Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

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tjhar
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Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by tjhar » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:31 am

I was hoping to get a more balanced perspective on a potential career move.

I was originally trained in the physical sciences, PhD. Scientist, not an engineer. Today, I have options to work at science companies, think big pharma, biotech, chemicals, etc. But I don't want too, I am contemplating a move to tech, working as a data scientist. I've been working on machine and deep learning in the past 3 years, and these skills would be transferable to tech.

My main motivation is compensation and growth opportunities. I've noticed that tech companies pay way more for technical talent than any other sector, maybe with the exception of hedge funds. I'm also only looking to work for megacorps or soon-to-be megacorps, so no fly by night startups for me.

Here's some numbers Senior Scientist / Data Scientist type of salaries to illustrate the compensation disparity:
a) Senior Scientist at Science companies (typically Boston, MA or Philadelphia, PA) pays $120-130k base and ~10% bonus.
b) Senior Data Scientist at Non-Tech companies in not high COL cities also pays $120-130k base and ~10% bonus.
c) Senior Data Scientist in Seattle in tech pays $150k+ base and ~30-40% bonus.

So we're talking about going from $130-140k total comp to almost $200k total comp for the same level of seniority. COL is okay, as long as you don't go to Bay Area. I've done research, and yes I'm cherry picking Seattle because it has the highest salary adjusted for COL. Also, I am also comparing to Principal Scientist at Science companies and that does not even hit $200k total comp (typically $170-180k), and it typically requires >10 year of experience after PhD.

Why should I work in an industry that even in the best case scenario a decade from now, I will only earn as much as what I can get if I can move to a tech company?


I'm frustrated with working in science for many reasons:
1) Compensation is bad (relatively speaking). Salaries for career scientist have not increased for the last decade.
2) Supply-demand is really bad. If you are in this field, you know of the postdoc epidemics.
3) Promotion is slow because of the conservative culture.
4) Earning big money is shunned as you are "scientist", unless you are management/executive, and I can't stand this hypocrisy.

My pull factors to tech are the following:
1) There's a demand for Data Scientists right now, maybe not as big a demand as few years ago, but still more demand than non data science type positions.
2) Tech industry is growing, most science companies are not, just look at their share price.
3) Even if tech collapses, I'll have option to move laterally to other industries, and since tech has the best talent, it should not be an issue "downgrading" to tier 2 companies
4) Tech has a culture of paying well, with good signup and performance bonuses. Part of this is because they seem to give out stock options/grants more readily than other industries.

While this discussion is centered around compensation (as this is a finance forum), other factors like work-life balance also favors tech.

I need some balanced feedback. What are the risks of going to tech?


I've heard of age discrimination in tech, which is a risk that I would have to mitigate. But if I can earn 50-100% more than what I normally would, I can afford to retire in my 50s (I'm in my early 30s now).

pwill112
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by pwill112 » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:56 am

Not sure what you are doing now but outsourcing is a huge problem for tech at the type of companies you are describing. I would avoid that at all costs or completely understand it. You will probably have many jobs as tech is no longer controlled by tech people but by finance people.

What would you consider a growth opportunity for a data scientist/senior data scientist? The answer is probably another career change into management or business.

tjhar
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by tjhar » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:01 am

pwill112 wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:56 am
Not sure what you are doing now but outsourcing is a huge problem for tech at the type of companies you are describing. I would avoid that at all costs or completely understand it. You will probably have many jobs as tech is no longer controlled by tech people but by finance people.

What would you consider a growth opportunity for a data scientist/senior data scientist? The answer is probably another career change into management or business.
I think it's important to distinguish between tier-1 tech (which is where I want to be) vs normal tech. So some example of tier-1 tech is: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, Dropbox, etc.

I know outsourcing is a plague in tech, but does it happen at the tier-1 tech level?

Honestly, at the $200k compensation level, I'm already there, because in non-tech I'll need to work another 10 years to get that level, so I'm ok with whatever the career level technical position is. I also don't have an issue with going to management or business.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:03 am

I've worked with many PhD physicists over the years who because of a lack of job offers in their field became engineers doing everything from switching power supply design to DSP hardware applications. I'll say that you guys are quite thorough. :D

I'd think that working as an engineer will open a lot of doors to job openings from design through applications and even sales support (where the bigger money is). The opposite way to go is academics and I know that that's a huge risk with colleges going to Adjunct professors instead of tenor track.

The risks in engineering is that many Megacorps have ramped up groups in India and China because of the much lower cost of people. While your background would be superior to a 22 year old just out of college, Megacorps don't want to pay more than a youngun just out of college. There are some exceptions and I've noted that military contractors are one of them. There is also age discrimination at some Megacorps with defined programs to push out those who age out. (happened to me) Not sure how to avoid that.
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market timer
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by market timer » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:05 am

Have you applied to a tier 1 tech company and received an offer?

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Top99%
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by Top99% » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:21 am

I work have worked in tech since 1986 at 3 different Megacorps. Since OP asked why one should NOT work in tech:
1) If you are not good at saving money for a rainy day tech is not a good choice because when it rains it tends to pour. Many tech workers were unemployed for a long period of time in 2001-2002. The pay can be very good in tech but it can also be very volatile.
2) If you are not willing to constantly grow your skills tech is not a good choice. See my email signature.
3) If you plan on waiting until your 50s to really start saving under the assumption this will coincide with your peak earning years I think tech is a poor choice. My inflation adjusted peak earning years were in my late 30s and this is true of many people my age who work in tech. Part of this was driven by outsourcing really starting to hold down real wages in the 2000s. Tech can be a dangerous place to be in your 50s or later if you are not already at least partially financially independent.
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adamthesmythe
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by adamthesmythe » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:23 am

Personally I would not have made a similar change because I wanted to do research. It gave me a good but not excellent salary until I recently retired.

Go ahead and make the change if (1) doing research is not important to you (2) you are very confident about the long-term prospects in the new field and (3) your job satisfaction will be OK in the new position.

What you call "tech" tends to go through rapid changes in fashion. What is hot to day may not be hot tomorrow.

finite_difference
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by finite_difference » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:28 am

I think it’s important to account for COL, like you are doing.

Option b, Total Comp = $138k (LCOL).

Option c, Total Comp = $203k (HCOL).

However, HCOL vs LCOL is easily more than 50%. And you will be paying more taxes with a higher salary. So to me it looks like you will actually earning less in the HCOL area. A house might cost $800k vs $150k, and property taxes might be $10k/year vs $2k, etc.

