Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

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Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby M. N. S. » Sun Aug 23, 2015 1:57 am

I have a offer for a postdoc at [a major employer]. I have previous industrial experience before starting on my PhD. My objective is a career in industry (no plans for academia). I am not sure if I should be taking up this low paid (<60k) position, if it is seen as training for a industrial job. I mean wouldn't it be better to just get a regular job with much better pay and be "trained" that way? The way I see it, companies want to get R&D done at lower costs!! I know postdocs are sometimes needed to get jobs in life sciences industry but is that the case for industry jobs too?
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Re: Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby Dick Woodward » Mon Aug 24, 2015 9:39 am

I would look at it as "getting your industrial ticket punched." The first position in industry is always the hardest to get, and the fact that you have industrial experience prior to your PhD will not count for all that much, since the responsibilities of a PhD and a technician (for example) are quite different. You can look at the post-doc as a trial period, and having that initial position will either make it easier for you to move up in that company or else to help you move to another company. Waiting for your "dream job" to come along may take eons - I would recommend seriously considering the industrial offer.

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Re: Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby PG » Mon Aug 24, 2015 9:58 am

A lot of companies prefer if a candidate have performed at least one postdoc. The main purpose with this is usually to show that you can be productive independently of your PhD supervisor and that you can function in different environments. However a postdoc is not mandatory and there are positions available also for those that doesnt have a postdoc. An industry postdoc is going to be better than a regular postdo while of course as you say a regular research position in industry would be the best option. The question is how likely that is to happen in the near future which depends on your location and your existing network.
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Re: Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby Dave Walker » Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:26 am


My answer is below, but first I want to say: there are many posts on this forum about industry postdocs. I hope it doesn't sound rude, but I strongly recommend spending 30 minutes or so seeing what others have asked, and the good advice given. For example, here's just one of the most recent: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=10671&p=82252

To your question: I think that this depends a great deal on your background, your degree, and what your ideal "career in industry" looks like. (Do you have a 5 year plan?) I assume you don't want to go into marketing, medical affairs, business development, etc?

- There are two types of industry postdocs: super competitive ones, and scams. The first kind are nationally recognized and have admission rates far lower than Harvard undergrad: Genetech, Novartis, Lily, Pfizer, Biogen, etc. This is a legitimate springboard for your career and can be an amazing boost to your job hunting resume.

The second kind come from small companies or exploitative larger pharma and are not usually advertised. They can effectively be a cheap way for a company to do a boring task. If you can't find a landing page for the program by googling "[major employer] postdoc", watch out.

- You may not be aware that an industry postdoc is always a short contract, usually 1-2 years with possibly 1-2 more years extended, but not guaranteed. 80% of industry postdocs move elsewhere after their contract is up. Put another way, there is no more than a 20% chance that you will continue your career in industry with the same company, and will be looking for a job shortly thereafter. Are you ready for that?

- It's possible you are being lowballed for your salary, but this depends entirely on the company and your location. Is your big employer a nationally recognized postdoc program? Then you may have to "get your ticket punched" for 1-2 years, just like Dick said. You should use your network to find this information out. (We don't discuss salary information on this forum, but private message me if you have specific questions and I may be able to help.)
"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder
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Re: Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby J.B. » Mon Aug 24, 2015 12:13 pm

Just to clarify something, $60K is a lot of money for a postdoctoral position. The NIH recommended minimum is <$40K. And it's recommended, not required. Plenty of programs pay less for that exact reason.
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Re: Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby Ana » Mon Aug 24, 2015 2:49 pm

As PG says, most PhD positions in industry if related to research will require you to have completed at least one postdoc (2-3 years). It is your choice to do that postdoc in academia or industry. If you are not interested in academia then doing the postdoc in industry seems a much better choice.
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Re: Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby A.I.C. » Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:57 pm


Congratulations on getting the offer!

I'm a postdoc in a large high profile pharmaceutical company with a large international postdoc program.

