After PhD- Industry or academics

Amazon Srdu83
Oct 29 21 Comments

I have been on blind too much lately and by looking at the toxic tech enviornmet really forces me to question, is it really worth joing industry. Recently interned at Amzn and honestly one of the most terrible experience. The team i was placed in had absolute zero sense of ML practices. On top of it when i see all these posts on pip, dev plans, pivots and “managers have to complete their pip quota” and “was promissed xyz and manager stabbed me” makes me question is it really worth joining the industry. Or it really depends if you are lucky enough to work with good people. The other option is to go for a post doc and then for tenure track position. I know academics is slow and far less pay but when i see these prof working on their own shit, publishing papers, writing grants, travelling for conferences, no interference from chair and all confuses me. till now i have been working towards finishing my PhD asap and building skills which are more relevant to industry. Should I really reconsider this thought and start adding more academic flavour to my research.

Really want to know your thoughts what should i do. I still have 1.5years left.

Thanks

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TOP 21 Comments
  • Amazon thule
    I wouldn't base your entire industry experience on one poor internship - Amzn, and several other large tech cos, tend to have high variance among teams and managers when it comes to competence, toxicity, and WLB.

    I'd also not base your perception of industry on blind. The worst and most shocking experiences bubble to the top here. I've worked in industry a few years now and really love the environment compared to academia - that path has its own set of potential problems.

    This is not to say it's a bad idea to pursue postgrad if that's appealing to you. I'd just recommend doing at least one more internship in industry (and some place different than Amazon) to see if you leave with a better taste in your mouth.
    Oct 29 4
    • Amazon Srdu83
      OP
      Thanks! I come from EE background where I worked for about 2 years and left to pursue PhD. Though it was bunch of amazing people i worked with but my impression before this internship was that things will be really competitive and challenging at this side of the fence coupled with great learning opportunities. out of the fear that I would be lacking the skills i didnt even apply for an internship in first year. but I was really shocked when i ended up doing an internship. for example explaining the simple fact that productionizing and scaling ML models can bring value to the business was such a challenging task which made me feel as if i am wasting their time. These “pip, piviot terms are all new to me which makes me even more scared such that I need to strike a balance of what will help keep my job versus bringing out new ideas to solve problems. But I understand what you mean! Thanks a ton!
      Oct 29
    • Amazon thule
      It's alright to be uncertain! The production side of ML is very different than some of the academic topics and projects you may get to work on, but even industry work is extremely varied in both subject and environment.

      Sometimes you are in a tough, high expectation, 'competitive' environment. Sometimes you're on a team where everyone works reasonable times and tries to share opportunities. However, in industry you get more choice in what environment you work in :)

      Regarding terms like PIP, pivot, devlist you hear at Amazon and FB, there's a lot of noise on blind and most people don't ever encounter them unless they're having a lot of problems or have a poor team. I'd focus on what's important - if you are doing your job and you run into this, you can always find a better job or team.

      Good luck!
      Oct 29
    • Amazon Srdu83
      OP
      Two things. one is that people get piped because they are too casual about the work and ignore details which are crucial for project success.

      Second is absolute lack of capability to drive projects independently and lack of understanding. In your experience which of the two have higher percentage of people in it.
      One thing in Amazon I overheard was that its all about wether you can make your manager look good in front of others. was on call with the business side where they were dissecting a recent test that failed. and now when i think about it everyone just spoke to prove that they were right (obviously in a subtle way) and there was rarely any “ownership”. I guess everyone went home chest thumping that how the business proved engineers wrong and vice versa.
      Oct 30
    • Amazon thule
      From what I can tell within Amazon, it seems there's big variance between orgs and teams when it comes to the general 'culture' relating to things you described.

      In my org, the biggest reason people have gotten pipped is due to being a drag on their team/laziness. We've not had issues where expectations of work has been ambiguous - that's either a misunderstanding that's a shared fault, or the person didn't follow a reasonable problem discovery/solving process, usually to cut corners to meet a bad estimate that they made. I think I've seen a pip once so far due to just not getting work done even after being approached for it before the pip. Others in my org confirm this: put your fair share in and you'll be fine.

      Our org's teams have often taken ownership of issues when they're caused by them. My manager has taken responsibility for issues I've caused other teams in front of his boss before: I'm extremely satisfied working under him and our org because they actually walk the walk. It sucks to hear that other orgs basically do the opposite.

      Our management chain is also composed of people who regularly meet with, hang out with, and have previously worked alongside researchers/engineers. I imagine this helps stop the toxic 'other-ism' between management and scientists/engineers.

