What is the highest degree in astronomy/physics you have received? PhD
What is/was your most recent academic position in astronomy/physics? Postdoc
What has been your career path since you completed your degree? Data Scientist -> Senior Data Scientist
What were the most important factors that led you to leave astronomy and/or academia? Lack of viable & attractive academic career path; Viable and attractive non-academic career path.
What is the job title for your current position? Senior Data Scientist
What is the name of your company/organization/institution? Silicon Valley Data Science
What city and country do you live in and/or work in? Mountain View, California, USA (Silicon Valley)
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.)? Play piano, create art, code side-projects
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? nan
If you have made a career change, what was your age at the time? 31
What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree? Computer programming, critical thinking, and communication skills
What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path? By far: have them speak to people currently doing the job they want. Don’t assume that you know what you need to work on to prepare yourself.
What, if any, additional training did you complete in order to meet the qualifications of your current position? Lots of time on the side learning programming, computer science, and statistics knowledge.
What job hunting or networking resources or other advice/resources did you use to land your current position? Insight Data Science
Describe a typical day at work. I work about 9 hours a day at a small startup with a bunch of other PhDs, we have very short daily meetings (< 10 minutes) and work in a very collaborative environment.
How many hours do you work in a week? 45
What is your salary? $150,000/yr base salary + bonus
What is your level of satisfaction with your current job? High
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Least enjoyable? The variety of technology stacks that I have to learn and become useful in — I feel like I’m learning more than during my time in academia.
What do you like most about your working environment? Dislike most? Working with other smart PhDs from other disciplines; not much actually.
What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative? Tons, I’m given different challenges and have to come up with a viable path forward for solving them, using quantitative methods.
How satisfied are you with your work-life balance in your current job? Highly
How family-friendly is your current position? Highly
What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)? Make it your priority.
Do you still interact with people who work (directly) in astronomy and/or are you still involved in astronomy in some way? Yes, and occasionally dabble in astro research on the weekends.
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? Talk to people who are on the other side — I find they seem to be very happy, and people who imagine it must be terrible are people worried about switching over but haven’t.