Monday, May 19, 2014

Hectic pace

The nice thing about being in academic circles is the ability to take your time and think things through.  Generally, when it comes to papers, I found there was one relatively large problem that needed to be solved.  Solving the problem took time, and it was up to the author (me) to take the time and thoroughly investigate the problem, and ensure the solution made sense.  Of course, it was important to solve the problem relatively quickly to get the paper out, but in the end, solving the problem correctly was dominant.

In my experience, that isn't the case in industry.  There isn't time to reflect on the problem and investigate multiple scenarios.  You generally pick your gut instinct and go with it.  Granted, the problems in industry are solved quickly and you can tell immediately if it works or not, but the 'laid back' atmosphere of problem-solving from academia is non-existent.  You just need to make things work.  And when they work, it's time to move on.  That problem is ancient history - no longer present to be criticized by a panel of scholars during peer review.

This is good and bad.  Good:  any single problem is not important enough to piss and moan about for months.  Bad:  you no longer have time to fully employ your reasoning and evaluate (and re-evaluate) the solution.  It's hectic.  It's a madhouse.  But at the end of the day, you can forget about it.

The slow pace of academia was already not in-line with my personality.  I would procrastinate and throw away days/weeks working on minute details.  So I was already prepared (in a way) for a quicker atmosphere, and I would assume that most people leaving academia would have a similar mindset.  It is a bit of an adjustment though...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On the Dark Side...

When considering Industry, I was always apprehensive about Challenge.  I figured that Industry jobs would be mundane and tedious, performing the same tasks day-in and day-out.  When we think of Academia, we are inspired by the never-ending pursuit of knowledge; the cardinal rule of applying a new technique/method/analysis to an unsolved problem.  During my graduate and postdoc studies (to a certain extent), I believed I was advancing human knowledge by my research (how vain it sounds!), even though it was pertinent to a small applied field.  How could Industry possible compete?  Industry relied on Academia to forge new methods in order to combat prevalent problems in society.  Industry took a backseat to the innovations produced by Academia.  Industry merely applied 'old' solutions to problems that were conceived and solved in Academia.

Being on the other side, I realize this is still partially true.  Industry is not solely concerned with solving problems that have been otherwise insoluble.  The kicker is, Industry is concerned with applying (and developing) solutions that actually matter.  Though Academia may rejoice in its laurels as a producer that upholds unrestricted freedom of research, I now subscribe to the mindset that Industry manufactures the real test of whether or not a production of research really matters.

The problem with Academia, in my opinion, is that it does not care how the innovation can be applied, or if it can be applied.  In a certain sense, this is ok - we don't necessarily want to restrict the scope of research as new innovations are often found from obscure methods.  However, I feel strongly that there is too much 'research for the sake of research' going on.  (Think of how many PIs you know that solely care about the amount of papers/grants they can publish/obtain).  Though I haven't the time nor the inclination to provide due diligence on the subject, I often wonder how many researchers there were at the time of Einstein or Pauling compared to the modern era.

Two points:

1.  Do we really need this much investment into research? and,
2.  Industry is not tedious, mundane application of proven methods, but rather a justification and proper application (with appropriate research) of solutions to problems.

It's been a long ride, but I am truly enjoying Industry, and I don't miss Academia for a second.