E002 From Neuroscience PhD to a Career in Consultancy. Can Working in a Consultancy Company Be Fun?

May 17th 2020

Dr. Annika Rausch works as Data Scientist and Consultant at the IT service provider Ordina Netherlands. Before switching to industry, Annika studied Psychology at the University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands, after finishing high school in Germany. She finalized her Bachelor thesis on the topic of motor learning in 2011. She also obtained a Minor in International Business at the University of Twente. Annika later started the two-year research Master Cognitive Neuroscience at the Donders Institute in Nijmegen in 2011, where she specialized in functional connectivity fMRI analysis in Autism Spectrum Disorder. In 2014, she continued working on this topic as PhD candidate within the European EU-AIMS LEAP project, where she developed a keen interest in data analytics and obtained her PhD title. 

Today, Annika supports clients of Ordina with their digital transformation and implements intelligent systems that help companies with, e.g., automated decision-making processes. She first got hired by the Nederlands Woning Waarde Instituut (NWWI) in January 2019 where she implemented and developed automated validation tools for property valuation reports. She just started her second assignment via Ordina with the Dutch national police in April 2020. In this webinar, Annika told us about her job as a Data Scientist and Consultant at the IT service provider Ordina Netherlands. Why did she decide to choose this particular job? How did the job interview look like? What are the main pros and cons? Are the legends about consultancy companies true – is the working pace really that fast? What is Annika’s relationship with her job and with her colleagues?

Annika’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annikarausch/

Please contact Annika if you need some advice with respect to (1) Working in data science, (2) Working in consultancy.

The episode was recorded on May 17th, 2020. This material represents the speaker’s personal views and not the views of their employer(s).

Annika Rausch 00:00 Hi, I’m Annika Rausch. I work as a data scientist and consultant at Ordina Nederland.  Ordina is an IT service provider in Benelux and they do all kinds of IT-related services for clients. You get hired by Ordina’s clients to get jobs done. In my case, it’s data-driven jobs. And I found this picture on the internet that’s about transitioning or like the combination, I thought that was pretty fitting for today. 

Annika Rausch 00:56 A bit of background, I did a bachelor in psychology at the University of Twente, and a Minor in International Business. Later, I did a two-year research Master’s in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Radboud University. And then, I continued as a PhD student in the European Autism Intervention project, which is a study for developing new biomarkers for autism, which eventually leads to new medications. 

Annika Rausch 01:38 As you can see here, in the picture and during my PhD, that I also acquired a lot of other data like EG data and behavioral data, and people with and without autism and all kinds of comorbid disorders. But my research, my dissertation, really focus on these images here, the functional images, which investigated the connectivity patterns between brain areas for people with autism and compared to those people without autism. That was what my dissertation was about. 

Annika Rausch 02:20 And after my contract ended at the Radboud University Medical Center, I tried a couple of months as a blogger, “WealthyBrain – brain hacks for success”, with which I wasn’t very successful. Because it didn’t generate income and I had a really difficult time to develop a business model for it. I was blogging about tricks that help people to increase their productivity, creativity, to feel better during the work life or also their normal life. 

Annika Rausch 03:03 I did that for some time. But then at some point, I needed to really earn some money. And I was also trying to develop my own products, for instance, an app that would acquire data and tell people like, if they were doing okay. But during the process, I figured out that I have no idea how to develop such a product. It was really difficult to develop it because I had no real focus on what I should be developing.

Annika Rausch 03:40 That’s why I became interested in a traineeship as a Technical Consultant at Ordina. That’s how I got there. Because I wanted to learn how to advise people in my situation. I wanted to create a digital product and help them to implement it, and knowing how to implement it in their infrastructure that they have at the company, their data infrastructure, for instance. I wanted to do that. I also applied for a job there. I got to an assessment center, and I got the okay, ‘Yeah, we want to have you there’. 

Annika Rausch 04:21 But still I didn’t do it, because of a couple of reasons, mostly because I didn’t get the pay that I wanted to be honest. They offered me a different kind of job there as a data scientist. And I could be a consultant as a data scientist at Ordina, which was pretty cool. And so, I kind of skipped the traineeship part. Because as a data scientist, I had with a PhD have some sort of educational background that was really fitting there; and I didn’t need to do a traineeship. That was cool. 

