Near the end of your PhD you have doubts about our future career. You see things a bit too grey. It’s normal, completing a PhD takes a lot of effort and career steps are always uncertain.
You ask ourselves questions about what to do next and to be honest, we all do.
Stay or leave Academia?
Post-doc or job in industry?
R&D in my field or try something new?
There is a question we hardly ask. And what about a career in tech?
Tech industry is growing at a phenomenal rate. Almost at the same rate people are leaving Academia.
With so many exciting tech-based job opportunities on offer, it is worth considering a career choice in this sector after your PhD, no matter what your specialization is.
Wait? No matter what my specialization is? Don’t I need to be a nerdy-techy programmer?
Nope. Let me show you how you can get a job in tech after a PhD.
Last year I was working in a lab, waiting for another reaction to finish before meeting my friend at her Facebook offices – to avail of another amazing free lunch (yep, one of the many ways to save money during a PhD).
Whenever I arrived at the FB lobby, I instantly felt inspired. There was always such a buzz in the air that was hard not to get caught up in. It was fast-paced and exciting!
Then a realisation kicked in: after committing over 7 years of my life to Organic Chemistry I would never end up in the buzzing tech industry. Or would I..?
When it came to applying for jobs, like so many PhD students, I knew I didn’t want to stay in academia, so the next obvious choice was R&D.
Doing a (scientific) PhD often involves getting results and doing lots of problem solving! And that feels fantastic…when it happens.
I found that getting results can take a long time. A very loooong time. But we are now in a world where new technologies are emerging constantly.
Some of the top companies in the world to work for are tech-based. Big Data is having a greater impact on healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry, perhaps even more so than lab-based research is!
It is not surprising that after completing a PhD you may consider a career change to the tech industry.
I was presented with a great opportunity when I got a job at the ‘tech-based’ company, Papers. Papers develops a software application that allows you to organize, read, cite and share your research. We’re proudly considered the iTunes for your documents.
My job now consists of mediating with developers to build a better product for scientists, hosting workshops and demos, attending conferences and doing social media marketing. I’ve even started learning some code in my own spare time.
Every day is exciting and fast paced!
Why Should You Join The Tech Industry?
You are finishing up your PhD and unsure whether to remain in academia or move to the R&D department of a company. Those are the two options we all think of. But hey, there is a third route. In fact there are many alternative careers after a PhD, but we will focus on one, tech industry.
It is an exciting place to be and here are some reasons why you should consider applying for a job in tech after a PhD:
- It incorporates the skills that you acquired during your PhD: problem solving, creativity, thinking outside the box and analyzing information.
- There are a lot of opportunities in this industry: many tech-based companies are moving ahead at a phenomenal rate and expanding internationally. This means that new roles are evolving, often with the option to work abroad. Even the ‘old school’ industries such as insurance and banking are investing significantly in tech to create new consumer products, user experiences and, with it, interesting new job prospects.
- It’s fast-paced! The development of new technologies is accelerating exponentially and, so is the environment surrounding it; creating an exciting atmosphere in which to progress your career.
- Tech job market is blooming: Most job opportunities available today are in the tech industry. Once you have the skills it takes to work in a tech-based role, you will be highly employable. If you stay on top of the latest tools and technologies within your area, this will lead to even bigger and better career prospects, combined with overall job security within the industry.
How To Transition To A Job In Tech After A PhD?
#1 You Are Already A Tech Expert
Tech is everywhere! It really is, even when you don’t realize it.
You may find it easier to make a subtle transition to a tech-based company that creates software aimed at your particular scientific field.
Look at me, I work at a company that develops software all scientists want to use: a reference manager. I think I know a thing or two about scientific literature.
Maybe you used a Lab Information Management System (LIMS), you loved it and now you can contribute making it better.
Maybe you are a firm believer in Open Source software and Open Access journals. Why don’t you go help some of the startups in those areas that are challenging the status quo?
They will always need experts in their target market and hey, that’s you!
#2 Leverage Your Technical Skills
What technical skills you may have developed during your PhD?
Did you become an expert in any of the technologies you were using?
Did you help build your research group’s website?
Did you analyse large quantities of data on a daily basis? Did you customize programs to adapt to the analysis of your own data? Or did you build your own database to store all your results?
Did you master LaTeX to write your manuscripts instead of using Word?
Perhaps you were involved in technologies during your research and you didn’t even realize it (till now)!
These all get brownie points on your CV when applying to tech-based companies.
#3 Translational Skills, Anyone?
Let’s look at what other skills you developed during your PhD.
I actually answered ‘no’ to all of the above points and I still landed myself a great career in tech! That is because there are so many jobs available in the tech industry that don’t need the ‘hard skills’ of coding.
Let’s think of a few skills:
- Your teaching skills could be utilized to launch yourself into software training or as workshop facilitator.
- Having planned your own research projects could equally propel you into project management and planning.
- Those well developed, creative writing skills acquired from writing papers and your thesis? Blogging is a great method of advertising in the tech industry! Were you also active in social media? Then you are perfect for PR.
- Grit, determination, courage, get-it-done mentality. These are some intangibles that are necessary to succeed in any job. You got them because you went through a PhD.
I hope this blog inspires you to think about a career in the exciting world of tech.
Remember that your PhD topic does not confine your future career options as the various skills you learned from your PhD will provide unlimited opportunities.
Check out some further job opportunities for a PhD student and a list with alternative careers for PhD students.
Good luck in your job search!