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Ask Slashdot: Advice For Getting Tech Career Back On Track

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the starting-over-again dept.

Businesses 232

First time accepted submitter msamp writes "After the dotcom bubble burst so long ago,when tech jobs were so scarce, I went back to school and finished my PhD in Physics. They lied — there really is no shortage of scientists. Before the downturn I was a product manager for home networking equipment. Since getting the degree I have been program/project manager for small DoD and NASA instrumentation programs. I desperately want back into network equipment product management, but my networking tech skills aren't up to date. I find networking technology absolutely trivial and have been retraining on my own, but hiring managers see the gap and the PhD and run screaming. I'm more than willing to start over in network admin but can't even get considered for that. Suggestions?"

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Apply at a university (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42496973)

My IT department is full of people with tons of degrees doing various IT tasks.

Re:Apply at a university (4, Interesting)

edremy (36408) | about 2 years ago | (#42498021)

This. Most of us in the IT leadership at the college where I work have Ph.Ds. Nobody blinks an eye, and we have a deal where we teach a class a year as well- helps us remember the actual goal of the college is. The networking guy has a masters in EE and does a lot of work with the astronomy department on the side.

It can even be a bonus in other ways- one of our newer guys in datasystems teaches CS at a local community college on the side, and ended up recruiting one of his best students directly into an open position- he already knew what he was capable of.

Start your own business (5, Insightful)

saphena (322272) | about 2 years ago | (#42496987)

That way your qualifications won't matter and won't get in the way

Re:Start your own business (5, Insightful)

IceNinjaNine (2026774) | about 2 years ago | (#42497061)

Yeah, I'm going to have to agree with this. The stinging irony is that your PhD is going to scare folks off despite that it demonstrates that you've got quite the noggin on your shoulders. Unless you're willing to omit it from your resume (which some MAY consider lying by omission) along with some creative verbage about what you were doing during that time, doing your own thing as the parent suggests may be the path of least resistance.

A friend of mine has a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MS in Computer Science. He always takes the risk and omits the PhD as he was getting no love from employers otherwise.

Re:Start your own business (4, Insightful)

Ironhandx (1762146) | about 2 years ago | (#42497139)

Omit but then own up to having it when they ask you about the gap at an interview. Make it clear that you got it due to an economic down turn in tech after the dot com bust but your real interest was and is in networking/whatever your real interest is. Honesty is always the best policy but do it selectively.

Incidentally tell them you left it out as it isn't relevant to your current work desires.

Re:Start your own business (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42497207)

Incidentally tell them you left it out as it isn't relevant to your current work desires.

I often "leave out" that I worked at a grocery store in my sophomore year of high school. If you're so young you can't fill up a one page resume, you have to fill it up the blank page with something, anything, but over the age of 30 most probably have far too much resume fodder to fill the page.

Now, if you were applying to become a physics instructor at a high school and lied about not having a phd then there's some issues, but networking hardware? I think you're OK there, at least morally and ethically.

Re:Start your own business (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#42497743)

I'm on my third career-relevant jobs (including an internship) since graduating from college in 2010. The only time I go back further than those three jobs in my employment history is when they ask for it - then I'll include being an RA in college, being a dishwasher/delivery driver summers during college and highschool, etc. Even then, I almost never go back to my first "real" job at age 14. Every interview I've been at, they've been far more interested in projects (or even hobbies) I've done relevant to the position rather than every little bit of job and education history I have. I often omit the networking course I did during high school too just because it's small cheese compared to my more recent history and just wastes valuable space I could use for listing projects I've done more recently instead.

Re:Start your own business (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#42497909)

Simply tell the truth, that you went back to school to further your education. You don't have to mention that you got a degree, its not like it was a court imposed sentence.or anything. It is entirely optional like scout merit badges or a black belt, or something.

Re:Start your own business (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42498005)

Honesty is always the best policy but do it selectively.

Selective honesty means lying.

Please don't start a business (5, Insightful)

mapuche (41699) | about 2 years ago | (#42497067)

Not everybody has what it takes to make a successful business. And starting a company because you can't find a job won't help. If you can't find a job, hardly you will find clients.

Re:Please don't start a business (4, Insightful)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 2 years ago | (#42497335)

Not everybody has what it takes to make a successful business. And starting a company because you can't find a job won't help. If you can't find a job, hardly you will find clients.

More to the point, OP is interested in networking tech rather than business management. If he started his own business and it was actually successful he's either have to pay someone else to be his boss or give up networking tech yet again to manage the business.

Re:Please don't start a business (2)

evil_aaronm (671521) | about 2 years ago | (#42497415)

Not necessarily. I was in a similar boat - got let go and found it hard to find something suitable - and started my own business. However, I kept it small enough that I was able to do what I like and not let the business side overwhelm me. It's a matter of scale.

Re:Please don't start a business (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497993)

Not necessarily. I was in a similar boat - got let go and found it hard to find something suitable - and started my own business. However, I kept it small enough that I was able to do what I like and not let the business side overwhelm me. It's a matter of scale.

It's also a matter of what you are trying to do. For example a single person could start a business doing basic IT support for small businesses, or individuals' tax returns, or decorating houses, but they couldn't easily start a business using skills in large network administration, complex financial accounting matters or bridge building. Those skills can only really be used as part of large teams and are only sought-after by large businesses or governments, and they would not want to rely on a one-person business. Sometimes I think 'small businesses' have become a fetish - they are not magic wands that can fix all financial or economic problems.

