Help us understand the problem. What is going on with this article?

My personal observation of the differences between academia and industry so far / 学問と産業の違いに関する個人的観察

At first/はじめに

This is the final article of Wano group Advent Calendar 2019.
こちらは、Wanoグループ Advent Calendar 2019 の最終日の記事です。

Here, I have written about the differences between academia and industry based on my experiences. Please scroll down to read the translated version of this article. I'd be happy to receive any comments or suggestions!

English version

A brief introduction about myself before I begin

When I left Japan back in 2000, the 10 year old me promised myself that I would visit the country again. Fast forward 16 years later, I came to Japan as a PhD student under the MEXT scholarship which was fully funded by the government of Japan. My reasons to come to Japan to pursue higher studies however was more than just a childhood dream. Interest in nature and ecology, previous experiences of research and the desire to experience studying abroad made me want to do a PhD in Japan. Pursuing PhD was a great learning experience. I was fortunate to get a supportive academic mentor. Not only did I get the opportunity to learn new hard skills such as data analysis, R and scientific writing, I also developed soft skills such as time management, project management and organization.


In September 2019, I successfully graduated! Although it was a relief to be able to have my research published and graduate (our lab required us to publish at least one paper to graduate), it was frustrating to think about what to do after graduation. This predicament kept me sleepless for many nights. I discussed my anxiety about the future career with my labmates and they too shared the same dilemma. Indeed, a survey by POL - a company that provides job hunting services to researchers found that out of 68 students, 80% of them were apprehensive about getting a doctorate degree and the main concern was the uncertain future after graduation.

Goodbye academia

After giving it a lot of consideration, I finally decided to leave academia and shift to the non-research industry. I left academia because I realized I was more interested in digital marketing than aquatic ecology and that my skills were transferable. For me, the job in the private sector seemed more secure than academia and I thought it would be interesting to work with people from different backgrounds outside of university.

After three years of experience of being a PhD researcher and working at EDOCODE for two months now, I have observed some key differences between academia and industry.

Three key differences between academia and industry

1. One-man army vs teamwork

Being a PhD researcher was like being a one-man army. Back in the University, I was solely responsible for my entire project. PhD researchers are expected to plan a suitable project, choose scientifically valid methods to do their research, conduct experiments, collect data, clean the data, analyze, interpret the results, write a paper and publish their work. Some PhD researchers also teach and supervise graduate students.

Since PhD is about doing something innovative and contributing something significant to the scientific community, it wouldn’t be surprising if it takes months to just think of a new project. It took me many months to just set up the environment to run a model and I made many rookie mistakes along the way. It was fun to manage my own project. Not having to rely on anyone and being responsible for my work meant that the pace of the project depended on me and I had a deep knowledge about what I was doing. However, being single-handedly responsible for a huge project and the pressure to publish made me anxious which sometimes affected my productivity.

On the other hand, in industry, each person generally has a set of tasks delegated to them within a project. For example, at EDOCODE, product managers, engineers and designers have their own duties and responsibilities and for a particular project, we come together and work as a team. Working in teams has given me more opportunity to see things from a different angle. Everyone is unique and has different skills, backgrounds and experiences which makes work more fun. The background music inside the office also makes here a relaxing environment to work at.

2. Time and Pace

Industry is fast paced. In his talk at Tokyo this November, Marty Cagan, the author of “How to create products customers love” said that startups should aim to create a minimum viable prototype within 4 days or 4 weeks, but not 4 months. In industry, results are expected quickly and results are implemented sooner. One of the analysis that we did at EDOCODE for one of our clients seemed to have been implemented just after 2-3 days of our submission of the analysis.

Lean and agile development, explained by Marty Cagan.

While industry is more result oriented, academia is discovery oriented. Therefore in academia, publications must be peer reviewed. Although peer reviews make sure that your work is scientifically valid and generally improve the overall quality of the paper, it can be quite time consuming. On the other hand, when working by myself, I decided my pace and got the work done quicker since there were no outside interactions and extra meetings.

3. Communication and Feedback

Although our lab highly encouraged us to have more discussions by organizing a weekly seminar, since I was the only one doing that particular research in my lab, my scope of discussions were very limited. Academic conferences are great platforms to present one’s research but rather infrequent.
Compared to the academic environment, I think EDOCODE has a great platform to discuss and express opinions. EDOCODE has been encouraging its staff to communicate by having daily updates, organizing lunches and events.

These are the differences between academia and industry that I have experienced so far. Nevertheless, I feel fortunate to have met and worked with great people in both areas.