Annika Rausch 05:02 And I started in 2019, in January and my first client was the NWWI. They validate real estate or Property Valuation reports. Every time you wanted to buy a house, the appraiser comes to the house and assigns a certain value to it; based on how the house looks like, how big the house is, what’s the state of the house. And they fill in a report, which needs to be, according to certain guidelines and regulations from the EU.

Annika Rausch 05:40 And what the NWWI does is they validate these reports and check if everything is okay. But they do that manually, usually. They have employees hired that look at it. And my job was to look whether I could aid these employees with analytical models and make like dashboards, or I also made an app, that would help his employees with this validation process. 

Annika Rausch 06:13 And now, like three weeks ago, I switched to another client, which is the Dutch National Police. And I’m not so certain what I’m allowed to tell. And I haven’t met the entire crew yet, because the whole onboarding is online, during Corona. But I’m pretty sure that I can tell you this. In the criminal justice chain, there’s a lot of paperwork that needs to be digitalized and organized efficiently. And that’s what a team does there. 

Annika Rausch 06:49 And the entire team at Ordina got hired, which has front-end developers, back-end developers, business consultants, a couple of data scientists. And all of them in this team got placed at the police, and tried to make this process more efficiently. All kinds of different developers are working together. That’s my introduction.

Natalia Bielczyk 07:19 Wonderful. Thank you so much, Annika, for this introduction. Thank you so much. Now, let me ask you a few things. And then we will also give floor to the participants so that they can ask you other questions. I was thinking today of what I would like to ask you. And one thing that came to my mind, since we were doing a PhD in the same graduate school. 

Natalia Bielczyk 07:54 You know, this is a type of a place which is rather prestigious, at least in our field. We were both doing human neuroimaging. I think in this institute, it’s more like a default approach that you continue in academia. I got my impression that was kind of expected from a PhD student, like automatically. It was rather like … At least, a majority of people tries to stay, so this is the default approach. When you are thinking about what to do next, did you feel some pressure to stay from your peers and colleagues? Or do you think that …?

Annika Rausch 08:39 It was quite relaxed. The pressure was from myself. I put the pressure on myself for figuring out for the last two years, what am I going to do. Am I supposed to stay here and continue? Or am I going to leave? And for two years, I was really struggling with that question. And today, I still don’t really have a 100% answer, what’s the right path. But I feel like now or at least I don’t regret anything. I think it was a good choice to leave. 

Annika Rausch 09:24 At some point, I could have stayed one of my promoters offered me a part-time postdoc position, which is a luxury. And they were so nice to try to organize that for me. But, you know, like everything in academia is very vague. They said, ‘Maybe at some point there is this position for you, but maybe it’s in about half a year’. And there’s a lot of uncertainties there. 

Annika Rausch 09:54 And at some point, I figured out there are companies out there who are really interested in hiring me. You know, that’s a no brainer. Maybe I should just take that and I also really wanted to explore it.

Natalia Bielczyk 10:18 I’m curious how the process of getting a job at Ordina look like. How did your interview go? Were you surprised by anything during your interview? And is there some anecdote you can share? You know, how did it happen?

Annika Rausch 10:35 If I could remember correctly, I saw Ordina and the technical consultant’s vacancy. Because I wanted to become a consultant and a technical consultant or business consultant. I wasn’t really sure, but I think I that I applied for the technical consultant traineeship. And that was because I was developing this product, like I just told you. I was really curious, how does this work? 

Annika Rausch 11:06 And so, I came along Ordina. But it was like, one day before I went to leave for a three-week travel to Indonesia. You know, I saw it, and I thought, ‘Oh, shit. Okay, I want to do something with it, so I’m just going to upload my CV and let’s see what happens.’ I don’t have any time to write a motivation letter. 

Annika Rausch 11:34 And when I was in Indonesia, then the recruiter called me and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m in Indonesia. Is it okay?’ We made an appointment to talk. And she was really enthusiastic about my profile, she invited me for an assessment center. I had to fill in some questionnaires and some sort of online IQ test. And which took quite some time, it was some serious time investment. I think, like four or five hours. 

