Celebrating Finishing my 10th Leadership Course

I have soon finished my 10th leadership course. I have also signed up for the 11th course and awaiting to see if I am accepted.

Why do I want to attend this many leadership courses?

Well, perhaps I am a slow learner? Or perhaps I need more courses in this than an ordinary researcher? Or perhaps I aim for a higher leadership position in Academia? The answer to all these questions is NO. 

The reasons for me to take so many leadership courses are many and here are the most central ones:

  • I change, and my life changes. There is always a new learning experience opportunity. The courses gives be a broader understanding of people and life. I am very interested in understanding people. And I never seem know all there is to know.
  • I deepen my understanding at every course. I can feel as if I am in an unstable state when it comes to some learning experiences. I do understand them at some point, but my understanding is not stable and I haven’t passed the threshold for really knowing them. One such area is for example being a middle manager and handling strange new decisions.
  • I love the discussions with other people that are interesting in leadership. Often leadership courses build on the idea of peer learning, and that works excellently for me!
  • I think that the course give me time to reflect on all kinds of different things.

 

About Talent Management

I have just read a super interesting book that I strongly recommend. The book is called “Talang för människor”. The author, Kajsa Asplund, is a trained psychologist and has a PhD in business administration. Her research at the Stockholm School of Economics focuses on the effects of talent management on employee motivation, self-image and loyalty.

_talang-for-manniskor-psykologin-bakom-framgangsrik-talent-management

Talent management is a phenomenon that includes all kinds of ways an organisation works with attracting, identifying and retaining competent people. It is outside my research, but can be seen as a part of our research on professional competencies. Also,  I am interesting in this book from a leadership perspective.

The book is not about academia  but is more general and when reading about the book I was thinking what the equivalent of “talent management” would be in academia? We have a very harsh culture, very gendered but there are indeed some people that are seen as more talented and get more salary than the rest.

The word talent is used in a variety of ways and can mean all people in an organisation, or just an exclusive few.

Some of the things I found interesting and that I would guess are transferrable to academia are:

  • In the future you need even more enable and empower people – no detailed micro management control.
  • People who are appointed talents in an organisation often experience that their expectations of the organisation increase. Somehow being labelled as a talent in any way makes people aware of the relationship with the organisation: What the work includes and what they get back for example. One interesting possible reaction is working less hard, increased cynicism, negative attitudes. One quite common reaction to being labelled as talent is actually to look for another job!
  • Many who are appointed talents look towards the global  market and start comparing what they have with other “talents” globally.
  • People who are appointed talents often become less motivated by the core business, and look towards management roles instead.

From the book it is clearly possible to say that talent management is complicated and it does not always go hand in hand with an engaged and motivated staff.

 

Interviews with Academic Leaders

I’m attending a leadership programme at the university this spring. This is the 10th leadership course I attend. I really like reflecting on leadership and change management, and I think that I learn new things in every course since life is constantly changing. One day I will be as wise as the owl in the blog post illustration, and those I interviewed are truly my role models and inspiration.

As a part of this course I was given the opportunity to interview three good leaders that I could think of. I chose three that I have as role models in different ways.

A common theme in the interviews I did was feeling safe and leadership. The first person emphasised that we are each other’s work environment linked to feeling safe and secure. It is important to positively give feedback to each other, to create a team feeling and encourage people in everyday life. You need to create a safe environment where people dare to be creative and make mistakes. I think that if people feel insecure, they do not dare to be brave and try to solve challenges or take on new tasks.

Feeling safe is also linked to how mistakes are received, the person I interviewed pointed out, and how to act as a leader when someone makes a mistake. If you see it as an opportunity for learning, you create a safe environment, but if you see mistakes as something consistently negative, you create uncertainty.
Person number two had a different perspective on security and talked a lot about safe relationships, mutual trust and trust. This person told me that you do not always need to be right, but that you should be safe enough to let others be the most knowledgeable and work independently.

In addition, this person pointed out that if you have mutual trust, it means that you do not have detailed control, but trust that people do their best and you hear from them if they need support in any way. In this interview, we also talked about the situation that there is no mutual trust and trust. The interviewee believe that leaders need to accept that it does not always work with mutual trust and trust in all situations. Sometimes the best thing to do is to invest in having a long distance according to the interviewee.

Person number three talked about feeling safe linked to listening, and believes that a consistent theme in successful leadership is to try to understand what the other really mean. This includes trying to be permissive and curious when listening and accepting people as they are through active listening. As leaders, we need to be aware of listening strategies and use methods such as mirroring, follow-up questions and other parts of active listening. In all difficult conversations you need to have a polite tone and be interested in understanding other people’s experiences and perspectives.

You also need to create a feeling of security through participation and equal conditions and not run people over with new decisions – you need to have a culture of participation. This person stressed that you should aim at not seeing the opinions and thoughts of other people as threats, but let things take time in change management.
I think my three leadership interviews were really interesting and educational. And I love management and leadership courses. I have signed up for yet another course this fall. That one is about being the formal leader and has different parts about economy, legal issues etc.

