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Getting java job with PhD but no commercial experience

Andre Enimot
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Joined: Jul 29, 2009
Posts: 31
Hi mates,

I'm in need of advice. I have PhD & 10+ years of scientific programming in academia (mostly C/Fortran, Perl), and made a decision to move to commercial software development (because of no future prospects in academia). A year ago started learning Java, completely moved to it in my scientific programming job, passed SCJP6 a month ago.

How do I go about getting my first commercial software development job? I suspect I'd probably be qualified only for entry-level, is that right? If so, is listing my PhD on the resume going to hurt my chance of getting an entry level job? (should I not list it?) Also, I know nothing in J2EE yet, do you think starting learning/using it would help? I see many Sr.-level J2EE jobs in my area (US west coast), but almost no entry-level or core-java jobs. Also there are many C# .NET jobs, but even if I lerned that, I'd still qualify for entry level only.. I know some MySQL, HTML, etc. I am thinking of freelancer projects, but hesitating to bid on a project because of lack of experience.

I'd very much appreciate your advice on how to get the foot in the door. Thanks a lot.
Mike Isano
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Joined: Jan 19, 2007
Posts: 144
You may have a gem and not realize it. Are you close to home? Low stress? Tenured? Make a decent living? If I could answer yes to those questions I would stay in academia. Even if there were big flashy contracts and salaries in the commercial world.




But if you want to go commercial.... List your PhD. Just don't let your degree and experience price you out of a job. It's not the degree that might turn people off, it's the $$$ and the risk of paying too much $$$ for someone who may not be able to produce right off the bat.

Apply for the jobs even if they want experience. My first job was for a senior level position. I applied anyway, and was hired as a junior. Got my foot in the door. I worked internships before that.

Mail companies your resume. Then call them on the phone and ask for an interview. Grow thick skin.



Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective
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Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30957
    
158

Andrew,
A PHD could be helpful at someplace like Google or a place that does a lot of research.


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Andre Enimot
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Joined: Jul 29, 2009
Posts: 31
Thanks Mike. Your example and advice are encouraging, I'll try to apply for positions regardless of the required experience. Regarding a gem... if I were a single bachelor guy, I'd likely stay in academia and be happy because I do like science & research. But once you get family, things and priorities are different. I have been for 5 years on postdoctoral 1-2 year contract-type positions with really low salary, poor benefits, no prospects of getting a faculty job in the area my family wants to live in, unable to purchase a home.. Yes, it is low stress and creative, but it is the time to move on and finally be able to adequately support my family.

Mike Isano wrote:You may have a gem and not realize it. Are you close to home? Low stress? Tenured? Make a decent living? If I could answer yes to those questions I would stay in academia. Even if there were big flashy contracts and salaries in the commercial world.

But if you want to go commercial.... List your PhD. Just don't let your degree and experience price you out of a job. It's not the degree that might turn people off, it's the $$$ and the risk of paying too much $$$ for someone who may not be able to produce right off the bat.

Apply for the jobs even if they want experience. My first job was for a senior level position. I applied anyway, and was hired as a junior. Got my foot in the door. I worked internships before that.

Mail companies your resume. Then call them on the phone and ask for an interview. Grow thick skin.
Andre Enimot
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 29, 2009
Posts: 31
Thanks Jeanne, that is a good point. But usually to get into place like Google one has to be at least a genius.

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Andrew,
A PHD could be helpful at someplace like Google or a place that does a lot of research.
Henry Wong
author
Sheriff

Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 18999
    
  40

Andre Enimot wrote:Thanks Jeanne, that is a good point. But usually to get into place like Google one has to be at least a genius.


Don't want to offend as I know some really really smart people working for Google... but being the really large company that it became, I really doubt that it is full of geniuses.

Henry


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Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective
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Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30957
    
158

Andre Enimot wrote:Thanks Jeanne, that is a good point. But usually to get into place like Google one has to be at least a genius.