Natalia Bielczyk 12:06 Oh, my God. You know, I thought that IQ test, by definition, are always time limited.

Annika Rausch 12:13 Yes, they are. But there were a lot of tests.

Natalia Bielczyk 12:16 Oh my god.

Annika Rausch 12:18 A lot of things. And they were really curious about my opinions about why was looking in an employer and personality and these kinds of things.

Natalia Bielczyk 12:29 Maybe one detail like for people who look for jobs here. This is very common model, as a pre-selection step, that a lot of consultancy companies do these days. They have these two modules to the test. And this is what they do before they even, like ignore you for interviews. This is a very common model. One module is basically IQ test, and second module is the motivation and yourself. 

Natalia Bielczyk 13:00 You know, like more about motivation for work and whether or not you fit the company profile. And it’s very tricky sometimes. It usually doesn’t really pay off to say the truth. But I know stories from people who apply for those positions, and they openly say in this motivation test. Because they are asked, you know, how determined are you. Not very determined, you know, it’s like medium determined. What can I say about it? 

Natalia Bielczyk 13:45 Motivation level, like average to low, you know, like, sorted out, you know, filtered out like no, so, so It’s sometimes it’s just really, so there are guests, so I’m kind of incentivized to lie here. Like I have to say that I’m determined and I will work myself to death.

Annika Rausch 14:05 Maybe that’s the real intelligence test there.

Natalia Bielczyk 14:09 That’s true. Like you should just read the intentions of the recruiter and just tell them what they want to hear. Telling the truth, it’s not a good idea here. But sorry, I interrupted you. You went through this step and then you were invited. How did you go?

Annika Rausch 14:32 I was invited to an assessment center and that assessment center was a couple of hours. I had an interview with a recruiter. And I was really honest in that interview. I told her about my attempt to create my own product and my own application, and how that explains my motivation like, really well. And we’re talking about how I feared my assessment. 

Annika Rausch 15:03 But we were evaluating the assessments, and there were a couple of good and a couple of weaker points. Of course, not everyone is talented in all kinds of things. And then I had to do assignments, group assignments and the recruiter was watching us all the time on how we were collaborating. That was really interesting to do. And I was invited to get the job; they would make me an offer afterwards.

Natalia Bielczyk 15:45 Adriana is asking, did they do the DISC test? That’s a personality test, right?

Annika Rausch 15:51 The DISC test assesses the types of personalities usually in team environments. What type of team player are you? Are you more of a direct-dominant person, or more the creative one? Like all kinds of personalities… Indeed, it’s some sort of personality test. But then applied through, I think, usually in the business context. No. I don’t think that they did the DISC back then. No.

Natalia Bielczyk 16:30 I was going through a similar hiring day; I think at IBM once and they put us in a room full of 10 evaluators. And there was basically five of us in the group. And those 10 people, literally 10 people, just sitting around in every corner and just evaluating us. There were more evaluators than people tested, so it was creepy. As I can imagine you went through this assessment very well and then you got a salary proposal. Did you also negotiate your salary or that was not possible?

Annika Rausch 17:11 I applied for a traineeship. Traineeships, they are like really fixed in there. And I asked in advance what the salary would be. And they told me as a PhD student, I would get a bit more as an entry level. But then afterwards, it was like, ‘Sorry. We can’t do that, after all.’ That was kind of a bummer, I have to say. But then they offered me the data science position, instead of the traineeship. Because they also saw that I had a lot of relevant experience as a data scientist. That’s why they thought that I could maybe just, you know, get the job as a data scientist without the traineeship.

Natalia Bielczyk 18:02 Now, you’re no longer on your traineeship period. You’re already-

Annika Rausch 18:06 I never had a traineeship period. 

Natalia Bielczyk 18:09 Oh, okay. So got the traineeship without the traineeship? 

Annika Rausch 18:12 No. I applied for a traineeship, but I got a you know, just a normal job.

