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Moving from Corporate IT to Science?

Cliff posted about 12 years ago | from the potential-career-crises dept.

Linux Business 356

EdinBear asks: "I've been working as a SysAdmin in an increasingly corporate internet services company, which has been hit hard by the fallout from the .com bust. When I started some years ago, I felt I was helping small and interesting companies get benefit from the burgeoning Internet through useful and attractive web services. However, since the Internet became 'normal', the focus has been purely commercial - and instead of helping an enterprise get exposure in an interesting way, it's all about money and finance. I now feel I want to move into Science to use my skills in a productive, 'big picture' kind of way, rather than just helping a client get more rich through financial services. I'm interested to hear if other people have found themselves in a similar position; is the transfer to Science/Research/Academia difficult? Is the grass greener on the other side? The money is less, but is the job satisfaction more?"

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Yes, I did it (2, Interesting)

mamster (595449) | about 12 years ago | (#4080235)

I spent four years in IT, burned out after a couple of dot-com blowups, and went back to school to get a degree in biology. Of course, I did a little consulting along the way, setting up networks and fixing PCs. Next month I'm starting a full-time lab research job. I have no regrets.

Of course, I did the opposite... (1)

jenns (571323) | about 12 years ago | (#4080277)

I trained in biology & moved to IT due to academic politics. I'm the IT director of a pissy law firm and I feel _lucky_ to have escaped the academic politics. And breaking test tubes just sucked, anyhow...

Re:Of course, I did the opposite... (1)

bplipschitz (265300) | about 12 years ago | (#4080322)

I trained in biology & moved to IT due to
academic politics. I'm the IT director of a
pissy law firm and I feel _lucky_ to have
escaped the academic politics. And breaking
test tubes just sucked, anyhow...

. . .and I did something sort of in-between. I got my degree in Chemistry, am a mostly self-taught IT guy, and even took over the position at our company when most of the IT department [ok, two people] left at the same time. Now, I'm back doing Tech Service [I'm "too valuable" to do the IT job, according to Fearless Leader], not really liking it, and looking for a way out of TS and into IT somewhere else.

I think most of your responses will end up being 50/50. If you're interested in science, by all means do it! Not enough folks understand science in this world. . .

Re:Of course, I did the opposite... (5, Interesting)

swb (14022) | about 12 years ago | (#4080424)

I worked in the administrative department of a University and moved out to corporate IT.

Crap aspects of the Univerisity:
  • I worked in the administrative area, so there was no academic politics but there was politics, often hostile and highly personal.
  • There was never enough money, we ran our systems until they broke, without software that would have made many jobs much easier. The lack of resources often made who got what resources *intensely* political.
  • The paychecks were small and the standard bennies lame, especially the manditory state employee pension plan and the group death, er, health plan made all the bad things I've heard about Britain's National Health sound good.
Good aspects of the University:
  • Lots of campus discounts and freebies. Classes could be taken for next to nothing, if they weren't out-and-out free. Deep discounts at the bookstore on software and computer bits (this meant something 15 years ago).
  • Awesome internet connectivity and network access. Our office's specific technology sucked goat nuts, but campuswide there was a shitpile of stuff that could be utilized and lots of smart people.
  • A really relaxed atmosphere -- from the bucolic surroundings, to pretty easy work and no slave hours.
  • I got laid A LOT. Time, place, people, general zeitgeist? Who knows, but it was sure easy.
I moved to the corporate world because I kept getting told by lifers that if I didn't soon I wouldn't be hirable in the private sector, as gummint employees were seen as having too much lead in their asses. I also moved to the corporate world because I just wasn't making enough money to live on. I was sick of working a second job, sick of having to share a hovel with others. Poverty motivates.

There I days I miss the easy aspects of the old job -- better hours, nicer people -- but then I remember that I drive a nice car, have a nice house, travel at will and don't worry about money like I used to and it seems worth it.

Re:Of course, I did the opposite... (4, Insightful)

duplicate-nickname (87112) | about 12 years ago | (#4080533)

Well, I've been a sysadmin on both the academia side and administrative side of a university.

First, I'm not sure where you were at, but both Universities I have worked for offered great beneifits (paid medial, dental, drug Rx, life, tuition reimbursment, good vacation time, retirement plan), and these were public universities. The pay is about 20% lower than the corporate world, but the benifits made up for half of that. Job security was great....there is no chance for layoffs. :)

An the academic side, we were well funded. We had plenty of equipment to play with. However, dealing with faculty is a lot different than dealing with staff. Faculty want to do everything their way, and for the most part, you have to listen. This meant you had very little control over the desktop and had to accomodate a lot of different configurations on the server end (Win9x/NT/200/XP, Linux, Sun, Macs). Of course, our department did have a lot of research $$$ coming in....others did not, so I guess it's the luck of the draw.

On the administrative side, we didn't have as much money for equipment. We were mostly self-funded becuase we offered paid services to the university (stores, printing, etc), so occasionally we could get a chunk of coin to spend. Administrative deparments that are funded by the university's general fund probably have much less money for IT. Anyway, the administrative side of the university was much more corporate like, but still laid back and informal.

You're not going to get rich working for a university or the government, but it certainly has a lot to offer during these down times.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080236)

the answer to all your questions: yes

you know what? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080239)

i gotta try for it...

Well, here's what I did. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080242)

I posted 6th post. THAT'S WHAT!

It depends (2, Interesting)

Noodlenose (537591) | about 12 years ago | (#4080246)

It all depends on the degree you have wether you actually have a chance to get back into academia. They might not want you yet or only after getting a diferent degree.

Might be tougher than you think.

Re:It depends (2, Interesting)

jlkelley (35651) | about 12 years ago | (#4080308)

Agreed -- your prior degree may make a lot of difference. Most academic science jobs are going to require a Ph.D in the relevant field, so you may have a lot of school ahead of you.

However, I wouldn't let that discourage you. I am hoping to make a similar transition (from microprocessor design to physics), for similar reasons. Be aware that it's a long road, though. Even with an undergrad degree in physics I have already spent the last 9 months or so preparing for GREs, lining up recommendations, etc. to apply to grad school.

The desire to make some contribution to science, however small, is what keeps me going.

Dear /. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080248)

I'm about to be made redundant and want the company to think I can do more than read /. at work (which is what I do anyway). Help???!!!

The politics of Academia (5, Insightful)

Damion (13279) | about 12 years ago | (#4080249)

One major pitfal to be wary of if you aim to return to Academia is the politics. The life of a new professor is not an easy one, and the climb toward respect is a long one.

Re:The politics of Academia (5, Funny)

Verizon Guy (585358) | about 12 years ago | (#4080258)

No doubt, the battle in growing a professor's beard and maintaining it is an uphill one.

Re:The politics of Academia (1)

the way, what're you (591901) | about 12 years ago | (#4080300)

What is it they say... academic politics are so bitter because the stakes are so low. Have fun!

Re:The politics of Academia (1)

lightlyfoxed (601422) | about 12 years ago | (#4080349)

Academic politics are a pain, as is having to survive on "soft" money - grants, etc. One option that a computer scientist should consider is to fast track the process to some extent by looking at computational biology/bioinformatics, which is currently a hot topic; there are jobs and a reasonable amount of funding around. You would need to study either biology or bioinformatics, though.

rags to riches (5, Funny)

paddyponchero (239792) | about 12 years ago | (#4080262)

SO basically you've been pedaling bullshit for a few years and now you want to be an authority.