Re:Please don't start a business (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#42497773)

My boss at my last job owned the business, but he hired someone to take care of the business aspects that he didn't care for or didn't have the skills to do. In the end, he was still the boss, he ran the company but he also stayed immersed in the tech enough to his satisfaction. Of course, some people just need a boss to guide them even if they're great at the actually technical skills - in that case, starting a business won't work unless you grow it just enough to sell it with a clause keeping you employed.

Start a Rocket Company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497179)

Your physics degree and NASA experience could help you, especially if you could supplement it with a business degree from Wharton.

Say - can you do any cool accents?

Re:Start your own business (5, Interesting)

t0qer (230538) | about 2 years ago | (#42497227)

After a 12 year Hiatus (I got laid off in 2001) I'm finally getting back to IT, I start a new job monday, it pays a bundle, wife is happy, kids will have benefits..So what did I do in those 12 years?

I worked at a karaoke bar in San Jose. My friends and I made a karaoke jukebox, tried to market it to karaoke companies (failed miserably, they're like the music companies battling technology in the 90's) It was great, it was fun for a while but no benefits, low pay, and an abusive owner finally made me start taking the steps to get out of it.

2010 I tried running for city council. Lost but it got my foot in the door with local politicians. Last campaign season, I helped one candidate win by using a combination of twilio/openvbx for robocalls (at cost.. $0.02) 40,000 robocalls. Most candidates pay between $0.79 to $0.83 a call, so I consider it to be a pretty huge contribution.

During my interview I was totally open and honest about my last 12 years. Why didn't I W2 for the last 12 years? Why are these gaps here in my employment? Lucky for me my hiring manager had been in a similar situation... The entire company was really impressed with all my political work in the last year. (In my new role, I'll be doing IT stuff in a board room, so knowing how to mind your political p's and q's to make a good initial impression was super important)
When I was first laid off in 2001, I never dreamed of doing any kind of volunteer work or activism. I was in my late 20's, and too self centered to give a shit. I thought my salary was my worth, and working for free/volunteer was beneath me. Took a few years of eating humble pie in a karaoke bar to adjust that attitude.

So my advice, find some local volunteer things to work on that appeal to you. See how you can wrangle your tech knowledge in there. Me? I just happened to love all the skullduggery and drama involved with politics. YMMV.

Re:Start your own business (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497359)

I helped one candidate win by using a combination of twilio/openvbx for robocalls

Go fuck yourself.

Re:Start your own business (5, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#42497561)

This. Or just cut the pretense and make real money as a black hat.

Re:Start your own business (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497857)

Similar to starting your own business, go for a management role with oversight in networking. Then, roll your sleeves up and get hands on.

In the same boat... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42496989)

...still paddling. I can sympathise.

Good luck, Mike.

Take the PhD off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497011)


Hid your PhD (5, Insightful)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | about 2 years ago | (#42497023)

As much as I hate to say that, hiding a part of your education from resume (like not mentioning your PhD) is a pretty common method of getting employment. Of course with lower salary. They run screaming just because they think that they would need to pay more, because you had PhD. OTOH, I'd say it's more interesting to puruse academic career, where money is low, but at least people apprecieate how educated you really are. And you don't need to hide your PhD. That's just my opinion. And that's why I puruse this career :)

Re:Hid your PhD (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497121)

Absolutely hide your PhD: you will be perceived as overqualified, and therefore a "flight risk".

Re:Hid your PhD (1)

macbeth66 (204889) | about 2 years ago | (#42497211)

I'm not so sure that is a good idea, either. I was told, albeit a while back, that not including any past jobs and/or education is lying. It might be a lie of omission, but the job apps I've seen, asked for all past positions and education. I'd suggest speaking to a an expert in the field before excluding things.

Re:Hid your PhD (2)

uncqual (836337) | about 2 years ago | (#42497449)

Put the PhD on the app to keep it "legal" but leave it off the resume.

Hiring managers rarely see the app and few that have it actually look at it and those few that actually look at it usually have made up their mind about you by then (they look at it for stuff like salary history and perhaps reference checks).

Do mention the PhD verbally in your interview with the hiring manager (however, you probably should not mention it, unless the topic comes up, with any other interviewers). This way, the manager doesn't feel duped when/if she finally looks at the app during the final stages.

Re:Hide your PhD (4, Insightful)

NFN_NLN (633283) | about 2 years ago | (#42497689)

I'm not so sure that is a good idea, either. I was told, albeit a while back, that not including any past jobs and/or education is lying. It might be a lie of omission, but the job apps I've seen, asked for all past positions and education. I'd suggest speaking to a an expert in the field before excluding things.

Hmmm.. I really think it depends on the situation. Let's take a look:

Omitting that you working as a part time drug dealer in college... hiding something
Omitting that you have a respectable Ph.D... your choice
Omitting that you helped manage the importation of underage prostitutes from southeast asia... very specific and also hiding something
Omitting your religion, marital status, sexual preference... your choice
Omitting that your Ph.D. actually came from a sketchy online university... hiding something

It appears omitting something out that could be potentially damaging is wrong. But omitting an achievement or otherwise acceptable detail that isn't the employers business is just fine.

Re:Hid your PhD (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42497225)

OTOH, I'd say it's more interesting to puruse academic career,

Isn't the situation something like for every 10 phd granted, there are only 3 academic phd level openings, depending on area of study of course? The vast majority are going to have to activate the backup plan. Its very much like professional sports.