Natalia Bielczyk 18:24 Okay, fine. But like I know that in IT industry in the Netherlands, the traineeship positions, the salaries are substantially lower than regular salary. Your salary now has nothing to do with traineeship salary, it’s just a regular salary?

Annika Rausch 18:42 Yes. Maybe that’s the most significant difference there. Better than a normal, you know, junior position or mediocre position.

Natalia Bielczyk 18:58 How did you start? Did they first train you? Because like that’s also what many consultancy companies do. When they hire a new batch of employees and they organize some training periods to make sure that the methods that you’re using are aligned for their team Did you have some courses initially or they just give you a first project and trusted that it will be done the way they expect?

Annika Rausch 19:32 You won’t expect such training period in advance. But no, I didn’t get that. I had to learn all the stuff on the job. And that is something consultants have to do regularly. They need to have certain or need to fulfill certain requirements. But they usually never tick off all the boxes and then you’ll have to learn on the job what you can. For me that was, for instance, SQL. I did a couple of courses for SQL; the relative database language. 

Annika Rausch 20:16 And I already had some knowledge about it, but no real acquired knowledge. And I really needed to do that on the job there. But now for the police, I had a screening period before I could start. There, I had to learn Scala. And for that I got the time to learn Scala because I needed to go through a screening period anyway. And that means that you have to wait before you can start at the police, until they have checked your background.

Natalia Bielczyk 20:56 Maybe let’s talk a little bit about how your daily-life for work looks like, as a consultant. When you wake up Monday morning, what do you do?

Annika Rausch 21:06 On Monday morning. Why so specific?

Natalia Bielczyk 21:14 Because now I’m on the other side of the rabbit hole, you know, I don’t have weekends. But now you’re this employee that has the comfort of having weekends, and then has to go to work at Monday morning. That’s my assumption.

Annika Rausch 21:33 The Monday morning is the start of your working week. It is. I get up, and I need to be at the client around 9am. Of course, if you’re 10 minutes late, it’s no problem. But usually, you have to start at 9ame. And it’s a real nine to five job. And the clients dictate what they want you to do. It’s different for every client, I guess. But I think most of them are having this 9 to 5 culture. And you start with a stand up, which is derived from the Agile/Scrum theories. 

Annika Rausch 22:20 And you start your day with 50 minutes of evaluating what everyone is going to do; What have they done yesterday and how did it go? Are you coming across some difficulties? And you do that every day, which I think is really valuable for the whole team to just really check if everyone is on track, you know.

Natalia Bielczyk 22:44 That’s a very different way of working then. I mean, because we used to work in the same group. I know very well that this is absolutely very different from ours, you know, PhD work, where everyone had their own project and-

Annika Rausch 23:03 – shacked up for one month.

Natalia Bielczyk 23:05 And there was no, … I wouldn’t say no supervision, but I would say no control, like on daily basis. you could go on and on for months without having a check point if you didn’t wish to have one. There was a lot of like, personal freedom to really work independently for a long time. I how did you, like on your mind. Was it difficult to switch to this mode where you have to show progress every single day?

Annika Rausch 23:38 Yes. I had to get used to that. Because you feel pressured, of course. You just started as a consultant, and they hire you to give them advice and implement the product. And at the beginning, you have no idea what you’re doing, of course, because you just got started at that company. You don’t know their ways. It cost a lot of energy. But I think I adjusted well. 

Annika Rausch 24:13 I like it this way, because you’re forced to state problems early on. Sometimes during my PhD, I would get stuck and would have to wait for one day or I mean, one week or maybe even two weeks or three weeks to get a solution to the problem. Because nobody had time. The lines of communication are much shorter in industry, I guess, at least during the products that I’m working on. That’s good.

Natalia Bielczyk 24:53 Let me ask you this now. Since I know that you have in private, you have this hobby to take part in theatrical plays as an actress. Do you think is help saying they’re doing Scrum to be an actress sometimes and play it well, somehow?

Annika Rausch 25:12 You mean I’m doing Lady Macbeth, when things are not working out? No. I think during presentation, sometimes the experience helps. And also, in situations where you’re not really comfortable and have to step out of your comfort zone, then it has. Because you can somehow seem relatively calm while you’re not.

