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Should I Be Worried Moving from Academia to Industry?

Six Sigma – iSixSigma Forums General Forums General Should I Be Worried Moving from Academia to Industry?

This topic contains 10 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Debra Mallette 3 months, 2 weeks ago.

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
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  • #235969

    pKone
    Participant

    Hello all,

    I have spent the majority of my life in academia. Since I have decided to leave I have encountered the problem that all of the extra letters beside my name (BSc, MSc, PhD) have lost a lot of their “wow factor”.

    I am not overly worried because i have a capacity to learn and apply (it is really all you do in science).

    What does worry me is the excessive number of teaching, testing, qualifying and certifying bodies for sixsigma! Is there a certifying body that is beyond reproach? At least within North America. I would be starting at Yellow until I can get the industry experience necessary for green and black.

    All opinions welcome, no need to sugar coat

    Thank you,
    Paul

    • This topic was modified 3 months, 3 weeks ago by  pKone.
    • This topic was modified 3 months, 3 weeks ago by  Katie Barry.
    • This topic was modified 3 months, 3 weeks ago by  Katie Barry.
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    #236000

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @pkone If you are worried about the “Wow” factor of all of your degrees then you probably need to stay in academia. You want respect in industry you earn it by what you do and what you do doesn’t mean sitting in a corner studying to take a test.

    There is no central certifying body. If this is a big issue for you it is another reason you should stay in academia.

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    #236001

    Robert Butler
    Participant

    I agree with @mike-carnell as far as the “Wow” factor is concerned – in my experience there isn’t any. I’ve worked in industry and medicine as a physicist, engineering statistician, and biostatistician (oh yes,and as a black belt) for almost 40 years. Except for including the facts and dates of my three degrees on the initial job application form (four if you count the BB cert), no one has ever once asked about the number of degrees, the levels, or the types.

    In every case it is always just “Can you do this? When can I expect to see what you have done? When will you present your findings?” …and “Please remember when you write your final report that you will need to make sure everyone understands what it is that you have done for them.”

    In a similar vein, during the job interviews the questions are never about the degrees attained. Rather they are of the form: “Given the situation you have just read – how would you approach it?” (presenting you with a written what-if scenario, asking you to quickly read it, and then respond to a battery of questions from your interviewers is common). On those occasions where, in addition to a battery of what-if scenarios, I’m asked to make a presentation the presentation is in the form of – present the problem, highlight major issues, briefly describe the approach, and summarized the final results – all in a form that an audience consisting of everyone from people on the line up to and including the VP in charge will be able to understand.

    4
    #236002

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @rbutler You are the perfect example here. You obviously have a very extensive education but I have never seen anyone ask about it. Your answers are awesome. The practicality of your posts are unequalled particularly the more complex the question becomes.

    Thank you for all the work you put into these answers. It is a very unselfish thing you do here.

    Regards,
    Mike

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    #236003

    pKone
    Participant

    @mike-carnell and @rbutler

    Thank you for your replies. You have confirmed what I have learned during my transition:

    – Educational degrees are less important, and I have since relegated them to a small paragraph in my resume

    I should clarify that my degrees do not come from tests. As anyone with a PhD in science can tell you, you get your degree by approaching a problem with the right questions, best approaches and create a solution. And then deliver your report in a way that is accessible to the general public through multiple papers, formal reports and presentations (usually to the industry body funding your research. In my case that was Shell).

    My academic projects have been centered around resource development and green energy projects with Shell, multiple mining and natural gas companies and a concrete innovation company.

    As a result you have confirmed another trend I have noticed during my transition to industry:

    – People in charge of hiring rarely understand the steps to getting a PhD and typically lump academics into a group of elitists “sitting in a corner studying to take a test”.

    I work as a manager in a grocery store now to gain industry experience. To move my career forward, educating myself in sixsigma (which is heavily reliant on quality Data like all of my education was) seems a great way to increase my future employers return on investment.

