Reaching out to other Scientists in industry…

Mission: To help other scientists working in industry strengthen their personal marketing and enjoy a rewarding career shaping the world.

The Turning Science into Things People Need project is about understanding the unique skills and attributes of a research scientist that are of particular value for a career in industry.  In the academic world it is often assumed that graduate students in science will go on to become professors or work in a research lab doing fundamental research.  Of course, many science students go on to very successful careers in the commercial world where they are involved in design and product development activities.

Often, people with a science background who decide to pursue a career in industry do so with little understanding of what it takes to be successful and how to sell themselves given that they may have little or no training in specific design skills.

A software engineer may cite proficiency in specific coding languages.  A mechanical engineer may list CAD skills or design expertise in particular materials.  An electrical engineer may have experience with high-speed digital circuits or training in 65 nm CMOS design.  Each of these disciplines provides students with specific design skills that are likely to be in demand by employers for the design of their products and services.

It is not so obvious to someone with a degree in physics, for example, who would like to use their talents in an industrial environment how to convince a potential employer that their skills are useful in a design environment.  In addition, there tends to be little exposure to the commercial world when in school, as internship programs are not common in science departments and the faculty often have little if any experience in the private sector.

As a physicist who decided to pursue a career in industry, I have found many aspects of my science training have been very useful in a product development environment.  My broad technical skills have helped me lead complex technical projects and communicate effectively with a team of mechanical, electrical, optical, and software engineers.   A scientific approach to problem solving has been very useful when a new product fails a qualification test, helping me to break the problem down, analyze the data, and determine a root cause.  I have found a career in industry to be very rewarding, full of challenges and exciting things to learn, and a fast pace that makes it hard to get bored.

After discussing this topic with a number of scientist friends and colleagues, I decided that I decided to pursue this project as a way to help other scientists who are pursuing a career in industry.  The power of the 50 interviews approach is that it leverages the wisdom of many successful individuals, not just the opinions of one or two self-proclaimed experts.

This project will initially be focused on physicists because that is my own background and I have a good feel for how these skills map into an industrial environment.  However, I am also very interested in whether other fields of science map so well into the commercial world.  I welcome your input…

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“I think your book is a good idea. People talk about the transition from science to engineering or going from academia to industry, but no one has actually put together any research on the topic”

– Ashok Balakrishnan, Director of Product Development at Enablence Technologies