Keynote speaker National PhD Day: Martijn Kleppe

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Today we’d like to further introduce one of our keynote speakers at National PhD Day 2016:

Dr. Martijn Kleppe works at the Research Department of the National Library of the Netherlands. After writing his dissertation on Iconic Photographs (Canonieke Icoonfoto’s, 2013) he worked as postdoctorate researcher on several Digital Humanities project at the Erasmus University Rotterdam that focussed on opening up and linking (audio) visual collections: Together with 12 partners he worked on the FP7-project AXES-Access to Audiovisual Archives and he supervised the projects PoliMedia, Talk of Europe and Mijn Icoonfoto’s. Before moving to the National Library of the Netherlands he worked at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam on the project ‘The New News Consumer’ and was researcher in residence at the KB. Since February 2016 he moved to the National Library of the Netherlands to work on several Digital Humanities projects.

Besides this position at the KB, he is editor of TMG – Journal for Mediahistory, founding member of the ADHO Audiovisual Material in Digital Humanities Special interest group and regularly writes about photography and digital research for a general/non-academic public in newspapers or magazines.

Martijn, what was the best advice ever given to you?

Share your doubts. When I attended a research seminar in the first year of my PhD, one of my academic heroes presented a new research project for the first time. While he was always very confident about his work, he started his presentation by saying: ‘This is new and I know there are people in the room who know way more about this topic than I do. However, I need your advice but especially your critique. This is the only way for me to get forward.’ Though my hero was already in a comfortable position, I admired the vulnerable stance he took.

How did you take charge of your career?

By realizing my fascination is in charge of my career.  Not my current contract, project or supervisor.
In several projects I collaborated with both academic as well as non-academic partners. To get to know these non-academic partners I gave myself some time to understand why they participated in these projects. I visited them, worked at their premises and drank loads of coffee during 1 on 1 meetings with people I was interested in. Along the way I realized I liked the scientific side of these projects but got more and more curious on how to implement our academic research results. At that point I (finally) was in a relatively stable position, contract-wise, and worked on a NWO-funded project that was only halfway. Then I got the opportunity to take up a temporarily job at one of the partners I worked with before and admired most for their ambitions to incorporate academic research results in their core activities. What should I do? Loose my (almost fixed) contract and let me colleagues down by leaving a project that was only halfway? Or take up a temporarily contract in a world I did not know? Most of my academic colleagues thought I was completely out of my mind when I shared my possible job move with them: What? Are you willing to quite your job now you finally have a good position? But most of them said: Your boss and institute will not be happy when you will not finish the project and quit your contract. This was exactly the reason I was hesitant as well: these people worked so hard to get me a contract and now I am leaving them. Shouldn’t I be more loyal to them? It took me a while to realize I shouldn’t be: there will be plenty of colleagues who can take over my tasks while it will take some time before I will get another chance to follow my fascination. Let’s take that chance. I am in charge of my career. Nobody else.

For more information on Martijn Kleppe, visit his biopage and follow him on twitter: @martijnkleppe.