    It is clear you are both quite discerning, and experienced, people so if you had any advice on the best training sources, preferably ones that require completed projects, I would be grateful for your help,

    Thank you,
    Paul

    1
    #236004

    Robert Butler
    Participant

    I wouldn’t say “People in charge of hiring rarely understand the steps to getting a PhD and typically lump academics into a group of elitists “sitting in a corner studying to take a test”. Rather, it is a matter of how you present the fact of earning your degree to them.

    For example, my first two pieces of paper are in physics. When I went for my first job interview I knew at that time the perception of physicists fell into one of two categories – we were either head-in-the-clouds Albert Einstein wannabes or we just wanted to build bigger and better hydrogen bombs. I did my graduate work in vacuum physics which has all kinds of practical applications but I was aware few people knew this or had any idea vacuum physics is/was very experimental/applied. So, when I went to my first interview I took along one of the vacuum couplings I had made for my apparatus. The coupling required extensive precision machining/thread cutting in different metals as well as knurling on the screw caps.

    Within 2 minutes of the start of the interview the interviewer said, “Well, physics….that’s mostly theoretical isn’t it?” Without another word I pulled out the vacuum coupling, set it on the desk in front of him and said, “I had to build that, and other things just like it, for my research.” The interviewer turned out to be a mechanical engineer. He grabbed the coupling and started turning the caps, feeling for smoothness of thread, firmness of the seal, etc. He looked at me and said, “Well, but you bought the knurled caps right?” I said, ” No, I built the whole thing.” He returned his attention to the coupling and focused so intently on the feel and look of that piece of equipment that I know I could have said something like, “You know, I understand your mother is an unmarried orangutan. ” and I’m sure he would have just nodded his head in agreement. :-)

    From that moment forward I owned that interview. I got a job offer less than a week later.

    Based on your post it sounds like you would want to focus the interviewer attention on some of the green energy projects with Shell or perhaps the projects with the concrete innovation company. The focus would be – what was the problem, how did I solve it, was the solution implemented, how much was it worth – dollars saved, new dollars to the bottom line, process made better, cheaper, faster, etc.

    As a statistician in industry I had to provide a yearly summary of my efforts to management – basically justify my cost/value to the company. To that end, towards the end of the year I would go back to the various engineers I had worked for and ask them for an evaluation of what I had done for them with particular emphasis on dollars saved, new dollars to the bottom line, process made better, cheaper, faster, etc. If it was a failure or if what I had done had not been implemented I would record that and include these things in my summary to management as well. On a typical year I could point to about 3 million dollars to the bottom line that my engineers said I had contributed. Because these estimates came from the people I had worked for, management never questioned the summaries.

    If you haven’t done so already and if you still have contact with the people for whom you did your work you should ask them for this kind of feedback and make sure they understand you want the unvarnished truth and why you want it. Given that you have this information choose a couple of the more impressive projects and make them the body of the text of your job application. In my experience a detailed focus on a few projects along with things like actual value, goes much further with HR types looking over a resume as opposed to just a long list of I-worked-on-this-and-then-I-worked-on-that.

    1
    #236006

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @pkone How you are received is probably a function of how you present yourself. If the conversation begins with “…all of the extra letters beside my name (BSc, MSc, PhD) have lost a lot of their “wow factor”. you threw yourself into the elitist pile. When we worked one particular deployment I had a guy with me that was a PhD Chem E. There were 2 PhD Chem E’s from the company. All these guys were brilliant. There were educated and they were smart. Never once heard a reference to the PhD until one day a Manager told one person he would refer to him as “meneer” which is Afrikaans for sir. My friend replied then you will address me as Dr. XXXXXXX. Everybody went back to first names.