      The more I hear from others the more I find out my team at Amazon is really unique in some of these respects, but I'm certainly not the only one with positive things to say. I also think positive reviews are less shared in general. But if I were you, I'd intern somewhere different than hope to get a good team at Amazon.
      Oct 30
  • Google
    kielbasa

    Google

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    Amazon, Yahoo, Microsoft
    kielbasamore
    Academia can get political too. Getting tenure is arduous and universities require a track record of publications. Getting papers published can be frustrating given all the reviewers, committees and egos you must deal with. You’re not immune to human behavior by going into academia. I personally got frustrated with academia due to more bureaucracy than industry and chose the latter. I do think academics have more flexibility over a creative process, but they have to put up with less efficiency and much lower pay. I wanted to move faster and get paid more. Figure out what’s important to you.
    Oct 29 1
    • Amazon Srdu83
      OP
      makes sense. Thanks!
      Oct 29
  • Salesforce mlrocks
    Amazon is the worst company on earth. How can you decide based on work experience in one shitty company.
    Oct 29 0
  • New / Product
    Maryam

    New Product

    BIO
    SWE —> PM YoE 15
    Maryammore
    Go the academic route, your TC and LWB will be better in the long run. The TC will come from consulting. My bil chairs a department and has been making $5M a year just from speaking and consulting fees. And he is in statistics in a third tier uni similar to SUNY.
    Anyway, this is probably not the norm but my understanding that it is the norm for top tier university professors. The key is, do what you love and over the years you will perfect the other stuff or at least find the balance that works for you.
    Oct 29 0
  • Amazon Srdu83
    OP
    Maybe i am over judging just based on one bad experience and the fact that only toxic experiences surface on blind. might as well keep both options open. Do quality research and see what happens next. Thanks for your input helps alot!
    Oct 29 3
    • Google noiseless
      The same negativity from academia is likely to be outspoken and exaggerated in a similar manner. Blind is more heavily represented by people who terminated their education at the undergraduate level due to hating university life, as well as disgruntled grad students who didn't make tenure track.
      Oct 29
    • Amazon Srdu83
      OP
      true!
      Oct 29
    • Salesforce sigmoid()
      Keep tech as backup option. Don't come here if you make the academic path, that's what I'll say. Academia is painful for the next 10 years but after that you have job for life, research freedom for life.
      Oct 30
  • Google nommatter
    There are some anonymous academic forums which are even more toxic than blind.
    Oct 29 2
  • Salesforce sigmoid()
    I come from academia and honestly one is not better than the other.

    In a toxic academic environment you are looking at people preventing you from getting tenure, stealing your ideas for research, shitty advisors (I had one!) Who can screw up your references and nix your academic career. In tech if you have a bad manager you have few years of trauma at max but you can switch without fear of needing that manager to refer you on your next N jobs.

    I'm not saying academia is worse than tech. I'm saying that the reasons you stay in academia should not include these things. There are several wonderful things about academia - freedom to set your own research agenda and pick your own funding sources - you'll never get that in tech. The path from PhD student to eventual tenure track professor is hard. Getting tenure is harder. You'll have to move locations every few years - you have to go where the jobs are, can't sit in tech city and settle down. Your personal life will need to be planned accordingly.

    Again all this is worth it if you do it for the right reasons. Avoiding tech company politics isn't the right reason. You could well be in a startup and have a good life.
    Oct 29 1
    • Salesforce sigmoid()
      That said if academia is your dream and you have no rational reasons to want it, give it your best shot.. but don't expect the path to be better than Amazon or ideal. Do it because it's your chosen path and be strong with whatever you face on the way.

      I couldn't get to my final academic destination for personal reasons (my marriage fell apart, got into depression, etc) and it still bothers me time to time. But my TC is good. So well I'm reconciling, but at least I tried.
      Oct 29
  • Humatics dirtstyle
    I’ve been in industry, finished a PhD, and worked a startup for a couple years. I prefer the startup out of the three.
    Oct 29 1
    • Amazon Srdu83
      OP
      Interesting!
      Oct 29
  • Cruise Automation ape-polo
    Do not. I repeat... do not, extrapolate from Amazon to the rest of the industry. Amazon is the one shithole in the tech industry. A place of great despair and utter discontent. A place where good people turn into wolfs and Bezos turns into a multi-Billionaire. I've had multiple offers from Amazon and declined all. I get recruiter emails on a daily basis and answer politely that I would rather cut my balls before joining Bezo's slave ship. So please, don't take this horrible place and conclude that the rest of the industry is like it. Yes, there are other bad places with bad culture. But there are also great places with a great culture.
    Oct 29 0

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