Almost a year ago I left my full time job as a senior process engineer working in Singapore and California to pursue a PhD in Switzerland.
Why Did I Leave?
- At the time I left my job, the process I was working on was ramping to full scale production. We were moving away from solving the fundamental problems and moving towards optimizing equipment up-time. Since, my interest was in the R&D-pilot line process I found my work less and less fulfilling as we moved farther up the business chain. Simply put, the problems we were solving were not the ones I most enjoy.
- As is pretty common in start-ups/scale up projects management was an issue. The longer I worked under the management the more difficult I found it to watch certain aspects of the project flounder under mis-management. I had a conversation at the time with a manager who said that while I was used to ‘research failure’ – that is, failure due to a technical problem, I needed to also get use to ‘executive failure’, failure because of poor management. I refuse, and still refuse to get used to this, and this is why my new goal is to go into technical management.
- Personal reasons: I ( at the time) had personal ties to Switzerland and wanted to move to really give it a decent shot.
- Research Nerd: Finally, I liked the idea of doing a PhD, I love ( and am good at) doing research. While I could purse my career goals without one a PhD would make it easier and I thought I would enjoy getting to spend a few years working on more fundamental problems.
The cold- hard reality of a Swiss PhD:
- So I will say first, I do really , really enjoy the work I get to do. The research is fascinating and relevant and my fellow students are passionate and intelligent.
- Here is the But: I walked into a PhD group with a lot (I mean a LOT) of issues. At the time of writing, half of the students who joined with me have quit. And none of the senior students have a good relationship with the Professor. I will write another post on how I would suggest avoiding getting into the same situation as me. Fun fact, there is currently a huge scandal at a Swiss university about Professors’ treatment of students , link here .
I’m not sure. I really enjoy the work, and “giving up” is not something I really want to do. But I also don’t want to spend the next six years becoming more and more disaffected and end up leaving my field ( the fate of a lot of former students….).
Hopefully later I can write a more general post about the differences between work and academia, but for now I wanted to be honest about my situation instead of sugar coating it.
Currently I am trying to follow piglets advice and also remembering a quote from one of my favorite blogs:
“There’s stuff ahead, you promise yourself. There’s big stuff later on, and when it happens, you’ll remember this moment. This stupid, gratuitous, depressing moment where you thought you had nothing. You had something, and you were waiting for something else. That’s it. ” -the frenemy