Dr. Naresh Thatikonda, a senior scientist at Cobra Biologics shares his story and about his transition from academia to industry. Naresh did his undergraduate study in India and continue his education in Sweden. He has a PhD in Biotechnology, from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. His plan was to pursue an academic career but after PhD, he changed his mind and started his career in industry.
If you are curious about Naresh’s transition from academia to industry , please listen to this episode. If you also have a story to be told or if you know someone, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
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Hi and welcome to PhD Career Stories, a podcast for people interested in career opportunities after their PhD. My name is Michele Manzo and I am your host today. I am co-founder of this podcast and I support the team behind this podcast working as a producer and project manager.
We are very glad to have you with us today. Welcome to PhD career stories.
Hi everyone. My name is Naresh and I was requested by PhD career stories to share my journey towards and during PhD and also to share about my transition from academia to industry.
People especially from academia are more careful to use proper citations for the statements they say and for the statements they write.
I’m not an exception. As a disclaimer in this podcast, I will use certain quotes that I have retrieved from different sources on the internet. In my story I would like to mainly focus on the process of my transition from academia to industry in Sweden.
Okay let’s get started. I’m Naresh Thatikonda and I am from India which has 29 different states with 23 official languages and 1.3 billion people.
I’m from a city in southern part of India where a historical architecture that was built in the 12th century is included as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
My mother tongue is Telugu which is the fourth popular language in India. Coming to my move from India to Sweden, back then the field of biotechnology is in a beginning stage thus I convinced myself to pursue masters after completion of my bachelors in India. After much contemplation I have chosen Sweden to pursue my masters. Upon attending Master courses at the university, I became interested to choose a topic in molecular biology for my master’s thesis project. After getting initial instructions from my master’s thesis supervisors, this was my first time to do lab work independently at a university. However the work was basic research and also due to practical reasons, I was less motivated to continue further on the project.
After this I was looking for a project which deals about interdisciplinary work or applied research. Then I found an advertisement where a research group in Uppsala was looking for a project worker. I applied for this position since it matches my interest and moreover the group was located in the same building where I did my master’s thesis. After a couple of discussions and interview, I got the project and I was quite happy. I enjoyed my work and at that time I was clear to myself to continue working in the field of applied science by pursuing a PhD.
After completion of my project, I was offered a research engineer position in the same group for six months.
Since the offer was for a limited time and I wanted to improve my job prospects in Sweden, I decided to learn Swedish language. After six months, my previous job offer got extended to another year. It was about the same time I decided to concentrate more to learn Swedish language and in parallel I was actually applying for PhD positions as well.
During this time it was quite challenging for me to maintain a consistent routine to work in the lab from 8:30 in the morning to 5 in the evening and to attend swedish classes from 5:30 in the evening to 8:00 in the night. I used to attend classes twice a week at that time. After ten months I have completed the beginner level of Swedish language course. Meanwhile my supervisor got funding to take a PhD student and I was offered that PhD position. After a few months, my supervisor got a faculty position in Stockholm and the entire research group was relocated to Stockholm.
Since it is quite difficult to find an apartment in Stockholm, usually it takes ten years to get first hand contract apartment from the housing agency in Stockholm. I decided to commute to and from Stockholm at that time but eventually it became quite difficult for me to commute and in order to be more work effective I decided to move to Stockholm.
However managing PhD projects and finding a stable accommodation in Stockholm was quite challenging. After enormous and consistent efforts I found a stable accommodation in Stockholm. I considered this period to be one of the challenging phases during my PhD career. In the beginning of my PhD career, my plan was to pursue a PostDoc and to continue in academia later. However after understanding the reality of academic career path, I’ve decided to drop my idea to pursue a postdoc.
My explanation for this will be: you become wiser when you get older. To say it in different words, I came to an agreement that in academic career path the demand is significantly higher than the supply.
Coming to my transition from academia to insustry, with PhD diploma from a reputed technical university, I started looking for jobs in industry.
In the beginning, it was difficult for me to understand the expectations of recruiters. However after attending career development seminars, meetings and contacting different career support agencies in Stockholm for example trygghetsstiftelsen, Alten career consulting company, it helped me to gain basic understanding about general expectations from recruiter’s perspective.
Many recruiters commented that they liked my profile and will come back to me when they have an assignment that fits my profile.
Two recruiters gave kind of an unofficial assurance that they will hire me but later I was informed that due to reorganization at the companies that have decided not to take any candidates for that moment.
Few recruiters said that candidates with PhD degree are usually considered as overqualified for certain jobs in the industry. After going through all these instances, I have to really admit that it is extremely challenging and difficult for me to understand what recruiters are really expecting from me but I kept believing in myself. I changed my approach when I applied for jobs, I refined my CV and I focused on showing the value that I could bring to the new workplace.
Believe me after two months, I got two job offers and one potential job offer. In total 3 industry job offers and I have chosen one among them and I believe this happened due to a phenomenon called catch-up effect.
In Podcast number 88, Ben Hartwig beautifully explained about developing the quality of being resilient and presented facts related to the working style of people working in academia and in PodCast number 81, Fabian Taube provided 5 tips about how to survive outside academia. I strongly suggest you to listen to both podcasts.
After attending career support agencies, I have compiled information in the form of two documents that could be beneficial for other people who wanted to make a career transition from academia to industry, in particular in Sweden. Interested people are most welcome to request for these documents from me via LinkedIn.
Finally I would like to thank Tina for providing me this opportunity to share my Phd career story with you and I would like to conclude my Podcast with a proverb: What life throws at you is not your choice but what you make out of it is purely your choice. Thank you for listening!
Have a nice day.
Thank you for listening to yet another episode of PhD Career Stories. Do you know anybody whose story will be interesting to be shared in our channels or do you want to contribute yourself to our podcast? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us! You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Spotify, iTunes and so on. Thank you for listening! Bye!