23 January 2011

What's next?

Just when I'd decided to wait out applying for any new jobs for a while, something's come up.

For the most part, I've been had the mindset that I would naturally follow the grad student-postdoc-assist prof track and settle into being a PI somewhere. Since I already live in NYC with kids, I was hoping that it would be here. I love this place, and have had a hard time imagining leaving... But I always knew that at some point, I would likely have to make some decisions about the Big Apple.

After being totally frustrated with the process of applying for jobs (see here), this past Fall, I took one or two looks at the list I made of positions I planned to apply for, and quietly set it underneath a stack of papers to be read, which were under notes from seminars and my lab notebook. I just didn't have it in me. In addition, I am lucky enough to have my own funding, which is good for another (almost) 2 years. So instead of sending out applications, I decided that I should really focus on getting out a couple publications.

In my mind, I imagined a scenario where I submitted my K99 at the end of 2011, and it came through just as my current funding ended in fall of 2012... or even a little earlier. Then I would be applying for academic jobs in the Fall 2012 with that in my pocket. It wouldn't necessarily guarantee that a job would open up in NYC, but at least it would give me a big boost when applying for jobs. But then, of course, the most obvious wrinkle in the plan is the possibility of not winning the K99....

Either way, I'd still be a postdoc going into debt living in NYC for far too long.

So when a friend emailed my a job listing for a position that described me fairly well in Industry (HUGE industry), I said "what the hell" and sent a CV. In my experience, Industry does not call back unless someone on the inside hands your CV to the person in charge of hiring; I didn't expect any response. But then the strange things started happening. They emailed back. The next day. And wanted a phone interview 2 days later. The phone interview went well, & I could tell they were planning to ask me in for a visit. Which they did - within a week.

The day of interviews started off with a 30 min Powerpoint presentation, where I tried to summarize 10 years of research on various projects into an interesting cohesive story. Then I met with several people, all of whom were super nice and seemed to be trying to persuade me more than I was trying to persuade them. And I liked them. I liked what they were doing. And I told them so...

And on the train back to the City, I got a call on my mobile that the consensus was positive, and HR would call me very soon. And now, after a few more phone calls, I'm waiting to see what the "offer" will look like... and have just told our 9-yr old about the possibility of leaving the City (more on that later).

I'm a little dumb-founded by it all. The speed, the new directions, the possibility of getting out of debt and making a radical change in life. My current PI is nice enough about it, but I don't think she likes the idea of me leaving academia. Neither does my former thesis adviser. It's like I'm turning my back on them. I can go on and on about this point, but I won't right now. If I end up taking the job, then I'll write all about my feelings on why and how it came to this... for now, I'm just going to say, I hope they make me an offer I can't refuse, because academia is getting on my nerves a little right now.


  1. Anonymous12:41 AM

    Kurt, you are a brilliant scientific. It is sad that academia can lose you.

  2. Haha - thanks for the compliment. It's always nice to be called brilliant. But I think academia will do just fine without me.

  3. Anonymous12:38 AM

    Two years more of funding!!. Do you really think you need to give up to get a position in academia and also to live in NY?. Industry will always be there....

  4. Who said anything about giving up? I'm jumping on an opportunity - regardless of having 2 years of funding left. Because after the next 2 years, then what? I'm over the tenure track treadmill. Why would I want to subject myself to that torture?

    Academia will always be there, and so will NYC.

    I don't even really have to move - it's close enough to commute, but moving will give the kids access to MUCH better schools, and neighborhoods where they can bike to their friends' houses. No way, I'm outta here!

  5. OMG! I have a blogpost regarding why I may leave science in academia, and it was (in some aspects) like we were having similar thoughts. I always thought I'd end up in academia ... but lately, not so much. Kurt, I applaud your initiative to look for something that will still use your talents, pay better, and offer you a chance to grow in different areas. The academic job market is a bitch. I'm looking for staff positions, and everywhere I look it's all coming back with the "yeah, we have tons of applicants with similar background, so you're going on a list" and all that yadda yadda yadda. Do what's best for you and your family. In my opinion, if you get the offer and it's good and accomodates your needs, you should at least try it ... if not, you may be kicking yourself in the future and asking the what if's. Academia and the city will always be there, but a good paying job that gives you some financial security, offers you a chance to grow and go up in a faily reasonable amount of time can only do you good. Sure, bosses might be pissed, but unless they can find you a job in academia NOW ... it may be better for you to take a different road and see where it takes you. Here's my entry, in case you want to read it: http://bit.ly/g943OU

    Best of luck, and do keep us posted :-)

  6. Congrats. Take it and don't look back!