Scientific Careers in the Corporate World, #1

Welcome to the newly redesigned Science Careers Forum. Please bookmark this site now for future reference. If you've previously posted to the forum, your current username and password will remain the same in the new system. If you've never posted or are new to the forum, you will need to create a new account.

The new forum is designed with some features to improve the user experience. Upgrades include:
- easy-to-read, threaded discussions
- ability to follow discussions and receive notifications of updates
- private messaging to other SC Forum members
- fully searchable database of posts
- ability to quote in your response
- basic HTML formatting available

Moderator: Dave Jensen
Advisors:   Ana, PG, Rich Lemert, Dick Woodward, Dave Walker
Meet the Moderator/Advisors

Re: Scientific Careers in the Corporate World, #1

Postby Dustin Levy » Fri Oct 16, 2015 5:44 am


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.
User avatar
Dustin Levy
Posts: 48
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2015 11:33 am
Location: Lehigh Valley, PA

Re: Scientific Careers in the Corporate World, #1

Postby JJSS » 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”.
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:21 pm

Re: Scientific Careers in the Corporate World, #1

Postby Dave Jensen » Sun Oct 18, 2015 12:49 pm


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.

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”- Alain de Botton
User avatar
Dave Jensen
Site Moderator
Posts: 7958
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Scientific Careers in the Corporate World, #1

Postby JJSS » Mon Oct 26, 2015 4:19 pm

Thanks Dave for the clarification.
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:21 pm


Return to Science Careers Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 13 guests