Re:Hid your PhD (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 years ago | (#42497343)

That's the main problem, yes. In CS it's slightly better, because there's a constant outflux of PhDs to industry: every time you see one of those announcements about Google hiring a professor away from CMU, that's one more academic job freed up. But in physics the imbalance is much worse, and slogging away in a series of postdocs hoping for something to open up is the usual course.

Re:Hid your PhD (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497407)

Don't ever listen to someone who says there's a shortage of "qualified professionals" in a field. What they really mean when they say that is that the people already in the field are asking for more than a bare minimum wage and that they want you to go into the field to drive down wages. This is true of every field where there is a "shortage."

Re:Hide your PhD (3, Informative)

kye4u (2686257) | about 2 years ago | (#42497843)

As much as I hate to say that, hiding a part of your education from resume (like not mentioning your PhD) is a pretty common method of getting employment. Of course with lower salary. They run screaming just because they think that they would need to pay more, because you had PhD.

My perspective as potential employee
I'm a PhD candidate (Computer Engineering) at a top 5 engineering school, and I would say that through the process of looking for full-time employment, the opposite has been happening to me.

Employers see the PhD and their expectations rise exponentially; they expect you to walk on water and work miracles during the interview process even though the position you have applied for only requires a MS. Ironically, an MS graduate would have an easier time getting the same job that I applied to.

Employer perspective
I do understand things from the employers' perspective. Employers are concerned about retention and not just about at the company, but at the position you applied for at the company. They worry that if they pay you below fair market value for PhD salary, that you may jump ship when an opportunity comes along for you to get a PhD salary at some other position and/or some other company. Also, a PhD can signal to the employer that you are very ambitious and really like to learn. Above average ambition and appetite/ability to learn can be a risk factor for them because you may get bored of your current position and jump ship

Volunteer, or School. (2)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 2 years ago | (#42497029)

If you've been out of the field for awhile, your main priority should be demonstrating relevant experience.

Which means more school (to prove you are current) or volunteering in a relevant role (to prove you're capable).

Otherwise, you start back at the bottom. With your education level, there aren't many good horizontal transfer options.

Re:Volunteer, or School. (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 2 years ago | (#42497041)

AND take the PhD off the resume.

Re:Volunteer, or School. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497167)

volunteering doesnt pay the bills.

too late. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497039)

Too late. "PhD" = "overqualified". But good luck anyway.

Re:too late. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#42497683)

Also BSc means lowish pay and having no degree means you're unemployable human garbage suitable only for work where robots are still too costly. Master's degree is the sweet spot right now.

1. Get PhD in Physics (3, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | about 2 years ago | (#42497051)

2. ???
3. Profit!

Some suggestions for 2: Invent cold fusion. Transmute lead into gold. Create "death ray" and get some nation to pay a ransom. What? All those are practical physics and you're a theoretical physicist? Um... Ok... Get an entry level job as a junior web programmer and be sure to let everyone on your team know how much better than them you are because you have a PhD in physics. And insist that they call you "Doctor".

Join a startup (3, Insightful)

loufoque (1400831) | about 2 years ago | (#42497065)

Start-ups love over-qualified people willing to do meager tasks for nothing.

Re:Join a startup (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about 2 years ago | (#42497767)

This. The security isn't good and benefits may be sketchy but it'll be fun while it lasts and you'll learn more about business than you would at a big corp. Then you will have experience to start your own.

Re:Join a startup (1)

BonThomme (239873) | about 2 years ago | (#42498033)

...or the good sense not to.

Hide the PHD... (1)

raist21 (68156) | about 2 years ago | (#42497083)

Manager's tend to have a bachelor's, or maybe a master's at best, and are often scared to death to hire in someone who might be viewed as if they should be managing over them due to educational background. It doesn't matter that the doctorate may not have anything to do with the area of work that is being performed, only that it's a doctorate. It sucks...but that's usually just the way it is. You're probably better off getting a couple of Cisco or networking certs and putting that on your resume instead. Most likely you'll be hired within the month.

Re:Hide the PHD... (2)

macbeth66 (204889) | about 2 years ago | (#42497241)

I've never had a manager, in IT related positions, that had more tech knowledge than I did. They just had the misfortune of getting sucked into low-level management which I've been able to avoid. Of course, I usually get stuck with the 'project lead' moniker. Upper management is a different story; all sorts there.

Research? (4, Insightful)

csumpi (2258986) | about 2 years ago | (#42497103)

There is an article posted about this on slashdot EVERY TWO WEEKS!

So maybe first you should do some research on the subject. But I give you the non-tldr version:

If you want me to hire you, you have to show me that you are worth it. How can you do that? Work on a project (open source/your own/whatever) in your spare time and bring it to the interview. Without anything to show, I'm sorry, no tech job for you.

Re:Research? (1)

shadowofwind (1209890) | about 2 years ago | (#42498053)

I've seen this work

Another path is to keep trying to do something with the PhD. I successfully made the transition from corrupt NASA/DOD contracting to an industry job that uses my education a little bit, so its not impossible.

Do a stint as system admin for a lab? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497111)

Probably I'm just clueless about what you mean by 'networking technology'. Would it help your resumé at all, though, to show a couple of years managing the network for, say, a physics department? That's a job for which your current resumé would seem to be perfect, and it would give you ample opportunity to brush up old skills while on the job.

