Getting a good job

From: Eric J. Korpela <>
Date: Sat Jul 1 16:38:06 2000

> > We also expect that a PhD should be able to perform any task that might
> > require a mechanical, electrical, software or civil engineer, an MBA,
> > economist, lawyer or priest. They better have learned more in that extra 4+
> > years of school than they did in the 16 previous.
> If you amend that to "...learned more about a very specific topic in that
> extra 4+ years..." then I'd agree.

That's not my experience. Specialization is required for the project,
generalization is required for sucessfully completing it. Perhaps it's
different in engineering than it is in the sciences.

> The principle problem with Ph.D.s is that their knowledge base tends to
> be as narrow as any other new grads; the only distinction being that they
> have significantly more depth in one very specific area.

I disagree.

> I've had more than one occasion
> where such people were literally reduced to tears in design meetings
> as a consequence of being crucified by some staff engineer.

I've also seen precisely the opposite where an engineer has been so caught
up in the way things have been done that they can't understand that there
just might be a better way or a case where the old way won't work.

> It just means that there are problems
> > I can drop in the lap of a typical PhD that would take a week to explain to
> > the typical programmer.
> "...drop in the lap of a typical PhD who is familiar with the problem area..."

Again I disagree. If a PhD is unfamiliar with the problem area they will
get familiar with it damn quick. That's what is expected of them. If they
don't do what's expected of them, you don't keep 'em around. Then again an
engineer who is unfamiliar with the problem area will likely come into your
office every hour and a half to ask a question.

> When they were done we tried to find other things
> for them to do, but they were only marginally more effective than
> our new crop of four-year grads. The person in question is now making
> use of their Ph.D. by teaching undergraduate CS courses.

I'm not saying there aren't idiots with PhDs out there. Did you ever
think that putting the PhDs to work doing the same tasks as the new crop
of four-year grads was a waste of material? You don't hire a PhD to write
Visual Basic code, you hire PhD's to do work that you need a PhD for.

> > It's a different skill set, and should be treated as such.
> I don't see any evidence that the skill set is particularly different;

Perhaps that's because you treat them like fresh undergrads.

> All the Ph.D. represents is an additional four years of training in an
> environment that is skewed from the one found in industry;

Ph.D. must me different where you come from. Where I come from a Ph.D.
candidate is not getting much training apart what they provide themselves.
The biggest difference I see between people in industry and people doing
their thesis projects is that people in industry work shorter hours.

> It's all about what you can
> do and how well it fits with my needs. Everything else is meaningless.

Of course, and if you don't need Ph.D.'s working for you, so be it. But
you might want to consider that the guy with the Ph.D. may be able to do
quite a bit more than you need...

Received on Sat Jul 01 2000 - 16:38:06 BST

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