But it can still be worth it. It depends on where you want to live more, the particular HCOL area or the LCOL area?

In terms of job stability, I’d argue that research scientist/academic positions could be more stable than tech. Tech is notoriously not stable in the long term, and we have a lot of posters claiming above 50 gets tough. But I don’t see machine learning/deep learning going out of favor any time within the next 100 years either.

So if it’s very stable and you like the area/research, I would go for Option a).
The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. - Thich Nhat Hanh

pwill112
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by pwill112 » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:42 am

tjhar wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:01 am
pwill112 wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:56 am
Not sure what you are doing now but outsourcing is a huge problem for tech at the type of companies you are describing. I would avoid that at all costs or completely understand it. You will probably have many jobs as tech is no longer controlled by tech people but by finance people.

What would you consider a growth opportunity for a data scientist/senior data scientist? The answer is probably another career change into management or business.
I think it's important to distinguish between tier-1 tech (which is where I want to be) vs normal tech. So some example of tier-1 tech is: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, Dropbox, etc.

I know outsourcing is a plague in tech, but does it happen at the tier-1 tech level?

Honestly, at the $200k compensation level, I'm already there, because in non-tech I'll need to work another 10 years to get that level, so I'm ok with whatever the career level technical position is. I also don't have an issue with going to management or business.
I can tell you that Google has onsite eateries, laundry services, resting areas because most people working there only go home to sleep. They are at work all the time. Dropbox has not turned a profit yet. Microsoft owns Linkedin. Layoffs are also an issue, not just outsourcing at any company. People at Amazon work very hard. Your first desk will be a door on it's side to represent Jeff Bezos's first desk when he started up.

There is no such thing as tier-1 tech vs normal tech. I am not sure how you would judge your premise.

While you may want to go into management or business, so will many others and only a select few will achieve that. A very small percentage for sure.

Tech is not "growing" at the rate of previous decades where it was a safe bet and you will always be employed. It's really important to understand globilization as it will continue to have negative impact on US wages and job opportunities. There are cheaper countries for companies to place their employees. Not to mention that Warren Buffet highlights that the US healthcare costs that companies absorb force them to place people outside the US.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by greg24 » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:47 am

You may not succeed in tech. It happens.

badger42
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by badger42 » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:48 am

I'm going to give you the cynical view.

Tech is good if you're disciplined. Tech is good if you can negotiate a solid package (senior-ish data science / ML type at a large tech company in a HCOL area should manage at least 300k-400k comp including base, bonus, RSUs, etc), and then save a decent chunk of your base plus all of the bonus and RSUs.

Tech is good if you realize you have a limited shelf life, that things get progressively harder as you get older, and that tech has the attention span of a gerbil on speed. Data science and ML are currently hot, there's no guarantee they'll be hot in 5 years.

Put in your years, save towards FI, plan to be out by age 45 at the latest.

In tech, it's really easy to get hard-core lifestyle creep, then be in big trouble when things go south (they will, it's just a question of when)

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Chan_va
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by Chan_va » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:52 am

OP,

You are spot on and haven't missed anything. Take the plunge into tech. If you have the chops to get hired at a top tier tech company, it's definitely worth it. There is likely more risk, but the risk/reward ratio is in your favor.

P.S - I hire people like you at a Tier-1 tech company. PM me if you want more details.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by Afty » Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:10 am

I am an engineer at one of those "Tier-1" tech companies. I am certainly not at work all the time. I work 8:30-5:30 most days. My weekends are free. The free lunches and onsite whatnot let me optimize my day so that I can get the maximum amount of work done, and then head home to be with my family.

I can't imagine the company I work for doing much outsourcing. I've never met anyone here with that concern.

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Pajamas
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by Pajamas » Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:17 am

You should also consider the type of organization and what its mission is and what you will be focused on achieving. You want to feel good about what you are doing and where you are doing it, be treated well, and be compensated fairly.

What's most important in the long run? Looking back, I can't tell you exactly how much I made or exactly how many days I had for vacation each year at any organization that I worked for, but I can tell you exactly how I felt about the various aspects of working there.

You can crunch numbers but in the end, you want to be happy about how you are spending your time every day, too.

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jharkin
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by jharkin » Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:18 am

tjhar wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:01 am
pwill112 wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:56 am
Not sure what you are doing now but outsourcing is a huge problem for tech at the type of companies you are describing. I would avoid that at all costs or completely understand it. You will probably have many jobs as tech is no longer controlled by tech people but by finance people.

What would you consider a growth opportunity for a data scientist/senior data scientist? The answer is probably another career change into management or business.
I think it's important to distinguish between tier-1 tech (which is where I want to be) vs normal tech. So some example of tier-1 tech is: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, Dropbox, etc.

I know outsourcing is a plague in tech, but does it happen at the tier-1 tech level?

Honestly, at the $200k compensation level, I'm already there, because in non-tech I'll need to work another 10 years to get that level, so I'm ok with whatever the career level technical position is. I also don't have an issue with going to management or business.

Outsourcing happens at all levels, you better believe that those top companies like Microsoft and Google have operations all over the world. I work at a midsize tech (6000 employees) and our buildings in India are right across the street from Microsoft and Dell, etc. Same thing with our buildings in Ireland, Israel, China, etc...

There is a difference between "outsourcing" and "offshoring" and even in how offshoring is done. Non-tech companies that need tech functions often outsource to a vendor. A pure tech company is outsourcing some elements that are not core competencies, but a lot of what you are really interested in is "offshoring" where the function is moved overseas but is still in direct control.

Offshoring also happens in waves. 20 years ago the big waves where functional, where you started by moving support overseas, then the quality division, then some developers. You where left with management, business functions and senior developer/architect roles at USA HQ... Over the years there has been a big backlash against that as these globally distributed teams can be inefficient, so the focus has moved to co-location. You are still distributed globally but rather than move functions you move product lines... So a company may have all functions for one product in the valley, and all functions for another product in Bangalore. Often these decisions are based on maturity - so in a big company like Microsoft (Im just making up an example) you might move the older products overseas and keep the new development/next gen work here in the states.

There is a well known executive strategy book on this topic called "Zone to Win" I know at my company it was required reading for all managers a few years ago...


