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Currently, I am working as a software engineering over 3 years. I also completed a master's degree programme and I aim for a PhD In Japan via Mext Scholarship.

Whilst working as software engineering I feel constrained on my creativity due to these limitations:

  1. Face-to-face code reviews actually feels like an interogation having to answer continuously why you did this, why you did that. Whilst a review comment from the internet feels more friendly to me.

  2. Having to show them the basics in a manner of seconds for an x-y technology that took me months to master it.

  3. Sometimes lack of learning best practices usually in early years.

As a result I feel constrained in a team. Therefore, I look for a place that I can take my time and can be as creative as I want. What I am looking for is "Hey I had this x-y idea lets put them in the test to see whether it works" without having to think will it take me a whole life of 5 seconds to prove it.

Whilst in my Master's degree I felt unleashed, and I was awarded for working hard (getting good grades) so I could push more and more. So I am seriously thinking an academic career as my path of choice. Also, I felt like I achieved something once I managed to do a hard task alone eg. presenting a difficult paper I studied alone instead of forming a team and presenting all together.

So I wonder on a PhD and later on a postdoc position, does encourage and mentally/non-monetary awards hard work and freedom over creation?

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There are of course many facets to both your question and any answer anyone could come up with. But yes, in general it is true that academia is not product-driven but curiosity-driven, and so you have more leeway in the directions you choose.

It is also true that academia is a place where by and large hard work and creativity is rewarded.


I do think it's worth also discussing two undercurrents I can read between the lines of your question. First, you seem to suggest that in industry/outside academia, creativity and hard work are not rewarded. I think that, as a rule, this is not correct. It may of course be that your current workplace does not encourage this, but in many large companies, being good at what you're doing and coming up with creative solutions is most definitely rewarded, both in terms of money as well as career steps. It is of course true that you are more constrained in the direction in which your creativity should be directed, simply because in a company you have a product that needs to get to the market. But if you're better at coming up with solutions to problems, people will eventually notice and it will be rewarded.

Second, you seem to suggest that you do not appreciate the aspect of peer evaluation in your current job. (You do say that it is, in particular, the face-to-face aspect, but I'll take the liberty to generalize.) I have three things to say about this: (i) Peer review works, it leads to better software/papers/etc. (ii) Academia is all about peer review: Every one of your publications will be peer reviewed, and you will have to learn to accept the judgment of others on your work. In many cases, this judgment will be anonymous, and it's not always gratifying to read reviews of your work. Moreover, your job evaluations (and potential for a new job or a promotion) are all predicated on getting positive peer evaluation feedback. You will have to get used to being judged in academia: We have a lot of freedom, but not to the point where you can do whatever you want without being judged. (iii) Empirically, the most successful people in any area are the ones who embrace peer feedback, take it to heart, and think critically about what they did wrong and how they could do better in the future. The ones who have difficulty accepting criticism are often the ones who stop growing and improving, and it will eventually show in your ability to do the next career step. As a consequence, I would recommend you find ways to make your code review sessions productive: If it's the personal style of the reviewer, then talk to them by saying that you are eager to get feedback, that you want to learn and get better, but that this-or-that about the interaction doesn't work for you.

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  • Yes, however, tenure is normally needed for real freedom. Just because what you need to do to gain it imposes constraints of its own. – Buffy Jan 2 at 17:42
  • @Buffy That's not completely wrong, but also not quite right: Even before tenure you typically have the freedom to work on whatever area you think is most interesting to you. The only constraint there is is that you need to be productive. – Wolfgang Bangerth Jan 3 at 5:14
  • Well a peer review its all about giving an exam. The problem is the face-to-face peer review/ code review that all of instant emotions are being exploded to my face, especially when I get angry "Why you did this" on my face. Also in Academia I will know that the ones peer reviewing me are the best in the business as well, so I will welcome to be peer reviewed. I will know that I will have all my time to improve it. – Dimitrios Desyllas Jan 3 at 11:46
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    @DimitriosDesyllas: Then you need to have a conversation within your work place about how peer review of your code is performed. It isn't supposed to be an exam on your abilities, it's supposed to be a way to produce better code! There are plenty of books about software engineering that give good suggestions on how to perform code review. – Wolfgang Bangerth Jan 3 at 17:17
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you will find some research centers or universities which are more closed-mind than companies, and vice-versa. It depends very much on the environment, but you have more chances to find an open-mind and freedom in academia. However, as others already pointed out, acedemia is ALL about peer-review and you will find people that will complain even about words, phrases, punctuation, figures and your paper will be rejected as happened to me. Moreover, in academia you must work with other people. It's not well seen a person carrying out the research alone. For sure, there are many awards in academia for hard work, but some of them have restrictions (e.g. citizenship, only for women, based on the place where you carried out your research). My suggestion is to try a PhD. Then, if you dont like, you can always go back to work in a company easily. I give you one tip that my ex PhD supervisor (my mentor in life and in research) gave to me: take criticisms to improve your results. Maybe, if other people ask you many questions, it's because you are not clear enough.

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