An interview with Alexander Serebrenik

Name: Alexander Serebrenik alex (2) - Alexander Serebrenik

Current Job: Associate Professor

Scientific Discipline/Field: Software Engineering

Country: Netherlands

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q,+, etc.): G


Twitter or other social media handle: @aserebrenik

What does your job involve?

I’m associate professor, meaning I’m conducting research, teach and perform administrative duties. In my research I study both social and technical aspects of software evolution, i.e., how software systems and their developer communities change in time. My most recent projects are related to diversity in development teams and understanding emotion in developers’ communication. When it comes to diversity I would like to understand how different minority groups operate in development teams and communities, what obstacles did they encounter and how can we support them. On the emotional side I’m looking at what makes developers angry: for instance, if they are angry about code they are working on, this code might deserve special attention, while if they are angry about each other a very different kind of intervention might be needed.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

I grew up in Moscow, Russia, studied in Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel and got my PhD from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. I also used to be a postdoc in France before accepting a faculty position in the Netherlands. I still live in Belgium and cross the border twice a day 🙂

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

To a certain extent. I’ve got my PhD from Belgium and met my husband there, so when looking for the subsequent jobs I was trying to stay more or less in the vicinity. On a couple of occasions I have declined an invitation to go to countries known for their homophobic legislation: however, these decisions were minor and did not affect my career.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

As I’m involved in organising LGBT activities both at conferences I attend and in the university where I work, I got quite some reactions, both from colleagues and from students. The reactions I got are usually very positive.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated.)?

Few. As an undergrad student in Jerusalem I was completely closeted but I’ve got some experiences that have influenced the way I think and teach today. When I was a first year student television has interviewed the head of the Jerusalem Open House and his boyfriend—can you imagine my surprise when I recognised one of my TAs! He turned out to be the very first gay person I say in reality. And yes, we have never talked to each other about anything but algebra, it has still taken me many years to accept my sexuality and come out, but this was the first step. This is why I believe that it is extremely important for us, LGBTIQ teachers, to be open, to be out and visible: there may be one of our kind in the audience fearing to come out.

What are your plans for the future?

Continue doing what I like most: research/education combo!

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