Natalia Bielczyk 25:44 Can you tell us a little bit about …? You know, so like, I heard legends. Myself never worked for a consultancy company. But I heard stories about these predatory companies that, you know, exhaust their employees. And so, I heard that there is a spectrum. Some companies are really protective of their employees, and they really aim for the employees to have very good working benefits and stay with the company for very long time. 

Natalia Bielczyk 26:17 But there are also some companies that have relatively short turnover, average turnover time. And employees stay for short, one or two, years average and then go. Do feel like for you working in this place, does it allow you to live this, like steady lifestyle, when you feel that you have some homeostasis, you know, and you can keep on going without exhausting yourself and getting chronically tired? Or do you feel like with time, there is some amount of time and that accumulates?

Natalia Bielczyk 26:18 Look, I have to say, my job is a 9 to 5 job. That’s okay. Some days, especially in the beginning, I had to adjust to long working hours. Because in the beginning, there were a lot of extra-curricular courses, or let’s say, meetings that I needed to attend. I was done with my client and then I needed to go to Ordina, to travel to Ordina, and then there was this meeting. 

Annika Rausch 27:32 In the beginning, especially in the beginning, there were a lot of those. I thought, if that continues like this, maybe I would get exhausted because I also tried to finish my PhD, meanwhile. If it was only that, it would have been fine. But I tried to buy a house, which was really costing a lot of energy. Then I found one, and then I had to move and renovate it. I was also trying to finish my PhD in 2019. And I had to prepare for a defense. 

Annika Rausch 28:11 And so, all of these things together were really exhausting. And I think that would have taken its toll at some point. But I knew that this was only temporary. And my employer was really cool about it. Because I told my manager about my struggle. And he said, he said like, ‘You know, your PhD is a thing now and it’s makes you more valuable for the company. It would be fine. If you take a couple of days for your PhD as training days.’ I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say this now. Maybe it will kill me later.

Natalia Bielczyk 28:56 But I think it’s a good sign that your employer cared. That’s good.

Annika Rausch 29:03 My manager and also, Ordina in general, they think it’s important to have this balance. And I don’t feel like they’re exhausting me or predatory. No.

Natalia Bielczyk 29:20 I don’t know much about this company. Is it like a large company? How many people do you have?

Annika Rausch 29:26 I think, currently 2600 in total; they’re also in Belgium. And there are a couple of headquarters across Belgium and the Netherlands.

Natalia Bielczyk 29:47 Do you consider working as a consultant is a form of a career, so that you want to build up and you know, get promoted to be senior data scientist? How do you see this? Maybe you don’t think about it too much for now, you’re just enjoying it. Or do you have a plan of how you want to proceed?

Annika Rausch 30:11 Of course, I will always stay at Ordina.

Natalia Bielczyk 30:13 #YesGetPromotion# I like my boss.

Annika Rausch 30:22 I love my boss anyways. I have no idea if he’s ever going to watch this. I think at the moment it’s really difficult to say where I’m going from here. For now, it’s fine. I like it. And like you said, I have this goal of getting promoted at some point and becoming more of a senior member of the consulting team. That is a goal of mine. Definitely.

Natalia Bielczyk 31:02 I’m curious about. How did you switch from this academic way of doing projects where you always have some entitlement to a project? Like, you always put your name on the project and you represent the project, to this way of working where you don’t own what you do. The intellectual property that you produce is becoming the property of the company. 

Natalia Bielczyk 31:32 And for many academics that go to industry, this is a problem. They cannot really handle that you know, they will no longer be the face of their project. Do you think that for you, that was a problem to digest that from now on? You’re just a team member on some projects where you cannot see your face on the project anymore.

Annika Rausch 31:59 That’s a good question because we all want to believe that we are important. And that all our contributions should be valuable and appreciated in some way. But I guess the way that you get it now is a bit different. You get it from your team now and you get it from your client. Your client gives a good review about you and that’s what’s making you happy now, or your managers really happy, or a colleague is telling you that you did a great job. 

Annika Rausch 32:30 But it’s not like this, your name on something. No. That’s not something that I can get my you know, reward from wrong. but I didn’t have a problem with it. And I haven’t thought about it that way. You just pointed it out too. No, it’s not a problem.