All of that to say, having lived thought the dot com bubble, the depths of mid-2000 offshore downsizing, etc I think job prospects in tech are actually still quite good if you are qualified. But location is key, as is having an in demand skillset. i.e. you don't want to be just a cookie cutter 22 year old BS.CS grad in the midwest.... The valley pays the most but has insane COL and the reputation for people aging out at 35. Boston pays a lot less but seems to have a better mix of startups, Google/Amazon, and older generation tech megas (MSFT, Cisco, Dell, IBM, etc) along with lots of biomed and science.
Last edited by jharkin on Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:27 am, edited 2 times in total.

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LiveSimple
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by LiveSimple » Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:24 am

The skills you have data science + deep learning is very emerging and hence pays more.

Also look at more corporate than to limit to science companies, these skills pay well overall in many states.

https://www.indeed.com/q-Deep-Learning- ... -jobs.html
https://www.indeed.com/q-Deep-Learning- ... -jobs.html

The skills pay, not the industry you are in, so you are in a good position.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by ThriftyPhD » Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:57 am

tjhar wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:31 am
I was originally trained in the physical sciences, PhD. Scientist, not an engineer. Today, I have options to work at science companies, think big pharma, biotech, chemicals, etc. But I don't want too, I am contemplating a move to tech, working as a data scientist. I've been working on machine and deep learning in the past 3 years, and these skills would be transferable to tech.
The question is, will your PhD training be valued by the tech company, or will you be compared to a 25 year old with a comp sci MS with focus on Machine Learning, and how would you compare to that person with more direct training? That's not to say you couldn't excel in a tech company, but as someone asked already, have you received offers from tech companies?

Personally I think the PhD training in addition to your background in ML/DL would make you an excellent asset in the right tech company with a very unique skillset, but part of the challenge is selling that to the hiring manager who may be used to evaluating Comp Sci MS. An ideal fit might be a tech company that sells to the science companies and develops products for science companies.
While this discussion is centered around compensation (as this is a finance forum), other factors like work-life balance also favors tech.
Why do you assume this? I know plenty at Science MegaCorp that work 9-5 MF, 3+ weeks vacation in first year, half day Fridays during summer months, unlimited sick days, dozen+ holidays, maternity/paternity leave, dependent care leave, etc. I also know some that work insane hours. It depends a lot on the company. The same is likely true in tech, though you hear more about the insane hours in tech than you do at the Science companies.

You also mentioned Philadelphia and Boston for the Science companies. True, and these (in addition to NJ) are likely to be the more higher cost of living areas for these types of companies. You also have Eli Lilly in Indiana, Dow Chemical in Michigan, Proctor and Gamble in Ohio, Energy companies in Texas, and a bunch of AgBio in North Carolina. There is quite a range in cost of living and environment depending on what type of Science company interests you.

I would suggest you apply to both, see what offers you get and compare the specific jobs and the specific companies that are willing to hire you. Don't talk yourself out of an entire sector before seeing what they are willing to offer. I also wouldn't look at it as a life defining decision. If you work in tech for 5 years, that would likely make you even more in demand at the Science company. Similarly, if you're the Chief Data Science Wizard at BigScienceCorp, a move to tech could be easier since you'll have even more ML/DL experience and credentials.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by Wealth_Builder » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:07 pm

I work in a Tier-1 Technology Company (per your definition) and I'd absolutely suggest aiming for it. I left an engineering discipline and working in tech has been leaps and bounds better in regards to; compensation, growth opportunities, benefits (4 months paternity leave, etc.), quality of people I work with, ability to learn on the job. The only issues I'd say at a quick glance are potential for cyclical income, "Save now because things will contract at some point", and the gravitation of these positions to pull you to HCOL areas such as the Bay.

Best of luck!

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by United2008 » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:08 pm

pwill112 wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:42 am
tjhar wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:01 am
pwill112 wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:56 am
Not sure what you are doing now but outsourcing is a huge problem for tech at the type of companies you are describing. I would avoid that at all costs or completely understand it. You will probably have many jobs as tech is no longer controlled by tech people but by finance people.

What would you consider a growth opportunity for a data scientist/senior data scientist? The answer is probably another career change into management or business.
I think it's important to distinguish between tier-1 tech (which is where I want to be) vs normal tech. So some example of tier-1 tech is: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, Dropbox, etc.

I know outsourcing is a plague in tech, but does it happen at the tier-1 tech level?

Honestly, at the $200k compensation level, I'm already there, because in non-tech I'll need to work another 10 years to get that level, so I'm ok with whatever the career level technical position is. I also don't have an issue with going to management or business.
I can tell you that Google has onsite eateries, laundry services, resting areas because most people working there only go home to sleep. They are at work all the time. Dropbox has not turned a profit yet. Microsoft owns Linkedin. Layoffs are also an issue, not just outsourcing at any company. People at Amazon work very hard. Your first desk will be a door on it's side to represent Jeff Bezos's first desk when he started up.

There is no such thing as tier-1 tech vs normal tech. I am not sure how you would judge your premise.

While you may want to go into management or business, so will many others and only a select few will achieve that. A very small percentage for sure.

Tech is not "growing" at the rate of previous decades where it was a safe bet and you will always be employed. It's really important to understand globilization as it will continue to have negative impact on US wages and job opportunities. There are cheaper countries for companies to place their employees. Not to mention that Warren Buffet highlights that the US healthcare costs that companies absorb force them to place people outside the US.
Have you worked at Google, LinkedIn, or similar recently? The employees certainly work hard but I have many friends at these companies who are home for dinner with their family every night (except when traveling, which is modest). Their hours are quite reasonable and flexible, especially for Silicon Valley. Quality of life is great -- our friends regularly volunteer at their kids schools, coach sports, take consistent vacations, and aren't working late nights. **Amazon in Seattle might be an exception.

At least in the valley, the younger companies tend to require much more of an hours commitment. They often also pay much less from a "cash comp" perspective, and thus the free food, laundry, etc. helps out the junior employees. My sense is that you're past this phase, but the large tech company may be a good choice. Just do your homework on the particular target company first.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by ThriftyPhD » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:13 pm

I will also add that your a), b), and c), while they vary in compensation, all represent options that will allow you to live a high quality life while saving at a high rate and achieving early financial independence. Do not discount your interests. If you're more interested in the science position, it may be worth taking a compensation hit if you're going to enjoy the work more. And similarly for the tech position, if that interests you more. You've spent many years earning a difficult degree, and part of that payoff should be that you get to work on projects that are intellectually interesting to you.

Don't discount compensation, but if you ignore it for a moment, what type of work interests you more?

