What field do you currently work in? Imaging science
What is the highest degree in astronomy/physics you have received? Ph.D.
What is/was your most recent academic position in astronomy/physics? None.
What has been your career path since you completed your degree? Moved into computer programming for a few years, which I did not enjoy, before finding a job in industry research.
What were the most important factors that led you to leave astronomy and/or academia? Demand for long hours. Requirement to uproot and move, possibly overseas, every few years. Publish or perish mentality. Low job security.
What is the job title for your current position? Principal Research Engineer
What is the name of your company/organization/institution? Canon Information Systems Research Australia
What city and country do you live in and/or work in? Sydney, Australia
What is your social background? Are there any identifiers that you think are particularly relevant? nan
What do you do for fun (e.g., hobbies, pastimes, etc.)? nan
List your favorites. Band (or singer/composer/etc.), recent film, current TV series, food, color, pet. nan
What’s something you greatly miss about grad school? What about something you definitely don’t miss? I miss the social opportunities, of meeting new people and having a common suite of experiences. I don’t miss the hard work!
If you have made a career change, what was your age at the time? I moved from programming to industry research at 36.
What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree? Knowledge of optics and physics in general, including aperture synthesis imaging and medical imaging. Statistics. Research methodology and experimental science methodology.
What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path? Don’t work yourself to death. Find a job where you’re comfortable with the working hours and demands.
What, if any, additional training did you complete in order to meet the qualifications of your current position? None prior to starting work, but I’ve done leadership and technical training courses during my current employment.
What job hunting or networking resources or other advice/resources did you use to land your current position? A friend recommended the job opening to me.
Describe a typical day at work. I might spend some time doing an experiment or simulation and analysing results. I prepare presentations to summarise and report on my work to colleagues in technical development and management. Every so often I work on patents, performing searches for prior art, and writing up our inventions to be patented. I also work on international standards related to photographic imaging, so spend time reviewing proposed standards drafts, or discussing them with other technical experts from around the world.
How many hours do you work in a week? 37.5.
What is your salary? Very comfortable.
What is your level of satisfaction with your current job? I enjoy the work and am very happy in the position. But I have some frustration that as commercial research my work is not published or disseminated to the public.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Least enjoyable? I enjoy performing experiments in our imaging labs, analysing results, coming up with new ideas and testing them out. I also enjoy writing up my work in reports. I get to attend a few scientific conferences related to imaging science.
I don’t enjoy searching through published patents looking for prior art for inventions that we wish to patent.
What do you like most about your working environment? Dislike most? I get to work on interesting research topics, which intersect with my own interests in photography.
I dislike that it is so difficult for me to publish my work because of corporate secrecy. I also dislike that our work is regulated on a strict annual timetable imposed by our parent company.
What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative? The company appreciates efforts by staff to come up with initiatives that will improve the working environment, efficiency, or camaraderie of the staff. Many staff have ideas which are adopted, and people know that they won’t be dismissed out of hand.
How satisfied are you with your work-life balance in your current job? I feel as satisfied as I think I could be in a full time job, though I dream of not having to work for a living and to be able to engage more in artistic and hobby pursuits.
How family-friendly is your current position? I believe it is very accommodating to the needs of individuals, with flexible working hours and a tolerance for needs that arise from family connections.
What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)? Work to live, don’t live to work. Don’t work more hours than you have to. If a job is demanding more hours than you are comfortable with, then find something else to do. It’s not worth it.
Do you still interact with people who work (directly) in astronomy and/or are you still involved in astronomy in some way? Yes, a little. Some of the challenges of photographic imaging science are shared by astronomy, and I have collaborated with astronomers to try to find some common methods and technologies that we could leverage together.
Were there any emotional difficulties or social consequences to your career choices? Do you have any advice for those who are thinking of switching careers, but are wary of the side effects? Ultimately, to me a career is just a way to get food and shelter while you live your life. I don’t believe it should be an end in itself. I’d encourage others to think about that and see if it applies to them as well. It may not, but perhaps it will open some eyes and reframe perspective on what a career should be about. Switch careers if you’re unhappy, and you will have a chance of becoming happier.