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Will my academic inclinations 'jive' with the business world?

  1. Jun 15, 2015 #1
    So, I did a BSc in Neuroscience and Math.
    While long term I think am interested in a PhD in neuroscience, I am likely going to do a MSc in Data Analytics ("Big Data") first. It offers both job security if I change my mind on the PhD as well as the chance for me to do what I love: statistical + machine learning and programming.

    The problem is that the job security from Big Data comes at a price in my mind: interacting with the business world.
    I don't mind that other people are not concerned with vectorization or the most efficient linear algebra library in C++. However, I do worry about trying to explain -- in plain English -- why a highly technical problem has occurred and simply being ignored (or worse) because the explanation doesn't involve the words "this will directly increase our Stock Price by 500%".

    For people who may have experience with this (e.g., as an engineer or applied physicist):

    a. is working for a company as someone with technical expertise as I envision it?
    (I suspect I think it's worse than it is and that there are some great companies out there...)
    b. Has the environment I describe ever been bad enough to be a "deal breaker" for you?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 15, 2015 #2
    In general, no.

  4. Jun 16, 2015 #3
    It is one of possible scenarios.

    I am disillusioned and bitter about a great many things in the corporate world, but people being profit oriented is not one of them.
  5. Jun 16, 2015 #4
    Being able to communicate complicated issues to a variety of audiences is a really critical skill, and it is going to determine what challenges and opportunities you will face. It is very unlikely you will be converting your work to stock price impact (someone else likely will), but you will most certainly be measuring it's impact in dollars.

    My personal story:

    While I was working in the university lab getting my masters, I was Mr organization. I ensured everything was clean, tools were organized, set schedules for myself (and sometimes others), and enjoyed mentoring. I felt very businessey, which made sense as I had worked in the private sector a couple of years before starting grad school.

    Then I started as an actuarial analyst at an insurance company. My first year performance review basically read "Absent Minded Professor". The cultures are so wildly different that they saw me in opposite ways.

    When I started at the insurance company, I loved sitting in the corner and just running queries or writing VBA. Now I still enjoy the idea of coding, but I hate doing it, because my time is too valuable to waste on such menial work. The companies I've worked for have needed my input, and I often have important insights into business decisions. Actually exerting organizational influence has become my new passion, not because I enjoy it, but because I find the results are often tremendously rewarding - and sometimes, less often, painfully disappointing. I work at a publicly traded company, but I work for the members/customers who support me, and I play an important part in ensuring the system works as much as possible in their favor.

    So you're concerned you may have to climb up out of Python or R or C++ or whatever long enough to connect your work to the big picture, and some people avoid that most of their career. However keep in mind you may - upsetting as this possiblity might be - turn out like I have, and find that actually impacting the world you live in is rewarding as well.

    Best of luck, and keep us updated.
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