Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Academia or Industry?

I have always been indecisive by nature (and hate that about myself) but I wish I had my mind made up about this. It's decision time for me- time to pin down positions I want to apply to and actually start applying- and I still am not a 100% sure which route I want to go. :(

May be I need someone to entirely talk me out of academia. Or someone to tell me I can do it, as I doubt my own abilities in making it in academia. I have even begun thinking about how "short" my 3-year post-doc stint is, and why that disqualifies me from academic jobs (Except another post-doc). Therefore, reinforcing this horrible long post-doc culture in my field. One that, prepares you very little for ANY kind of real job thereafter, be it industry or academia.

Well- at least I know I do not want to do another post-doc in India. That much I am sure. I think I am going to explore alternative opportunities in academia and apply to industry jobs alongside.

Deep breaths. Am also reminding myself that nothing is irreversible..and if I absolutely hate what I get into I can re-assess and revise plans. Wish me luck!


Amrita said...

Good luck with everything TGFI - I too went through this Academia vs Industry confusion post my PhD.
Things will work out and, from your posts, it seems like you put your heart into all that you do - so either or, you will be fine! :-D


Ludwig said...


Like you said, nothing is irreversible, so it's probably OK to make a decision that optimizes short-term gains.

Perhaps related to your acads-industry conundrum is an India-US/abroad conundrum? So it's a sort of 2x2 matrix, if you axe me.

I've known people do the migration from each of those cells into other cells (of said matrix), so not a problem. That being said:

1. Have you ever been in industry? I mean held a job outside of academia before? If not, it's worth giving it a shot. That world operates under quite a different set of motivations, rewards and punishments, and it's worth experiencing when you're young rather than old.

2. What about money? Are you rolling in it? A couple of years of industry won't be bad if you aren't. Quite blissful, actually. All sorts of possibilities open up.

Is it my imagination, or is it easier to visualize oneself slogging in some company for a few years, before gently slipping into the groves of academy etc., rather than vice versa? Of course, in the US, the groves are usually tenure track groves, where there be dragons.

I went through a similar-ish conundrum a few years back. Had an MS, worked for 4 years, got a very very nice Ph. D. admit and had academia dreams, and was sleepless trying to figure out what to do. Ultimately ended up chucking the Ph. D., moving back to desh, doing industry industry industry. The grass does seem greener on the other side, but on balance it's all good.

In summary, I don't know. Do what you think is best :) (very helpful, I know). I should be writing this as a post on my blog, instead of a comment on yours?!

BTW, congratulations (v. belated) and all that sort of thing!

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Amrita. What did you decide..if you don't mind sharing- and how are you liking it?

All superb points you made. And all v. good reasons for me leaning towards Industry (are we rolling in money?-ouch). The India/USA conundrum for now is resolved- it has to be India, for the near future and perhaps beyond. I am not dealing with that variable (makes the matrix simpler), I have to go back - in the next 6 months- , and I want to go back to something good.

Thanks for the wishes and thanks for the comment..

Naveen Eluru said...

I am a recently graduated PhD joining as an Assistant Professor this year. For me, I have a rule of thumb for people considering to do PhD (while in MS program). You have to go ahead and do PhD only when you absolutely want to do it (no doubts at all). I think the same holds for getting into Academia too. You have to want to really really do it. In my case, I waited a full year without applying for Industry positions just so that I can apply for Academia again. Of course, the option of moving from one to other exists. But it is harder (at least psychologically) to move from industry to academia.
And BTW! as I understand you want to move to India.Be aware of the low pay in Academia!
Thats my 2 cents.

P said...

That's my current dilemma too! I feel like I should give industry a chance before making a long-term decision, but then I'm afraid it might not be very irreversible. Once I get 'real salaries' in an industrial job, I might not feel like going back to the poor academia life even if I don't enjoy it.
If I were going back to India, I would probably stick to industrial jobs. Even if I ignore the money factor, I feel like there are very few good choices in academics in India and way too many talented people fighting for those positions. It might all come down to networking in the end.
Anyways, all the best with your job hunt!!

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

Naveen- true about really wanting to be a professor- and I wouldn't debate over it if I didn't really want to be one- its the practicalities that are daunting, and the fact that the other option is also appealing to me...

The low pay is a definite deterrent.. and the only reason I am considering it now is that I am married and can afford to take home a small paycheck as I have someone to split the bills with.

P- yes- in India, industry perhaps makes more practical sense. However, even lesser science is being done in industry, and, I guess I have some pangs about giving up on academic life, mentoring, etc. - things that I was looking forward to doing. But in the US, you should have enough scope to experiment- although, getting a foot in the door in industry seems harder here when you don't have a GC.

P and Naveen: the idea that moving from industry to academia is not easy or not possible is, actually a very prevalent myth. I have met at least 6-7 people in my field who have moved in both directions and are doing pretty well. So I wouldn't let that hold me back- its a perception we have, mostly from having been only in academic settings all our lives.

Amrita said...

Hello! thanks for commenting on my blog - now that I have some more people reading (other than those that actually turned up for my wedding!!) there's more reason to blog, and blog more clearly!! :-D
What I did post-PhD: I remember you had written a post a while ago about going into science communication, I had left a comment - that is exactly what I did!
Officially I am working as post-doc but that project is one that my colleague and I proposed and got funding for, if you have time have a look at
(as an aside - don't go by the picture of me on the website - it is beyond bad!)


The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

Amrita, that's way cool what you are doing. I just looked it up. Am also very impressed that there are inititiatives like that out there! Keep up the good work and thanks for telling me about it..