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by ThriftyPhD » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:15 pm

United2008 wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:08 pm
At least in the valley, the younger companies tend to require much more of an hours commitment. They often also pay much less from a "cash comp" perspective, and thus the free food, laundry, etc. helps out the junior employees. My sense is that you're past this phase, but the large tech company may be a good choice. Just do your homework on the particular target company first.
This is also true at the smaller 'Science' companies and startups. Less cash compensation and greater hours worked expectation, with more compensation coming from stock/equity.

software
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by software » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:20 pm

I am a software engineer for what you would define as a "Tier-1 tech" company, and I can confirm it is awesome. Not just the direct rewards of compensation/benefits but also the indirect benefits. I am constantly being headhunted by other companies now that I work for one of the "Big 5" (FAANG). Companies are also usually willing to be very flexible as well due to the extreme amount of competition for top tech talent.

The rub is that it is actually quite difficult to get your foot into the door here. I would echo the questions above, do you already have an offer and are just deciding whether to take it? I have to imagine it is even more difficult in data science because there aren't as many open positions (could be wrong here, not as familiar with that area).

Bottom line, my recommendation is that if you can get your foot in the door, DO IT! :)

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by KlangFool » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:21 pm

OP,

I know absolutely nothing about you. So, take the followings as observations from a neutral party.

1) Until you have an offer, it is just wild guesses.

2) So, you have years of training in Physic. Instead of capitalizing that, you only have 3 years of training in data science and ML and you want to compete in that area? How does that make any sense?

3) If you can learn those stuff in 3 years, other can do that too. So, how long before those kinds of jobs are either outsource or drop in compensation?

4) If you want to work for tech companies, why can't you apply for a job as Physicist in the tech companies? There are jobs for Physicist at those companies.

5) How much is your pay now?

KlangFool
Last edited by KlangFool on Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

sksbog
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by sksbog » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:24 pm

pwill112 wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:56 am
Not sure what you are doing now but outsourcing is a huge problem for tech at the type of companies you are describing. I would avoid that at all costs or completely understand it. You will probably have many jobs as tech is no longer controlled by tech people but by finance people.

What would you consider a growth opportunity for a data scientist/senior data scientist? The answer is probably another career change into management or business.
I second this. In tech there are phases- think Y2K, .com, packaged cots, could , now AI and machine learning. Tomorrow there would be something else. People who grew up with these know how to survive. Rest come and go.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by EngineerEd » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:30 pm

pwill112 wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:42 am
tjhar wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:01 am
pwill112 wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:56 am
Not sure what you are doing now but outsourcing is a huge problem for tech at the type of companies you are describing. I would avoid that at all costs or completely understand it. You will probably have many jobs as tech is no longer controlled by tech people but by finance people.

What would you consider a growth opportunity for a data scientist/senior data scientist? The answer is probably another career change into management or business.
I think it's important to distinguish between tier-1 tech (which is where I want to be) vs normal tech. So some example of tier-1 tech is: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, Dropbox, etc.

I know outsourcing is a plague in tech, but does it happen at the tier-1 tech level?

Honestly, at the $200k compensation level, I'm already there, because in non-tech I'll need to work another 10 years to get that level, so I'm ok with whatever the career level technical position is. I also don't have an issue with going to management or business.
I can tell you that Google has onsite eateries, laundry services, resting areas because most people working there only go home to sleep. They are at work all the time.
Sounds like rubbish hearsay.

Of the companies mentioned in this thread as tier 1 (Google, FB, Amazon, Dropbox, Microsoft) I've only heard of poor work/life balance as a SWE in Amazon AWS (which is only one department in Amazon).

One of my closest friends works at Facebook's Manhattan office (FBNY) as a software engineer. He gets into work at 9:45AM only because breakfast stops being served at 10AM. He leaves at 6:30PM because dinner is served at 6PM. All meals in their cafeteria are free.

Since their office in NYC is much smaller than the one in Menlo Park, they do not have some of the same amenities on-site. For example, he does not have free laundry in office. Instead he gets ~$100/month credit for any laundry service of his choosing which he can reimburse to the company. This is so his perks are matched with those of a SWE working at their main campus.

If he's "on call" (once or twice a month) he has to be ready to either fix live problems or dispatch it to someone who can fix it. This effectively means he logs into his work laptop from home and VPNs in, and then watches TV unless any fire drills come up.

Hardly what I would call conditions where one would "only go home to sleep" and be "at work all the time".

_______

There are certainly other concerns with entering the tech field that have been brought up (outsourcing, need to learn and adapt constantly, earnings not growing in twilight years (40+ y/o) etc.). I think those are more real concerns.

I'll bring up another too. Much of the compensation package nowadays is your sign-on RSU package (restricted stock unit, stock options that vest regularly). Your sign-on RSU package is probably more generous than the re-up RSU you get every year, so once your sign-on RSU expires (usually within 3-4 years) your compensation actually drops. It effectively serves as a deferred signing bonus used to lure you from another company or from college away from other employers.

This encourages job hopping pretty heavily, so be prepared for that aspect of tech life too.

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Watty
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by Watty » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:58 pm

tjhar wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:31 am
Here's some numbers Senior Scientist / Data Scientist type of salaries to illustrate the compensation disparity:
a) Senior Scientist at Science companies (typically Boston, MA or Philadelphia, PA) pays $120-130k base and ~10% bonus.
b) Senior Data Scientist at Non-Tech companies in not high COL cities also pays $120-130k base and ~10% bonus.
c) Senior Data Scientist in Seattle in tech pays $150k+ base and ~30-40% bonus.

So we're talking about going from $130-140k total comp to almost $200k total comp for the same level of seniority. COL is okay, as long as you don't go to Bay Area. I've done research, and yes I'm cherry picking Seattle because it has the highest salary adjusted for COL.
A couple of things;

I used to live in the Pacific Northwest and it is a wonderful place and many people thrive there but it is not for everyone. With the clouds and short summers a significant percentage of people that move there want to leave a after a few years. Don't underestimate how big a factor this can be. If you are married then both of you will need to be Ok with the weather there.

You really need to look at your numbers in after tax dollars since in some situations nearly half of any gains may go to taxes.

The COL is not just the housing. When I moved from a high cost of living area to a low cost of living area almost everything I bought locally was much lower. Do not underestimate the impact of this.

