Why and How to Spend a Sabbatical in Industry


Panel presentation on the benefits of faculty taking on a short-term full-time role in industry during a sabaticcal or summer. I discuss my experience as an AppFolio Faculty Fellow in Summer 2014. Other presenters include:


We believe that more Computing faculty should spend some time in industry in order to experience for themselves the types of jobs their students are likely to take at graduation and throughout their careers. Each panelist has spent at least one sabbatical in industry and found the experience to be far more beneficial than anticipated. We all found that our sabbatical experiences helped us to (1) develop our skills, (2) discover and practice the skills that are currently being used in industry, (3) gain credibility with our students, (4) improve our understanding of the computing profession beyond software development, and (5) build relationships with local businesses. Many of us returned to the classroom thinking “I can’t believe they let me teach college without any industry experience”.

Summary of my talk

I spent the Summer of 2014 working as an “intern” for AppFolio, a Software as a Service (SaaS) startup near Santa Barbara, Cali- fornia. Rather than take a formal sabbatical, I asked AppFolio if they would be willing to offer me a “summer internship” in which I would have the same experience as an entry-level developer with a B.S. degree (i.e., my typical student).

During my time at AppFolio, I worked on two different teams as a Rails developer. I experienced many moments of humility as two of my first team members were former students who were now teaching me advanced concepts of agile, test design (including mocking and stubbing), continuous integration, and design patterns (to name just a few). By the sixth week, I was feeling confident in my ability to “pull my weight” in helping the team to complete each sprint. I came away with a renewed appreciation of the importance of the fundamentals we teach, but also a renewed ability to relate those fundamentals to current real world practices and career opportunities, to better motivate my students.

For more information: