21 August 2019

Going Up

Two years ago, I made a career change and jumped from academia to industry. And it seems that things are going well with this whole career shift, that I even got promoted recently. Bam!

The funny thing is that there's a part of me that is rather clueless with this whole thing, to be frank. I mean, as an academic, one has more or less a pretty clear idea of how one's career progression would look like. You know, you go get a PhD, and then after defending your dissertation, you get a post-doc or two (or three), and then you aim for a tenure-track Assistant Professor position, and then you have about 6 years to prove that you're a stellar academic who is worth giving tenure (i.e. a permanent position), so you get promoted to Associate Professor. And you do more research and supervise more students and publish more papers until you get promoted to Full Professor. There are some variations to this whole scheme, but for the most part, this is what the academic career path looks like. It looks very much fixed, to the point that people who think that they cannot do anything beyond academia try their best to follow this path, even if it means slaving away and taking badly-paid Visiting Assistant Professorships as well as Adjunct Professorships.

I left all of that. And jumped into this unknown universe that is called the industry. And the funny thing is that even within just two years of being in the industry, I did a lateral move, changing job roles somewhere in between. That move was not predicted, but hey, that made work way more fun. The thing is, there's no clear career path in this new environment. Instead, I am slowly shaping what I want to do next and where I want to be. And yes, that means that there's slightly more uncertainty, but at the same time, in the grand scale of things, that's more normal, compared to the academic career path.

So yeah, after being in the industry for two years, and inhabiting two different roles, I got promoted. I don't want to roll around doing yet another new thing for now, so my plan is to gain depth on what I am doing at the moment, broadening my coverage and increasing my impact. I am making plans. And at this point, it does feel like anything is possible.

One interesting difference with this whole promotion thing. It doesn't feel like it's the end. Rather, it feels like it's a new beginning. You know, it's like you're joining a new race, with a new set of rules and regulations. So instead of celebrating, I was making plans, figuring out how to address the various things that I needed to address in order to fill the role that has a higher bar. This was very different in academia: when I graduated magna cum laude in undergrad, or when I was awarded my PhD, that was a culmination, a finish. It was the end and finish line of a race. Endorphins were shooting in my brain. But when I got promoted, I didn't get that feeling. Instead, it felt more like a new challenge was placed in front of me, and the first thing I did was strategise and make plans on how to tackle them.

We'll see how this goes.

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