My simple answer to your question would be similar to what was previously written, think of it as your ticket into the industrial world regardless of what they are trying to get from you. As far as I can tell, all PhD hires require at least one postdoc in industry. Why not skip another academic postdoc and take this exciting introduction into industry? You will learn so much more than you would in an academic lab.

First off, these postdoc positions are rare compared to academic postdocs and are therefore highly competitive. I have been part of a couple postdoc hiring processes. There are sometimes >200 applications for an industrial postdoc position. It's great that you were able to secure an offer.

Industrial postdoc programs vary in salaries. People with a previous postdoc will tend to have higher salaries. Having been in a company for more than 2 years, I would say that even if they offer less money than you expected, you'll still be benefiting greatly from a postdoc in industry. There's so much that academia doesn't prepare us for in the industrial world and having that experience as an industrial postdoc is a great asset. As far as I know, all postdocs in the program have gone on to jobs in industry. Few chose the venture capital or government route. In general, they seem to be highly attractive to smaller biotech companies.

Honestly, with the turmoil that is going on in industry right now in terms of shifting priorities, layoffs, and a drive for higher and higher productivity, being a postdoc will, to some extent, shield you from many of the uncertainties and negativities of being a permanent employee. It will be a smoother transition where you get to learn how to operate in this environment and earn some more skills without worrying about competing with others, depending on the productivity of others (or lack thereof), or being fired. Companies tend to help their postdocs in case of a major transition (layoffs). Meanwhile, you will also build a network in industry due to an increased exposure to other industrial scientists, personal efforts to meet people, and the fact that many of the people you will work with will have moved to bigger roles in other companies by the time you finish.

Why do companies hire postdocs? I have been to some networking events for industrial postdocs where I met people from multiple large companies (Pfizer, Novartis, Biogen, Merck, AZ, Sanofi, BMS...). The consensus seems to be that the postdocs are hired for publication purposes only. The postdocs will mostly have projects that are well separated from intellectual property-related work. If your work does end up being patentable, if you're interested in staying in industry, that's even better than a publication. At least that's how we industrial postdocs see it. And some of us wish they could stop going after high impact publications and join a project team where they can feel more useful.

I will mention though that I met one postdoc in a very small biotech startup who said she feels unsure what the intentions of the company were for hiring her. She felt that the company was too small and ill-equipped to support her publication-seeking work. I would be careful if the company is small. However, it's still a learning experience that is more aligned with industry than an academic postdoc would be.

It all depends on what you are looking for and where you are at. Do you think such an offer is likely to happen again? Are you in a famous lab? in a high ranking university? Do you have high impact publications that secure your future? Does your research make you particularly attractive to pharma companies? If your objective is to be in a research team in a pharmaceutical or biotech company, you should very seriously consider this offer. Again, there will be hundreds that you will be competing with the next time you apply.

Your last sentence confuses me. You're not in the life sciences? Are you a chemist? I have a couple chemist postdoc friends at my company who moved to biotech companies (medicinal and chem-bio). Similarly to biologists, having the company name on their CV gave them visibility and grabbed the hiring managers' attention.
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Re: Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby Dave Walker » Fri Aug 28, 2015 10:06 am

Great post, A.I.C.! Very thoughtful -- thanks so much for sharing it. I will probably be pointing others to it in the future :)
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Re: Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby Abby » Fri Aug 28, 2015 10:18 am

Don't discount post docs in smaller companies either. While I can't speak to salary (not high for any of us) our 50 person diagnostic company has had a couple of postdocs. They are asked to do wet work, regulatory, technician supervision, project management, project costing/bidding, timeline development, etc. One stayed to become a senior research scientist, one just left after 6 months to take a scientist position at another local company and we have one current one who is being given a project at his own.
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Re: Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri Aug 28, 2015 11:19 am

Dave Walker wrote:Great post, A.I.C.! Very thoughtful -- thanks so much for sharing it. I will probably be pointing others to it in the future :)

Totally agree. This is the reason people come here . . . Nice job AIC, let's see some more!

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