One pitfall in looking at the cost of living and housing numbers is that you may be looking at averages for a city but when you have a job at one of the big companies you mentioned you will want to live near that job so that you do not have a terrible commute. The housing near the big employers will typically cost much more than the city average. Find a place where you would likely work and look at the housing costs within a 20 minute drive at rush hour.
pwill112 wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:56 am
3) Even if tech collapses, I'll have option to move laterally to other industries, and since tech has the best talent, it should not be an issue "downgrading" to tier 2 companies
It would be good to verify that. It might be possible to go to startups but companies will pickup the vibe that you would consider a job with them to be " downgrading to a tier 2 company" and would have concerns that you would not fit in there especially if your salary would be lower. Even if you are good no one wants to work with a prima donna that will likely leave after a few years.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by cantos » Mon Apr 02, 2018 1:17 pm

Friend of mine in 30s switched from law to AI programming (took 2 years off to do Masters) and was heavily recruited by firms that need it, from insurance companies to tech companies to Goldman Sachs. He llikes it a lot, and chose a start up as he doesn't care too much about compensation.

As you do machine/deep learning I can say it is a hot market now (his entire class was heavily recruited).

Side note, though, he is a genius.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by jharkin » Mon Apr 02, 2018 1:31 pm

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, Dropbox, etc.
On thing that keeps bothering me about this discussion.... is the arbitrary list of "tier 1" companies.

Dropbox is not even profitable yet afaik
LinkedIn is a subsidiary of Microsoft now.
Facebook is booming but with all the bad press they get lately you never know when they could fall, and if it comes their fall could be even faster than their rise.
Amazon is really in a category of its own... and depending on what part of the business you get into you could be dealing with e-commerce, cloud computing, robotics, or a zillion other things..
If you want Silicon valley superstars, where's Netflix, Paypal, Ebay, on the list?
If you want biggest of the big, how did you miss Apple?
If you want the old established pre-internet boom tech giants how about Cisco, Oracle, Dell, IBM, HP, etc?


Point being is if you are going to jump into tech I think you need to do a bit more homework on this companies and decide which is a good fit from the perspective of your skills, the companies culture, business outlook, sector, etc etc etc. Right now, it looks like you just picked a bunch of famous names??...

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by a » Mon Apr 02, 2018 3:45 pm

Your brain is hungry to learn.

Stretching one's brain builds cognitive reserve and happiness.

quantAndHold
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by quantAndHold » Mon Apr 02, 2018 4:30 pm

If you like doing data science, absolutely, move into data science for a tech company. Pay is good, working conditions are good, data science is likely to be in demand for years to come.

I worked for one of the “tier 1” companies. Working conditions are similar to non-tier 1 companies. Pay is better, often much better. Those companies all already have operations around the world, not because it’s cheaper to hire abroad, but because they all have an insatiable need for talent, and are willing to go around the world to get it. I lived through the whole “outsourcing” boom/bust cycle 15 years ago, and the way that the big tech companies are using offshore talent now is very different from how companies outsourced and offshored work during that period.

Tier 1 companies are both easy and hard to get into. It’s actually pretty easy to get an interview. They have an insatiable demand for people, and will interview practically anyone who has minimal qualifications. It’s hard to get hired, though, unless you have a strong grasp of the fundamentals for your discipline. One year I interviewed over 100 people. Maybe one in five would get through the phone screen to the in-person interview. Of those, maybe one in five would survive the in-person interview and get an offer. Of the hundred I interviewed, I think one or two actually came to work for us.

Working for a non-tier 1 company is also an option. The pay is not as good, but it is still good, and better than you’re likely to make as a scientist. I worked for a chemistry software company as a software engineer a few years ago. Mid-level software engineers, at the time, made an around $125k. A PhD chemist, with several years of programming experience, could make $85k.

Other people alluded to the fact that tech is cyclical. The compensation that gets bandied about recently, on Bogleheads and elsewhere, includes large amounts of stock. During market downturns, base salaries stay constant, but stock compensation drops, so overall compensation takes a dive. I know many, many people who made pots of money during the dotcom boom, lost it all during the dotcom bust, retired in 2007, came back out of retirement in 2009, and are still working. I call them the people who never sold their company stock.

Oh. And. Seattle is kind of an acquired taste. Some people are happy there. Many aren’t. The first winter I was there, it was 32 degrees and drizzly, 24/7, for four months. I live in Southern California now.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by JBTX » Mon Apr 02, 2018 4:47 pm

Not sure how much perspective I can bring, but:

- I worked a brief stint in a software company almost 2 decades ago. I hated it. Generally a lot of young smart people, but at the same time they weren’t as smart as they thought the were. Extreme levels of arrogance. Not a lot of common sense. They were checking their stock price every day worried about stock option values. A lot of self contratulatory behavior around sales and compensation for a company that kind of imploded shortly afterwards.

I have friends that have worked decades in the chip/hardware industry and they often express frustration at the changing work culture. Many people coming from outside of the US making it more competitive and sometimes bring different values. I’ll just leave it at that.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by tjhar » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:51 pm

Thanks to everyone for the great comments. I'll post my responses to the common questions/responses.

Do you have an offer

No, I don't. But I've seen my peers (similar experience, PhD trained, but not CS background) moving on to tech industry. Of course I am not delusional to think that I may get a position at Google at the first shot, so it might be a longer route where I get a job in tech first, then move up to a tier 1 company within 2-3 years.

On being a commodity

I agree that there are many masters courses, bootcamps, etc... that has popped up over the last few years to train new talent to quench the deficit of machine/deep learning demand. It's true the demand is not as good as it was say 3-4 years when this first started, but it's definitely more than the sciences. Even just checking the number of job postings and you can see data science type job postings are orders of magnitude more than science. I regularly get 1-2 unsolicited contacts per month from recruiters, and I NEVER had any unsolicited contacts before I moved into ML/DL. Part of what I am selling myself is also problem solving. I've worked with many interns over the years, and I can tell you the majority of fresh Masters grad cannot solve problems.

Also, in the deep learning field, is also generally accepted that a PhD Comp Sci is entry level, and Masters/bootcamps don't cut it (although this may change in the future). So for now, there is still a deficit in the number of qualified candidates since PhD training is slow, and Comp Sci does not have the glut that physics/chemistry/biology has.

COL Adjustment and Other Cities

I've done the math and it works out. Seattle may be an anomalously good place because its like Mini Silicon Valley. Because of that salaries are almost as good as the Bay Area, but rents are nowhere as high. I am a renter and so I'm not looking to get that $800k home in Seattle. There's many fairly priced suburbs (less than $1500/mth apartments) within commute distance to Seattle. Also, because WA has no state tax, it also offsets the slightly higher COL of that area, compared to say Boston or NYC area.

