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Next steps

Wed 20 Jul 2016 by mskala Tags used: , , ,

My contract with the IT University of Copenhagen ends at the end of August, and I'll be returning to Canada around the end of September.

I will not be continuing on the academic path. I've written and torn up several statements detailing why, and my current thinking is that at least in this posting I'll keep it to one paragraph. I've been lied to, I've been let down, I kept my promises but those made to me were broken, and I should not continue throwing away my life on that project. The breaking point came in early May, around the time of but not specifically triggered by the Transit of Mercury, when I realized that at this point even the best possible case of success in my job search would not be worth it. With implausibly good luck it would still only put me where I should have been in my career ten years ago, fifteen for my life outside of paid work, with ten to fifteen years more non-financial student debt than I should have and ten to fifteen years less to pay it off. It's time to call that a sunk cost and do something else.

Starting on my return to Canada I will go professional with my electronics skills - a lifelong interest of mine - and enter the business of electronic musical instruments, that is, modular synthesizers. Those of you who follow me on Twitter have already seen some of the designs I've been working on; and those who follow me on Soundcloud have heard them. I plan to focus on high-quality handmade devices; what might be called "artisanal" synthesizer modules. Such products are by necessity expensive. But there's a market willing to pay what it costs to have the level of quality and innovation I can offer, and I have some unique skills and background that make my offerings difficult for anyone else to match. I'll also be selling do-it-yourself kits, and partial kits, and my plans will be published on the Web at no charge, so there'll also be some accessibility to customers who have more time and skill and less money.

I'm not going to open up the Web storefront, register and announce my business name, and so on, until I'm back in Canada - there would be complicated tax and contractual issues if I tried to start a Canadian business while still a Danish civil servant. But before the end of the calendar year I hope be in a stable location in Canada (most likely in the GTA) with a nice polished Web storefront and ready to ship product. Watch this site for future announcements.

One compensation of my last academic job is that it has paid well. Even with the insane cost of living in Copenhagen, I've been able to recoup the money I lost on the period of unemployment while I was looking for my last academic job, and build up my savings as well. I have enough money in the bank now to support myself and also fund the synthesizer business until either it starts supporting me, or it becomes clear that that won't work and I have to go code somebody's damn shopping cart or whatever to make ends meet.

Keeping up my visibility on the Web is important to my business plan, so as I get up and running I'm planning to do as much in public as I can. I'll probably do weekly "stand-up" postings here tracking my progress and plans. I may revive the regular audio feature, since it's both a chance to communicate in a very personal way, and to show off the audio output of my products. The idea is to present some content that will be of interest to a broader audience than just my immediate customers. Maybe I can even do live webcam streams of working on circuits and commenting on how they work. There are probably people who'd watch that, and it's low-cost if I can bring it as close as possible to just pointing a camera at the work I'm already doing.

However, I have to watch the time consumption of these kinds of activities that don't directly produce revenue. It's a good hour to write even a short Web log posting, five or six or more to prepare an hour-long radio show, and doing both once a week would be a whole work day gone, on something nobody's going to pay me for directly. I have to know that the value of the publicity I get from it is really worth the other work I can't do because of it. So my continued involvement in any specific form of Web visibility exercise will have to be conditional on how much third-party attention it attracts. Are people listening to it who aren't already in my circle anyway? Are they responding to, reposting, and retweeting it? Those are the kinds of points I'll have to watch carefully.

The day after tomorrow I'm flying to Canada for about two weeks, first attending my sister's wedding in BC and then attending TUG 2016 and visiting friends in Toronto and the area. I'm giving a talk about astrological typesetting at TUG. I'm hopeful to do the start of my search for housing in the GTA during my upcoming trip; I don't know how well that will work. I'm also planning to go to Tokyo for SISAP 2016 in October. Depending on how things go, that may well be both my last academic conference ever, and my last long-distance travel in a while.

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Sweet. Any ides what you're gonna call 'em? Skalaphones? Synskalas? the Matt Box? Excited by this new turn of events.
Owen - 2016-07-20 11:45
I have a name for my company in mind but am not going to announce it until after the legal paperwork is done. individual products have names like "MSK 007 Leapfrog Filter" and "MSK 008 VC Octave Switch."
Matt - 2016-07-21 00:05
Any ideas where you are planning on settling down? I'd love to see you one of these days.
Sarah - 2016-07-21 21:53
I feel strangely vindicated in my expectation that similar things would have happened to me if I'd tried to remain on the academic path, as sorry as I am to hear that you've had so much of your life sort-of wasted by empty promises.
kiwano - 2016-07-31 12:02
Sarah - I'm aiming for the GTA, but will make visits to the West coast from time to time because of family there. Will let you know next time I do... on the most recent trip I had no spare time.
Matt - 2016-08-30 08:27

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