Lecturing about Gender in IT at a PhD Summers School on Virtual Characters & Computer Game Technologies

I have been invited as a teacher to a summer school on Virtual Characters & Computer Game Technologies organised by Animatas.  Animatas is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions project that aims to give researchers the necessary skills and international experience for a successful career. Animatas stands for Advancing intuitive human-machine interaction with human-like social capabilities for education in schools. The summer school is organised by my colleague at the department Ginevra Castillano. 

My topic for the summer school is on gender equality in academia and the work environment, and I will talk about my experiences as a woman in computing and also some things from carreers in technology from the NordWit Centre of Excellence.

You can read more about the summer school here:

http://www.animatas.eu/

 

 

New Project – Methods for a Better Digital Work Environment

Marta Larusdottir and Åsa Cajander received funding from AFA for a project called Software Development for a Better Work Environment (the STRIA project). The project will run from May 2019 to May 2022.

Here is a text presenting the project. The text is a translation from an AFA article found here: https://www.afaforsakring.se/forskning/forskarportratt/asa-cajander/

IT systems in health and medical care cause both physical and psychosocial work environment problems, but this is rarely considered when developing computer systems. Åsa Cajander, researcher at Uppsala University, will study the digital work environment in healthcare and administration and further develop three methods for system development.

– Earlier research on how to work in IT projects shows that one rarely or never thinks of work environment consequences, says Åsa Cajander, professor of human-computer interaction at Uppsala University.

– We will map the digital work environment in health care and in administrative work and look at how the latest technology affects the working environment. We plan to look more closely at automation and artificial intelligence.

Åsa Cajander worked as an IT consultant before she began researching digitization and work environment issues in 2002. She has, among other things, participated in a research project on digitization and health in the state and has an ongoing project on nurses’ digital work environment. Now she is going to investigate how to get the work environment perspective already in the development of computer systems.

– There are methods within system development that consider usability. The three methods that are most popular today are one that is based on personas, one that is called think aloud and a so-called heuristic evaluation, where one evaluates interfaces based on certain rules of thumb, says Åsa Cajander.

– We have chosen to try to further develop these three methods together with system developers in workshops and with the help of interviews. The idea is that we should include work environment issues in the toolbox used when working with IT development.

Examination of digital work environment in healthcare

The next step in the project is to investigate the digital work environment in health care and in administrative professions. Åsa Cajander and her colleagues will study how employees within both healthcare and administration work with IT systems and how it affects their work environment.

– We plan to study the digital work environment in Region Uppsala, both in healthcare and in other parts of their business. We also have contacts in Uppsala municipality and in Region Stockholm and hope to do the same there. We may supplement this with studies of the working environment within the administration at a university in Iceland and Uppsala, where one of my colleagues has contacts.

What do you hope for from the project?

– This project has an unusual component and it is that we cooperate with Prevent. They will be involved during the project and then they will receive and manage the results, that is, the further developed methods and a training material we will develop on how to work with the methods.

– Prevent will use our results in their education. It will also be a web education material on their website. I hope for the idea that someone takes care of the research results and markets it, manages it and ensures that it is used. I hope that this can contribute to real change in the field of digital work environment.

What got you from the beginning interested in digital work environment?

– I worked as a consultant around the year 2000 at a large international IT company and saw the consequences of the IT systems out in the workplaces. I saw the users’ frustration, I saw the technostress and how it affected the work structure and work processes. And I really wanted to try to help solve that problem and try to make the digital work environment better, says Åsa Cajander.

 

Super Nice Surprise by the Equal Opportunities Team at the Department

I have been the Equal Opportunities Officer at the department for a few years. This role has included working with a team of people from administrative staff, technical staff and representatives from the five different divisions. The department has a strong focus on equal opportunities, and have a very ambitious yearly plan about the work. The team has been amazing in this work. We have had a very positive and creative atmosphere, and I have put quite a lot of effort into doing a good job.

A few weeks back I was honorary discharged of the role. I have been given the opportunity to work as deputy head of division, and I felt like it was two much keeping both roles.

The equal opportunities team surprised me early one Monday morning and handed over a painting that they had made. On the painting they had written encouraging and super nice things thanking me for my efforts. I must say that I was really very surprised and happy about this. We are not especially good at showing appreciation at the department, and this was indeed not expected.  Now I have the nice painting hanging on the wall in my office that reminds about equal opportunities and gender equality.