Extending your association with academia might just deepen the stench as far as industry is concerned. But maybe, while managing a department network, you could actually do some buying of network equipment. Physics department scales are probably not really so much larger than home. Then you'd have experience as a customer. That ought to be worth something.

tell them its not about money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497123)

As long as you are talking to a human... tell them that the money for the job is not the issue. You have to be upfront about that in your cover letter to offset the Ph.D. You have to emphasize that you are seriously looking for a non-Ph.D position at non-Ph.D. pay.

If you are dealing with a computer doing the HR, which is all too often today, you may very well need to take the Ph.D. off the resume. Problem is you still have to explain the gap with some relevant experience.

You're screwed. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497129)

Sorry, but you've lost your chance. Those jobs will go to people who genuinely want them and aren't just applying because they crashed and burned in a desperate attempt to switch careers. There are no tenure-track positions for PhDs anymore, so have fun teaching physics to community college stoners part-time and not having health insurance.

Networking and/or tailoring the resume? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497151)

Something similar happened to me. In my case, I was promoted to tech management after having been a lead engineer for years. I didn't realize what I was getting into, hated it, and bailed out after 5 months. Unfortunately, the company I was working for has a one-way track up the hierarchy, and stepping back into doing actual work is just not done, so I had to change jobs. I didn't have a ton of contacts in industry or with former customers yet, so I did the whole cold call/Monster/Dice crap shoot. With my resume showing the management experience, I got very few calls, and those that did interview me had very strong reservations about hiring me for a tech job since they wondered why I wouldn't be looking for a management role.

(Short Answer: If I actually wanted to work solving kindergarteners' problems all day, I'd be a tenured kindergarten teacher and never have to look for work again. :-) )

So anyway, I pulled the management experience off, and left the (reasonably impressive) technical accomplishments intact, and the calls started coming in a little faster. It took a while, but I got a job because of this.

This experience did hammer home how important it is to keep in touch with your former colleagues and customers. Especially if you're an IT services person like me, there's no shortage of companies you can jump to if you have someone there who remembers you and can get you an interview without going through the mess.

Side question: I was thinking of doing the same thing you were -- I have a BS in chemistry and was thinking of a Ph. D. -- is the employment situation for scientists that bad?? Given how crazy the world is now, a permanent job seems like a good idea even if I have to give up some of the salary gains.

I think there's definitely room for well trained, scientific-minded people in IT. It's not all just button pushing, and most of my colleagues over the years have had absolute crap for troubleshooting skills. Now, if only we could start a professional services company around that idea. "Anonymous Coward Consulting Group -- We're not Accenture!" :-)

Confidence is everything. (1)

mikeiver1 (1630021) | about 2 years ago | (#42497161)

It says it all. Go in there and own the job from the start. You not only have experience from the past in the field but also have a freaking doctorate in physics. Make light of the doctorate to some extent not to trivialize it but to put the interviewer at ease. It shows that you are willing to put in the hard work needed to get the job done. Do play up the positive side of it for their own PR to customers. "We have techs with up to and including PHDs in out organization." Make this clear but don't be arrogant about it by any means. I have told potential employers that the job was mine and that I was interviewing them as much as they were me. The key is to stick in their minds, in a good way, after you leave. Make sure that every candidate interviewed before or after is being compared to the benchmark you have set. Appear polished but casual and easy to interact with. Make it very clear that you are a team player and have gone that extra mile to get the job done in the past. Make it clear that the only thing that has changed since your last job in the field is that you have gotten better. Make it clear that you are not looking to break the bank in the pay department. Allot of employers see a doctorate and think they are going to have to pay for that. Let them know that it simply shows that you can stay the course, nothing more. Last, remind them that they have the option of terminating you if it doesn't work out but you want the chance for both of you to see.

Re:Confidence is everything. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497333)

You want money but you also don't want to intimidate the employer into not wanting to hire you because your so godamn special either, theyr looking for the guy who will do the job the best for the least amount of payolla, if a shitty mexican with 80 random derpy FOSS projects under their belt and no education comes in, your going to get out bid. Such is life. You can make yourself more atractive though by being that "good o'le american boy with loyalty and dedication to the cause of captilism" some corps dont want to alienate their roots still. It may sound racist and shit, but its the cold hard facts of life, people are prejudiced and greedy once you start looking at jobs above the minimum wage level, and it gets more so the hire you get. Once you break 100k, you might as well be hiring for the mafia.

Look. Most HR types are Vogon-like idiots. (5, Funny)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 2 years ago | (#42497163)

Not actually evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. In the USA, they're frequently female and quietly but intensely crazy. Forget anything rational when dealing with them. Go around them. Get your resume' to a thinking person with actual skills, common sense and the ability to do arithmetic. That person may be able to slide you around blockage of HR. Get in as a consultant or a temp and make them dependent on you. Threaten to walk if you don't get hired.

As in most of the rest of America now, working through the system doesn't work. Adjust your thinking accordingly.

Re:Look. Most HR types are Vogon-like idiots. (1)

ddusza (775603) | about 2 years ago | (#42497327)

Hmmm, that explains why there is a faint odor of peat moss around their copy of my resume, by the time I get to the first interview.

Re:Look. Most HR types are Vogon-like idiots. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497357)

they're frequently female and quietly but intensely crazy.

You do what that makes you sound like, right?

Re:Look. Most HR types are Vogon-like idiots. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497613)

That's the tell him to way, coward!