Pretty much the same (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080266)

I have BS degrees in computer science and physics, and have played both sides of the fence.
Slashdotters who find political situations in the work place difficult, will find much of the same in academia.

They are actually quite similar. Those 'greedy' clients chasing dollar bills will for the most part just be replaced with 'fame greedy' co-authors who want to make a name for themselves. In science it's all about your reputation, and it's managed in the much the same way porfolios are in the business world.

This isn't true of everyone of course, but in my opinion the grass is pretty brown on both sides of the fence.

boring and repititive (4, Informative)

mojo-raisin (223411) | about 12 years ago | (#4080270)

As a molecular biologist (with a BS) who's worked in several academic and industrial labs, I say steer very clear of doing wetlab work - it is boring and repetitive, and most of the day you are not really using your mind.

Basically, I prep DNA, ligate DNA, do PCR reactions and transform bacteria. Run the gels, digest DNA, yadayadayada. It doesn't pay well, and is not galmorous. No scientist that I know really enjoys doing that crap. After decades of work, you might be lucky do direct your own group of minions to do this crap so you can analyze results and think of new experiments all day long (the fun parts).

Go into a field that mixes computers and science. Like say bioinformatics or molecular modeling. I'm fairly ignorant on these subjects, but they seem much more interesting to do on a day to day basis. So that's where I'm trying to head.

Re:boring and repititive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080397)

Not to put down your current situation, but nothing is preventing you from reading journals, learning the *fine points*, designing experiments and presenting them to your supervisor. Do that enough, don't just resign yourself to being someone else's minion and the *its just a sucky job* attitude, and perhaps you will advance in months, rather than decades. You may have also noticed, that to be a lab head in Molecular Biology, you really need to get yourself a Ph.D. Thought of going back to school?

Re:boring and repititive (4, Interesting)

Mercaptan (257186) | about 12 years ago | (#4080506)

See, I've got a microbiology degree and a good deal of computer science under my belt. I'm working a research technician job that's 50% wet lab work and 50% bioinformatics computation work. The job is great really because I get to do both and the people I'm working with are very enthusiastic and young, plus I think doing the wet benchwork is very key.

You're right, the lab work can be very boring, but by the same token programming on big projects can be pretty mind numbing too. It's when you can live on the edge of both that it gets interesting, but that's a rare combination to find in one person.

I've been around a lot of different people trying to get into bioinformatics. You have biologists who are trying to learn the programming and software skills. They have a hard time adapting to thinking in binary and not fearing computers in general. Then you have computer science and IT people trying to pick up some molecular biology. They have a hard time grasping the messy world of genetics and cell biology.

It boils down to this. If you have the wet lab skills, you have cred with the molecular biologists. If you can program, you have cred with the computation people. It pays to have both.

Re:boring and repititive (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 12 years ago | (#4080509)

(* Basically, I prep DNA, ligate DNA, do PCR reactions and transform bacteria. Run the gels, digest DNA, yadayadayada. It doesn't pay well, and is not galmorous. *)

Why can't that be automated more by machines?

Re:boring and repititive (3, Insightful)

Mercaptan (257186) | about 12 years ago | (#4080524)

Because machines are more expensive than research technicans.

Plus some of these techniques are a bit of an art.

Re:boring and repititive (0)

liquidmarkets (582954) | about 12 years ago | (#4080592)

I agree. I've spent many days doing RT-PCR, FPLC protein purification, etc. Boring and repetitive is a good description. I often found myself wishing the lab had a robot to perform the more repetitive tasks. Later on, I went into molecular modeling - much more interesting, although your fellow scientists will cast doubts on your results because they came out of a computer rather than a pipette. Perhaps rightfully so, though I feel that biologists and biochemists are less accepting of computer models than economists, physicists, and meteorologists. In time, I moved to pure programming unrelated to biology - mostly C, Java, Perl, PHP and SQL.

The way I think of it is this: in both wet lab biology and programming you have for loops. In one field, the computer executes the for loops. In the other, you (or your lab minions) execute the for loops.

Re:boring and repititive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080596)

Robotics! I work in a very similar lab for the summer. I do computer programming for robotics that stores and retrieves DNA. There are a lot of people in the lab who do the processing of tubes. By one persons count he has processed over 1 million tubes of DNA samples in his stay at the lab. What makes this lab interesting is that there is a robotics system setup. Basically a huge fridge that stores 96 well plates of DNA samples, a robotic arm to move the plates around, and a machine that pipettes samples from tubes to plates or plates to other plates. No one in this lab currently has any real background in computer science. The lead mechanical guy has a background in automotive mechanics, and the bulk of the programming for lab management is done by other people without much background in programming too. For example, I am in high school and doing programming there during this summer. So, I would assume (since the whole robotics thing for biology is waaayyy behind the robotics for chemistry) that there would be a high demand for people that really know what they are doing with these systems.

Politics, Finance, etc. (3, Interesting)

chill (34294) | about 12 years ago | (#4080281)

Politics in academia can be a nightmare. Also, if you think you are escaping the bean counter mentality, it depends on where you end up.

Was it Slashdot that linked a story a couple of days ago on some Canadian University inking a deal with Microsoft and in return all CS/EE majors would need a class in C# to graduate?

And the link between corporate money and University research is something else you need to be wary of. Heaven forbid your project funding is cut because it won't be "marketable".

Still, it can certainly be more rewarding at times.

Re:Politics, Finance, etc. (5, Insightful)

elmegil (12001) | about 12 years ago | (#4080403)

Still, it can certainly be more rewarding at times.

And at other times it can be maddening. I went the other way, sort of. I was a University sysadmin, and I now work doing support for Sun. I have to say I like the corporate world MUCH better. I never had any money for training in adademia. I had to teach myself, buy my own books, got to go to one conference in 7 years, etc. I was appreciated, but only extremely rarely in any meaningful way. Had to do everything with nothing, in other words. And while these days things are so fat in the corporate world as they used to be, they're still way better in terms of the resources I have to draw on than they ever were on even the best days at the university.

all I know.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080284)

is that my oldest brother went from finishing his master in biology, and being offered to be PAID to do his PHd, to managing corporate networks..

any help?

Re:all I know.. (0)

paddyponchero (239792) | about 12 years ago | (#4080295)

Come to europe everybody here gets paid for post-graduate studies

Re:all I know.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080548)

cha, as if y'all let us americans emigrate ...

Alternative (4, Insightful)

weregeek (578174) | about 12 years ago | (#4080285)

You might also find a more comfortable fit doing building/maintaining infrastructure for a university or college. Gives you a chance to experiment, and worry about something other than financial services for a change. You get a chance to work with the students in most cases, and there is always something interesting going on. I thought about moving toward science, and instead ended up very happy doing the things I love working for a University. It's a wonderful change from the corporate grind.