Another factor for tech is that they tend to be highly concentrated in a few areas. That makes it easier to do in-person networking through meetup events, and also to switch jobs because there are so many employers for the same role in that one city! The issue with science companies is with the exception of Biotech/Pharma in Boston and Philly, and energy in TX, everyone is all over the place. That makes it more difficult to network in person, and local job opportunities are going to be less.

What type of work is more interesting? Do you want to leave science?

Honestly, I don't care if I leave research. I don't understand why people have this idea that getting a PhD means that you must love science. Honestly, I'm really tired of the scientific cult culture of working for "passion" and it's ok be underpaid, and perhaps the grass in greener on the other side. I also REALLY like the sort-of-golden handcuffs culture of tech, in terms of the RSUs signup bonuses that vest over 3-4 years. I like being stuck at a job because if I move it will cost me $100k, as that makes me feel valued by the company. I also would like to re-negotiate my salary and move from place to place until I find the perfect culture and compensation, and this seems to be way more doable in a tech culture. The only type of job I dislike is being micro-managed, and I would think that if you hiring at the PhD-level, you're not out to micro-manage the person.

And as others have posted, I have no issues if I move to tech for 5-6 years, and then get headhunted to be VP of Deep Learning at a science company.

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by tjhar » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:56 pm

So the biggest risk of tech is really as far as I can tell, age discrimination. When does this start happening (40s? 50s?) and how does one mitigate this?

Is the solution to move off the technical track and move to management track? Or just simply set ridiculously high salary targets with the plan to retire at 50? Is that too early or too late?

Or when you are reaching the age discrimination age, should one make a lateral move to a non-tech industry that has less of a culture of age discrimination, and continue a career from there? So for example, if you worked at Microsoft for 10 years and rose to some Principal Data Scientist rank, your next move is moving to a technical leader position in for example in Exxon, who finally decided they wanted to monetize their data and are looking for talent to help them do that.

bampf
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by bampf » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:09 pm

OP,

You are missing out on Financials. Tier 1 banks are hiring data scientists at obscene rates. Monetize.

Regards,
bampf

Nyc10036
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by Nyc10036 » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:14 pm

I will just say this -- if you don't have a "passion" for the work, it will be drudgery.

I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I simply like what I do.
I am in "tech".
I stumbled into my area of expertise after 4 years and a vague MS degree. LOL.

I doubt I would get a job at a Tier 1 company.
I don't want to move to either Seattle or Silicon Valley.

quantAndHold
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by quantAndHold » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:02 pm

2 things...

About those $1500 apartments in Seattle... every place I see for $1500-2000 on Craigslist has a fatal flaw (terrible neighborhood, dump of an apartment, killer commute, or the ad looks like a scam).

As far as age discrimination, reports of it are actually overblown. Everyone I know who wants to work is working. As people get older, you stop seeing them in the bullpens of startups, because here not entry level anymore. They move into management, into consulting, into companies with better work/life balance, start their own lifestyle businesses, etc., or reach FI and retire by choice. You do have to stay current wih the technology, and as your salary increases, you need to make sure that you continue to be worth what they’re paying you. But the jobs are there.

JD2775
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by JD2775 » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:07 pm

Data Science is such a cool spot to be in right now, I am jealous. I work in Data Warehouse but am teaching myself Python/Pandas on the side.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do

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Shackleton
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by Shackleton » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:11 pm

bampf wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:09 pm
OP,

You are missing out on Financials. Tier 1 banks are hiring data scientists at obscene rates. Monetize.

Regards,
bampf
Not just banks. Insurance companies too.
“Superhuman effort isn't worth a damn unless it achieves results.” ~Ernest Shackleton

visualguy
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by visualguy » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:23 pm

tjhar wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:56 pm
So the biggest risk of tech is really as far as I can tell, age discrimination. When does this start happening (40s? 50s?) and how does one mitigate this?

Is the solution to move off the technical track and move to management track? Or just simply set ridiculously high salary targets with the plan to retire at 50? Is that too early or too late?

Or when you are reaching the age discrimination age, should one make a lateral move to a non-tech industry that has less of a culture of age discrimination, and continue a career from there? So for example, if you worked at Microsoft for 10 years and rose to some Principal Data Scientist rank, your next move is moving to a technical leader position in for example in Exxon, who finally decided they wanted to monetize their data and are looking for talent to help them do that.
In your more senior years, you need to be senior in your field and apply for appropriate positions that will make this possible. Avoid stagnation. If you're a "superstar", you'll be hired regardless of age. If not, you may have to compete with younger candidates who may turn into "superstars", while you already proved that you aren't that. It's a tough game - you have to keep learning, become more visible with your work, and become better connected. Many start running out of steam for doing all that in their late 40s/early 50s, and hit a dead end a while later when there's a layoff or reorg or some other changes that push them out of their job.

ny_knicks
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by ny_knicks » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:28 pm

Shackleton wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:11 pm
bampf wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:09 pm
OP,

You are missing out on Financials. Tier 1 banks are hiring data scientists at obscene rates. Monetize.

Regards,
bampf
Not just banks. Insurance companies too.
Finance is known for its great work life balance, job security and highly interesting work.

dogperson
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by dogperson » Tue Apr 03, 2018 12:36 am

Pajamas wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:17 am
You should also consider the type of organization and what its mission is and what you will be focused on achieving. You want to feel good about what you are doing and where you are doing it, be treated well, and be compensated fairly.
This is one of the reasons I chose not to move into data science from an engineering field. I'm not saving the world or anything, but I feel my job is more part of the solution than part of the problem. When I looked at open positions in data science, many were in marketing/advertising, which I wouldn't enjoy as much. It would be more fulfilling to me to work at Google or on the cool things happening in the wider Alphabet company, but there's no guarantee of that and I'd rather not move to a HCOL area.

(For me another reason not to switch to data science is because I was looking at getting a master's in CS or data science without a huge salary increase, so not a good return on investment. A master's in engineering offers hardly any financial/career advantage in my field. I decided I'd rather keep at my current salary / trajectory and retire as young as possible instead. I could do amateur civic data science projects to scratch the itch, but I prefer to spend my free time outside, so I haven't done any yet.)

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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by carolinaman » Tue Apr 03, 2018 8:41 am

You know your current industry in terms of opportunity, stability, etc. I spent 44 years in tech, the last 30 years as an IT executive who hired many techs for a large IT services firm and later for internal services to a sizable organization.

