Working Class Hero
Dr. Sayeed Islam gets his inspiration from rock music when exploring the complex psychology of the workplace.
Dr. Sayeed Islam really enjoys the rock band Fountains of Wayne — especially the band’s leader and lyricist, the late Adam Schlesinger.
Okay, but you are wondering, “What is the significance of that?”
It becomes a little clearer once you know Dr. Islam is an associate professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Farmingdale State College and a practitioner in the field. Still not clicking?
As Dr. Islam explains it, Industrial-Organizational Psychology is “the psychology of work, where we take what we know about psychology and use it to improve the workplace.” Fountains of Wayne fits here because Dr. Islam identifies with the songs they perform about work — not the fulfilling kind where you are always happy about heading to the office, but the mundane, unfulfilling, “I can’t believe it’s Monday already” kind.
Dr. Islam embraces lyrics such as these, from the song “Bright Future in Sales”:
I gotta do some quick readin’
For the big meetin’
But my head is spinnin’
And I can’t quite open my eyes
In his article “A Tribute to a Band That Knew How to Sing about Work,” Dr. Islam wrote: “What really hit home with me was this: Schlesinger wrote about everyday life. He wrote about workers and people who struggled.”
Dr. Islam’s study of work and how to make it better for employees and employers began at Rutgers University, where he enrolled with the idea of entering the medical field. He realized quickly enough it wasn’t for him, so he switched to economics, his minor. While fulfilling his degree requirements, he took a course in psychology, which he found fascinating, but not compelling enough to switch majors again. But his interest was rekindled in graduate school, at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
“When I started taking my master’s courses in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, I really felt a nice fit between my interest in social science, my desire to use data, and my interest in people.”
Oddly enough, Dr. Islam’s connection between data and people began as he watched sports with his brother.
“We would watch the New York Knicks, New York Giants, New York Yankees. He was very focused on the statistics of each player. That really cemented my desire to use statistics in other areas of life.”
Now, Dr. Islam not only teaches Industrial-Organizational Psychology, he is co-founder and vice president of consulting with Talent Metrics, a company that helps clients measure and manage the talent inside their organizations.
Dr. Islam describes himself as a passionate advocate for the fields of Industrial-Organizational Psychology and training. That comes through in both the classroom and the front office.
“I enjoy both because they help me exercise different skills. I enjoy helping organizations improve over time, which I see as the ultimate use of the knowledge of I-O psychology. I love teaching, especially at Farmingdale, since my students are really wonderful. There’s nothing better than watching students learn, develop, and grow over time.”
Dr. Islam watches over them in the lab too, helping student researchers delve into subjects such as social media and human resource professions. For that, he won the CTLT Award for Outstanding Faculty Mentorship.
He is also generous with advice. He tells clients, “Try to make your organization’s decisions using objective data. Trusting a gut feeling will only get you so far.” To students he says, “Be open minded to experiences, whether they are research, classroom, or internship experiences. Universities are an opportunity to take chances, so students should take them while they can.”