I am an associate professor at a university in the US and I teach Computer Science. I am feeling stuck in my career and want to switch to industry. I have given many interviews but they only ask for programming and they consider me for only similar jobs (the same kind that my own students are being considered for). With my experience managing several student projects at the university I feel that I can do a lot more than just write code. I have so many ideas but I feel frustrated that nobody is willing to give a chance.

Anybody here switch from academia to industry successfully? any pointers?

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  • 3
    You might want to ask on a site for software engineers, not for academics who haven't left academia. – Azor Ahai Jun 20 '18 at 21:07
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    We had a professor who came from industry and then, for many reasons, went back - he had no problems but the Uni and industry were strongly linked - we even had courses that started at 7pm so people could finish work and then attend. The full time students loved that - not... – Solar Mike Jun 21 '18 at 4:40
  • Sounds weird to me although I'm not a faculty member. None of them happen to be hiring researchers? – xuq01 Jun 21 '18 at 14:12

I don't know exactly how academic careers work in the US, but if you are an associate professor at a university that means you have a PhD and several years of experience as a postdoc/professor?

As somebody who has worked in industry and academia: I find it very unusual that companies would even consider to hire you as a programmer. I know hundreds of CS people with PhD working in industry, and none of them work as a simple developer (unless they have started their own company). Most of them are working as team leaders, in company-internal research, as software architects for new products, as contact person to the government, etc., i.e. positions where (a) something new has to be designed/invented, (b) theoretical expertise is needed (ML etc.), or (c) communication and writing skills are needed.

Independently of the above, you should think very carefully before taking the decision to leave academia, especially if you have never worked in industry before. Academia has a lot of pressure (publishing, get funding, etc.) but industry has its own drawbacks (customer-driven, never have time to do something perfectly, having a boss, etc.). If you really want to do it, prepare it carefully. Start talking with interesting companies, give presentations at industry workshops, do joint projects, etc. That is the most reliable way to get one of the "interesting" jobs (company-internal research).


If your primary goal is to be a software engineer, then I think the first problem you might be having is that you are defining "successfully" transitioning as you getting an offer that is at a higher rank than those of your students. If your goal is to be a software engineer, then taking a position that is close in rank to those of your students is not you being "unsuccessful". Also, your downplaying the importance of making the shift by thinking that "just writing code" is a bad thing. If your life goal is to be in industry, dont look for others who have similar stories as yours : Instead, define your own story. Make YOUR dreams come true. Nobody has the same story as you, so go out and make the change now if thats what you want in life! Its much better to accept a position that is at a same rank as your students TODAY, than to wait until its too late, just because you dont think its fair. Life is filled with trade-offs. If you are a competent professor, then youll be a competent engineer, and youll eventually transition to a position of the rank you deserve. Its that simple.

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