An interview with Shantanu Pal, PhD
1. What is your name, your full job title, and the name of the company you work for?
Shantanu Pal, Project Lead (Research and Development), Remidio Innovative Solutions, Bangalore, India.
2. What is your favourite part about working in the industry? (this could be a specific thing about your job or work-life balance etc.)
My favourite part about working in industry is that I get a chance to build a new product or process out of my own ideas/concepts, which can be used for practical applications. Of course, the path goes through a series of learning, un-learning, and innovation. It is challenging, but nothing completely unknown to us. It is something we have been trained to do in academia. While our educational backgrounds work as the backbone, we as trained and creative minds write our growth scripts.
3. What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Our team is interdisciplinary, involving members from different backgrounds. When starting a new project, we sit down together and brainstorm an agreeable work plan that makes sense to everyone. Then we continuously set up experiments and analyze the outcomes. On a day-to-day basis, we carry out various experiments and design work, perform data analysis, and hold meetings. My work involves a balanced mixture of all these things, which gives me ample opportunity to work with colleagues from different streams and learn something new every day. We also have indoor sports facilities and regularly enjoy team outings.
4. How is your current industry position different than your academic postdoc or experience as a graduate student?
I started working directly after getting my PhD. Initially, I had a teaching job, but then I transitioned into industry. In industrial R&D work, we actually start working at the point where we would have concluded our work in academic R&D. This means that in academia, we more or less conclude our work after proving the concept and getting published, whereas in industry, development and execution of the final product is the most important part of the journey – and the most exciting!
5. If you could go back in time–before you received your job offer–and give yourself one piece of advice or encouragement, what would it be?
Toward the end of my PhD studies, when I started applying for jobs, I faced lots of rejection. Because of this, I was stressed most of the time (in addition to being stressed about work). I used to ask myself, “Am I overqualified to get a job since I have a PhD? Is my background suitable getting a job outside of academia? Am I employable elsewhere? Was getting my PhD the right choice? (Here, I admit that it was my own decision to get the degree)
I had wasted a lot of time thinking about all this. I used to look for alternate career options outside of academia. One day, while looking for options online, I discovered the Cheeky Scientist Association. I went through all of CSA’s online resources and figured out mistakes I had been making during my job search. For example, how I wasted time by thinking too negatively, and how I was lacking a strong professional network. Finally, after some deliberation, I joined the Cheeky Scientist Association started a proper job search. If I could go back in time, I would make sure not to repeat those mistakes, and I would definitely decide to join CSA much earlier during my PhD.
6. What was the most important thing you did during your job search that enabled your success?
Once I realized my mistakes, the first thing I did was to stop applying blindly with a single academic CV. Instead, before applying for a job, I would perform thorough research into the company and use proper keywords in my industry resume. This made it much easier for recruiters to compare my profile with a company’s unique requirements. I also started networking more effectively. All these changes in my job search strategy eventually led to my industry transition. At present, I am continuing with my networking strategy even after having gotten into the industry.
7. What is the most memorable moment for you (so far) as a Cheeky Scientist Associate?
Since joining CSA, I have had the opportunity to interact with several fellow Cheeky members. During those interactions, I have received a lot of valuable feedback and made some amazing personal and professional connections. Also, I have learned about good personal branding, which is very important in order to remain relevant in your career and on the job market.
8. What do you see as the next step in your career?
I would like to grow as an industry R&D scientist and take on bigger responsibilities.
9. How can the Association and the Association’s members help you continue to achieve your career goals?
Being a member of CSA has been a key decision in my career development. Whenever I have a doubt or a question regarding anything related to my career, I can always approach fellow Cheekies – they always give well-thought-out and valuable suggestions. I am thankful to all of them and consider myself lucky to be a part of this group.
10. Now that you’ve spent some time working in the industry, what is the biggest piece of advice you’d like to share with those Associates who are still executing their job search?
In my experience, some key qualities that industries look for in candidates are a positive attitude, good communication skills, preparedness, and a keen interest in learning new things. Time management and the ability to work with a team are also highly valued – and a pleasant personality is always a plus. Sometimes, it is much easier to get a job done with proper networking and a smiling face. Finally, during the job search, there will be failure. This is also a part of the process, but one must be ready to accept that and learn from mistakes. Remember that each failure is bringing you one step closer to success, so be calm and hang in there. It’s also advisable to be around people with a positive attitude. Just being around can help someone to gather enough strength to move forward.
To learn more about how you can transition into an industry career like Shantanu, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the waitlist 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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