Re:Alternative (1)

Tellarin (444097) | about 12 years ago | (#4080307)

i did exactly this,
got off from a big company, and started to work at a university, got to know the professors and started participating in research

its being very satisfactory

Re:Alternative (2)

evilned (146392) | about 12 years ago | (#4080501)

I work in a simliar situation myself, and the pay isnt great. On the other hand I live in a cheap quality apartment, my wife gets cut rates on her schooling, and they are paying for all of my technical certifications. And one other great thing, about half of the people I knew from my days in the CS classes are laid off and looking for anything that isnt working in a mall or fast food, meanwhile I have a steady job. And even if they did have jobs still, they were working 50-60 hours a week, and I was doing 40 with almost no commute. Had plenty of time with the wife, and was able to volunteer for all sorts of great things around campus, and still had time to get piss drunk with all my friends.

It all depends... (3, Insightful)

HisMother (413313) | about 12 years ago | (#4080286)

You don't say what your current qualifications are, or whether you're willing to go back to school, and if so, for how long. "Going into Science" could mean anything from being a sysadmin for a biotech company, to getting a Ph.D in Chemistry and becoming a Professor who does research in computational chemistry.

It's hard to become a professor. There are typically hundreds of applicants for every opening. Unless you're really hot stuff, it's not much of a career plan -- only a few notches above "win the lottery," actually. And it takes years to get the degree.

OTOH, There are plenty of places to sysadmin besides ISPs. You might find that supporting intelligent, educated researchers was more gratifying than supported clueless dialup lusers.

Many Non-Profits are Starving for Good Help (1)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | about 12 years ago | (#4080396)

I don't know how it is elsewhere, but in Philadelphia a lot of organizations are having to farm out IT because they can't pay enough to keep someone in-house.

Of course that was yesterday's news in the dot-coma era. You may do well to call your local library or museum and see if they need a seasoned tech for cheap.

By the by, Educated Researchers are every bit as clueless as any other clientelle. A few gems out there think that a doctorate in physics qualifies them to tell you how lousy they think their computer is.

Re:It all depends... (2, Insightful)

Kaz Riprock (590115) | about 12 years ago | (#4080428)

You might find that supporting intelligent, educated researchers was more gratifying than supported clueless dialup lusers.
I have found that when it comes to computers, supporting most intelligent, educated science researchers is barely one half-step up from clueless dialup lusers. More often than not, they are no more tech-saavy (hey, someone has to go home after a hard day in the lab and be the clueless dialup luser at night) and maybe even more pushy than your regular dipstick behind the keyboard (they like to think they're a step ahead of a WebTV user). In the end, that means you have users under you who are experimenting with things they shouldn't, crashing things and not telling anyone or restarting the system, and if it's a shared computer in the lab that you're being asked to work on...god help you. If you do go out to find a sysadmin job in academia, be sure to survey the damage before you say yes and determine whether the user base is as good with computers as they hope they are in their prospective degrees. Trust me.

Science is like any other business (4, Interesting)

electroniceric (468976) | about 12 years ago | (#4080294)

It has its ups and its downs.
On the one hand, most research scientists are not money-motivated people at their core - they are interested in ideas and in the development of knowledge. If you relate to those goals, which it sounds like you do, you will relate well to the academic community. The scientific operations I've worked in are also less hierarchical than most business, and you get a strong team spirit from those you work with - you're working together on the same quest, rather than battling each other for approval.

Academic organizations, despite being filled with free-thinking people, are incredibly staid - both in terms of being set in their ways, and in terms of not making the wrong kinds of waves. It makes straightforward negotiating about things rather difficult. This is a nuisance when it comes to doing things like introducing new software or migrating a server. A professor in my dept (I'm a grad student) still writes C and PostScript to make plots, and nobody can or will convince him otherwise. Furthermore, many scientists fancy themselves quite the computer expert by virtue of having written a model in FORTRAN or some such.
Overall it's not a bad place to work, but the pace of things is very different from the corporate world.

Re:Science is like any other business (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080438)

>>>"Furthermore, many scientists fancy themselves quite the computer expert by virtue of having written a model in FORTRAN or some such.">>>

And arguing in a similar way, many computer experts think themselves scientists because they once wrote a program that demonstrated some scientific principle, usually because they were made to in some required class for their CS degree.

Of course it is nonsense. IT folks are not scientists, and scientists aren't ready to be sys-admins.

As for your BullShit comment about fortran, I suspect you have seen only f77. Fortran is as every bit as interesting and useful as C( fortran95 anyway). C is best for systems programming, fortran9x is best for computation. Most scientists are well versed in using both( as well as perl ) in solving many thorny problems in scientific computation.

Re:PostScript professor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080527)

Hmm, any chance you're in New Jersey?

Re:PostScript professor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080562)

Not much knowledge is needed to make c programs that will dump postscript... Your inference is amatuerish. ANy highschooler can make a basic program print this out:

10 10 moveto
(SUck my nutz lozer) show

No place for you in science (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080302)

So sorry to inform you, we reviewed your qualifications, and you are not the right candidate. People who are in science are there because they love science. Nearly all knew at a young age that they were destined for science, and applied themselves accordingly throughout their lives and careers.

Those who want to jump into science because they lost their "job" in IT aren't the kind of people who belong in science.

consider this (1)

bobbinFrapples (598252) | about 12 years ago | (#4080303)

Your ambition to contribute is great but realize that you will more than likely find yourself involved in a 'little picture' kind of way.

Academic Research Empires (2, Informative)

jazman_777 (44742) | about 12 years ago | (#4080315)

Well, if you go to one of the Enormous State Universities, it's likely to be a Research Empire. Meaning, you spend all your time writing proposals and grubbing for corporate money. You have an array of graduate students to do all the interesting/real work for you.

That's what I saw when I was getting my Ph.D. from a prestigious technical university (it's name begins with Georiga Tech).

Reversed Polarity (1)

dunng808 (448849) | about 12 years ago | (#4080316)

I am a professional IT guy, and was an amateur astronomer. Tired of my federal government SA job I pined to do the same work at, say the Keck 'scope, down on the Big Island. I was told that astronomers hire young, starving astronomers to do whatever else needs do be done. What they wanted was an amateur SA, not an amateur astronomer.

no, it's not more satisfying... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080317)

but masturbating with a cheese wedge shoved up your ass sure is!

It's the SuperPan!


the pan kisses you.


the pan kisses you.

Some advice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080324)

Follow your dreams; you can reach your goals!

I'm living proof. Beefcake. BEEFCAKE!

Been there, done that (4, Insightful)

cDarwin (161053) | about 12 years ago | (#4080329)

I made this transition about eighteen months ago; and, though your milage may vary, I found that it really did not satisfy my desire to 'be part of the solution'.

What I encountered were a lot of very egocentric political schemers who were far more interested in self promotion than in the advancement of science, or in what we might call 'saving the planet'.

None of the people to whom I was answerable had any knowledge of how to manage IT people and projects (I am not over-generalizing, really). Their demands were unrealistic. My hours were as insane as ever (with no over time). The pressure and deadlines were just as gruelling.

Also, as you mention, the pay sucks in the academy (although, the benefits can be very decent).

Now, I'm back in the private sector doing more interesting work with more interesting people for more money.

Hope this helps, and good luck!

Higher Ed is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080332)

I make about half I would make as a programmer in the corporate world, but you know what? I CAN'T be fired. As long as I meet the requirements of my job, I CAN'T be fired, and I will never be downsized! The job security is the best feature of higher ed. Plus, it's a slower pace than the hectic, found out about it last week, programmed it this week, put it in production next week world of corporate (sometimes it seems like that here though). Oh yeah, I only work 40 hours a week, all major holidays, 24 days of vacation a year, etc. No after-hours crap I don't get paid for. So, I guess if you subtract all the overtime I would be working in corporate, my salary @ 40 hours IS the equivalent of a corporate salary!

