Presentation on theme: "Academic vs. Industrial Research Jobs"— Presentation transcript:
1 Academic vs. Industrial Research Jobs Jennifer Rexford
2 My Story Princeton EE undergrad, UMichgan EECS grad school PhD on hardware support for communication in parallel machinesFour summers working at AT&T in the research labTwo before grad school, and two during grad schoolGrant from AT&T Research during graduate schoolJob search at end of grad schoolInterviewed for a mixture of academic and industry jobsUltimately, decided I preferred an industrial research jobNine years at AT&T ResearchSame department where I had been a summer internEnjoyed having real data, doing tech transfer, working with peersTen months at Princeton, and countingMaking the transition to academic life
3 Choosing Industry Over Academia Strategic aspectsWanted to switch research areas, to data networkingThought industrial experience would enhance research and teachingPersonal taste and experienceEnjoyed tech transfer and working on real-world problemsWanted to focus exclusively on research work for a few yearsKnew I really liked AT&T from my summer job experiencesBalancing trade-offsBut, I also wanted to do research, stay professionally active, mentor students, teach, and everything else academics doFound I could do these in industry, in different proportions and ways… though, with extra effort (and negotiation) to make room for itThis balance is arguably harder to strike in industry labs today
4 Choosing Academia Over Industry Personal growthReady to take on a new set of professional challengesFelt ready to (try to) juggle a wider range of responsibilitiesFeeling a little too “comfortable” in the technical work I was doingShift in research directionWanted to step back to do more “clean slate” research, building on the operational perspective from AT&TWanted ultimately to branch into some other research topics, and make connections across disciplinesInteraction with studentsFound I was happiest in the summers, when students were aroundWanted more of an opportunity for teachingBalancing trade-offsStriving to keep my research grounded in reality, with extra effort
5 What Does Industry Look For? Hard question to answerDiffers across research groups, and non-research industry jobsSome common elementsSubject-matter expertiseKnowledge of an important technology or problem area (e.g., a particular protocol)Problem focus rather than technique focusEmphasis on formulating and solving problems, moreso than applying a particular technique (“the nail, not the hammer”)… though having your own special hammer is good, too!Willingness to jump right inTalk to practitioners, write code, collaborate with others, be a “hub node,” share your expertise, …
6 Advice for Deciding What You Want Getting to know your own personal tasteWhat kinds of problems you like to solve?What part of solving a problem most excites you?Working alone? Managing a group? Working with peers?Focusing on one thing vs. juggling many things?Keeping your options openSelecting an interesting and important research problemWorrying about whether you are working on the right problemAcquiring domain knowledge, skills, and practical perspectiveInteracting with industry, through collaboration and internshipsResist ranking either type of job over the otherUltimately, the specifics of the place matter a lotSome industry job may be better for you than some academic job… and vice versa… no need to form a total ordering in advance
7 Internships at Industrial Labs Working with new people on new problemsValuable complement to your PhD researchFiguring out what you likeGives you a sense of whether you like industrial work… and whether you like that particular companyGives you an “in” for a full-time job laterTry before you buy, for you and the companyEnhances your thesis researchAccess to interesting problems, domain knowledge, and real dataOpportunity to see your ideas applied in practiceBuilding your resumeWork experience and domain knowledgePublications with other researchers
8 Job Questions: Research Area What government agencies would you target for funding your research?What companies would use your research? Any small companies?In what conferences/journals would you publish your work? How do these conferences/journals differ in the type of papers they publish?Who are your "competitors" at other schools?Is it possible for academic researchers to make significant contributions to your field, or are industrial technology and resources necessary?
9 Job Questions: The Department What would you consider as the weaknesses in our department?Who here would you consider as potential collaborators?Who would you consider as potential mentors in the department?Which of our courses are you qualified to teach?Which of our courses are you most interested in teaching?
10 Job Questions: Teaching Given that existing technologies and tools will be obsolete in a few years, what should we teach our students?How would you approach developing a curriculum from scratch?What is your teaching philosophy?What do you think about having undergraduates serve as TAs?If an undergraduate wanted to work with you, what type of project would you give them?
11 Job Questions: Research Plan What start-up funds/facilities would you need to establish your research?How would you organize/manage your research group?How many graduate students would you like to have in your group?Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?What would be possible titles for the first three PhD thesis projects in your research group?What new courses would you create on your research area?
12 Job Questions: Philosophical How did you decide what school to attend for your PhD?How did you choose your thesis topic?What would you consider as your biggest weakness in starting a faculty position?If you start having difficulty juggling the combination of research, teaching, advising, and proposal-writing, what would you do to fix the problem?Do you have entrepreneurial aspirations?Who would you most like to emulate?What are your non-technical interests?What factors will determine which academic/research position is most attractive to you?