To lead a project sure. But a lot of "entry level" people at Google have PhDs without a lot of experience. Now Google may not be in your town, but this applies to other research organizations. Or research departments at other companies like IBM. I guess I'm trying to say - look for places that value your PhD.
Andre Enimot
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 29, 2009
Posts: 31
Thanks Henry and Jeanne for the advice. I am surely trying this approach, but still not quite satisfied with the results.. First, research fields are very specific/narrow, and unfortunately the research I've done is not useful for most companies. Second, such research places are scaterred across the country, so you have to be open to moving where the new job takes you. Third, there are way too many postdocs out there. [E.g. ~100-200 applications for 1 junior faculty position somewhere in ND or WY ]

I just need to get a normal software development job and to acquire skills/experience that MOST companies will need and value (Java developer, DBA, etc...), so I could get a reasonably paying job in the specific area where we want to live.

Let me ask this question: would having PhD be a real legal obstacle for a company to hire me for an entry-level programming position? Would I be considered "overqualified" and not legally employable on such jobs? Or the company legally would have to pay extra $$ which is not desirable of course? Would appreciate an answer to this.

Edited: typo.
Luke Kolin
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Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Andre Enimot wrote:Let me ask this question: would having PhD be a real legal obstacle for a company to hire me for an entry-level programming position? Would I be considered "overqualified" and not legally employable on such jobs?


Not at all.

Or the company legally would have to pay extra $$ which is not desirable of course?


Again, not a problem. You really do have a PhD!

Cheers!

Luke
Andre Enimot
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 29, 2009
Posts: 31
Thanks Luke, then I should have a chance to make it.

Luke Kolin wrote:
Not at all.

Again, not a problem. You really do have a PhD!

Cheers!
Luke
Hussein Baghdadi
clojure forum advocate
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Joined: Nov 08, 2003
Posts: 3479

Andre Enimot wrote:Thanks Jeanne, that is a good point. But usually to get into place like Google one has to be at least a genius.

Not really, Google interviewed my two years ago...
Billy Tsai
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Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1304
If you are good with Mathematics then go apply some quantitative jobs, those kind of jobs pay ridiculously high salary.

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Elchin Asgarli
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Joined: Mar 08, 2010
Posts: 222

There are still a lot of commercial research jobs you can apply. Have you tried NSA for example? ;)


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Rodrigo Tomita
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Joined: Apr 28, 2008
Posts: 70
Andre,

I'm not exactly sure where in the west cost you are, but I think IBM Research and Microsoft Research could be good options. Also, most of the big technology companies have their headquarters in the bay area and my feeling is that your PhD would be more appreciated in those companies.

Hope it helps. I'm not living there - so I might be wrong, but that's my 2 cents.
Matthew Brown
Bartender

Joined: Apr 06, 2010
Posts: 4467
    
    8

Another place where your PhD and experience of academia would be a big advantage is a University IT department. They need people that understand the business as well as being able to cope with the technical side. I've worked as a developer in two different Universities, and people with PhDs doing that are not unusual.
Lars Clausen
Greenhorn

Joined: Dec 08, 2009
Posts: 2
Matthew Brown wrote:Another place where your PhD and experience of academia would be a big advantage is a University IT department. They need people that understand the business as well as being able to cope with the technical side. I've worked as a developer in two different Universities, and people with PhDs doing that are not unusual.


Also consider places that are on the fringe of Universities, such as libraries. I had a really good start on my commercial career at a University library.

Don't worry overmuch about lack of knowledge of specific TLAs. It's more important that you show an interest in the job and ability to learn and work. Also, your 10 years of scientific programming is nothing to sneeze at. There's a lot more that carries over between various fields and languages than many specialists/language zealots would have you believe.
Scott Donnelly
Greenhorn

Joined: Oct 20, 2011
Posts: 5
Um... dude, you should be jumping all over quant finance.

Go to efinancialcareers.com and send your resume to every recruiter on there.
Rambo Prasad
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 23, 2006
Posts: 628
I second what Scott said.Your profile would suit Quant Finance related software development, provided you are good in Mathematics(Stochastic calculus,Partial Differential equations etc..).Lot of Phd's work in this area.

But in Quant Finance C++ is used more than Java.

Check out this link below
http://www.markjoshi.com/downloads/advice.pdf


Helping hands are much better than the praying lips
John Jai
Bartender

Joined: May 31, 2011
Posts: 1776
Scott, Rambo - good thoughts...

lets see if Andre can share what he is currently working now... he should have got some thing to work on in the past one year!!
 
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