Editor note: Delayed note. Original article received Dec 28, 2019
Gonna be 2020 soon – when are you unplugging from the matrix?
It’s been two years since I wrote my first post on this blog. Rather than disappearing into the oblivion, I thought of giving an update – and perhaps some hope to others sitting on the fence about quitting the graduate school.
After a year of frustration to find real work, I wanted to report that I have landed a job in a startup with a decent pay since October 2018. Yes, there are challenges to deliver results, sometimes late nights or weekend work and the pressure to perform. But no slavery or doing bullshit work (that is doing nowhere going experiments and publishing papers that no one reads). But here are the two reasons that stand out in my industry experience that should send you on warpath with PhD/postdoc:
1. I am 42 now (my post was written when I was 40) and as I mentioned I make a decent wage now. I have a Master’s coworker in my team, ten years younger than me. He takes the same salary as me. Simply because he has more industry experience. It is usually said that you should not compare with yourself, not with others. Correct! The point I am emphasizing here is not out of envy, but to stress that corporates value real-world experience. I am a decade behind; the PhD + postdoc years were simply not taken into consideration as work experience. I have to live with this reality.
2. We have had an intern in our team. She graduated with a PhD in data science from Yale in 2019. She could not get a job. Applied to us as an intern. She’s smart and hard working as anyone with an Ivy League PhD is. However, we have let her go when it came to converting to a full-time role. You know why? No relevant industry experience! Instead, we are hiring a Master’s who has 7 years’ real-world experience in data science, that worked at a real company, building a real predictive analytics platform – a working prototype, so to speak, used by real businesses, generating a significant ROI for her company. Compare that experience to the Yale PhD, who has only worked on developing some algorithm in a lab, that hardly has seen its light in the real world. At best, it helped make some publications. From an industry’s eye, who is the best fit? A no brainer, right? Experience in industry is far greater than where you graduated with a PhD (and this includes top schools.) Sure, a PhD or postdoc from Cornell or MIT might help you set foot in the door – that is getting interviews. But it is not going to matter as much if you have not gained any industry experience and any candidate that has the latter is getting the job offer. Period!
TL;DR: Swallow the red pill and unplug from the PhD/postdoc matrix. Every moment spent convincing yourself staying in PhD or postdoc is wasting your precious asset: your time!