frumpydumples in  
Software Engineer  

Advice on transition from STEM PhD to industry

Background


I'm a recent doctoral graduate with a previous MS (also STEM). After completing my degree, I took a senior level (non postdoc) job at the same institution with the idea that the role would allow me to tie up some threads from my dissertation research, publish a few more papers, and start on a new, high visibility national project in the space of AI/ML and fairness. All good, except...


I'm bored. I feel like I haven't progressed. I feel like I need something new. I'm fascinated by my research (in the space of quantum computing), but I don't feel my institution and PI provide sufficient support to enable me to perform at the level I need to to be academically competitive. The new project is a good line on my resumé but the pace is slow and the structure feels like its hindering rather than growing my fundamental desire to build and create.


Prior to graduate school, I worked as a software engineer building data visualizations and web media. Practically, a lot of my work in graduate school involved ML methods.


Key Challenge


It seems to me a lot of software engineering jobs are product oriented and, while I have no issue (and in fact might prefer) switching from research to product development, I get the sense that a lot of companies have a strong preference towards candidates with greater product-based experience and my research experience makes me "over qualified" in the wrong area and "under qualified' in the key area.


Questions

  • Does anyone who has made a leap from academia to the tech industry have advice on the types of organizations to target and thoughts on what worked for them?
  • In particular, how can a research engineer present themselves to a product-focused organization to maximize their offers?
  • Similarly, for research-focused organizations (e.g. OpenAI, Anthropic, Altos Labs, etc.), how is the research piece (e.g. publications, h-index, past research projects) weighted relative to the engineering piece (e.g. SWD chops, DevOps, etc.)
  • In general, given the current environment (layoffs, etc.), what are some things that can be done to stand out?


Thanks!

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onpeutfairecaResearch Scientist  
- Does anyone who has made a leap from academia to the tech industry have advice on the types of organizations to target and thoughts on what worked for them? I don't have a PhD but I'm a ML research scientist. Be very careful when you transition to the industry. Seems to me you wanna be a ML researcher so target Quantitative Researcher and ML Research Scientist roles (Research Engineer roles as well but I am less familiar with them, I suspect they're essentially engineering roles focused on research endeavors). Target companies with mature tech stacks and infrastructures built to support this kind of research (and be lucky). -Similarly, for research-focused organizations (e.g. OpenAI, Anthropic, Altos Labs, etc.), how is the research piece (e.g. publications, h-index, past research projects) weighted relative to the engineering piece (e.g. SWD chops, DevOps, etc.) For companies that are research focused, your research is important, your ability to explain and demonstrate technical expertise on research question is important, this is demonstrated by your research work (publications etc...). On the other hand, I haven't worked for firms which explicitly weighted engineering as opposed to research skills. You can ask those questions and find out (others on here can tell their stories as well).
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