transition to full time study, something I hadn't done for more than a decade, and by the time I was starting to gain a bit of momentum I realised I had no faith in the direction my research was heading. Painful though it was, I ditched what I'd been doing and took a couple of big steps backwards, resulting in six months of work that won't make it into the main body my thesis.
From there I've battled with all the usual things that PhD candidates battle with; distractions, procrastination, yak shaving, family stuff, a stint back in industry, loss of motivation, what the hell is this all for anyway, et cetera. But now I'm finally within striking distance of the end, so it really must be finished this year.
Establish a reliable, enjoyable source of income
And then what? I could spend a lifetime just exploring the stuff that I find interesting, working on Habari and other open source projects, but in and of itself that doesn't put food on the table. The next goal is much more nebulous. How do I turn the stuff I enjoy into an income stream?
While I'm happy to work hard and work long hours, I don't really want to go back to traditional full-time work, a 9-to-5 job. The idea makes me yawn, though I guess I'd do it if the job was awesome in other ways. I definitely don't want to go back into traditional academia. Teaching can be fun, but it can also suck up any amount of available time, and given the amount of bureaucracy that seems to be required, the chances of getting any research done as a junior academic are slim.
My ideal job would allow me to work on web stuff, interesting open source projects, particularly Habari, be engaged with people. I don't need a huge income, but flexibility is important. I don't want to be tied to a physical location, mostly because I want to be able to work from the farm when we're there and I don't want my work to tie down Rachel's job opportunities, wherever they may be.
I would like to continue to collaborate on research work, stuff related to the web and to open source, evaluating the stuff I'm working on so that other people can benefit from it and build upon it. Maybe twofish creative will be re-energised, and we can do web sites for people we like (we're doing a bit of that, but not much). Maybe I'll start another business with like-minded folk. Maybe I'll do some freelance coding. Maybe interesting projects will pop up.
Whatever shape the thing is, I have to wrangle it by the end of the year. Wish me luck (or, when I've submitted the thesis, suggest something or make me an offer).