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Academia VS Industria March 19, 2010

Posted by Khawarizmiya in Uncategorized.

First of all, there is no such thing as Industria. I just made it up. But it does sound catchy though…

So anyways.. we’re done with master’s. Kuwait University has officially issued our graduation certifices – a year later. What next?

There seems to be a common confusion among master’s degree holders.

To Academics, or To Not Academics..

Between pursuing an academic oriented career, such as working on a Phd degree and/or working in research jobs, and, working in the industry, which in our case translates to: developers, programmers, web administrators, system administrators, network administrators, database administrators, or, perhaps heading to a management oriented career, etc.

I’ve discussed this topic with many friends of mine over the past year. Clearly each decision encloses a number of pros & cons. Which of these pros do you like more, and which cons are you willing to undertake for one choice more than the other, is not the only factor on which you make such a decision, but it’s an important one.

Academia vs Football


I’ve compiled this humble checklist that might shed some light on the matter, of course take notice that these points are stemmed from my own personal experience and may not apply to many industry jobs/academia circumstances.

A. Questions More Related to Academia..

  1. Do you enjoy researching a topic of your interest (for 25 years :p)?
  2. You might find yourself going in-depth into theoretical issues, are you OK with that? Or are you seeking real-time applications development only?  (maybe not applicable for all areas of interest)
  3. Do you like having to work within a unified theme (aka area of interest), or would you prefer a career that might possibly transition you from one area to another, according to market need, as long as you’re learning a new technology?
  4. Which imposes the question: in terms of learning new things, would you rather learn a new technology or a new way to improve the underlying algorithm complexity of some process out there?
  5. Are you a good reader – don’t mind reading lengthy papers?
  6. Do you acquire good writing skills or find yourself willing to do that, and don’t mind writing lengthy reports/papers/articles/proposals, etc?  (sometimes applies for industry though)
  7. Are you in favor of individual-work or group-work? OK, I know that research involves group-work but overall I think it involves lot more individuality than does industry.
  8. Would you rather spend your weekends writing the first few lines of a paper introduction or go out and have fun with friends?  :P
  9. Do you have good teaching skills? Do you not resent the idea of having to teach one day, besides researching?
  10. Does research inspire you?  Does Google Scholar mean anything to you? Does the hard work of other researchers out there strongly motivate you and inspire you to become a part of a real, huge, worldwide research community?
  11. Do you have a life?  Like do you really really need to go to the gym or go out with friends? Or can you give that up for the upcoming..say..35 years?
  12. :P

B. Questions More Related to Industria (within IT)…

  1. Do you find yourself capable of handling the IT tension? For example, are you the type that panics easily if the system crashed? & How do you handle bugs?  Especially your own? ;)
  2. Is your mind-set fit to absorb IT architectures/frameworks?
  3. Do you find yourself eager to learn more about what you’re doing; expand your knowledge in the line of development that you’ve undertaken, or does it bore you easily?  Do you think that switching to another line of career might help?
  4. Do you like dealing with IT people: managers, co-workers, trainees, CEOs, admins, DBAs?  OK Sorry let me rephrase that: Are you capable of dealing with them, or would you prefer to be working in a research lab where your audience are somehow more limited..
  5. Do you see yourself where you are, 10 years from now? Do you have a well studied plan to advance in the hierarchy of IT jobs: perhaps a team leader, then a project manager, etc?
  6. Do you see yourself regretting not joining the line of Academics, 5 years from now?
  7. Are you comfortable working in IT?
  8. Do you like cheese?
  9. If Donald Duck and Robin Hood had a fight, who would win?
  10. Are you still reading these questions? I ran out of them and I’m just saying anything..

I think the most important question of all can be the following.. Where do you see yourself excelling more? In which area will you be more capable of serving the world, your nation, yourself, better?  What is it out there that triggers your hidden talents and pushes you to work at your optimum levels?

Please, if you have any other questions in mind that might help, do raise them here. I know a lot of people, including myself, who will appreciate it!


1. marsheee - March 22, 2010

haha very true..and actually helpful for those who have NO idea what they might wanna do with their sorry lives..

one more question to add to Academia

From what little money you make, are you ready to spend a big fat chunk of it on medical bills and getting treated for illnesses you’ve developed while researching, that normally you wouldn’t have had? For example, high blood pressure, talking to yourself, a major brain bleed from hitting your head against the wall for the 25 year duration of your research, talking to your two best friends that share your workbench and ALWAYS agree with EVERYTHING you do and are somehow always there with you EVERYWHERE you go (yes, they’re in your head!), etc..

