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I am an undergrad software engineering student (B.Sc) and have been fortunate enough to have been offered a professor's assistant position by one of my favourite professors. My dilemma is that I am already working as a student data scientist at a startup and would likely have to quit my current job to do this one. I am still unsure whether I would enter academia after graduating or a more standard FAANG path.

My questions are:

If I was applying for a software engineering role would they care about me having this experience?

If I wanted to progress my career in academia would this be a good idea?

My worry is that this would not be an advantage to have on my resume for either career path.

Things worth mentioning:

  • I have been at my current job for over a year
  • I would like to change my current job (stagnating a little with very repetitive responsibilities)
  • The professor who offered me this job came to me, I did not apply for it

Thanks all :)

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  • 6
    Just a note, the assistant-professor tag is not relevant here (a professor's assistant is not an assistant professor) Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 8:48
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    @NAMcMahon thanks for pointing that out, removed now.
    – Vani
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 9:10
  • where in the world?
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 10:33
  • @EarlGrey Germany
    – Vani
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 13:07
  • You see yourself ‘stagnating’ after a year? That might be useful fodder for personal reflection. Commented Nov 23, 2023 at 15:57

3 Answers 3

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If I was applying for a software engineering role would they care about me having this experience?

I haven't been on the hiring team for any software engineering roles so I can't say, but I would guess that a position working for a professor would be less interesting to them than working at a startup.

If I wanted to progress my career in academia would this be a good idea?

This kind of position would be looked on very favorably for PhD admissions. You would probably contribute to research papers and be able to get authorship on those. You would also have a professor who could write you a strong letter of recommendation and talk about how you deal with the uncertainty involved in doing academic research.

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I would suggest first to think what would you like to do after the professor's assistant position, and if you see yourself working in industry instead of academia in the future. If you would really want to work in academia then consider the difficulty to land to a tenure track position after ~10 years of work(PhD years included). Look also in this question: What ratio of PhD graduates in STEM fields ultimately end up as (tenured) professors?

and also in this answer: https://academia.stackexchange.com/a/203947/103261

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Since you state this refers to Germany, yes it is a good idea especially if you want to start an academic career. Otherwise, it is a good way for you to cover the gap between current repetitive job and the next one.

In Germany, it is of the uttermost importance of having a professor on your side to start an academic career, and it looks like you have one.

However, you should be proactive (with the support of your professor) in finding additional fundings to develop from professor's assistant to a paid PhD student (aim for a 75% or even 100% TVöD or whatever it is called nowadays position). You can be a PhD student without fundings, as long as a department accepts you (having a professor on your side is a sufficient but not necessary condition for this).

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