Sunday, October 25, 2015

Guest Post from the Corporate World

*Today is the first of what I hope will be a series of guest posts on life beyond the doctorate (it can't all be about me!!). Today's post is written by Jed, a consultant in London who received his doctorate in History from the University of Oxford. 

I'm a historian who has gone corporate. 

No, it's not as bad as it seems. I don't plunder the coffers of the peasantry. I don't raze Amazonian rainforests. I do not work for the Evil Empire and I have not now, nor ever, designed a Death Star. I work for a corporation. Simple as that. 

A corporation is not as dissimilar as we conceive it to be from the academic world. Instead of faculties, we have sectors, instead of Department Chairs we have Partners, and instead of going to academic conferences we go corporate conferences (the only difference is the number of canapes). 

I finished my doctorate over a year ago. Like most newly-minted historians, I did very little academic research after earning the PhD. Instead, I spent the next months trying to figure out how to repay my extraordinary loan debt. The quickest solution was to throw myself into the search for a post-doc. I wanted it all: I wanted to teach, I wanted to research, I wanted visa sponsorship and I wanted a nice funding package to pay those loan officers. After 30 or 40 applications, I started wondering if my standards were a little too high. 

So I became a consultant and moved to the financial district, which meant no more dreaming spires of academia and instead a lot more suits and overpriced frappe-latte-cappuccinos while discussing Moody's latest credit rating of Kyrgyzstan, or so I thought. 

In reality, the corporate world is so vast that you cannot pidgeonhole it's roles. As a consultant, I have far more freedom and flexibility (and funding) to alter my career path than I had when I started out as a grad student. However, what truly astonished me was that I could teach and research. That's right, consultants are primarily researchers. These days, I spend most of my time teaching new trainees how to do corporate and financial research. Just like a professor, I get to hold training sessions and provide private tutorials. The firm has even sent me abroad to train up its affiliates. The corporate world has a shortage of people who actually know how to research and mine data. That's what attracted me to my firm: it wanted researchers, especially ones who could conduct research in foreign languages. 

So I had a good experience going corporate. I found a role that actually used historical skills: data-mining, report writing, and foreign-language research. Not only that, I am rewarded for using these skills. No, I do not to use words like epistemology any more or worry what Foucault would think about my assessment of investment opportunities, but the work is still research-based. 

If there is only one thing I would caution about moving from being a historian into a corporate role: historians don't learn much about is these little things called "Excel spreadsheets" which run THE ENTIRE WORLD. If you're unfamiliar with them, don't break them. 


*If you would like to write a guest post about your experiences of life beyond the doctorate (or experiences you are having during your PhD), whether positive or negative, or whether you stayed in or left academia, etc., I would love to hear from you. You can contact me at whelanfi@gmail.com or tweet me @FionaEWhelan.


1 comment:

  1. 'No, it's not as bad as it seems. I don't plunder the coffers of the peasantry. I don't raze Amazonian rainforests. I do not work for the Evil Empire and I have not now, nor ever, designed a Death Star. I work for a corporation. Simple as that.'

    Sure, because there are "nice" corporations that don't exploit their workers (you included) and financial corporations are organisations just as harmless as university departments...

    ReplyDelete

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