PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Vikrant Dadawala (Hosted by the Price Lab for Digital Humanities)

In the spring of 2021, 44 PhD students from a range of academic disciplines at Penn participated virtually in Career Services’ PhD Career Exploration Fellowship (CEF) program, where they were matched with a host organization to learn about different careers beyond academia. Vikrant Dadawala, a PhD candidate in English, was placed as a Fellow with the the Price Lab for Digital Humanities. Read about Vikrant’s experience in the CEF below!

Describe your experience working with your host:

Stewart Varner, Managing Director of the Price Lab for Digital Humanities, was a wonderful host. He was extremely accessible, and very forthcoming about his own professional trajectory. Despite his busy schedule and all the disruptions created by the pandemic, he was very flexible about meetings, and rescheduled at short notice when I needed to.

What did you learn from this opportunity (about yourself, about career fields, the job search, etc.)?

The CEF helped me identify simple digital tools and techniques, based on minimal computing principles, that I can incorporate into my research and teaching. Through one-on-one meetings, Stewart helped me outline a plan for a website showcasing my research(currently a work-in-progress), and introduced me to a number of tools I can use to design classroom assignments and exercises. The last time I thought seriously about coding was in high school –the CEF helped me rediscover a forgotten passion! While I’m hardly an expert, I now feel equipped to apply for academic positions that require basic expertise in DH methods. I’m looking forward to incorporating timeline and mapping exercises in the next class I teach.

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

Thanks to the CEF, I plan to use DH tools in the classroom at my next position, which is a teaching postdoc.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

The most valuable part of my CEF experience was hearing my host, Stewart Varner, describe his own job market experience, which coincided withthe2008 recession. There are obvious parallels between the hiring freezes then and now, and it was good to hear Stewart describe strategies for surviving a brutal market.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

I would encourage PhD students to apply to the CEF at an early stage of their degree, ideally before they pass their qualifying examinations. Besides exposing you to career paths outside academe, the CEF is also a great way of finding job opportunities to supplement your stipend during grad school.

By Helen Pho
Helen Pho Associate Director, Graduate Students & Postdocs