An interview with Parth N. Vakil, PhD
What is your name, your full job title, and the full name of the company you work for?
Dr. Parth N. Vakil
Applications Support Engineer II
TA Instruments – Waters LLC
What is your favorite part about working in industry?
One of my favorite parts about working in industry is the impact that I have on human society through my work. As part of the leading materials-analysis company for thermal and mechanical testing, I am working with customers in all sorts of industries making all sorts of products that are used by people globally. In addition to that, I am engaging with, helping and training people with all sorts of technical backgrounds and expertise that work in industry and academia (students included). I enjoy the work-life balance where I get to spend time after work on fitness and social experiences. Lastly, my position in industry is one that lets me grow and I am learning a lot of new science and technology despite being outside an academic setting.
Can you describe what a typical day at your job looks like?
This depends on what is going on. If I am not traveling, I am running some experiments, working on reports, learning new applications of the instruments as well as participating in meetings with my colleagues, or communicating with my territory representatives and customers. Sometimes we have customers that we do demonstrations for at the office.
When I am traveling, I am visiting our customers for training and courtesy visits, helping out at trade shows or conferences, giving talks at seminars, or attending conferences to learn more about applications of our instruments in multiple industries.
How is your current industry position different from your academic postdoc or experience as a graduate student?
I have been fortunate that my position in industry is one that allows growth and learning similar to an academic setting but with some differences. I think the focus of the work is not geared towards the final goal of getting publications and/or finding the next step which is a postdoc or professor position. Secondly, the culture in academia is focused on intensive research for long hours per week with lower pay, this might reduce productivity, and is something quite different in industry.
If you could go back in time, to before you received your job offer, and give yourself one piece of advice or encouragement, what would it be?
Continue to be optimistic and believe in your self-fulfilling prophecy. If you set your mind to really getting something, and put in the hard work, things will work out. It won’t be easy, but you must keep being positive and excited, and with some luck, the doors will open.
What was the most memorable moment for you (so far) as a Cheeky Scientist Associate?
As an extrovert that I am, I think it would be the community support and engagement that I found with CSA through the Facebook group. Seeing real people, smart people, who face challenges and succeed, who ask questions and help each other out, and through it all, realizing that you’re not the only one who is trying to figure out life post-PhD. This is broad but I think that feeling of belonging with a whole group of people just like you made it memorable. The congratulations I received and the inspiration that others got from my transition story was the cherry on the cake.
What do you see as the next step in your career?
Right now, I feel like I have just stepped into the industry setting and growing a lot. I love the people I work with and the company I work for. I am continuing to become a better applications engineer/scientist, gathering a lot of skills and industry experience. It’s still too early to figure out what comes next.
How can the Association and the Association’s members help you continue to achieve your career goals?
The association is a family of sorts, and I think it is a wonderful place to get advice on many aspects of a post-PhD career. By being able to learn about the experiences of others in industry and post-industry settings, it would help understand the trajectory one might choose to take.
Now that you’ve spent some time working in industry, what is the biggest takeaway(s) you’d like to share with those who are still executing their job search?
Everyone has a different story and path to transitioning. Continue to be optimistic and believe in your self-fulfilling prophecy. If you set your mind to really getting something, and put in the hard work, things will work out. It won’t be easy, but you have to keep being positive and excited, and with some luck, the doors will open. First work on your LinkedIn profile (as well as Glassdoor, Indeed, etc.) and make sure that it has great information that pitches who you are (Summary) and what you bring to the table (the rest of your profile on LI). Then start applying for jobs – recruiters, your connections, some direct applications through company websites and job sites liked LI and Glassdoor.
Also remember that there’s more to a job than just being a good scientist/engineer in the lab. This means you need to learn how to communicate and work with others – those with or without PhDs. Employers are looking for more than a technical expert.
To learn more about how you can transition into an industry career like Jason, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.
Isaiah believes that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life right now, you should make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.
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