Are you figuring out what you want after your PhD?
To help you and your fellow researchers find your career path, we developed a new platform: AcademicsConnected. Here you can explore six research focused career journeys, get expert advice and read personal stories from other researchers.
Today we share Kasper's personal story. After his PhD graduation, he left academia and started working in the industry sector. Why did he leave academia and what does he like most about his job in industry?
Name: Kasper Dieho
Master’s degree: Veterinary Medicine (Utrecht University)
PhD degree: Animal Nutrition (Wageningen University & Research)
Current position: Innovation Specialist Ruminants (Cargill Animal Nutrition)
“Translating science into easy to understand concepts and applicable solutions is a great challenge.”
AMBITION: WHAT WAS YOUR AMBITION IN TERMS OF CAREER PERSPECTIVE, DURING YOUR PHD?
During my PhD I found out that the academic career path was not appealing to me. Partly because of the pressure to publish, but also because of the sacrifices it would demand from family life and the negative impact it would have on my wife’s career perspectives (due to moving abroad for a postdoc at another institute).
Another important reason for pursuing a career outside of academia was that I could have a more direct impact on ruminant nutrition and physiology when working closer to actual practice. So I started to look more into career opportunities in industry.
DIFFICULTIES: WHICH UNCERTAINTIES DID YOU FACE?
During my PhD trajectory I was unsure about what I wanted to do afterwards. Continuing as a postdoc seemed the most logical, but as mentioned earlier, from the start I had my reservations. I connected with my future manager (also PhD) during the final year of my PhD. I had very good discussions with him about other job types (company RnD, technical specialist, etc.), and luckily a position opened which suited me really well.
HELPING HAND: WHAT HELPED YOU IN TAKING THE CAREER STEP?
The research group that I participated in during my PhD has a well-developed network with a wide range of commercial partners and other academic institutions. As a PhD student you get every opportunity to meet them and build your network.
Once I decided that my future would not be in academia, I started connecting with these companies more actively, and inviting myself / getting invited to talk about my research. Along with such meetings you can inform yourself about the company, type of functions, and how you could fit as a PhD graduate.
PERSONAL GROWTH: WHY DOES THIS JOB FIT YOU?
My current role really fits me well. It combines Research & Development (RnD), commercial and marketing activities, and training and teaching tasks. My job is only partially concerned with research itself (as in designing, running, analyzing and reporting trials). Most of the time I am translating and implementing science into practice. From an academic point of view this gives me all the opportunities to really dive into scientific literature and initiate research. It also means developing training for my colleagues and our customers, and striving to be an effective teacher.
THE TAKEAWAY: WHAT CAN OTHERS LEARN FROM YOUR STORY?
My main advice: be proactive and find out what you really want. If you want to pursue a career outside of academia (or in), don’t wait for vacancies. Meet up with the main partners you are interested in. Most companies with an innovation/RnD structure are open to hear the latest science from someone who is pushing the boundaries.
Also realize that the academic skills you develop during a PhD are valuable for much more than doing research. So, explore functions which on first sight might be a less obvious fit. Translating science into easy to understand concepts and solutions is a great challenge, especially if you are also into teaching. And with the ever expanding body of knowledge and increasing levels of detail, there is plenty of need for people who can do this effectively!