The Question: Do people in the industry consider HCI a non-technical field? Do they expect me to have more design and social science skills than technical ones? Finally, does having a PhD in HCI hinder my chances to achieving my career goal (see below)? If so, I might better leaving the program and get back to industry, or am I?
My career goal is to end up in top notch software firms, as a software developer or data scientist. I also would like to start a business later on. Being a professor and/or researcher is not my ideal career.
The story: I am a PhD student in Human Computer Interaction (HCI). I am in my early second year of my studies, and have more than two more years to go (it is a 3-4 year program). As a technically oriented person, with a strong interest in CS theory and software development, I tried to define my research plan with major technical aspects, with a focus on machine learning. Even though I just have basic skills in ML, I think I can become pretty good at it during the course of my studies.
But recently I stumbled upon a job listing with hundreds of HCI related ads, many of them in major companies, and most of them expecting the applicants to have skills in UX, design, performing user studies etc, which is not what I want to end up doing.
My background: I am 29, have been in the industry for 12 years (as a software developer and also hardware designer). Most part of my industry experience was in my home (a third world) country, which doesn't give me much recognition in developed countries. My main motivation of doing a PhD was that of credit, since the school is a world-wide top ten, and that of freedom in choosing the subject of my work. I also knew my supervisor from previous collaboration, and liked working with him. Also the offer (from a financial point of view, and for a PhD studentship) was quite attractive, equal to a junior-mid level industrial position.