Re:Look. Most HR types are Vogon-like idiots. (1)

utkonos (2104836) | about 2 years ago | (#42497755)

Ok, now that was funny. Where are my mod points?

Re:Look. Most HR types are Vogon-like idiots. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497825)

they're frequently female and quietly but intensely crazy.

You do what that makes you sound like, right?

You're right, this would be quite misogynistic if it weren't true much of the time. HR positions tend to attract people with control issues (due to the nature of the job), and part of those control issues often manifest (unconsciously) in slanted hiring practices within HR itself (especially in the upper-level positions). What that means is a company's HR dept that is run primarily women in will almost always be run by women. The same is only moderately true for male-dominated HR departments, because the hiring pool for upper-level HR positions is so much smaller for men. So, what you end up with is HR departments run mostly by women with serious control issues.

Why not apply for leadership position ? (1)

burni2 (1643061) | about 2 years ago | (#42497165)

With your PhD you have prooven stamina and scientific skills, why join the worker ants when you can step up for team leader and so on ?

Re:Why not apply for leadership position ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497245)

I thought the OP wanted a management position. Technical skills are rarely needed to be a manager.

Network Virtualization (2)

digitalhermit (113459) | about 2 years ago | (#42497175)

If you've out of the game for a while, make sure to stress knowledge of network virtualization in addition to traditional/legacy networking. It's a good time as any to get in because there are relatively few people that are experienced in that aspect. It's not that it's particularly new, but new enough that most enterprises haven't completely adopted it (outside of cloud providers).

Listen to your tone (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497197)

I suspect it is attitude that is as much the problem as anything. While some employers do worry about over qualification, the tone of your question says "I think I'm the smartest person in the room and I'm going to be a nightmare to manage." Even in tech soft skills are hugely important.

Thinking there was a shortage of physics PhDs shows a lack of listening and research (I say this as a physics faculty), the oversubsciption rate has been huge for ages. So I suspect this attitude (if I'm not misreading the post) has been there for a while.

So you might really consider some classes in people skills—how to interview, how to listen and work in a team. These classes can be found in many community colleges and can be quite helpful (don't dismiss the CC classes, they can be excellent). Then I'd look for an opportunity to show teamwork and make sure you check the attitude at the door when you interview.

Re:Listen to your tone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497895)

Any manager who thinks he should manage ME is an idiot and does not deserve his job ir me working for him. Those managers is what I refer to as 'neck-ties', based on the only qualification they have... they wear ties. Good managers know when to suit up, and when to relax. They manage the environment that is needed to allow me and my colleagues to do our jobs.

If a manager thinks I am a problem because I am too qualified to do my job. I walk.

Re:Listen to your tone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497921)

Go off yourself your smarmy sack of crap.

Roll your own (5, Interesting)

holophrastic (221104) | about 2 years ago | (#42497199)

Stop thinking that someone else has a job for you. Start creating jobs for someone else. If you're over the age of 30, your community needs you to create jobs, not take them.

You've got an interesting world of experience. Cross-industry experience no less. Start your own company -- don't let the big word fool you, it's meaningless. You'll pay far fewer taxes, you'll be able to get free and very inexpensive employees from schools, co-ops, interns, neighbours, and anyone willing to "start at the bottom".

It needn't be a big company. Just you and a physical assitant is all you need. And you want the physical assistant a) so you can shift your business into a different path to be flexible in five years and b) so you can worry about business admin stuff like client relations and invoicing and c) because someone should cover for you when you're on a beach somewhere enjoying life.

Clients don't tend to ask for credentials -- I own and run a programming company, and no client has ever asked. They ask about skills. You've got 'em.

And since it's your business, you can get just about any client by offering to do the work and not collect any money until the end. It's only a risk if you don't know what you're doing. If you do, you manage to buy a new client with nothing more than delaying payment by a month or two. That's effectively free client acquisition.

Dude, just dive in. Expect to pay $2'000 per year on accountants and lawyers, just to get it off your plate and so your government talks to them instead of you. You don't need insurance unless you're punching holes into walls -- and those premiums aren't a big deal either.

Get decent business cards, and give them to your neighbours. Each of them works in an office building somewhere. And each of their employers needs networking done at some point.

Take small jobs, they turn into big jobs. Take small clients, they turn into big clients. Take clients with bounded projects that have a start and an end. They'll become your best repeat business. Don't spend more than 25% of your typical month on a single client (with many exceptions of course).

Small business helps small business. Talk to other small business owners. Even your competitors. It doesn't hurt my business to help my small-business competitors. It just improves both of our small businesses vs the many many others. If you've got no one to talk to, talk to me.

Re:Roll your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497433)

They ask about skills. You've got 'em.

I'm not entirely sure what you think he did before he got a PhD that makes you think he's got the skills you're telling him to use here. As one of the principals of a small business, I don't think I've ever needed someone to develop home network equipment (ie design and construct a broadband router) for me. I think his customers will be few and far between.

Re:Roll your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497883)

You're recommending the OP, who admits he is extremely rusty on network admin technology, become a freelancer? Yikes. One who siphons free labor out of neighbors and students? Extra yikes.

The encouragement and general pointers about working within a small business community is good, though.

Sorry... the PhD. screws you. (2, Interesting)

BabaChazz (917957) | about 2 years ago | (#42497203)

I'm afraid I have to agree with the consensus here. The big issue is the doctorate. In my experience, very nearly the only people who will accept someone with a Ph.D. behind his / her name is a university. And universities will be wary as well, they will think you expect to go tenure track, and you've already found how limited those slots are. You would probably have better luck with the employment if you dropped the Ph.D. off your resume; that's a bigger problem IMHO than the gap.

