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I will be working at a private company as an engineer (but in a heavily research oriented team), and I just learned the contact information of my manager. I will be sending an email to introduce myself, but I am not sure how to address him.

Just by searching his name online, I learnt that he works as a professor at a university (but is on a leave of absence, at least his page says so) but his current title in the company is engineer. So, in this case, should I address him as "Professor surname" or "Dr _surname" in the email or just by his first name (which is the preffered way at this company)?

  • Will you write a single email to all your new colleagues, or write to each individually? If the former, why not use "dear colleagues"? – henning -- reinstate Monica May 9 at 7:08
  • I will only write to him. – 53635653 May 9 at 7:10
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    Every place I started at new, I was introduced to the team and managers as organized by them - seems poor that you have to find out and introduce yourself... – Solar Mike May 9 at 7:24
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If you're here in the US, I'd go with Dr. You're addressing him as your supervisor at a workplace, not at an academic institution. He's not a professor there. His title there is probably something like "Director of Research" which is definitely not how you'd address him. But he is a Dr. and, in my experience in 40+ years in industry, that is how he'd be addressed.

But also, at most universities here in the US, lots of instructors who do not have PhDs and are not on tenure track are still called professor. Like me. I don't have a PhD and my official title is lecturer, but students and others commonly address me as professor nonetheless. (And yes, it makes me a little uneasy because, to me, there is a difference and calling anyone a professor regardless of whether they really are seems to cheapen the title for those who've actually earned it, which I have not.)

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If this person has earned their PhD, I think you are safe to address them as “Dr. Surname” in an introductory email. Since you are not working in a university setting, using “Professor Surname” feels out of place.

I think it would also be permissible to address the email “FirstName Surname” because that is all the information you were given by the HR department, and it seems likely that they will reply and sign using their preferred name. Along this similar vein, using “Mr. Surname” would also be acceptable, however I personally feel this is less formal (and I would err on the side of formality).

It seems likely that, as you’ll be working closely with this person, they will prefer to be called by their first name, so I would chart a middle course (“Dr. Surname,” “FirstName Surname”) in the introductory email.

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Not sure how it is in other parts of the world, but in my country working as a professor, and having a title professor are two different things. The title is given for scientific achievements, it is sanctioned by the president, and is life lasting, like a PhD. In such case, even retired a person is still a professor. Contrary, there is a possibility to be hired as a professor by a particular university, and then the person is a professor of that particular university. So it is a work title. When one changes works, one is no longer a professor unless also given such position by the new university.

So check if the person has a life long professor title. If not, if he only had such a position for some time, it would be out of place. Imagine your CEO worked as a plumber 10 years ago. Would you call him "Dear Mr. Plumber"?

But overall it depends on what is customary in the company. You might call him "Dear Prof. Smith", and he replies "call me Bob". Or points out he's not a professor, or they don't care about titles in the company, and tells you to call him Mr. Smith. You may ask a colleague who is already working in that company, or someone who looks nice enough to sincerely answer your question.

But in the end, it doesn't matter that much. It seems you found out he was a professor by yourself, you weren't given that information from the company. So I would just write "Dear Mr. Smith".

  • I found out that he is on a leave of absence from his university, so I guess we can say he still works a professor. But still, his contact information was sent to me as just "name surname" from the HR, no "professor", "dr" title whatsoever. – 53635653 May 9 at 7:12
  • Your edit is significant: he used to work as a professor to he works as a professor changes the context of the question. – user68958 May 9 at 7:14
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    A professor may still be addressed "Professor Jones" after he retires, or when he is on leave. – GEdgar Jun 8 at 11:27
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Go for Professor so-and-so, he can tell you if he prefers to be called something else and you've applied the maximum respectful title at the start.

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