Plus, I'm working on my Masters in the meantime. PhD here I come! Never get that outta corporate.

Where Your Heart Is .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080335)

I went the other way ... Science to .com bust with the same pure intentions before the 'normalization' of the Internet.

If your heart is in the "how, why and how to tweak, how to improve, etc.", the grass (but not the money) is definitely greener, and the satisfaction immensely more lush, on the Science side.

Now I'm back in Science, but still involved in Internet technology in less *corporate* ways. And the reason is not the money, but the satisfaction.

Just my 2 cents.

Why move completely? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080344)

During the day, I code. At night, I take classes at MIT and Harvard... mostly evolutionary biology, but a few physics classes thrown in for good measure.

I don't plan on making either of those my career, but I do intend on trying to contribute something in the form of peer reviewed papers.

See, the money is in IT/coding... but the chance ot really make a difference is in science. So I make my money coding, and make a difference via science. (Well, hopefully...)

Re:Why move completely? (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 12 years ago | (#4080599)

(* I don't plan on making either of those my career, but I do intend on trying to contribute something in the form of peer reviewed papers. *)

What exactly do you mean by "peer reviewed"? You can put any paper you want on the web for very little (the free days are drying up).

Of course, I can't vouch for the quality of reviews, but to get an idea out there is easy these days.

(* See, the money is in IT/coding... but the chance ot really make a difference is in science. So I make my money coding, and make a difference via science. *)

There is still a lot of gaps in software engineering that need more research and pondering. There are very few agreed-upon metrics and divergent opinions about the nature of change (change patterns). This is needed in order to make "change-friendly" software. Everybody agrees that software should be more change-friendly, but there is little agreement on how.

For example, I fuss about object orientation here:

Moving from Corporate to Not-So-Corporate (5, Interesting)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | about 12 years ago | (#4080347)

I have had a rather busy life as a programmer, sysadmin, and general hacker. I started off at a univerisity, worked at a major chip manufacturer, A Dot Com, and finally a science Museum. I have been at the science museum for 4 years, which is longer than any other company so far.

You will find many of the same pressures, personalities, and conflicts in the non-profit sector. Do not kid yourself for a moment that job satisfaction is instantly had by working for the right cause.

That said, why am I working for a non-profit? Well actually all of the tech companies I have ever worked for were running at a loss, so perhaps I should say 501c3 organization..

But I digress. I work at the Museum for one simple reason: I am a shark in the guppy tank. The Alpha geek. When something needs to be done, they ask me how to do it.

In 4 years I have redesigned the network, switched the datacenter to Linux, and introduced new concepts like Workorders, and Inventory Control. I can't think of a place in the world that would let me change so much in so little time.

Alright who am I kidding. I really took the job sysadmining at the Science Museum because they have 2 T1 lines, 3 class C subnets worth of IP addresses, a toplevel domain I can spell over the phone, and a window overlooking my apartment from whence I use 802.11 wireless to suck down bandwidth like a dwarf on a firehose!!!

Re:Moving from Corporate to Not-So-Corporate (2)

Raleel (30913) | about 12 years ago | (#4080486)

You got that right! I work at a national lab cuz I've got an oc-3 and good hours, and almost no pager time. And pretty much as much money as I need to play with cool toys.

Volunteer work (3, Interesting)

papasui (567265) | about 12 years ago | (#4080350)

If you have a craving to feel like your actually making a difference yet still need a secure finacial future why not volunteer somewhere? I'm sure that their are lots of small charities, schools, etc. that very noble causes and could benefit from free or possibly very cheap professional services. If you just did this occasionally it may lead you some excellent contacts while fulfilling both your social and finacial goals.

Why I want to go into research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080353)

My first day in IT, The first thing i heard was "Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays!"

My mind was made up.

Sys Admin for Academia ... no thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080362)

I understood your post as wanting to transfer your sys admin skills to science related enterprises. And you're right, the grass _seems_ greener. But in a company your work is recognized as what keeps the money coming in. In academia you are _only_ acknowledged when "the system is down". Don't expect any thanks at all to go with that low pay. The guy heading the lab gets the credit ... the infrastructure, who cares? Been there, done that.

I have a similar situation (5, Insightful)

Artifex (18308) | about 12 years ago | (#4080371)

I used to be a reading tutor for disadvantaged elementary school kids, before graduating from university. I worked for an ISP for a few years because the pay/stock was good, but I always wished that I had gotten certified and taught kids instead.

Now that I've been laid off, I feel like I've been given a second chance, especially since the market is forcing me to look at alternatives anyway. But I wonder: is it really possible to suddenly live on 1/2 my former annual real salary? (I actually used to joke that I could pay someone else to do the job I wanted to do) Has anyone here really done this, without being married or having to get a roommate to help pay the rent? There's also the small complication of wanting to have my own house and kids someday.

Am I nuts? If not, what are the best programs out there for certifying? How flexible are the entry requirements? (I have a BS degree but never had a great GPA) Am I simply too old (at 30) to really think of a long career teaching second graders?

Teacher wannabe? Go to Florida (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080399)

I was shocked and amazed that the local school districts down here don't require actual teacher training... just a BS and 20 credits in the subject you want to teach...

Best of Luck

Re:I have a similar situation (2)

jamesoutlaw (87295) | about 12 years ago | (#4080466)

I knew a guy who left his job at a bank here in Memphis to teach business classes and economics at the high school level. He was 30.. so I'd say, no, you are not too old. If you want to do it, go for it.

Re:I have a similar situation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080569)

I may know the ticket for you. I'm the webmaster at Red Mesa School District. [] on the Navajo Reservation in Northern Arizona. We are desperately in need of a qualified person to teach some tech. related classes (starting Monday). There are programs to certify as you go.

Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080374)

Now change the question into --- I've been in the Science world and just got my CCNA, how have people found the transition from academia into Cisco administration?

Conrasts (4, Interesting)

aleph+ (99924) | about 12 years ago | (#4080378)

I had a tech job in a CS research group a few years back and traded it in for the consulting/small web company life. After a couple of years of that I've now realized that (1) companies don't want to spend money on their web sites anymore and (2) building good websites commercially doesn't particularly make the world a better place. So I too am considering a switch back towards the academic world. The purpose would be to work on software development projects that are sufficiently speculative that they are unlikely to be commercially funded.

There are some difficulties going back to academia though. First off, qualifications ... there aren't too many jobs in academia that are both interesting and don't require at least a masters degree, if not a PhD. And getting one of those in the U.S. means about 5 years of rather minimal income. Another problem is that much University research is mired in politics, especially the politics of funding. The amount of time spent actually doing research work is significantly reduced by time spent aquiring money to fund the work and engaging in department and university politics.

Most academic jobs also come with teaching responsibilities. Now if you want to be a teacher, that's all well and good, but if you want to be a researcher spending half your time in teaching related activities may not be very rewarding. And there are plenty of researchers who are lousy teachers for that reason.