    There is no need to explain to me about what you went through to get your PhD. First I am not hiring anyone. Second I have only hired people with whom I have direct experience working with them. Third it is irrelevant to me even if I were hiring. Robert Butler’s example is the kind of thing that makes a difference to me. Nobody, in 24 years, has ever hired me to do something esoteric. I have always had to produce a specific result and I am generally left alone to figure out how to do that. I need people who can effect change on a sometimes very large scale.

    The best boss I ever had in industry was Dr. Martin Rayl. PhD in Physics. We all referred to him as Marty. Absolutely complete respect for him. Even in a hard core manufacturing environment he was a giant because of how smart (not necessarily educated) he was. That and he cared about his people. There is a guy who visits this site from time to time, Gary Cone. He sat outside Marty’s office because when Marty and I met, Marty’s description was we would throw gasoline all over each other and play with matches. Gary job was to keep us from killing ourselves. Not your typical PhD.

    What would I do to get certified? Difficult to say since I don’t know every product. If you want e-learning I would do Moresteam. I am familiar with the product but I am more familiar with the people who operate the company. They care about how well prepared you are. I think there is certification on iSS (this site). You might want to consider. I haven’t seen it but the owner of the site has integrity and won’t deliver a crappy product.

    Projects are simple. You can do those most anywhere. Read the book “ALL I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MANUFACTURING I LEARNED IN JOE’S GARAGE.” Not so much as to teach you anything but it helps you comprehend the simple life around you in terms of the Lean and Six Sigma processes. When you see differently projects are everywhere.

    Certification I have to recuse myself. I have a family member in the business so my opinion will always appear suspect. I would begin by searching this Discussion Forum and you might be able to read responses that would eliminate at least one option. Just my opinion.

    Good luck

    2
    #236007

    pKone
    Participant

    @mike-carnell and @rbutler

    Thank you very much! That was a true wealth of knowledge on not just sixsigma training and certification, but also on interview techniques. I have found that with only academic experience I was not even reaching the interview phase, which led to the first step of taking on a non-academic position. I will apply your interview suggestions to highlight my resume

    Ironically, stating that my creditials had lost their “wow factor” was an effort (though clearly a failed one) to acknowledge that I am aware that my academic credentials are not holding the clout they had in academia.

    Believe me, I am aware. I am pursuing relevant and usable training in project management to replace those credentials, and I think with your help I will be able to make a good first effort,

    Thanks again,
    Paul

    1
    #236011

    Strayer
    Participant

    While there’s no single certifying body for belts some, such as American Society for Quality, carry a lot more weight. Certifications and degrees tend to just get you through the door since it’s mainly HR that cares about them and you might never see a hiring manager if you don’t get through initial screening, unless you make some contacts within the company where you want to apply who can short-circuit that. When I was a hiring manager I wanted to talk to people who’d been personally recommended more than candidates from a stack of HR-screened resumes. It’s a fact that networking will get you an interview before credentials will. Credentials matter. But you’re competing with a lot of others.

    In your resume and interview, talk about problems you solved and how that benefitted the bottom line rather than credentials and awards. You can do that with only academic experience. Why did what you did matter? How did it improve your academic organization? Don’t forget that an academic organization is still a business.

    1
    #236018

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @pkone I wish you the best of luck on finding a job. I hope it works out well for you.

    Regards,
    Mike

    1
    #236045

    Debra Mallette
    Participant

    You asked if there is a certification body beyond reproach and for six sigma, I’ve found that my ASQ certification comes the closest to being beyond reproach. ASQ certification requires evidence of project work in addition to passing a test. You also need to periodically renew your certification with continuing professional education evidence. That being said, my recommendation for students is to pursue an online/affordable yellow belt or green belt certification to get your foot in the door.

    I agree with other posters as well, I don’t use my certification initials in my signatures and do provide my list of certifications with certification body citations in my resume (e.g. Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB), American Society of Quality (ASQ), certificate #nnnnn). I also use my six sigma project results in my positions history emphasizing the value delivered to the organization.

    1
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