Question

How do I get a job in Data Science after a PhD?

  • 30 May 2022
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Many people leave academia for a role in data science, often from a wide variety of subject areas.

 

Did you make the move from academia into data science? What did you find easy/hard about the transition? Is there any advice you’d give to others in a similar position?

 

I’ve written a blog on this topic if you want to read my take! 

What was your main reason for leaving academia and getting a data science job?


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I’m not in data science academia, but currently a philosophy/AI postgrad researcher. I think many people, like you and I, love the depth and dedication to a single subject. But many want to know they’re making an impact.

While academic institutes have got better at implementing impact frameworks, many are still excessively cerebral and focus on metrics like numbers of papers published rather than substantive outcomes of academic research. 

I find it frustrating when you don’t see who your hard work is helping.  

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While academic institutes have got better at implementing impact frameworks, many are still excessively cerebral and focus on metrics like numbers of papers published rather than substantive outcomes of academic research. 

I find it frustrating when you don’t see who your hard work is helping.  

 

I agree with this 100%! It’s so difficult to find job satisfaction when you know that the research you spend sometimes years working on will only be read by very few people and even if you have the best recommendations coming out of it, it’s unlikely it will lead to any change! 

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A big reason I left academia after finishing my PhD was the job security/uncertainty. I felt like if I wanted to succeed in academia I’d need to be willing to move around to different countries doing post-docs before hopefully getting some kind of permanent job. I felt like I wanted to have a bit more choice of where I was spending my life. It wasn’t an easy decision to make but I’m really glad I did give industry a go, I said I’d do a year in industry and then evaluate and it’s been 3 years now and I haven’t looked back! I’ve really loved the amount of impact you can have in industry, it’s been really refreshing. I do sometimes miss academia but I think leaving was the right decision for me.

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A big reason I left academia after finishing my PhD was the job security/uncertainty. I felt like if I wanted to succeed in acaddemia I’d need to be willing to move around to different countries doing post-docs before hopefully getting some kind of permanent job. I felt like I wanted to have a bit more choice of where I was spending my life. It wasn’t an easy decision to make but I’m really glad I did give industry a go, I said I’d do a year in industry and then evaluate and it’s been 3 years now and I haven’t looked back! I’ve really loved the amount of impact you can have in industry, it’s been really refreshing. I do sometimes miss academia but I think leaving was the right decision for me.

For you, it was the right decision 100% because we’re so glad to have you on-board.

However the blend of talents you’ve got around technical competencies and commercial accumen are hard to find in candidates and the candidates often struggle to acquire both those skill sets

I loved @sarah’s blog and discussion, posted today. Real, no-nonsense advise on making that transition and acquiring both the requisite skillsets. It’s a brilliant read and I’d highy recommend it.

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I am not exactly from academia in the context of PhD scholar. But my whole career (13+ yrs exp) I've been a passionate math teacher, a pre-university lecturer in Bangalore and helped students with test prep for IIT JEE which is one of the toughest exams. I always knew that my line of work is not as cool or secure or well paid as a tech job, but it took a pandemic for me to truly realize how pathetic the education system is. The first thing I did was to quit my job and enrolled myself for Masters program in AI ML. I chose the path of ML because I find it very fascinating and also due to my strong math background. Particularly in this part of the world, it is indescribably hard for anyone from teaching fraternity to break into IT industry because they look down on teachers due to their low pay. Anyways I am working really hard to make this transition possible. 

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Difficult to read your post and realise that every uncomfortable box was being ticked not just by myself, but by many of my friends who are still in academia. It can be a uniquely challenging work environment, but obviously one that sometimes comes with uniquely rewarding moments - e.g. it’s difficult to express in words just how confident and proud I felt leaving my viva, I’ve not had a wave of self confidence so great in a long time.

A point I keep coming back to in discussion with friends is that I started to feel at times that academic careers were becoming more vocational. What is expected of academics, and what they are furnished with in response, is becoming an increasingly hard proposition to square (financially, in terms of work-life balance, and also in terms of job security), unless you just so happen to have a long-lived burning passion for some specific area of science, to which you are willing to dedicate a lifetime. This is emphasised on an almost weekly basis as you check your academic email address: pension dispute industrial action, and the idea that should you simply “work to contract” and not spend N hours of your own “free time” (free as in freedom, but also, given that nobody is gonna pay you for it - free as in gratis) regularly doing administrative work you will be punished is astounding.

 

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