There is a wealth of untapped talent emerging from academia that can solve companies’ problems but an understanding of their academic value when they join an industry is still lacking.
PhDs bring in not only great technical skills but also diverse ways of thinking that are becoming increasingly more important than skills, which are gradually becoming replaceable by technology.
Academics could be your secret weapon to beat the competition, make new products your customers love and attain those sales targets.
Companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple hire thousands of people from academia every year. These people are the secret of their success as they enable those tech giants to stay ahead of the curve.
They are smart, probably smarter than you, but that’s okay
One of the first “complaints” about PhDs I recently heard was that they are very smart, often smarter than their bosses. Well, that is not a bad thing because we need to hire people smarter than us to make progress, bring new ideas and effectively resolve issues.
However, some people find it intimidating and challenging to manage people from academia. To those people, I say give them some time and learn from each other. Embrace their creativity and knowledge and soon enough the benefits of their exceptional talent will materialise.
Exceptional problem-solving skills
Academics often have a creative bend of mind, and they are trained to work with a problem-solving approach. Every academic needs to write research papers, read a vast body of literature and come up with new concepts.
They are great thinkers, but their way of communication needs to be decoded in terms of industry language.
They have transferable skills…
…which makes them fantastic product managers and enables them to work across different functions and areas—from R&D, product development, compliance, to management and data science.
Their skills are extremely useful in managing complex projects, controlling expenditures, ensuring timely completion of work and achieving required results.
PhDs learn and interpret data better and faster than anybody else
Academic researchers live and breath data. Setting up and testing hypotheses involves collecting, cleaning, manipulating and analysing data of different types and different sizes to answer questions and communicate the story that the data hides.
They have industry knowledge and experience
Academics spend many years just being academics, researching, writing papers and teaching others. During this period, some also manage to gain valuable experience by working with companies in order to secure data or use corporate labs, which are often better equipped than university labs.
This can be confusing for companies that are used to understanding “work experience” as a position held in another company. For academics, the experience is the research they conduct and the problems they work on for years, but this is encrypted in their papers, written in esoteric language.
Prompt them to tell you more about that and you will realize how much they already know about your company’s challenges and the ideas they already have to solve them.
Embrace and learn from their researcher approach
I love the example of Google, a company that started as a research project at Stanford and became one of the biggest success stories ever.
Google continues to hire many academics in order to experiment with ideas and advance their thinking. Academics know how to work collaboratively and improve each other’s work.
Companies like Google and Facebook allow their employees to take some time off (fully paid) in order to work on their own “things”.
Eventually, the company benefits greatly from it as most of the new products and services are inspired by researchers’ ideas that they have experimented with before.