The only alternative to the uni IT departments suggested earlier would be consulting; look for firms of consulting engineers, they like to be able to list Ph.D.s on their corporate CVs. I don't recommend going into business for yourself; that takes a vary particular mindset, and it's often a very thin existence.

Re:Sorry... the PhD. screws you. (2)

godrik (1287354) | about 2 years ago | (#42497317)

Actually, that's not true. Some large companies are looking for PhDs. But these are companies that are looking for extremely qualified tech jobs. Google, Intel, IBM are all looking for PhD. Since the question mentionned networking, I'd be surprised if Cisco does not look for some PhDs as well. The best networking technician I ever knew had a PhD in physics. Companies producing Infiniband technology (mellanox) certainly are interested in PhDs.

One of the problem is that the "asker" has the "wrong" PhD. I think that it is not too much of a problem. Many physicist I know are actualy ok-to-good computer scientist, some are actually really good. Make sure you are in the right category.

Also, make sure you apply to a company that will not freak out when seeing a PhD. If you are applying for smaller companies, they most likely will be the first PhD they see, they WILL freak out.

Intel PhDs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42498043)

I think Google looks primarily for CS PhDs, but manufacturing companies like Intel look for PhDs across multiple sectors. Particularly since Intel does their own manufacturing, they hire EE's, CompE's, and I wouldn't be surprised there were a few Physics guys working on fab tech.

I agree with the parent that Cisco might actually be a good place to look. Manufacturing & transistors involve a lot of physics. Stuff with wireless signals as well

Re:Sorry... the PhD. screws you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497363)

Nobody wants to hire Harrison Bergeron.

He's just too smart and handsome.

You need to work on communications skills (5, Insightful)

enjar (249223) | about 2 years ago | (#42497209)

The narrative you post is extremely hard to follow and makes little sense. Let's try to decipher.

You lost your job when then dot com bubble burst and went back to school. You finished a PhD in Physics. You then found out your were sold a bill of goods about jobs of people with PhDs in Physics and there is some sort of glut.

Then you have been doing some sort of project management for DoD and NASA. Now is where things get really weird.

" I desperately want back into network equipment product management, but my networking tech skills aren't up to date."

Pulling that apart, you are talking about a job more on the business side than the technology side of the business. Technical skills are important in product management, but so is a head for business. That could be one reason that people don't "get' you -- they see that you went back to school and spent time and money on getting a PhD in Physics. You didn't go back to school to get an advanced degree in CS, EE, or a MBA. You went back for Physics and now you are trying to get into product marketing. But things get a little weirder.

"I find networking technology absolutely trivial"

I really, sincerely hope this is a typo. Finding something "trival" has considerable negative connotations to it, and if you say that to a hiring manager, they are going to think you are going to be just biding your time with their "trivial" nonsense product and looking to move onto something more interesting the moment it shows up. It would be better to say that you enjoy certain challenges or explain what you find interesting rather than saying something is "trivial".

And then finally,

"I'm more than willing to start over in network admin"

I don't see that you need to move to this, you need to concentrate and present the skills you have and exercise in program/project management and previous skills to get into some sort of networking gig. But you do need to address some rather good questions a hiring manager would have, specifically:

- Why did you get a doctorate in Physics when you were interested in product management?
- What excites you about networking and product management?

I also highly recommend that all job seekers thoroughly read and use "What Color is Your Parachute?". If nothing else, it will walk you through making a coherent case for yourself of why you want to pursue a given career, and that coherent presentation is going to make hiring managers stop running and start listening more. Right now if I was hiring a job that was responsible for setting the business direction of a networking product, I'd be worried about hiring you because your record shows you actively running from the business development aspects of your career.

Your Physics degree is certainly not worthless and should not be hidden. You can most likely take on complicated problems, decompose them at a high level, aren't afraid of the unknown, etc. Also the fact that you finished your PhD means that you can stick with something, too.

Re:You need to work on communications skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497379)

1. Will you coach me? Your advice to the good doctor is insightful and actionable withou being unkind or snarky. This is the kind if coaching so many of us need and I applaud you (I also consider myself a pretty good communicator but I may be too close to the problem, pun intended)
2. You had me until you recommend What Color IYP. That might'be been helpful in the 80s but as someone else commented, it's a different climate out there now where everyone is over educated because we all thought investing in ourselves (and ok, hiding in fear of redundancy too) was a good idea. Now it's a buyers market where even a PhD doesn't matter. The doc needs to learn to communicate not just to sell himself, but because it's all about who you know (aka NETworking baby!). Aw ya.

So now coach, how about some advice for me?!

Re:You need to work on communications skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497413)

Besides spelling and being anonymous. Submitting via phone is always a challenge.

Re:You need to work on communications skills (2)

menno_h (2670089) | about 2 years ago | (#42497421)

"I find networking technology absolutely trivial"

A physicist's "trivial" means something more like "it won't take me more than a year to work out the general theory, and then I might be able to provide a full description somewhere in the next two years, but it isn't TOO hard.".
In other words, he groks networking technology.

Find a guy like me... (1)

ADanFromCanada (2809499) | about 2 years ago | (#42497217)

Cause I'm an entrepreneur who is looking for exactly a guy like you!

Don't mention your PhD. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497275)

Don't mention the PhD. and you will do fine. Tried it myself.

