COVID-19 impact on work life in Computer Science

Each year we meet incredible women at womENcourage™ celebrations. We ask womENcourage participants to tell their stories in blog posts. We continue 2022 with Dr. Ritu Kapur who completed her Ph.D. from Indian Institute of Technology Ropar, and was working in collaboration (from India) with Prof. Massimiliano Di Penta and his group at University of Sannio in Italy when she participated in the event.

She wrote an article about the Covid-19 impact on Computer Science from her perspective.

COVID-19 pandemic has recently brought a drastic shift in the lifestyle of many. In my country, India, for a while it made everything come to a halt. Complete lockdown forced everyone to sit at home and move out only to fetch the daily essentials. Many businesses got shut down, industries went into losses, and many people lost their jobs. Some people utilized this time period to hone their skills, practice their hobbies, or adopt some good practices for a healthy lifestyle, such as getting up early, practicing yoga, exercising, and so on.

Some felt this period to be extremely stressful as they were forced to stay indoors and were not able to meet their near-and-dear ones. However, for those working in Computer Science, there was no “break period”, and it was merely a change of work style. Yes, for those in Industry, the routine meetings over coffee breaks were disturbed, but the regular meetings and deadlines remained the same. So, while some said they could not find what to do, we people working in Computer Science could hardly find any free time. One of my friends told me that working in the IT Industry, the pandemic had extended their working hours as they now had no excuse to log off their systems to fetch their taxi for home. So, while it was assumed that the lockdown provided many with extra time for family, it was majorly the opposite for those working in computer science. However, not losing the job because of the pandemic, enjoying home-made food, and spending weekends with the family were some perks.

For me, the pandemic has not brought much discomfort. When pandemic struck India in March 2020, I was in the phase of wrapping-up my Ph.D. in my final year. I had some last experiments to be completed to address the reviewer comments of a rejected journal paper, and then start writing my thesis. In March 2020, it was advised by my institute (Indian Institute of Technology Ropar) and Indian Government to shift to our home and work remotely from a safety perspective. Being in Computer Science, I could easily perform my experiments by remotely accessing the data on my main system in the university lab. The IT Staff members made sure to handle any disconnection incidents. The pleasant atmosphere of home, with the perks of home-made food and my favourite coffee, helped me focus entirely on my research and thesis writing. With my Ph.D. guide’s (Dr. Balwinder Sodhi) support for providing fast review, and arranging all the online synopsis, thesis defence, and paperwork formalities, I was able to successfully defend my thesis in December 2020.

Soon, I was able to get a Postdoc position in University of Sannio Italy under Prof. Massimiliano Di Penta to work on a European Project COSMOS – DevOps for Complex Cyber-physical Systems – H2020-ICT-2020-1 – “Horizon 2020” programme, Grant Agreement number 957254. However, due to the requirement of having a work permit in Italy to work on this, I later had to leave the position. However, I am happy that I could establish a new research collaboration with Prof. Penta (and his group), and I am still working as a research fellow on a combined work from my home in India.

Also, during this pandemic period, I was happy to remotely attend many conferences, such as EASE 2021, ENASE 2021, ICSA 2021, ISEC 2021, ICSE 2021, MSR 2021, and ESEC 2021, which was possible only because of the support grants or free attendance because of the online mode of conferences.

So, overall, the pandemic helped me quickly complete my Ph.D., enjoy home-food, spend some time with my family, publish my research in top-tier peer reviewed conferences and journals, and successfully win a Postdoc to work in my area of interest and a great research group. Therefore, I would say that for me, the pandemic was a time to stay safe, complete my pending works, and stay focussed in my research.

Check out Ritu’s page.

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