When I was in CS I noticed that a lot of good code was left to get moldy. The problem is that academic achievement is measured by published papers not usable code. A typical scenario is that the code gets written as part of a reseach project or PhD. The code demonstrates some new and interesting features, but isn't robust enough to be used in every day applications. Or if it is robust, then it isn't ported to the relevant platforms. Or it isn't packaged for distribution. Either way once the papers are published there's no further funding or recognition for developing the codebase, and any ideas that it encapsulated are typically lost. It seemed to me that it is the rule that academic software languishes and only the rare exception that a novel idea goes on to become an open source success or gets incorporated in a commercial product.

So all in all, it seems like a mixed bag. Perhaps I'll just keep my day job in the world of commerce, and write interesting software on the weekends.

Re:Conrasts (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080540)

You are a dumbass, dumbass. What a crock of shit your post is. Obviously, you never worked in science or never knew anyone who did. You suck. Please stop posting lies to this esteemed Website, slashdot. A job mopping floors at a laundromat is what you seek. I'm certain you will never write intereresting software on the weekends, but will tell everyone that you do.

Another place to look for answers (1)

MisanthropicProggram (597526) | about 12 years ago | (#4080379)

You didn't say which scientific field that you wanted to go into so, I'll give a biology site: It has a career section with a discussion group moderated by a HR consultant. It's an interesting read. You'll see people who are scientists and non-scientists asking similar questions.

I would also suggest a career counselor. He may help you make a decision, give you some ideas, and give you some insight into what you really want. You can also check on the web for some free career/personality testing to see if a scientific career is right for you.

Just a thought. Good luck.

How about bioinformatics... (1)

bubbha (61990) | about 12 years ago | (#4080502)

I looked into the field and it looks to me like it includes some challenging IT problems...

- large databases which must be searched in interesting ways

- AI/pattern matching against large databases

- done in the well-funded r&d organizations in pharma so lots of Perl, Linix, etc. and probably not afraid of Zope and other fun crazy stuff.

- requires some coursework in Biology, statistics, Microbiology, there's your science.

Believe me, if I didn't have 2 kids to put through college...I think I'd go that way.

I have a mix of the two... (3, Interesting)

tcc (140386) | about 12 years ago | (#4080383)

Science and technology. Right now we are at a R&D stage, with careful planning and intelligent budget decisions we got ourselves a nice working environment, of course universities sometimes have way more budgets than the private sector, but if we play our cards right, it might be not only interresting but also paying.

There aren't a million of startup companies that can offer this, but in your case, what I'd suggest is to get yourself into a position where you can take decisions. You don't have to be a big name manager or a VP in the IT sector to be in control of budgets or buying decisions for hardware or planning... that's the beauty of it, there are so many people in IT, yet so few that are actually knowledgable and not only BSing, that if you are actually good, you can find a niche position that will make your job enjoyable, make a difference, supporting R&D effort and at the same time if the sector of R&D you are supporting is not too far off your knowledge, you can actually learn and even get a promotion involving you more directly in the project. In my case my knowledge was broad enough that I couldn't even fit my job description on one page, so I don't get bored doing the same thing, I manage my time, as long as I can deliver, I don't have anyone in my back pushing me or stressing me. The downside is that I wanted to start my own projects but I often spend more than 10 hours a day for my work (but then again, that's common in the IT sector so I wouldn't call that a downside, exept that in R&D often you don't get paid for those extra hours since you get an "annual contract". Still, when you have a job that you don't see as a job, spending 10-12 hours there isn't even an issue :).

R&D people, scientists often need people to delegate the basic stuff that slows them down, while it's not as rewarding as being the scientist himself doing the main work, it's a very gratifying experience and besides, personnaly, making a total dumbass rich (especially if he's like most .com managers, Full of shit and overspending money for their personnal benefit instead of thinking about the good of the employees and the survival of the company), working hard to make people like that rich while you won't get the dust of a fraction of that money, pff..I'd rather make less and not having this on my conscience afterwards. Depends on the companies and the people I guess. Money is important, but money doesn't buy happyness in the workplace.

Academic politics preferable to industry bullshit (5, Interesting)

TekkonKinkreet (237518) | about 12 years ago | (#4080386)

I think you're going to get a lot of people giving you the Kissinger line: "Academic politics are so vicious precisely because so little is at stake". I have a different take.

Last week I had lunch with a friend in the academic fold, to which I'm poised to return myself, and she complained with some rancour about the abundance of talentless hacks that cop credit and brown-nose their way to the top.

After four years with a VC startup (now being lowered into the earth) it all sounded quaint to me. I'd rather have talentless hacks stealing my work for a few years than watch the PHB lie his ass off to the board quarter after quarter without even a concept of shame, while the entire ill-conceived edifice crumbles around us all.

That is to say, go for it. Your reasons are exactly the ones I'd give, extrapolated a bit: I'd rather contribute in some infinitesimal way to the progress of science, however political or tedious the realities of research (who said "most of science is about as glamorous as ditch-digging", was it Asimov?), than help one more heinous moron pay off his SUV.

As for the money, I bet I'm not the only one here prepared for noble poverty, if such a thing still exists under the sun. Go, don't look back!

Re:Academic politics preferable to industry bullsh (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 12 years ago | (#4080452)

> I think you're going to get a lot of people giving you the Kissinger line: "Academic politics are so vicious precisely because so little is at stake"

I think Kissinger might have actually been right about, say, being an English professor and having to defend your Marxist interpretation of some obscure Middle English poem against a rival's Feminist interpretation, but in the natural sciences it seems to be possible to actually do some constructive work.

That's not to say there aren't disputes, office politics, turf battles, administrators on their own agendas, etc., but at least Kissinger's accusation of intrinsic pettiness in the subject matter seems to be off base.

EdinBear may want to visit a library and browse the journals of his chosen field to see what kind of stuff is being published. That should give some idea of how politicized/trivialized/etc the basic subject matter of the field is. The office politics is probably an invariant, whether in academia, industry, politics, or any other field where people are brought together into an organization.

Re:Academic politics preferable to industry bullsh (1)

kyras (472503) | about 12 years ago | (#4080513)

I think you're going to get a lot of people giving you the Kissinger line: "Academic politics are so vicious precisely because so little is at stake". I have a different take.

I would highly recommend that you read The Lecturer's Tale by James Hynes for an entertaining, if dark, look at this academic politics thing taken to the nth degree. Mind you, I'm not saying that it's an accurate representation -- it is fiction. My experience with academia has been, largely, gratifying.

SysAdmin or teacher? (2)

Papineau (527159) | about 12 years ago | (#4080389)

I'm not sure I really understand what you want to do. Let me explain.

Presently, you're a SysAdmin in a Web services company. And you want to change job, to get something less "commercial" and more "big picture", like Science/Research/Academia.

Are you aiming a SysAdmin job in that kind of environment (by opposition to where you are presently), or are you looking forward to do some science/research in a Academia environment? IE, is your target a teacher's or reasearcher's job, or a SysAdmin's job?

You're not asking about actual day to day job differences, just salary and job satisfaction, so I'm inclined to think that you want to remain a SysAdmin, but a confirmation from you could help us better answer your questions.

Yes Virginia the grass is greener... (1)

Devil's Advocate (120731) | about 12 years ago | (#4080400)

Speaking as an academic, I can say that I find the bulk of my work infinitely more satisfying than work I did previously in private industry. I am fortunate to work for a college which emphasizes teaching over research, as this is where I derive the greatest satisfaction.