You are correct that there can be huge opportunities in tech and your background should certainly attract some offers, especially if you will to relocate to one of the tech hot spots, which also are typically HCOL. Looking at tech with a long term perspective, one concern would be stability. Tech has a history of boom and bust cycles. Highly compensated people are very vulnerable during the bust part of the cycle and are often the first to go in cutbacks. Also, new technology is coming out constantly, often obsoleting sectors than once were the hot thing. It is challenging for tech people to always position themselves where there is strong demand and premium pay. Good tech people try to reinvent themselves and can usually do that, but often there are financial consequences during that process and possibly relocating and/or new companies.

Tech tends to be a young person's game. You are past your prime in 40s and definitely so in 50s. Regardless of your abilities, that is the way people are viewed and age discrimination is a reality in tech.

You stated that work-life balance also favors tech. I do not know your industry, but I would be very surprised if this is true. Long work hours are very common in tech companies and quality of life suffers badly. You definitely need to research this point before making any changes.

bert09
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by bert09 » Tue Apr 03, 2018 8:57 am

quantAndHold wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:02 pm
2 things...

About those $1500 apartments in Seattle... every place I see for $1500-2000 on Craigslist has a fatal flaw (terrible neighborhood, dump of an apartment, killer commute, or the ad looks like a scam).

As far as age discrimination, reports of it are actually overblown. Everyone I know who wants to work is working. As people get older, you stop seeing them in the bullpens of startups, because here not entry level anymore. They move into management, into consulting, into companies with better work/life balance, start their own lifestyle businesses, etc., or reach FI and retire by choice. You do have to stay current wih the technology, and as your salary increases, you need to make sure that you continue to be worth what they’re paying you. But the jobs are there.
I would agreee with both points here - there are places available for the $1500 range but if your want something that I would consider nice in Seattle, in a location that minimizes your (potentially awful) commute, it’s probably going to be $2000+. Not sure what standard of living OP is currently used to.

bert09
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by bert09 » Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:01 am

As someone working at a large tech company, the one thing I will say is that the “data scientist” role is not as mature and the job description is much more nebulous than say a conventional software engineer. If you do want to go into “data science” I would make sure you have very strong programming abilities, can write database queries, and general basic software eng. skills, because you really don’t know what kind of situation you will end up in or the exact skill set people are looking for.

tesuzuki2002
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by tesuzuki2002 » Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:14 am

tjhar wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:31 am
I was hoping to get a more balanced perspective on a potential career move.

I was originally trained in the physical sciences, PhD. Scientist, not an engineer. Today, I have options to work at science companies, think big pharma, biotech, chemicals, etc. But I don't want too, I am contemplating a move to tech, working as a data scientist. I've been working on machine and deep learning in the past 3 years, and these skills would be transferable to tech.

My main motivation is compensation and growth opportunities. I've noticed that tech companies pay way more for technical talent than any other sector, maybe with the exception of hedge funds. I'm also only looking to work for megacorps or soon-to-be megacorps, so no fly by night startups for me.

Here's some numbers Senior Scientist / Data Scientist type of salaries to illustrate the compensation disparity:
a) Senior Scientist at Science companies (typically Boston, MA or Philadelphia, PA) pays $120-130k base and ~10% bonus.
b) Senior Data Scientist at Non-Tech companies in not high COL cities also pays $120-130k base and ~10% bonus.
c) Senior Data Scientist in Seattle in tech pays $150k+ base and ~30-40% bonus.

So we're talking about going from $130-140k total comp to almost $200k total comp for the same level of seniority. COL is okay, as long as you don't go to Bay Area. I've done research, and yes I'm cherry picking Seattle because it has the highest salary adjusted for COL. Also, I am also comparing to Principal Scientist at Science companies and that does not even hit $200k total comp (typically $170-180k), and it typically requires >10 year of experience after PhD.

Why should I work in an industry that even in the best case scenario a decade from now, I will only earn as much as what I can get if I can move to a tech company?


I'm frustrated with working in science for many reasons:
1) Compensation is bad (relatively speaking). Salaries for career scientist have not increased for the last decade.
2) Supply-demand is really bad. If you are in this field, you know of the postdoc epidemics.
3) Promotion is slow because of the conservative culture.
4) Earning big money is shunned as you are "scientist", unless you are management/executive, and I can't stand this hypocrisy.

My pull factors to tech are the following:
1) There's a demand for Data Scientists right now, maybe not as big a demand as few years ago, but still more demand than non data science type positions.
2) Tech industry is growing, most science companies are not, just look at their share price.
3) Even if tech collapses, I'll have option to move laterally to other industries, and since tech has the best talent, it should not be an issue "downgrading" to tier 2 companies
4) Tech has a culture of paying well, with good signup and performance bonuses. Part of this is because they seem to give out stock options/grants more readily than other industries.

While this discussion is centered around compensation (as this is a finance forum), other factors like work-life balance also favors tech.

I need some balanced feedback. What are the risks of going to tech?


I've heard of age discrimination in tech, which is a risk that I would have to mitigate. But if I can earn 50-100% more than what I normally would, I can afford to retire in my 50s (I'm in my early 30s now).


I love my lower compensation job. I could move to other HCOL and jobs with a 50% pay increase. But that adds stress, the city, schedule pressure.. I’ll Enjoy my cheap country living with a decent paycheck over that mess.

supdodo
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by supdodo » Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:32 am

Be sure that you are not just the best chemist among the data scientists and the best data scientist among all the chemists.

Dottie57
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by Dottie57 » Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:34 am

Top99% wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:21 am
I work have worked in tech since 1986 at 3 different Megacorps. Since OP asked why one should NOT work in tech:
1) If you are not good at saving money for a rainy day tech is not a good choice because when it rains it tends to pour. Many tech workers were unemployed for a long period of time in 2001-2002. The pay can be very good in tech but it can also be very volatile.
2) If you are not willing to constantly grow your skills tech is not a good choice. See my email signature.
3) If you plan on waiting until your 50s to really start saving under the assumption this will coincide with your peak earning years I think tech is a poor choice. My inflation adjusted peak earning years were in my late 30s and this is true of many people my age who work in tech. Part of this was driven by outsourcing really starting to hold down real wages in the 2000s. Tech can be a dangerous place to be in your 50s or later if you are not already at least partially financially independent.

