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? PhD -> 2 yr Postdoc -> 2 yr Postdoc -> 3 yr ARC Postdoctoral Fellow -> 0.5 yr Postdoc -> 7 months Data Scientist -> 1 yr Data Scientist -> Unemployed (present)
What were the most important factors that led you to leave astronomy and/or academia? Lack of jobs/opportunities, unwilling to move overseas again, lack of job security
What is the job title for your current position? Unemployed
What is the name of your company/organization/institution? nan
What city and country do you live in and/or work in? Canberra, Australia
What is your social background? Are there any identifiers that you think are particularly relevant? White middle class Australian. No particular identifiers that I can think of.
What do you do for fun (e.g., hobbies, pastimes, etc.)? Tennis + sports analytics
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 freedom to pursue things that interest me in astronomy.
If you have made a career change, what was your age at the time? 37
What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree? Creative problem solving
What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path? Be clear that the vast majority of astro PhD grads will end up working in a different field.
What, if any, additional training did you complete in order to meet the qualifications of your current position? None.
What job hunting or networking resources or other advice/resources did you use to land your current position? None.
Describe a typical day at work. Watching Netflix, building sports prediction models
How many hours do you work in a week? None
What is your salary? None
What is your level of satisfaction with your current job? I’m semi-retired at the moment but looking for work.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Least enjoyable? nan
What do you like most about your working environment? Dislike most? I get to work from my couch 🙂
What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative? nan
How satisfied are you with your work-life balance in your current job? nan
How family-friendly is your current position? nan
What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)? nan
Do you still interact with people who work (directly) in astronomy and/or are you still involved in astronomy in some way? Yes. I still have a lot of astro friends that I keep in touch with, and I’m still kind of supervising a PhD student. I’m also still on a few papers a year as a co-author.
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? Yes. It was extremely hard for me as I had spent so much time striving to stay in astronomy. My decision to leave was not so much a decision but a necessity, as I suddenly hit the end of my fellowship and didn’t have a job (and at the same time my partner was retrenched). Leaving astronomy was losing my identity and it had a very negative (and continuing) impact on my mental health.My advice is to leave as early as you can, as it is very difficult once you’ve become a senior postdoc (both leaving and finding a new career path). Don’t let the reality sneak up on you, but take control of your life and career and choose the right time to jump off the academic train. Don’t find yourself forced to leave.