Yes there are politics, and yes they pay is less, but I sleep well and as trite as this may sound, I feel I am making a positive contribution to the world.

Plus tenure and summers off! Woohoo!

Re:Yes Virginia the grass is greener... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080474)

If I may ask, what school?
You see, I find the combination of tenure and emphasis on teaching amazing.
I thought it impossible. I thought they only gave tenure to people who brought in 10x their salary in grant money (i.e. financed their own existence and then some)

Just curious

Anyone who thinks science=$$ is a fool (3, Interesting)

t0qer (230538) | about 12 years ago | (#4080401)

Just yesterday on oprah they had a story about a whistleblower at a pharmacutical company.

Basically what was happening was Doctors were recieving kickbacks from the pharmacutical company for prescribing their pills. These kicksbacks ranged from vcr's and tv's all the way up to exotic trips to lavish resorts.

It didn't just stop at bribary either. The phamacutical company went as far as to show doctors how to overcharge medicare and keep the difference..

Unless you're digging ditches or pushing a lawn mower, most corporations are devoid of morals. Bottom line is to make investors happy, screw the employees and customers.

My best advice, do whatever the hell makes you happy and keeps your interest. Yeah times are hard now on all of us computer geeks. My friends that worked construction during the .com boom love to remind me of how i'm out of work now. I love to remind them that I have to charge them now VS fixing their computers for free. It's funny to watch their faces turn white when I tell them $50@hour

Move from IT to Academia (1)

Medieval_Thinker (592748) | about 12 years ago | (#4080404)

I speak as a teacher who briefly dabbled in IT. I got Microsoft and Novell certifications, did consulting, was a Network Administrator. I am currently a teacher and tech resource for a math department.

The academic world can be a cold place, and there are a lot of people who come from business to fail miserably in the classroom. It looks harder than it is. The first time you want to talk about business experiences, people figure you are one of those jerks who is always talking about return on investment and telling other people how to do their jobs.

Be warned that it takes a long time to work up the ladder in an academic institution, and sometimes the politics are such that you will never make full professor or master teacher, etc.

Having said all this, I enjoy working with students, and while I still do some consulting to supplement my income, I won't go back to the server room full time.


She blinded me with science (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080410)

Do you want to be an IT person in a science setting or do you want to be a scientist. I have done both, scientist, programmer and system adminstrator, i.e. research vs IT work.

All have positives and negatives.
IT pay better, and has flexibility in job locations. But the content chages much more quickly that in science. In lets say 1980, one learned fortran, vax assembly, for programming languages. In 10 years, this is obsolete. In physics, one learned quantum mechanics, relativity and optics. Most of this hasn't changed drastically.

To be a scientific researcher, the Ph.D is mandatory and so are years of post-doc research. And the jobs are very specialized.


I went the other way (2)

jamesoutlaw (87295) | about 12 years ago | (#4080419)

I worked for a ground water research institute at a university for 3 years after getting my MS. I was involved in ground water modeling, some system administration work, some project management, and various other things. I left that job about 4.5 years ago for a job at a large corporation and do not regret it at all. I work fewer hours and enjoy my new job a lot more than the one I had at the University.

Academia, in many ways, it not a lot different than the corporate world.... if you work at a state univeristy you are always having to deal with funding issues and your raises and promotions are always at the whim of the legislature or the board of regents... when things get tight, higher education is almost always (unfortunately) one the things that gets cut. I doubt if things at private universities are much better. If you want to do research, you've got to get funding. Writing research proposals to get money from corporate sponsors and government agencies or private foundations can be extremely frustrating. I've seen it take years for people to get proposals funded and then years to get their results published in journals. The academic world is just as cut-throat as the corporate world.

That said...The work you do can be rewarding but in my experience it's no more or less rewarding than the work I do now. For me, a rewarding job/career is one that allows me to continue to learn new things and improve my skills. Though I had that opportunity at my univeristy job, I've found I've grown a lot more within my current environment.

Many people have very rewarding careers in academia, but you'll find that many of the people you will have to deal with will be just as unpleasant as the ones you deal with in the corporate world. You just have to find something that makes you happy and helps you to achieve your personal goals. For me, that's been a career in the corporate world- not academia.

(please forgive the typos... i am tired ;)

Re:I went the other way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080465)

Research is the process of generating new ideas from existing ones and/or acquired data. If you have ideas, evaluate them, possibly with the assistance of other knowledgeable people. If they are good, go into academia. If not, either read more, create more ideas and repeat the process, or give up.

You so crazy! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080420)

Oh, of course! The Internet's "normal" now. Mainstream-ergo-NOT-cool now that "the man" has had his way. You know, this sounds like a pathetic cop-out from one of the million shitty techies who lucked into jobs during the Internet boom and now find their burger-flippin' just deserts unpalatable.

You're used to feelin' all smart so now you're gonna be a bigshot "productive" scientist because they, of course, never lower themselves to "just helping a client get more rich through financial services". What a load of camel shit.

Think for just a second and you'll realize that commerce is the engine driving science today. You think your Athlon was a humanitarian endeavor? Think medicine or academia are purely 'big picture' pursuits? Think Linux would be news if it weren't for its commercial potential? Wrong again bison breath! I don't like it any more than you do, but it's true. Look, I'm not trying to harp on you - it's just annoying that you are so stupid. ;-)

Join one of those interesting little companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080423)

Why not try sys admining at one of those interesting little companies? They're not all out of business.

Our little company got started just as the dot-com boom busted, ergo no debt. Our sys admin is a key person, no doubt about it. Doubt he would have thought of coming here under different circumstances, but we're glad he did.

couldn't agree more (1)

cicci0 (533592) | about 12 years ago | (#4080437)

I too have been at a dot com for about two years now, and it seems that every day a new "revenue stream" is thought up. As the head sys admin working with a skeleton IT team the responsibility is much greater while job satisfaction has tanked. Not that I cringe at a hard days work, but more and more of what I do is in support of the latest crazy scheme to generate another dollar. Lately I have been yearning of the pre dot com days I spent at an ivy league university where my pay was half what it is now, but the cutting edge technology and technical challenges were teeming. Now, what's it all for? Making my 30 something CE0 rich is not the mark I want to leave on society.

Try (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080442)

...getting a real job you lazy fuck.

