I'm asking for an opinion here as I don't know many people that can help me with this decision. Any feedback is very much appreciated, sorry in advance for the long post.

I'm a 2nd year PhD student in Computer Science (more in detail I do research on a particular branch of Deep Learning) from a university which is top tier in my country, but is not top tier worldwide (this is just to put some perspective for later on). Also I would like to mention that I do not know yet if in the future I would like to work in academia or in industry,.

I was offered a research internship in a big company (it's not FAANG, but almost). The internship was in a different branch of Deep Learning, that is not directly connected to my previous research, and this made me quite undecided. In the end I accepted as I thought that coming from a university that is not top tier I couldn't afford turning this down (in fact it was the only company that gave me an interview out of 10+ internships to which I applied).

The supervisor at the company didn't give me much freedom, so I mostly had to execute his projects, but I did have my say in them, and I am still very proud of the work done. On a personal relationship level, I didn't quite connect with the supervisor and I didn't like his approach to research, but I always acted professionally and did my job. Now that I'm at the end of the internship, the supervisor has given me the opportunity to finish my PhD while staying at the company. I am very undecided and I would like to have some opinions from more experienced persons. I've made this list of pros (+) and cons (-):

Pros/Cons of finishing the PhD at university:

(+) Relationship with supervisor: I have a very good relationship with my uni supervisor, not only at a professional level, but also on a personal one.

(+) Freedom: I would be able to continue working on my original PhD topic, and I would have total freedom on the projects. While I didn't dislike the topic done at the company, I find it less interesting, and I'm afraid my company supervisor would not give me too much freedom.

(+/-) Possibility to have other external opportunities: I would be happy to perform another internship in another company, or to visit a lab in a different university. Of course I don't have any guarantees this will happen, but I believe that at least for the second case there would be good chances of making it happen.

(-) Less collaboration opportunities: at my university I have very little opportunities to collaborate with other researchers. While it didn't happen that much during the internship, I could probably have more chance of doing collaborations at the company.

Pros/Cons of finishing the PhD at the company:

(+) Resources: at the company I have access to much more computational resources than at university. I was able to do some experiments that at uni would have taken me double of even more of the time.

(+) More networking opportunities: the company has many really great researchers that would be much easier to get in touch with if I'm working there.

(+) Money: while I am very lucky to not have to worry too much about money, there is no doubt that the company would allow me to have more financial independence.

(+) Permanent position: there would be high chances of me getting offered a permanent position after my Phd.

(-) More Stress: during my internship I felt much more pressured to bring results than at university, and this has been quite stressful for me.

(-) Relationship with supervisor: I did not connect very well on a personal level with the supervisor at the company, and this caused my some very stressful moments.

  • 1
    Talk this over with your supervisor at the university. They are your best source.
    – Buffy
    Apr 22, 2021 at 12:04
  • Define freedom: how many peer-reveiewed papers did you publish on your topic? How many are in the pipeline? if the total number is <2, I would say the topic is too broad, so yes you are enjoying freedom, too much freedom.
    – EarlGrey
    Apr 22, 2021 at 12:44
  • 2
    Interesting difficult choice. I wouldn't dream of trying to advise you. My quick scan of your reasoning suggests to me that years down the road you might be happier (by some definition) having followed the academic track. But I think you can think of this as a win/win situation - I'm sure there are many people who would be delighted to have to make this kind of decision. Apr 22, 2021 at 14:16
  • 1
    One piece of insight: is this where you want to end up? Imagine 5 years down the line, you're working for the big company, you have your PhD, you're reasonably well-paid, your work is meaningful if somewhat less personally interesting, and your work life is perhaps a notch or two more stressful than it was as an intern. You look down the road, and you can see that setting the pattern for your life for the next 20 years. Is that a good life, as far as you're concerned, or do you want something else?
    – Ben Barden
    Apr 22, 2021 at 16:43
  • 1
    My advice: Do one major thing at a time and do it well. Unless circumstances dictate otherwise, finish your PhD, then move on. A very good challenge you're being presented is how to express to the potential employer that you're very interested (if you are) but unable to accept at this time. Happens all the time, Diplomacy 101. No guarantees the position will later be available, but c'est la vie. At the same time it does sound like you're uncertain about where you'd like to end up, but that's a different craps game. Apr 22, 2021 at 21:19


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