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I am 29 years old and am about to finish my PhD thesis in the field of remote sensing (i.e. somewhere between computer sciences and geosciences in a broad sense or applied signal and image processing in a more narrow sense) at a university in central Europe.

Due to the fact that there are only few tenure positions available in science and I would rather stay in my (economically strong) home region, I want to find a psoition in industry in the long term. However, I have received an interesting offer for a post-doc / scientist position in a new-to-be-founded research group with great funding and cutting edge research in the applied signal processing field.

My question now is: Will some additional years in academia harm my chances concerning a job in industry?

Some additional points to consider: - in the post-doc position, I would be the deputy of the group leader (who is soon to receive a full professor / tenure position) - I'd be responsible for staff management and some budget issues (about 20% of time) - I'd have the chance to travel to international conferences - the application the signal processing research is carried out for is not directly industry-relevant - I have received an invitation to an interview for an R&D job at an automotive company, but it is scheduled only in 3 weeks, while I have to decide for the post-doc offer sooner rather than later.

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2 Answers 2

I can not talk directly about remote sensing, but in computer science, a postdoc does not harm your chances to go into industry directly ...

... but unfortunately it will also likely not help you much when applying for an industry job. That is, I would expect that your CV for an industrial job is about as strong after the postdoc than before. Given that there are opportunity costs for working in a postdoc for (presumably) multiple years (lower salary, lost opportunity to build up experience that is more directly helpful in industry jobs, etc.), you will certainly pay for doing this postdoc if you look at the grander picture (lifetime earnings, etc.).

I would be the deputy of the group leader (who is soon to receive a full professor / tenure position) - I'd be responsible for staff management and some budget issues (about 20% of time)

This sounds like you will have actual management experience after your postdoc. If you find the right company, these are certainly points that will help your case afterwards. However, some of my colleagues have made the experience that there are a surprisingly large number of companies in central europe that summarily dismiss everything you do at a university as "not really management" (mostly due to a lack of understanding that university labs also have to deal with budgets, hiring, people issues, etc.). Not sure how representative these word-of-mouth tales are, but it is something to keep in mind.

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Nice, +1. Re your last paragraph: postdocs and professors do get some management experience, but they are still scientists/researchers first and managers second, whereas managers in industry are managers first and engineers/salespeople/whatever second. The difference is nontrivial. How many postdocs read Peter Drucker? –  Stephan Kolassa May 13 at 11:33
    
I recently saw on a public Tweeter of a HR of a software company "No, a PhD in CS does not count as previous experience". So I guess it is true in some cases. –  Davidmh May 13 at 11:38
    
@Davidmh: What exactly do you mean with "it is true in some cases"? Do you want to prove that the time in academia is generally not considered as experience? Or that the post-doc time is the first experience since PhD time is not counted as experience? –  Michael May 13 at 14:14
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@Michael I mean that some recruiters do not consider academia as actual experience, as the example above. Now, it is little more than an anecdote and I have no idea how frequent they are. I have heard of companies that do appreciate PhDs, too. –  Davidmh May 13 at 14:17
    
@Davidmh Well, then in this respect it's too late anyway. ;) That's why the question actually is whether a couple of additional post-doc years will cause additional "disappreciation" or not. –  Michael May 13 at 14:50

At least in the life sciences areas related to medicinal chemistry and drug discovery, it's possible to gain a benefit from doing a postdoc with a PI who him/herself has great industry contacts. Off the top of my head, I think some factors to consider are:

  1. If you are looking to get into a subspeciality within your field where the PI has a strong reputation in the industry, and you are looking to strengthen your credentials within that subspecialty with your publication record and networking, I think a postdoc is a good idea.

  2. You want to focus on a more basic research area in your future career, then a strong postdoc where you guide much of your own research is a good idea. If you're not interested in self-directed basic research, maybe not.

  3. If your postdoc efforts will be diluted substantially by administrative tasks as you imply, I'd be a little concerned and try to get this clarified. You would be taking this job to improve your academic and research credentials, and few people will give you much credit for doing even a superior job in the administrative role of your job. If this will restrict your ability to effectively do your "real" work, I'd be inclined to reject this offer.

  4. You say that this is a new group, implying that it's with a new young PI. This could go either way, but you should definitely be selfish and trying to honestly estimate the productivity that you would achieve in a new group with a new PI in this field. If you don't see yourself with a good likelihood of excelling in the field, I would consider declining. An "average" postdoc will not distinguish you in any way in your future job search, but an excellent postdoc might.

Some postdoc positions are created basically as a way to pay less while also not really offering the upside of outstanding research and publication opportunities that you'd really seek out in a good postdoc fit. Your administrative requirements sound like a red flag to me that this position really isn't suited for a postdoc, but that of course is for you to decide. If you're considering a postdoc, you should consider how you could distinguish yourself to future employers who might be interested in your outstanding research ideas and implementation, and they'll see that through high profile publications and conference presentations that you make. If you're unlikely able to do this, then I'd argue that you're not likely to benefit from a postdoc.

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Thank you very much for your valuable input. I figure that there'd be a strong chance for high-level journal publications and conference presentations. However, and that's probably the downside, it's in the field of remote sensing, where most of the business is done in research institutions and organizations on the national or even European level rather than in private businesses. Thus, it might be a non-optimal choice with respect to industry-networking, while being an almost optimal choice for scientific networking... –  Michael May 14 at 7:14

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