Natalia Bielczyk 32:53 Funny enough. I also, look at academics for whom the fact that they have to put their name on the paper and just put it online so that anyone can read it. It’s also stressful. There are also people for whom they are not proud, it’s rather the opposite. They’re a bit intimidated that they have to represent the project and they actually like the fact that they can stay anonymous in a company. It’s like a two-sided stick. It depends maybe what type of motivation you have, you know, personally as well.

Annika Rausch 33:27 You know in general, if you don’t do your research, nobody else is going to do it for you. Nothing is going to happen ever if you don’t do the stuff; if you don’t write the paper. But in business, it’s different. If you don’t do your work then there’s maybe another person who is partially doing your work in a way; things go on. You know, it’s not like nothing is going to happen anymore. That can be a relief sometimes. Especially, if you’re having weak that’s not your best week.

Natalia Bielczyk 34:09 What do you find are the main pros and cons of your job? Since your boss might be watching maybe. What are your main pros on the job?

Annika Rausch 34:23 The pro is my manager. 

Natalia Bielczyk 34:35 #IReallyNeedTheRaise

Annika Rausch 34:35 I think one of the pros, you just said. I think in general; you earn a bit more in industry than during academia. Although, I think for some people it can be surprising how small you start, you know. You don’t get like a huge salary right away. That’s a myth, usually. But I think your chances of getting a higher salary are increasing after some time. Compared to academia, where it’s quite fixed. Should I read aloud out the question? 

Natalia Bielczyk 35:16 Yes. 

Annika Rausch 35:17 How much freedom do you have to design your own projects? Or is it from the top down? 

Annika Rausch 35:24 I’m going to come to that later. And I’ll continue finishing my sentence first. 

Annika Rausch 35:35 But a disadvantage is really that you’re not as flexible. In academia, you could go to the dentist whenever you wanted, nobody cared. Now, I need to account for my hours. And people are watching what you’re doing, since you’re working. Especially, when you’re working for the clients, people are really watching your hours’ like, how many hours are you making. They’re paying for your advice and your work, so that’s really important.

Natalia Bielczyk 36:08 Let me then ask a question. I know that you are a very productive person. But even the most productive person sometimes has this dead-hour. You’re sitting in front of your computer and you have this blank screen in front of your eyes. You know you’re not focused and you just sit there. And what do you do then? 

Natalia Bielczyk 36:27 Because, you know, if you have to leave at 5pm, but you still have to count hours and report what you did. What happens when you have that bad day when nothing really works for you?

Annika Rausch 36:42 Luckily, most people get the feeling. I need any to get used to it, that you can’t go home, then you have to still make your hours. There’s no way around it. And you have to accept that maybe you’re not as productive today than yesterday. But you still need to fill your hours, of course. And if we’re honest, usually even if you’re not productive, you can always do something. 

Annika Rausch 37:17 But should I come back to the question that I just read out? Most of the projects are really top down. Because a client is asking you or hiring you for a specific job, and then they want to get the job done. But what you can do is evaluate with them, if that job is feasible. And if it’s not, then you can advise them on what you would prefer to do. It also depends on what kind of contract you have. 

Annika Rausch 37:51 Sometimes there is this long project and you get more flexibility there. But if you really have a timeframe of like six months or so, and they want you to just do like something that they really predefined and have like a certain budget for it allocated. Then you’re really not as flexible. But I also must say that usually the clients don’t know in advance what they want in terms of technology or analysis. You’re free in coming up with the specifics about that yourself, usually. Is this clear?

Natalia Bielczyk 38:40 Yes, I think it’s clear. I think it’s clear. I mean, in this case, clearly. I mean, the client is the boss. That’s how it works, usually, unfortunately. I know that for myself, this is probably not enough freedom. But I can also see that it’s always a tradeoff. You have also higher amount of safety and better working benefits at the cost of flexibility. That’s always the tradeoff always. 

Natalia Bielczyk 39:08 If you think about all the things you did in your PhD, looking from the current perspective. If you knew what you would be doing right now, would you have done something different in your PhD trajectory, for instance?