Bingo.

financeidiot
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Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by financeidiot » Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:37 am

I think Bogleheads have a (good) tendency towards long-term goal optimization that is not always necessary when it comes to career planning. It's OK to make mistakes in your career as long as you're learning from them. From what you've stated, you have a lot of questions you need to test:
1. What type of work environment is best for you? (corporate, academic, non-profit, etc.)
2. How much do you value compensation vs. other benefits?
3. How do you value guaranteed income vs. bonuses, stock options, etc.?
4. Where do you want to live?
5. What work/life balance do you want to have?
6. How often do you need promotions/milestones to be happy?
7. How important is it to you to work in your field of study?
8. Do you want to work for 1 employers/many employers?
9. Do you have the stomach for job hopping?

You answer these questions by taking your best guess and seeing the results. You're a smart person with in-demand STEM skills. If you focus on keeping yourself employable and providing value, you'll be able to keep yourself afloat when you need to. Prioritize what you want and pick the written job offer you think gives you the best chance at hitting your priorities. If, after 2 years, you don't like that job, write down why and look for a job that you will like better. Rinse and repeat until you find your fit or you're financially independent. Even switching careers isn't the end of the world.

My personal strategy is to ask:
1. What skills do I have that provide the most value to me and my potential employer?
2. What are the next skills I can add that will provide the next most value to me and my potential employer?
3. Where can I best apply the skills I have and learn the next skills to maximize value for me and my potential employer?
4. Which employer believes most in my potential and how do they show it?

I've found that working for and with people who believe in me and who I believe in to be the best formula for my happiness at work.

xenochrony
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2018 11:24 pm
Location: California

Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by xenochrony » Tue Apr 03, 2018 11:32 am

I've been a PhD scientist in a mega-corp (biopharma) for quite some time and just wanted to chime in on a few of your observations/assumptions below:
tjhar wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:31 am
I was hoping to get a more balanced perspective on a potential career move.

I was originally trained in the physical sciences, PhD. Scientist, not an engineer. Today, I have options to work at science companies, think big pharma, biotech, chemicals, etc. But I don't want too, I am contemplating a move to tech, working as a data scientist. I've been working on machine and deep learning in the past 3 years, and these skills would be transferable to tech.

My main motivation is compensation and growth opportunities. I've noticed that tech companies pay way more for technical talent than any other sector, maybe with the exception of hedge funds. I'm also only looking to work for megacorps or soon-to-be megacorps, so no fly by night startups for me.

Here's some numbers Senior Scientist / Data Scientist type of salaries to illustrate the compensation disparity:
a) Senior Scientist at Science companies (typically Boston, MA or Philadelphia, PA) pays $120-130k base and ~10% bonus.
b) Senior Data Scientist at Non-Tech companies in not high COL cities also pays $120-130k base and ~10% bonus.
c) Senior Data Scientist in Seattle in tech pays $150k+ base and ~30-40% bonus.

So we're talking about going from $130-140k total comp to almost $200k total comp for the same level of seniority. COL is okay, as long as you don't go to Bay Area. I've done research, and yes I'm cherry picking Seattle because it has the highest salary adjusted for COL. Also, I am also comparing to Principal Scientist at Science companies and that does not even hit $200k total comp (typically $170-180k), and it typically requires >10 year of experience after PhD.

Why should I work in an industry that even in the best case scenario a decade from now, I will only earn as much as what I can get if I can move to a tech company?


I'm frustrated with working in science for many reasons:
1) Compensation is bad (relatively speaking). Salaries for career scientist have not increased for the last decade.
Not sure I agree with this. There is a wide diversity of compensation for senior/principal scientists out there, but a qualified candidate should be discerning when considering offers and select one paying fair market value. At the mega-corp I am at, some scientists get paid VERY well.

2) Supply-demand is really bad. If you are in this field, you know of the postdoc epidemics.
Completely agree, supply/demand imbalance is a primary source of the current high level of competition.

3) Promotion is slow because of the conservative culture.
In the mega-corp I am at, people are promoted ridiculously fast with seemingly poor substantiation. We seem to have the opposite problem you cite; way too much promotion and promotion too far up the ladder, given credentials/performance.

4) Earning big money is shunned as you are "scientist", unless you are management/executive, and I can't stand this hypocrisy.
As you probably already know, many scientists can diverge off into a non-technical management track, where one manages/directs technical programs. Such advancement is rewarded well in total compensation. So I dont see it as an either/or situation between technical and management

My pull factors to tech are the following:
1) There's a demand for Data Scientists right now, maybe not as big a demand as few years ago, but still more demand than non data science type positions.
I agree, I see the same thing but am personally not interested in pursuing data scientist positions.

2) Tech industry is growing, most science companies are not, just look at their share price.
With regard to biopharma, much of this is true. The entire business model is broken. Maybe not so much for scientific supply companies and CROs, however.

3) Even if tech collapses, I'll have option to move laterally to other industries, and since tech has the best talent, it should not be an issue "downgrading" to tier 2 companies
4) Tech has a culture of paying well, with good signup and performance bonuses. Part of this is because they seem to give out stock options/grants more readily than other industries.
Amongst my science PhD colleagues, many have been offered stock options, despite being in a technical (senior/principal scientist) role. One notch up (Associate and senior directors) all get stock options at the mega-corp it seems.

While this discussion is centered around compensation (as this is a finance forum), other factors like work-life balance also favors tech.

I need some balanced feedback. What are the risks of going to tech?


I've heard of age discrimination in tech, which is a risk that I would have to mitigate. But if I can earn 50-100% more than what I normally would, I can afford to retire in my 50s (I'm in my early 30s now).
Age discrimination is also rampant in science companies, as you likely already know. :oops:

Amphian
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2018 9:37 pm

Re: Career Move: Please convince me why I should not work in tech

Post by Amphian » Tue Apr 03, 2018 12:00 pm

tjhar wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:56 pm
So the biggest risk of tech is really as far as I can tell, age discrimination. When does this start happening (40s? 50s?) and how does one mitigate this?

Is the solution to move off the technical track and move to management track?
It's the opposite, from my experience - managers find it harder to find work as they get older.

I am in my early fifties. My entire team (one older, but the rest younger) was laid off in mid-January. Most of them were more business than tech and happy to position themselves that way. I steadfastly refused to move into management and remained mostly technical. (I did some business type things like requirements gathering and I've done mentoring of other developers, but no management.) I started a new job a few weeks ago. The rest are still looking.

This won't work if your idea of the end game of your career is that you reach a level and coast, but I find most technical/scientific people never lose that love of learning something new that got them into the sciences in the first place. (People who went into tech for the money alone are another story.) As long as you keep learning, that keeps your skills current and makes you hirable.

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