For industria I also have one more question to add

Do you really want to work in an environment where your sole purpose of doing almost anything is to make profit for the company you’re working for? For this, any ideas you come up with have to be practical, implementable, AND innovative. In academia, you can pretty much research what you want if you get the money for it. It can be just out of curiosity, or to better understand a certain process (I think this applies more to my biological research).

psychopathya - April 2, 2010

Marsheee, long time no see/talk/facebook/interact by any techy means or non-techy even.. miss ya!

ok first, LOL @ the two best friends in your head. So you’re there, huh? You’ve actually reached that point.. Mabrook, I’m proud of my little gurl growing into a psycho..err.. I mean a PhD candidate.

I like the point you raised about where the profit goes..

2. marsheee - March 22, 2010

realistically speaking, there is nothing wrong with working at a company whose sole purpose is making profit. But very few companies allow you to work on your own projects off hours. There’s usually some kind of clause in your employment contract that states something like any ideas you come up with while you are employed with them become property of that company. And you kind of said it, “there are very little companies like Google out there” that take ideas from their employers and implement them and then give back to their employers if those ideas become successful.

Usually what happens in industry is you get put on a certain project (unless u were the one that came up with it, then in that case you’re running the whole thing and assigning people to things) and that’s what you do for the next few months or years depending on how long it takes. It is extremely difficult to get funding for projects at big companies unless they are viable ideas. So if you’re the kind of person who has their own research interests and always likes to come up with new ideas to test, then industry might be a kind of bummer for you, especially if you’re not good at writing grants and bullshitting (excuse that but I can’t think of any other word that would fit in its place) your way through the whole process. The same thing is true for academics though. They also have to go through the whole grant process to get funding.

Haha i guess the overall idea of being a researcher isn’t that easy unless you’ve got funding.

And good point u brought up about teachers. Which I think actually kind of falls under the scope of this topic. I agree with not being able to teach the same class over and over for 20 years. I’m actually teaching 2 sections of one class this semester, and I can’t even do that. Its just repetition of the material AND all the same questions the students have. Being a grad student really is a pain in the butt! haha and that salary graph, we definitely are the bottom of the chain altho I do make much more than $18,000 a year. But ya I’m still considered below poverty line here in the US.

alright my reply is getting too long..i’ll end here

3. khadige - March 30, 2010

Ok i didn’t read the comments so ignore if i repeat anything said in comments.

I think there’s some major part that it confused or missed.

Never think that “Academia” is completely separate than “Industria” !
It’s true that when you join a research group, you look for that that has as close area as the area you like, but this does not mean this will remain all the time! you might work on what you like -if your lucky- for a 2 year masters or a 4 year PHd period. But industry has big role in imposing on researchers what to research! Especailly when those researchers are in need for their financial funding !

Another question is:
Are you ready to live the next 2 or 4 (or maybe 5 or 6!) years with little money? where I’ve heard in some cities if a student has lunch in a restuarant more than once in a month will have a problem by the end of the month! (doesn’t apply for all)
Are you ready to look for free pizza :P (or worse! free coffee) :D

Many of you interested in Academia, will answer yes :) on the hope that this will end in 4 years and then you will head to a way better life.

but wait, that’s not an hollywood movie or sth!
which leads us to another big question:
What will you do after your PHd? Will you find a job? Are you ready for the frustration of losing to those “better” PHd graduates for those very very limited job positions?

Are you ready for frustration of waiting for the Next available Phd-Level job positions? and compete with not just those who didnt find a job when u graduated, but also those Graduating Now ?! with already an extra qualification of not being unemployed for a year.

Are you ready for the frustration of getting a faculty position in a University with a level 10 times lower than the level of the university u graduated from ?

Ok enough .. i can talk endlessly :D I better go and work :P or i’ll have an extention on the 4 years ;D

4. psychopathya - April 2, 2010

We should :-) I miss you lots! I was out of the country, just came back couple of days ago. Miss you and all the girls!

5. psychopathya - April 2, 2010

Khadige, nice, thoughtful comment! Thanks!

“But industry has big role in imposing on researchers what to research! Especailly when those researchers are in need for their financial funding”

Good point! That’s why I mentioned earlier in one of my responses that it really depends on which research institution you’re part of. Not all universities are alike, and surely, things differ from one region to another.

Are you ready to look for free pizza :P (or worse! free coffee) :D

LOL, another good point!
It is scary what you mentioned about post-Phd job opportunities.. Let’s be optimistic and hope for the best Inshallah. You know, other than teaching jobs, there are research institutions that hire qualified PhD holders and involve them in really interesting projects. I met some of those in a conference who were working in UK.

lol @ extension, ok yalla back to work :-)

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