I will have the possibility to thank everyone on the equal opportunities team on an international celebration’s day that is organised by Virginia Grande Castro and others. Anyone is welcome to attend! You can read more here:

http://www.it.uu.se/about_us/equality/international_celebration

 

 

Participated in Panel about AI and Digitalisation and the Impact on Work and Working Life

Several people from my research group participated in a discussion about AI and digitalisation and the impact on work and working life. The picture is from See invitation below:

Inbjudan AI AW 5.4.19

One thing that I found interesting that one person on the panel talked about was that Amazon and Walmart nowadays has stores that eliminates the need for human cashiers, or cash payments. In the Amazon store cameras with computer vision and facial recognition technology in combination with automatic sensors, keep track of the items customers take from shelves. When you are ready to check out they automatically pay with a registered credit or debit card inside the Amazon Go mobile app. For more info see for example: https://www.chainstoreage.com/technology/tech-viewpoint-amazon-vs-walmart-the-battle-of-ai-based-future-store-strategies/

There are indeed success stories related to digitalisation, but another interesting discussion was related to why is so difficult to develop and implement new technology and all the major failures that we face in Sweden. One failure that was mentioned was Arbetsförmedlingen (The Government Organsiation responsibility for work) where 13000 emloyees had their education in the new system, and the plan to save 170 MSEK/year failed completely and ended up in a law suit. See here: https://www.svd.se/it-fiasko-for-arbetsformedlingen

 

Four problems when teaching HCI in IT programmes for computer scientists

I think it is super difficult to teach human computer interaction in core computing programmes. I have tried different approaches and have tried to understand the problems for almost 20 years now. It feels like I fly over a landskapet of problems that i don’t really know how to address. I fly slowly with little possibility to really affect where I am going, like with the parachute in the blog post picture. Here are four of the problems that I have seen.

1) My experience is that students of IT programmes often come with a value system and interest closely connected to technology and the core programming area. With this I mean that they are more interested in the technology in itself, such as the specifics of databases, efficient coding and machine learning. They are less interested in how people use technology, how to introduce technology in organisations, or how technology affects the work environment. In short: Many of them are not particularly interested in the area that I work in and in my teaching. Still they need to take classes of human computer interaction in their programme, and these are really another kind of courses.

2) The problems that they have encountered so far in their education are often of the kind that there are many possible solutions, but there is a definite way of saying what is right and wrong with different solutions. This is also the kind of problems that you address in many Science research projects. In my courses, where I teach about how to deal with the management of numerous IT systems in an organisation, such as in the Complex IT systems in Organisations course, there is no correct answer. The problems I teach about are so called wicked problems and they are not used to these. This results in them not understanding me when I explore and reflect on different approaches to solve the problem. They think that I don’t really know what I talk about since I don’t give a definite answer.

3) The kind of Human Computer Interaction problems that I teach are very closely connected to student’s development of professional competencies. A professional competency can be seen as consisting of three different parts 1) theoretical knowledge about the problem 2) skills to deal with the problem in practice and 3) attitude or disposition to see the problem as important and interesting. The professional competency that I want the students to develop is however not easy to incorporate into traditional teaching.

4) One of the problems connected to all the other problems is that when students meet me in the classroom I am not perceived as a computer scientist. This is due to a combination of all the other problems with the area that I teach. But it is also due to me being one of the very few women they meet as teachers. Sometimes I am the first one they encounter in their university education, and I teach something that they don’t find interesting, don’t have the same kinds of problems and is based in a wider view of what they need to learn (professional competencies).

If you are interested reading more about this I have written a paper about students and unexpected behaviour in teaching. The paper is called Unexpected Student Behaviour and learning opportunites.

Reflections on Learning and Supervision of PhD students

Sometimes I get the feeling that I should know everything about a research area when I supervise PhD students. For example: If I supervise someone who is in the “Design of the Moon Area”, I should be the expert of designing the moon. This idea of course also includes lots of imposter syndrome feelings, ie. I am a fake, I am not doing a good job, everyone will soon realize that I don’t know everying of the moon etc.

One of my post docs listened to me telling about this feeling – and he commented that if I would know everything it would instead be a great problem.

  • The first problem he pointed to is that if I would know everything there is to know no more research would be needed about the moon. Hmm. He has a point.
  • The second thing he pointed to was the core idea of independence and PhD work. As a PhD student you need to work independently of you supervisor. How would that be possible if the supervisor knew everything there is to know about the area?

Of course he has good points. I need to let go of the idea that I need to know everything because clearly I don’t. And it is not even a good idea to know everything due to the above.

However it is still a question how little you can know about an area and still be a good supervisor in that area?

Being the supervisor of PhD students is indeed a learning experience for me. All my PhD students move in different directions in the field of human computer interaction. At the same time the field is expanding enormously due to digitalization of every field of society. On some level my knowledge about methods, the writing process, publication processes and academia is still relevant. But I do not have the same time to reflect and think as they do. They spend a lot of time reading, going to seminars and reflecting. I feel like my calender is mostly full of meetings instead of reflections. Sigh.

Often I learn many interesting things through listening to their discussions and from reading what they write. I try to understand what they have learned, and often my role is to say: Explain more, tell me more, that is interesting – explore that a bit. But I still often have the feeling that me knowing more would be so much better. Hmmm.

To sum up: Dealing with imposture syndrom requires grit and perseverance. And also colleagues to discuss it with. And for me imposter syndrome never seems to end.