Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Posts are coming...

...but they are delayed about 4 hours. Apologies.

In the meantime, here's a tidbit from Wired that shows two things, 1) things are better in the tech world, i.e. they're actually hiring lots of people, enough so that they're taking people outside their field and 2) STEM is definitely TE (emphases mine):
“More than anything, an education in the physical sciences teaches you how to think,” says Cloudant co-founder and chief technology officer Adam Kocoloski. “Startups are all about solving new problems. A background in science helps you react quickly to new and unknown situations.”
That’s why Cloudant is bullish on hiring people with a background in science, and they’re not alone. Tech companies are snapping up scientists with backgrounds in fields like physics, mathematics and bioscience — people we might expect to be busy curing cancer, saving the environment or discovering the origin of the universe. It’s easy to be cynical about this. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” former Facebook data scientist Jeff Hammerbacher told Business Week in 2010. But it’s happening for a reason. 
It’s not that tech companies need people with PhDs. Many of the best data scientists in the business only have bachelor’s degrees. It turns out that many scientists are moving into tech because opportunities aren’t as prevalent as you might think. 
The U.S. produced 100,000 PhDs between 2005 and 2009, while creating only 16,000 new professorships, according to data cited by The Economist. Though we’re used to hearing about PhDs in the humanities ending up as low-paid adjunct professors or baristas, we tend to expect another fate for people who major in fields like bioscience or physics. But even the natural sciences produce more PhDs than professorships. 
Donnie Berkholz has a PhD in biochemistry and biophysics from Oregon State University. He’s exactly the sort of guy you’d expect to be working on a cure for cancer. Instead, he works at RedMonk, a technology industry analysis firm. He, like many other jaded PhDs, calls academia a Ponzi scheme.
Of course, this throws darts at my recent eyebrow-raising towards Andre the Chemist and my skepticism that chemists in particular are being hired because of their impressive problem solving abilities. That said, it should be noted that Dr. Kocoloski has a Ph.D. in physics... so maybe he's just patting himself (and me, and you, dear reader) on the back.

[It should be noted that tech is very different from the physical sciences (and manufacturing, for that matter), in that up-front capital costs are relatively low and the educational barrier to entry is also low.]

14 comments:

  1. Just out of curiosity I did a pubmed search for D. Berkholtz. He has a good record and worked for someone well-known in structural biology. If a guy like him bails from academic/buisness track it just shows you how bad it is.

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    1. Ah, the age old 'singleton extrapolated to the entire profession' argument. Well played sir (or ma'am), well played.

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    2. Lyle, if we couldn't do that, you might as well ban the internet. What would we do then (other than plump for monorails?)

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    3. Should have said "bails from academic/buisness track may be a good indication of how bad it is.

      Now STFU, Lyle.

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    4. Kindly please attempt civility.

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    5. Per the exceptional biotech analyst David Maris (one of a very few worth anything):

      "‏@davidmaris Just an FYI, I think cursing on Twitter is insulting the reader and embarrassing the author. Holden Caulfield would agree"

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  2. "Throws darts to my recent eyebrow-raising." This sounds unsafe. Also, like mixed metaphor.

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    1. Fixed the "to". Also, I've spent far too much time this day trying to fix that horrible sentence.

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  3. My question is, how many PhD scientists even consider applying for jobs at tech. firms? I got my degree because I enjoy research, so applying for non-R&D or academic positions wouldn't have been an option for me until I was extremely desperate. A well-paying tech startup job is certainly better than no job, but it just would have never entered my mind. Maybe the tech. company founders are seeking PhD's out?

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  4. So, since no posts actually appeared today, do I get my money back?

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    1. I am sending you an Amazon gift card for $0.00 for your refund. ;-)

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  5. As i've said before, if they want to lower US visa/citizenship to in-demand tech workers, that's going all the way down to a bachelor's level to satisfy IT.

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  6. " if they want to lower US visa/citizenship to in-demand tech workers"

    Exactly who is 'they'?

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    1. Well, the IT industries--software, internet, etc--that usually advocate for lowering immigration barriers to their workforce. High-tech that hires TE of STEM. I mean, someone's pushing (and paying) for it, right? All those Senators didn't just push for increasing H1Bs out of the goodness of their hearts.

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