Itdepends... (0, Troll)

alchemist68 (550641) | about 12 years ago | (#4080459)

Thisisnotintendedtobeatrollorflame,butisingeneral, thesadtruthaboutScience.Youdidn'tlistyourcurrentcr edentialsoryourcareerplans,soIwillputthisinplainea sy-to-readEnglish.Iwilltellyouexactlythesameadvice myundergraduatechemistryadvisortoldme.DONOTEVENTHI NKofgettingaPh.D.inScienceunlessyouaregraduatingfr omatop-notchgraduateprogram.TheworldisfullofPh.D's workingatMcDonald'sflippingburgersandstockingshelv togoaroundforeveryPh.D.ThePh.D.isaterminaldegree,t hereisnodegreehigherthanthat.EvenanM.D.isloweronth eeducationscalethanaPh.D.IfyougetaPh.D.,youwillbei nthesamearenaasyourpeersgraduatingfromIvyLeaguesch ools,andjudgedaccordingly;thesamework/researchperf ormancewillbeexpectedofyou.Andbelieveme,youwillnot beabletodothatkindofworkbecausetheprogramyougradua tedfromdidn'ttrainyouandputyouthroughtherigorsnece ssaryforthatkindofwork.Ofcourse,weallknowthattheIv yLeagueschoolsselectthebeststudentsourgenepoolhast ooffer.Thereputationoftheschoolyougraduatefromwill likelycarryyoufurtherthanthedegreealone,assumingyo ubrown-noseyouradvisororhelphimorherwinthenobelpri ze.MyundergraduateadvisoralsowarnedmethatifthePh.D .isallthatyouareconcernedaboutgetting(fromanyavera ge-JoePh.D.program),bepreparedtospendtherestofyour lifeinpovertypostdocingaroundthecountrymaking$20k/ year.Youwillnothavemedicalbenefits,youwillnothaver etirementbenefits,youwillnothaveannualbonuses,YOUW ILLNOTLIVETHEAMERICANDREAM.Bythetimeyoufinallygeta roundtopayingoffyourstudentloans,andyouwillacquire studentloandebtingraduateschool,youwillbeverynearr etirement,stilldrivinganoldclunker,andneverowningy ourownhome.Unlessyou'realreadymarried,Icanthinkofn obetterwayofbeingchickREPELLANT.

Re:Itdepends... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080489)


Re:Itdepends... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080516)


Re:Itdepends... (1)

alchemist68 (550641) | about 12 years ago | (#4080560)

Sorry about the post guys (and gals), Mozilla's "pref.js" file had a major corruption problem. Lucky I had a backup lying around to replace the fsck'd file. This wasn't the only board/forum that resulted from these ill effects. Again, my apologies.


It depends... (1)

alchemist68 (550641) | about 12 years ago | (#4080573)

This is how it should have read...Sorry for the formatting problems of the original post (Mozilla's "pref.js" file had a corruption problem)...

This is not intended to be a troll or flame, but is in general, the sad truth about Science. You didn't list your current credentials or your career plans, so I will put this in plain easy-to-read English. I will tell you exactly the same advice my undergraduate chemistry advisor told me. DO NOT EVEN THINK of getting a Ph.D. in Science unless you are graduating from a top-notch graduate program. The world is full of Ph.D's working at McDonald's flipping burgers and stocking shelves at Walmart. The sad fact is there are not enough Ph.D. jobs to go around for every Ph.D. The Ph.D. is a terminal degree, there is no degree higher than that. Even an M.D. is lower on the education scale than a Ph.D. If you get a Ph.D., you will be in the same arena as your peers graduating from Ivy League schools, and judged accordingly; the same work/research performance will be expected of you. And believe me, you will not be able to do that kind of work because the program you graduated from didn't train you and put you through the rigors necessary for that kind of work. Of course, we all know that the Ivy League schools select the best students our gene pool has to offer. The reputation of the school you graduate from will likely carry you further than the degree alone, assuming you brown-nose your advisor or help him or her win the nobel prize. My undergraduate advisor also warned me that if the Ph.D. is all that you are concerned about getting (from any average-Joe Ph.D. program), be prepared to spend the rest of your life in poverty post docing around the country making $20k/year. You will not have medical benefits, you will not have retirement benefits, you will not have annual bonuses, YOU WILL NOT LIVE THE AMERICAN DREAM. By the time you finally get around to paying off your student loans, and you will acquire student loan debt in graduate school, you will be very near retirement, still driving an old clunker, and never owning your own home. Unless you're already married, I can think of no better way of being chick REPELLANT.

Sysadmins are trained monkeys (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080470)

"I've been working as a SysAdmin ... I want to move into Science to use my skills ..."

The words "SysAdmin", "science", and "skills" really have no place being together in the same paragraph. SysAdmins are basically not much more than trained monkeys. Basically they learn how to mount a tape drive, the appropriate arguments to the ``find'' command, and how to create user accounts, and they think they are elite.

Become a developer and THEN maybe you'll have some skills worthy of respect. Oh, and skills that are actually RELEVANT to science. In the meantime, keep playing with your big FreeBSD "server" and enjoy being "elite" while the rest of us actually make real contributions to society.

IT may be greener (5, Informative)

Java Ape (528857) | about 12 years ago | (#4080471)

I used to work as an aquatic biologist. Since I only have an M.S. it's possible that my experience is substancially different than those with PhD's. But I've been much happier as a geek.

Funding for primary research has pretty well dried up, and directed research systems tend to be very intense, short-sighted, and goal oriented -- not a good environment for good science. The primary research positions are underfunded, and staffed by the "old dogs" with twenty years of publications under their belt -- you won't get a shot there easily.

The scarcity of funding has led to other undersirable characterists: disposable labor and fraudulent research. Basically, many programs are hiring staff as they need 'em, working them like dogs, then letting them go when they quit working 70 hour weeks. There have also been many disturbing rumors of falsified research, and of course almost nobody is wasting time reproducing other's work.

In addition, unlike the science of the last few decades, information is no longer freely distributed among researchers -- the push is to make money by patenting every little discovery. In short, the ivory tower has crumbled, and what's left is a dirty little sweatshop pursuing the almighty dollar with the same intensity as the most callous prostitute. I've been in IT for a number of years now, but work extensively with large numbers of scientists and engineers. They envy me, and I daresay rightly so, which is unfortunate -- science was my first love.

Small comparison (1)

solaufein (576986) | about 12 years ago | (#4080481)

Having only worked for a short period in the commercial side of IT (ISP that covered good portion of the state), and having worked for about 5 years in the academic IT field, my views are somewhat skewed. None-the-less, there is a reason that I've worked in the academic side. I've find that it's more relaxed, less heirarchy or bowing to bosses. This is not to say that there's not politics to deal with (all too much) or that there aren't ego's to stroke and massage (plenty abound), but the IT here side is much less stressful then the IT side in business or commercial. Budgets tend to be small, yes, but you also have the chance to put newer technology in place sooner than a business might. Who knows if this addresses your question completely, but it's an attempt.

well (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080483)

considering you sound like a "web designer", which
is another way of saying "clueless, skilless dolt
who probably couldn't handle a job at mcdonalds",
i don't think you'll have much of a place in
the world of science.

go back to the valley, man


The grass on the other side is hard, salty, and br (1)

gacp (601462) | about 12 years ago | (#4080505)

As the saying goes ``Academia has the worst politics, because the stakes are so low''. Sadly, all too true. And the pay sucks. You may find you like better the kind of work you get to do, though. Still, don't hope for too much: many scientists are so clueless about computers that you may find yourself replacing one kind of pointy-hairs for another, and for less $$$. Anyway, best of luck.

Message to Wannabe English Majors (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080523)

You have to have a Ph.D. to get a Computer Science job in Academia.

If you just maintain a cyberspace for the University, then you are just doing it for money, once again.

Don't fool yourself.

No, the other way around. (1)

webweave (94683) | about 12 years ago | (#4080534)

I got my training in science and worked for a number of years supporting applications on industrial computers. What a joy it was to sit in a room full of industry specialist and PHD scientist solving problems intelligently. I must of learned something interesting every day. I was involved and challenged and being productive with productive people.

I left to join the .com revolution and learned fast how much it sucked to work under people who had absolutely no knowledge of the industry they thought they were working in. The company taught me to love Dilbert and start the day with a Guinness. I kept a pint glass next to my workstation like some demented coffee cup waiting for some unlucky suit to make a deal of it. It never happened, Somebody must of told them "don't put your fingers near the programmers or you could loose them".

