Leaving academia - a personal account

I presented my thesis in july, 2021. By contract I was supposed to stay in contract a year more, but a set or bureaucratic circumstances (unthinkable in any other professional field but academia in Spain) left me out by September.

I had been an alright R programmer before, and the reliance of bioinformatics on the Linux ecosystem really helped me consolidate my knowledge of shell programs (including some awk on the side!). I did a couple courses and programs to transition out of academia into either the tech sector or some administrative position within a R&D organism. Here’s what I’ve learned in the process, with the caveat that I’ve been in IT for a very short time so far:

I miss…

I DON’T miss…

[1]: In fact, Spain has a high ratio of publications to funding precisely because I’d bet that most spanish labs recognize this loop and are trying to beat the game from the other side of the equation, ie, getting european funding through hyper-efficiency to compensate from the not-so-great Spanish funding schemes. Call it excellence, if you are cynical enough.

Any recommendations for finding jobs after academia?

I’m sorry to say I don’t have many ideas, other than the common sense. I was lucky as well: the tech sector happens to be a place where finding jobs is (relatively) easy, bypassing the local 14% unemployment rate. I liked programming, and was more or less familiar with the basics of Python before. Probably other jobs would have been harder to find (eg: R&D or innovation related job posts, I guess - those are hard to come by where I live).

In my experience, most people that I’ve known have some kind of data science master or course, but those kind of data analisys jobs seem to be less common than the regular grinding software development kind (as far as I know), so be prepared for that. The best data scientists also know their statistics, in my experience - my impression is that that does make a difference.

Also, get those AWS/Azure certifications if you can afford it. People seem to value them as it means you are willing to use the common business infrastructures. Alternatively, wait until you get an entry job, and within the first year, get it paid for you by your company (apparently, and unlike in academia, most companies don’t mind spending more money on you if that means you get better at your job).

Other than that, you know what to do be proactive, send not only CVs but also mails expressing interest in what the company does, or even small (<1 min) presentation videos if you really like the place and think you can contribute meaningully to it. Plus, proactively search for jobs before you defend your thesis to get a sense of things, prepare for it formation-wise, and get your LinkedIn in shape (yep, I know, I also hate it but ocassionally it’s useful).

Anyway, if you feel like reaching out drop me a mail and I can add here whatever questions you have. You have it at the bottom of my home page.

This doesn’t apply to my experience!

That’s fine. This is just an opinionated version of my own experience in a very particular set of circumstances (namely a humanities major -> Cognitive Science MA -> genomics PhD -> IT sector, all in Spain) that I wanted to get out of my chest. Your mileage can (and will) vary.