Job hunting in Japan as a PhD graduate

A researcher in my lab used to say that it is difficult for PhD graduates to get a job in Japan. A report by the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTEP) published in 2018 indeed showed that the number of employees of doctoral course graduates is low in the private sector. I too had a hard time finding a job in Japan. Additionally, as a foreigner with limited Japanese language ability, a niche area of specialization made job hunting process a daunting task in Japan.

Transferable soft skills

A survey by POL showed that nearly half of companies hiring science students are reluctant to hire doctoral students in Japan.

Industry don't prefer PhD graduates.JPG
Source: POL

I think, PhD graduates are an important labor force in the society and should definitely be welcomed in industry because the skills we acquired during our PhD such as time management, communication, ability to gather and interpret information, project management etc are some of the top transferable skills for PhDs. LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report has shown that 92% of recruiters said that soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills. We may need a bit of polishing in our communication skills, especially when talking to clients - but these skills can be learned in a matter of time.

Source: LinkedIn

Learning is a lifelong journey

Besides product management, currently I am learning ways to communicate better with clients by learning business Japanese. Additionally, any hard skills that we lack can always be learned if we are up for it. At EDOCODE, I am learning Google Analytics and BigQuery. I am in my early 30s now and if I were to work until 60, I would still have 30 more years to learn new skills and do the work I enjoy. In fact, I think learning is a lifelong journey and I am looking forward to the new skills I can acquire on the way.

Parting thoughts

Considering the value PhD graduates can bring and the present labor shortage in Japan, shouldn’t Japan make more effort to hire PhD graduates?











1. ワンマンアーミー VS チームワーク




2. 時間とペース

企業産業のペースはとても早いですね。私が11月に参加したミートアップで聞いたマーティ ケーガン、“How to create products customers love” の著者によると、スタートアップはminimum viable prototype を4日か4週間までに作るべきだそうです。企業産業では、結果はすぐに期待され、より早く実装されます。クライアントに対してEDOCODEで行った分析の1つは、分析の提出から2〜3日後に実施されたようです。

Marty Caganが説明した、アジャイルとリーン開発のペース。

産業界は結果志向ですが、学界は発見志向です。なので、学界では、論文(scientific paper)を査読(peer review)する必要がありますね。査読は、研究が科学的に有効であることを確認し、論文の全体的な品質を改善しますが、かなり時間がかかる場合があります。一方、自分で作業するときは、ペースを決めて、外部とのやり取りや追加の会議がなかったので、作業を迅速に完了できました。

3. コミュニケーションとフィードバック



これらは、私がこれまでに経験した学界と産業界の違いですね。 それにもかかわらず、両方の分野で素晴らしい人々に会って仕事をしたことを幸運に思っています。





Industry don't prefer PhD graduates.JPG
出典: POL

私は博士号を取得した卒業生は、社会の重要な労働力であり、間違いなく業界で歓迎されるべきだと思っています。なぜかと言うと大学院として時間管理、コミュニケーション、情報の収集および解釈する能力、プロジェクト管理などのソフトスキルはどこでも役に立つことができるからです。LinkedInのGlobal Talent Trends 2019レポートでは、採用担当者の92%が、ハードスキルよりもソフトスキルを採用することが重要であると述べています。もちろん、ビジネスマナー、ビジネス用語やクライアントとの話し方は学ばなければなりませんが不可能ではないです。仕事を始めたらきっと覚えると思います。

Source: LinkedIn


今はEDOCODEでGoogle AnalyticsとBigQueryを学んでいます。クライアントとの話し方やメールのやり取りを習っています。さらに、不足しているハードスキルは、勉強すればいつでも学ぶことができると思います。今30代前半であり、60歳まで働いたとしても、新しいスキルを学び、自分が楽しいと思っている仕事をするために30年はまだ残っていると思います。これから習得できる新しいスキルを楽しみにしています!



Why not register and get more from Qiita?
  1. We will deliver articles that match you
    By following users and tags, you can catch up information on technical fields that you are interested in as a whole
  2. you can read useful information later efficiently
    By "stocking" the articles you like, you can search right away
No comments
Sign up for free and join this conversation.
If you already have a Qiita account
Why do not you register as a user and use Qiita more conveniently?
You need to log in to use this function. Qiita can be used more conveniently after logging in.
You seem to be reading articles frequently this month. Qiita can be used more conveniently after logging in.
  1. We will deliver articles that match you
    By following users and tags, you can catch up information on technical fields that you are interested in as a whole
  2. you can read useful information later efficiently
    By "stocking" the articles you like, you can search right away