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Re: Scientific Careers in the Corporate World, #1

PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2015 5:44 am
by Dustin Levy

Thanks for the description of the technical and commercial ladders. I've seen companies who lack a technical ladder struggle to manage and retain their most talented technical people. In companies who lack this structure, you may see technical people move into the commercial side, when they maybe don't really want to, or become R&D managers, when they really just want to be doing technical work. They make these moves because the only way to advance their salary is to leave the lab bench. The best companies avoid this by properly rewarding their technical talent in ways other than force-fitting them into managerial roles.

Your point about the shift from R&D to Product Management is also noteworthy. In my industry, where we make highly-engineered, physical products, most Product Managers come from the R&D side and learn the customer-facing elements on the job. In more consumer-based and commoditized markets, this tends to be the other way around and sales and marketing professionals tend to take the Product Management roles.

Re: Scientific Careers in the Corporate World, #1

PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2015 5:19 pm
Thank you all for taking the time to share. This is a very informative post.

Dustin and DX, I hope you could elaborate more about the technical “ladder” in this post or in future posts. I am grad student half-way through my PhD, but I don't see myself going away from the bench.

Sometimes it is a nightmare to find out the research track/ladder of a particular company or how a R&D job position from one company A compare to company B in the technical “ladder”.

Re: Scientific Careers in the Corporate World, #1

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2015 12:49 pm
by Dave Jensen

What the thread is referring to is what some companies and H/R departments call a "Dual Ladder." In such organizations, scientists can remain on the technical track, and supposedly go up the ladder with pay and promotions without having to make the change over to the "management" career ladder. In other words, you start as a Research Scientist and move through those ranks, and then you might move up 15 years later to a "Principal Scientist" level job. They will try their best to keep the Principal Scientist level compensated at the same range as company VP's on the management track. And usually they do -- in some companies, there's a bit of eye wash involved, though, and the benefits/perks of management are really superior. Despite this, however, some people just want to stay scientists and there's nothing wrong with that at all.

Those companies without the dual ladder system will find good people moving up and they'll give them management responsibilities so that at some future time you've got your hands full with people and projects, and you aren't able to spend time any longer at the bench. The "Group Leader" level in such companies is about the last one you can have before you go up into management and lose all bench science involvement. A Group Leader might have four or five (or ten) people in a group, but still partakes of science, even if it is helping his or her junior team members do the critical thinking involved in the analysis of their work. Some people love the Group Leader type job -- it's a nice mix of your own science and also the mentoring/supervision of others. Past this point, you are into serious management -- strategy and vision and much less direct involvement in science.

I like working for companies that have a dual ladder. There are both large and small companies that are set up this way. And, there are companies of all sizes that only have one career ladder. The point is, find out what is right for you and inquire during your interview how the "ladders" work at the company you are considering.


Re: Scientific Careers in the Corporate World, #1

PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 4:19 pm
Thanks Dave for the clarification.