Academic dilemma #1 – Academia or industry?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This is the first of a series of very personal posts where I will share how I have had to face some career-related dilemmas throughout my professional journey. These dilemmas had challenged my initial professional plans, the ones I had when I finished my degree. And they are dilemmas that you may need to face at some point or another as they are quite universal, although you may not be aware of them yet. Here I go.

I graduated in Computer Engineering in 2008, and there is one main idea behind this series of posts:

When I finished my degree, I really wanted to become a university lecturer and researcher. So I had envisioned pursuing a PhD, becoming a postdoctoral researcher and well, the classical path for academia.

It turned out that as I was advancing in my professional career, I had to face some dilemmas. And these dilemmas challenged my plans and me, because the decisions I was making in every career shift were apparently deviating my envisioned career plan. But these decisions were only deviating my career path apparently… as I have ended up being a lecturer and researcher at an academic institution.

So how my career looks like now? I have been alternating between research and technology transfer activities. I completed my PhD aimed at developing an analytical and computational method able to measure blood biomarkers for cardiovascular risk assessment. The results were very positive: we published, we even wrote a patent… And the idea of being involved in the translation of these results into something useful for the society was gaining significance. And finally my first dilemma showed up:

Academia or industry?

In entrepreneurship trainings, we were told that we had to choose between academia and industry. The two were incompatible. Thus, the important idea here is that when I decided to co-found the start-up to further develop this technology, I was also deciding giving up my academic career. That was a vital decision for me. And as you can deduce, I went back to academia… But let’s talk about that in another post.

Another interesting thing is that before my PhD I had no idea what a patent, a spin-off company, or technology transfer were. But my PhD supervisor had been vice-rector for innovation and technology transfer and taught me innovation in my first year as a PhD student. Also, we the research team were really involved in the patenting process. So, in the end, my PhD was a learning experience that went much beyond the technical stuff, and allowed me to develop transferable skills besides the hard ones.

Well, I understood one cannot create a company from his or her PhD every day, and being able to translate the results of your PhD into something useful for the society can be really impactful. So I really aimed for it…

In my next post I will share the dilemma I faced after two years leading a university-derived spin-off company. And the answer is in the book “The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup” written by Noam Wasserman.

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