Now I work mostly with advertising agency types and I have learned to take every thing with a grain of salt. While sitting in on a "high level" meeting watching adults act like children arguing over slight changes to stupid advertisements I sit back and relax and keep this thought in my mind "Its only ink on paper. Thank God they are not building bridges"

The really sorry part is that each of these morons is making more money then their counterparts in science. (Same is true for trained seals, I mean pro sports players.) Prepare to take a cut in salary if you want to do anything really important. Irony?


-Saying Windows has security problems is like running into a burning theater and yelling fire.

Here's a solution! (3, Informative)

irishkev (457679) | about 12 years ago | (#4080544)

Are you sick of doing the bidding of idiot PHBs, slaving away for nothing? I'm convinced that the answer is not, "More school." You'll just wind up in a different hamster cage or a non-corporate PHB structure, i.e. a university. The answer: Let's all move to Oregon and build a Yurt village! If you think I'm kidding, think again:

* Yurts are incredible! I've actually visited Pacific Yurts in Oregon. Too many benefits to list. Check out

* We can build our own wireless freaknet with cheap 802.11 gear, and bring the Internet (WAN) connection down from the skies. Hell, we may be able to get a cable modem connection.

* Organic gardening.

* Totally off grid: Solar, wind, hydro.

* Chicken tractors. Again, if you think I'm kidding, type "chicken tractor" into google.

* No mortgage!

* No PHBs for miles and miles!

* Once your show is set up, what will the costs be? Once you cut out the mortgage/rent and other allegedly essential BS, it's not that expensive to live.

Getting off the hamster wheel is NOT easy. We need bold action. This isn't thinking outside the box, it's saying, "I'm not playing this game anymore."

Now, clearly, this isn't for everyone, but I suspect that there are a bunch of potential off-grid yurt freaks lingering in the slashdot crowd. Hey, let's fire it up. Let me know!


Re:Here's a solution! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080581)

Awsome, Though i was thinking of moving to New Hampshire myself

It's Just About Impossible (2, Interesting)

Lucas Membrane (524640) | about 12 years ago | (#4080550)

I've been trying. I've got more than 30 years computing, IT, financial math, business, tax strategies, income recognition, statistics, data analysis, data management, all that stuff that deals with dollars by the billions analytically, etc. I made good money doing that, but guys who put the truth ahead of the company kind of top out their income potential early and wind up face-to-face with too many people who make me real nervous, face-to-face. I worked as a consultant for a while, but now the companies all want a company man whom they own or a big-name firm that will wallpaper over their flaws. Not for me any more. I'd like to do science, ie do some kind of useful work in medical or health care or education, or whatever. I'm willing to work for what someone with a degree and minimal experience might take, but I can't get anything. No medical system experience -- no jobs in healtcare field. No computer graphics and animation -- no educational software work. No advanced degree -- no research positions. Award winning software developer can't get a job teaching software development at the community college without the right pieces of paper. I guess everyone thinks I'll go back to honey-fugling when the economy turns again. I'd rather be a decent human being doing something I can be proud of with integrity, but that's looking to be an unattainable option for me anymore.

I did it (4, Interesting)

trandles (135223) | about 12 years ago | (#4080551)

I was a coder in industry for 4 years before going back to the university department I graduated from...physics. I went back as a linux/unix systems administrator and the department webmaster and have loved every minute of it.

The past 2.5 years have been bliss as I've been able to develop really great working relationships with several research groups and have even participated in their research from a computing perspective. My boss let's me develop my own projects. A university's organization is a lot more flat, with greater flexibility in picking/choosing/developing the work you'll do. Industry just doesn't have the luxury of time that a university does. You can take months really doing a project right without having some PHB breathing down your neck wondering why your deadline is slipping. Besides, an academic setting is totally tailored to the development of new ideas and research...

Science RulZ! (1)

iggie (183722) | about 12 years ago | (#4080552)

Seriously, I've been a scientist (biologist/biochemist/cell biologist) for some time. I've also been programming for about 20 years both professionally and not. I've never tried the corporate thing, but was pretty close a couple years ago. Now I'm doing my own take on bioinformatics and loving it. I can tell you that its not for everybody. The relevant metric really is productivity. Publishing papers, generally having some sort of measurable impact on science. Other than that, you can do anything you want, and are in fact required to do so. For many people that prospect is daunting even if they are talented engineers and computer scientists. Even in people I hire for my projects who are ostensibly developers, I look for people who can work independently. I expect to help them with direction, design, architechture, even nasty bugs, but really they are expected to be fully motivated from within and figure out not only how to do something, but what to do in the first place. Usually these people are absolutely miserable in the corporate world, but not always so.

The other thing you have to be is very flexible. One day you're happily spewing Perl, the next you're stringing cable or attacking the server with a screw driver. Science labs are generally poorly staffed with IT specialists (systems, networks, databases, etc), so expect to perform some or all of these things for your various 'lab duties'. The great thing is that open source is de rigour, so this is one of the best ways to get paid for writing open source software.

There is a pay trade-off, but its no where near what it was 2-3 years ago. Most academic IT positions pay competitive salaries with industry norms these days. You don't get stock options, but if you come up with something you think you can sell, there are well-trod paths to form companies to do that. Unlike in a company, you actually get to own a piece of what you make, and generally there are resources you can tap to help you along. Universities generally encourage this sort of thing. The other things that make up for the pay trade-off non-financially are a great work environment, interesting people, and most importantly interesting work that actually matters.

If you're one of these people, science is definitely for you, and what's more can really use you. Especially biology-related computing fields these days.

We need linux people who hate the corporate life!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080555)

If your interested in getting into a university setting, contact

I'm looking for expert linux people. I need people who have at least 5 years professional experience with Linux(no home linux networks, please). If you have clustering experience that would be great extremely helpful in landing the job.

Brent Clements

I went the other way... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 12 years ago | (#4080561)

I started out working in government R&D labs ('84 - '94.) After that I worked for a Fortune 500 Company. I far prefer working with the scientists at the lab.

Scientists are a totally different breed than commercial managers, in general. Scientists are usally interested in something particular -- either they want to understand something about nature, or they want to build something cool (like the robots we built.) Commercial managers seem to be interested in their personal success, in terms of power and money. They have no substantial core principles or beliefs, so there is really nothing to work with. Commercial managers tend to have a hidden agenda; they are inconsistent and very difficult to read. Once you understand the passion of a scientist or academic, you can address it directly -- to mutual advantage. The environment is much more authentically collaborative.

Scientists and Academics understand the value of general skill. Commercial managers assess suitability by listing exactly what items are to be used by a project, and requiring those, e.g. transaction management using Oracle backend, J2EE middleware under Solaris, J2SE client within IE 6.0. How many years experience do you have doing exactly that? The scientists ask what languages you have worked with, what big systems you have put together, and assess your overall skill as an architect.

Do whatever... (1)

MoThugz (560556) | about 12 years ago | (#4080583)

makes you happy... Seriously! If you're into the save the universe with my God-given skills type, then by all means go into acad/science... Maybe even consider charity work eg. helping children with IT-assisted learning, etc.

As for me, I'll go for money anytime... My family's gotta eat...
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