Scary letters (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497295)

With all due respect, as someone who does hiring, I will say that the letters Phd are what would scare me off. For a job that doesn't require it, it indicates that you are desperate for a job and once you find something better, you're gone. Your resume would end up deleted without so much as a phone call. Also, in my experience, people with graduate engineering/science degrees tend to be more academic and less pragmatic. There is such a thing as too smart in the real world sadly.

Google or Apple is where you would probably do well IMHO.

Not a joke (2)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | about 2 years ago | (#42497309)

Move to China, Taiwan or Singapore and study Chinese. A PhD is respected a lot more there than in the US. I'm moving back in 6 months.

A few options (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497341)

I have a few suggestions:

1. Have you thought about working in Academic IT? Most colleges like their IT staff 'over-credentialed' and being out-of-date with current technologies isn't as big a deal there either. If I were you, I might even look up a couple of research groups (especially in Physics departments) that have a large computing cluster and see if you get on as a admin there. Alternatively, you might find it politically easier to work as an admin in a research group/lab outside your own field.

2. Have you thought about working for a start-up? Once again, most start-ups are cool with their employees having unconventional backgrounds. I worked with many PhDs (and many PhD dropouts) at various start-ups with degrees the most eclectic fields. Good start-ups like their employees super smart as well. You might have to relocate to a city where the start-up scene is more dense. If you aren't having any luck in the Silicon Valley, you might try Raleigh/Durham area as well.

3. Have you thought about becoming a 'Data Scientist'? While I'm leery of hype, many firms hire Physicists to do that kind of work (although they tend to have more theoretical backgrounds).

I could think of other options, but I don't know enough about your background or training to be specific.

One thing you have to realize is that HR departments in large corporations are pretty bizarre. They don't tend to hire the best person for the job, just the least risky. Smaller companies function differently. Small tech companies or start-ups tend to value good analytical skills. They tend to look at the whole person.

what did you expect? (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 years ago | (#42497345)

Science careers are extremely tough. Physics is even worse than other fields, with its obsession with youth and large number of graduates. Most physics graduates end up switching fields or working in engineering jobs in research labs. There is a shortage of scientists, but not a shortage of academic research scientists. Who do you think "lied" to you about it? Didn't you bother to look around you in grad school? Count the number of staff vs graduating students?

Trouble is, by switching out of the computer field, you also give the appearance of having burned out on computers. You have skills and experience, but it seems a little much to expect for people to just hand you a career after you made a bunch of unusual career moves.

What's wrong with your current job, though? A DoD and NASA program manager seems like a respectable job for a physics Ph.D.

Re:what did you expect? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497607)

He hid in school for 12 years. He is an oxygen thief. This is what Pol Pot's regime was trying to eliminate. He is the epitome of the book-worm bourgeois elite who can do nothing except complain. First to the wall when the revolution comes, I say.

Re:what did you expect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497817)

He hasn't embraced the suck and realized everyone (statistically) with grey hair and a tech background is a program manager.

Put Physics PhD to tasks of Energy from Thorium (1)

ivi (126837) | about 2 years ago | (#42497381)

There seems to be a grass roots movement growing, to explore options for bringing safer, cheaper-to-build "Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors" (a.k.a. LFTRs).

If there are no deal-killer issues with getting Energy from Thorium, I'd guess the number of jobs for Physics PhD's will rise.

If you're new to this, cf: Kirk Sorensen's recent talk at; for details, search YouTube for "Thorium Remix."

Try a place like Google (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497391)

They will take and like your PhD - they don't care too much what its in - and in fact if you really can demonstrate a good basic understanding of CS and the ability to problem solve, they ought to hire you

quantlab (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497397)

there are some major players in the financial trading .. I found this one , and I have interviewed with them they are awesome. It is in Houston , texas. This one seems to fit you, and the phd won't scare them away.

Demonstrate that you have feet in both camps (4, Interesting)

Zarhan (415465) | about 2 years ago | (#42497403)

There are several comments here stating that the PhD means that hiring managers are scared of those. They are - but only if it's a "pure" PhD. I've got a lots of friends in academia who haven't spent a day in the industry. They are scared witless on what happens if their grant money expires (and are without tenure), since industry is such a different world and hiring managers know that they'd be like fish out of water.

However, you seem to be in a very much similar situation as me. I completed my PhD last year. I happen to also have industry experience, including 9 years of working for an ISP, and a CCIE certificate. From my experience, it's a *very* attractive combination - to an emplyer, it means that you know what's going on in the real world and understand customers, and yet you can also look at the bleeding edge of research and maybe have some insight on how things at the horizon might affect your business in a few years - and maybe capitalize on those opportunities ahead of the curve. I know several people with similar backgrounds - in big companies they are usually located somewhere near CTOs office or similar positions, if not directly in R&D departments, but a few of them (myself included) deal with customers and their networks on a daily basis.

That pause in your resume doesn't really matter *if* you can demonstrate that you haven't been in the ivory tower of universities but can actually deal with real-world problems.

Go to a contracting agency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497447)

Get a certification and talk to any of the major contracting agencies.

No one will balk at your degree. No one will ask about it. With that project management experience and a good network certification you can pick up great paying short or long term jobs and by starting as a contractor you bypass hiring managers. Benefits? At contracting rates you can make enough to buy your own insurance until you turn a contract position into full time. In the meantime you will be picking up all kinds of good experience.