Annika Rausch 39:36 Yes, I probably would have built up a portfolio; a data science portfolio, of course. Now, I got the job. I was quite lucky that I could get a job without having such a portfolio.

Natalia Bielczyk 39:52 I think that’s also what women often say, ‘Oh, I was lucky’. I don’t think you were lucky. You’re a very good data scientist, first of all.

Annika Rausch 39:59 I deserve that. It’s also not true that I didn’t have a portfolio. I had my research and I showed up with, you know, my portfolio to the job interview later with my current manager. And I showed him what kind of research I did. He didn’t understand the thing, but he saw something there. And he thought, like, ‘Yeah, okay, that’s nice’. There was something that I could show him. But it was not the usual data science project. Because a lot of data scientists build up their project with public data, or Kato cases, you know, which is also a type of public data and I didn’t.

Natalia Bielczyk 40:47 Were there any role models or mentors that you feel influenced you in some way so far?

Annika Rausch 40:55 During my PhD, I had a couple of supervisors, or all of them were inspiring in a way. Whenever I got stuck, and had a problem, I could go to them and they would come up with really creative solutions. And I thought that … I kind of admired that. Especially one of my supervisors, who was supervising me during my Master’s, he really helped me on a personal level to develop myself and also tried to build my confidence. And I think that was quite important for my development during the PhD.

Natalia Bielczyk 41:43 And at the end of the PhD, how did you feel back then? Because for some people, this is really difficult. It’s a bit like a grief, you know, with stages of grief. You have those stages, when you deny it first, and then you kind of bargain and negotiate with yourself. And then at the end, you have this resignation period. You kind of digest that it’s going to happen. It’s really difficult. Or was it easy for you? I make a decision. I’m trying an industry career at this period of time. When I was in academia; it’s done. And now there is a new life. How much time did it take you to make the decision?

Annika Rausch 42:32 After two years into my PhD, I started thinking about it; back then it was really a struggle. But by the time that my contract ended, I kind of made up my mind, and I thought, like, ‘Okay. Now, I’m going for this’. I wasn’t quite sure what it would be. But I knew that I would probably leave academia. And as soon as I found my job, it was settled, you know.

Natalia Bielczyk 42:59 And what was your main reason? Why did you take this final decision?

Annika Rausch 43:05 It was just practical. I needed to earn money at some point. And there was no you know, postdoc position available just yet. And at some point, you just have to say like, ‘Okay. Now, I have to earn money.’ My money is finished and I need it. That’s just purely practical. But I think also because I was busy with creating my own product, and then I came across Ordina which was a really good fit. Which made it feel like it’s the logical choice.

Natalia Bielczyk 43:46 Guys, if you have questions for Annika, please ask in the chat. Because so far, we got only two questions. Please ask your questions. And my next question for you would be something that I often ask people. It interests me, what is your relationship with your job? Because, you know, in academia, we have this very strong association. But like the legends say that in consultancy companies, have more personal distance to the job. And my question for you is, what is your private attitude?

Annika Rausch 44:33 I personally think that you spend so much time doing your job. I personally do a 40-hour work week at least. I rather like it, you know. I need to like my colleagues and I need to feel comfortable. And I think part of me is my job. I like what I do. I like it because I am the way that I am. And I think if you feel good fit, then your job grows on you. And you get this annoying thing that, what was it called? Deformation? (Déformation professionnelle – French) 

Annika Rausch 45:19 When you start working, for instance, as a psychiatrist. It’s a cliche. But if you started working as a psychologist, then you maybe start to analyze people. And if you start working as a consultant, you see yourself advising all kinds of people and stuff. And you’re also doing your job while you’re not on it.

Natalia Bielczyk 45:50 Anna has a question. You were saying that a data science portfolio might have been helpful. How would such a portfolio look like? And can you name a few examples from your PhD that you would have put into your portfolio?

Annika Rausch 46:08 I did put my research outputs in it. A couple of graphs that I was proud of. A couple of code snippets, because I wanted to show them that I can, you know, do statistical programming, which is quite important as a data scientist. I would have probably learned some SQL, more SQL. Because databases are really important as a data scientist and knowing how to query or extract data out of a data database. 

