Thursday, August 6, 2015

Things I'll miss about industry

Do you want to be vastly overpaid after your PhD?!

Do you wish you could just work on projects without begging national agencies for money?!

Do you want crazy discounts on all sorts of personal purchases?!

Would you like a practically unlimited budget to do your research?!

Then maybe industry's right for you! 


I complain about the problems in industry, but there are all kinds of perks. Especially if you have a PhD. Starting my academic job will undoubtably change my life. My lifestyle will remain similar as my spouse and I live our lives as though we pull in $60k/year in a major (very costly) metro. We're pretty frugal. The rest of the money goes into savings and donations. It will change my life for other reasons. Mainly, I want to work on my own stuff without justifying that it will make profit, want to mentor students, and I want to make my own schedule. Obviously, I haven't experienced faculty-stress yet; so I may change my tune (or tune-ure...that's a tenure joke :) ). 

I know that as I continue this blog (well, a linked blog with my same name) I know I will chronicle the good and bad of the industry-academia switch. In my past posts I think I focused mainly on the bad of my industry work so I thought I'd list the things I enjoyed.

Things I'll really miss about industry:

1. Unlimited budget.  My budget is practically unlimited; pushing $300,000/month nonsalary, just supplies. I've purchased $30,000 worth of disposable parts on a whim on my corporate credit card in a single purchase with no one batting an eye. I've been able to buy cool technologies that end up having no use after the first cool novelty factor. I don't think I'll ever be on the cutting edge of consumer products like this again unless I strike it rich.  I'm really going to miss my corporate credit card.

2.  Travel and amenities. I get to talk with brilliant people all over the world. And while I'm traveling, I get to fly first or business class everywhere, and put expensive wine and food on my corporate credit card due to my $300/day food per diem. The hotels are top-notch with views of oceans or the Eiffel Tower. 

3.  Peers.  I work with mostly people around my age. My peers. So there ends up being more of a friend-like relationship. When I'm gone, I know I'll still talk to a few of these people and visit if I'm in town. I'm going to miss these friends. And from what I hear, faculty members don't usually hang out together outside of work.

4.  Income. I've said it before. I make double what my old advisor (a moderately successful associate prof at a major R1) makes in base salary. Tack on my 15% bonus, and I'm living pretty comfortably.

5.  Discounts.  This mainly qualifies if you work for a large entity. I get very big discounts on cell phones and the bill, insurance, realty, cars, home improvement, electronics, exercise equipment, parking at the airport, admission to all kinds of attractions, and other smaller things.  It's crazy since these discounts saved me around $12,000 last year.

6.  Physicians and collaborators. Whenever I need help with something I pick up the phone and help is provided. Whether I'm putting together a device outside of my expertise or need a physician to try my device on a dog or pig, it's so easy. This is mainly because we pay these collaborators huge sums of money, but I remember how difficult it was to get physician collaborators to do anything for us in academia before. Having anyone I need at my fingertips will be missed. 

7.  My lab. I put $15 million into making the perfect lab. Every desk, office, and lab station was customized down to the lip on the counter. It's perfect. I know I won't have a blank check when I start at University of Phindustry, and I'll be given whatever lab space the university has laying around. 

8.  Impact. Talk to 99.99% of those doing medical research in academia, and they will tell you they work on Crazydisease. You ask for details and they say they're trying to better understand Obscureprotein or they are making Cooldevicetotreatordiagnose. In actuality, they don't directly touch patients, and probably never will in academia.  I said my research was clinically relevant in grad school and have heard nearly every biomedical researcher in academia say it (I know some will say that basic and cutting-edge research lays the foundation for applied. I agree, but when industry people see these project most people say they're useless, and will never be useful in the clinic. Every academic lab I've visited saying they have a cool technology turned out to be absolutely useless and a waste of my time to fly out and see it.  But I digress.). In industry I've directly touched more patients and saved more lives with my medical devices in just a few years than I will with direct impact throughout the rest of my academic career. There's instant impact because we don't make profit otherwise in industry. I know there is indirect patient impact in academia, but most focus on pushing the knowledge of the human race. Important, just not as directly applicable. I will miss the direct-impact I have had and could have had on thousands of patients and their families.

9.  The people that care.  I would not have lasted that long if the people in my group and my boss don't care about patients.  This is by far the most important things to them.  I fear I will never see this kind of passion again, and I feel confident that these people will be taking care of our healthcare future.

There are a couple smaller things, but these are the big ones. Leaving industry is quite emotional for me, not just because of the move from friends and great work, but because it's a part of me.  It changed me as a scingineer.  My time in industry, just like my time in every job I've had so far has molded me professionally and personally into who I am today.  If I switched to another industry job, I wouldn't be as emotional, but this is a major shift to my life. I'm incredibly anxious, but I've never been so excited for anything in my life (including my wedding! Sorry, Spouse)!


  1. Man, this sounds awesome! Can I have your job?

  2. Dude ! the perks seems awesome ! big salary and a cooperate credit n all. Why are you leaving again?

  3. Haha, well there is an opening now if you want to make the jump :)

    I get a lot more research freedom than most in industry, but I want more. Also, I really miss the mentorship (I get to do some, but it's not the same), and accounting for my time is something I'll never get ahold of.

    1. Well welcome to dark-side then hahahahah (Evil Laugh)