About shortages: A must-read: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497455)

Pork cycle []

Seriously. There may have been a shortage, and that may be exactly the reason why there isn't one anymore.

science degrees are overrated (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497495)

i work with a kid with a physics degree and he makes the same shitty wage i do working the same job with my liberal arts degree but at least my knowledge of history and philosophy will always be relevant to me no matter where life takes me...all his human calculator stuff, not so much.

You are applying for the wrong jobs (2)

robbo (4388) | about 2 years ago | (#42497507)

The big companies: GOOG, MSFT, FB, even twitter can recognize the value of your PhD and give you a job you'll find rewarding. You've clearly got math chops and technical chops so as long as you can communicate well you should be a strong candidate. Look for keywords like researcher, applied researcher, data analyst, decision scientist, technical program manager, etc etc. There are tons of jobs for people like you and you don't have to pigeonhole yourself as pure research (overselling) or network admin (underselling). I spent a long time in academia before finding an industry job I really enjoy that is only tangentially related to my original research expertise.

Don't include the PhD on your resume (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497513)

Don't advertise your doctorate, present yout dissertation research as a professional project.

Non-PhD's will be intimidated by your qualifications.

There _is_ a shortage (3, Informative)

Alomex (148003) | about 2 years ago | (#42497529)

I went back to school and finished my PhD in Physics. They lied -- there really is no shortage of scientists.

There is a shortage of scientist, just not in the fields that are typically pursued within the hallowed halls of academia. Go ahead and do a PhD in High Energy physics, String theory, Cosmology or Relativistic physics and you'll end up like the person in the GP post. If you study, on the other hand, semiconductor physics, friction, or material physics you'll find half a dozen offers for well paid positions in industry research labs in no time.

You are fool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497571)

Go work for Ardra.

Use those skills (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#42497575)

With that background, get into the math-heavy end of computing. Get into machine learning, robotics, or quantitative finance. Apply to the big guys: Google, Microsoft, maybe Oracle. They're not afraid of PhDs.

If you want to stay in networking, consider going to Cisco or Blue Coat Systems and working on network traffic management. They need more theory. Cable TV systems for traffic management are a collection of tuning knobs in search of a coherent policy.

you are getting inteviews? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497645)

"hiring managers see the gap and the PhD and run screaming"

Does this mean you are getting interviews? If so, you need to work on explaining how you can add value to their organization.

I was just in a similar position as you, I just finished my PhD in engineering and had a number of years pre grad school as an engineer. I found it terribly difficult to find a job in industry, as my PhD topic was very theoretical. Actually had a couple of interviews for faculty positions in major universities, but my heart wasn't in that direction. I finally found an awesome job. If you are not getting interviews, I strongly suggest contacting people (managers, directors) in organizations directly, and setting up information type interviews. What worked for me is the "career change" angle, "I've tried the PhD, and now I've got that bug out of my system and I've carefully reevaluated which direction I want to go in, and this is it..." Again, explain how you can add value to their organization. Be confident and don't look desperate. If you make the right connection with someone, they'll overlook what you did in the past.

Good luck

Who tries to sell to you? (1)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | about 2 years ago | (#42497657)

Find that IT job, and look at who is trying to sell to you. The quality jobs are going to be found via networking (the person to person kind) anyway. Not all companies are run the same way- do the legwork- find the companies that already employ people like you... and then you have a place to concentrate your search.

Physics PhD for tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497673)

You might think about researching companies in some of the following areas:

- defense
- robotics, autonomous vehicles
- fluid dynamics
- CAD, particularly dynamic simulations
- meteorology
- 3D game engines
- math libraries and engines, e.g. Wolfram, Mathworks

The search should be nationwide in scope (at least) and you should be willing to relocate.

I hate to say it (4, Interesting)

stox (131684) | about 2 years ago | (#42497809)

Physics Phd's were very popular hires for High Frequency Trading firms due to their demonstrated problem solving abilities. This has now extended to some of the Fortune 500's in "Big Data" analysis teams. Stop looking at Physics jobs, and start looking at jobs which will benefit from the skill set you have developed to get your degree. You might be surprised.

You're Lucky (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | about 2 years ago | (#42497821)

The managers that ran didn't want them. They are hiring on buzword filled resumes that they actually think mean something. You want a manager/company that wants extremely bright people that can solve problems that do not have buzwords yet. How long did you really network trying to find a job? 6 months a year at least is necessary. Work your connections or linkdin. Tackle this as you would a networking problem.

Mathworks has 200+ job openings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42497851)

At places like that if you don't have a PHD in something hard you are a second class citizen. You don't want to be coding python scripts for setting up data centers if you it's differential equations that make you all excited.

Make sure your age is not obvious (1)

maxwells_deamon (221474) | about 2 years ago | (#42497941)

If you are looking for work and your resume shows anything over 15 ago (or even sometimes 10 years ago) most HR departments will blackball it. If it is your current job they might look at it but otherwise flush. I have even been told by a well known contract firm that they don't look at anything related to the current position they are trying to fill if it is over 1 1/2 years ago,

PhD is a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42498007)

Don't listen to all these webdev code-monkeys - all they know is how to crank out the same vanilla information system apps. They are a dime a dozen.
You, on the other hand are in a position of strength - you have a combined skill-set that is greater than the sum of its parts. By combining maths and programming, you can do what most can not: algorithm development - there is strong demand for machine learning, 3D game dev, quantitative finance.
Go out there and seize the day, you've earned it !

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