Annika Rausch 46:47 I would have included probably some code snippets. That’s what I did. I just included some code snippets that they could have a look at, and see the level of programming that you’re at. And also like, your data visualization skills. I think that the, [47:12 – Dutch word] the Dutch bank, they also really want you to send them some of your codes, like some of your example code. Maybe it’s a good idea, if you have a GitHub page, where you can upload your example code. That would be the easiest way to show what you’re doing now.

Natalia Bielczyk 47:32 Because it’s also two in one. You also show that you know these techniques to work in a team as a developer. it’s like two in one now. And I have a question just came to my mind. I’m curious, what is your relation with your colleagues? Again, in academia, we tend to make friends who are colleagues, like often best friends are our peer PhD students. At your current job, do you have just occasional drinks with colleagues? Or do you also make friends and spend some time together after working hours? Or how does it look like?

Annika Rausch 48:14 We do spend some time after working hours, definitely. But that’s usually planned and in a group. I don’t go for coffee with just one of my colleagues. It’s not that I don’t like my colleagues, but that situation just didn’t occur yet. But I would if someone would invite me. You know, unless I’m sensing something. I would do so I guess. And these social events at work are quite important and also happen quite regularly.

Natalia Bielczyk 48:54 Interesting. Sounds like a healthy and friendly place. #GiveMeARaise. Let’s see, maybe it works. Come on, ‘m rooting for you. a little self-promotion there. Guys, do you have some more questions? Because our time is running out. And Joanna is asking, what are all the technical things that you need to approach in such industries? For instance, if I want to approach industry with my background in neurobiology, pharmacy, drug delivery, etc.?

Annika Rausch 49:41 You know, it really depends on the specific job needs. And I think the most important thing, the most important skill that you need is confidence that you can learn it on the job. And also, you need to be able to convince people that you are perfect for the job, even though you don’t quite believe yourself that you might be the best person to do it. This is because, usually PhD students are really good at learning stuff quite quickly. 

Annika Rausch 50:21 And usually, you can do and learn a lot of things on the job. That’s my general advice. Believe in yourself and just believe that you can learn these things, and try to convince people, and learn how to convince people that you can do it. That’s the most important thing. But if you want to become a data scientist, … What’s the question? … Such industries, what do you mean, as a data scientist? 

Annika Rausch 50:52 Yes. Python is really hot right now. Most clients are asking for Python. Like I said, database languages are really important. Sometimes they’re asking for Java or Scala. R, I started with R. Those are the most important. And they often asked for Power BI as well. Since sometimes you need to make dashboards for clients. But it really depends on the job.

Natalia Bielczyk 51:31 It’s usually also stated in the job offer, when if there is anything specific. Adiana is asking, what is the most exciting part of your job and the most challenging? I think we already come to the conclusion, came to the conclusion that the most challenging is how to ask for a raise. We can proceed to the most exciting.

Annika Rausch 52:04 The most exciting thing is if you make a product and you implemented it. That’s a huge thing in data science and also in IT. There’s been these studies that only 7% of the big IT projects succeeds. 93% fail, in a way. And I think 64% of these failures are because of some organizational or communication issues. If you’re able, as a data scientist, to make a product and actually implement it and make it work and valuable, that’s really great.

Natalia Bielczyk 52:54 That’s a great answer. Any more questions, guys? 3-2-1. No pressure Time is up guys. I would like to cordially thank Annika for her information. Thank you so much. I think we all have a much better picture now how working as a consultant looks like. Thank you so much for this. And let’s keep our fingers crossed for Annika’s raise now, guys. Thanks for your presentation.

Annika Rausch 53:41 Thank you for your attention.

Natalia Bielczyk 53:44 Thanks, Annika. That was a lot of useful information. Thank you, guys.

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2020, May 17th). E002 From Neuroscience PhD to a Career in Consultancy. Can Working in a Consultancy Company Be Fun? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/career-development-strategies-e002-from-neuroscience-phd-to-a-career-in-consultancy-can-working-in-a-consultancy-company-be-fun/

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