Ralph Useldinger: ‘‘In the industry, soft skills mean more than a high h-index’’
While the h-index has become one of the most widely used metrics in academia for measuring the productivity and impact of researchers, soft skills like project management, agility, presentation skills or even languages are what really matters in the non-academic world.
Ralph Useldinger serves as the Head of R&D for Group Analytics and Fundamental Research at CERATIZIT in Luxembourg. As one of the mentors of EURAXESS Luxembourg 2getthere programme, he shared his experience and advice on how to make a successful transition from research to the non-academic world.
Holding a PhD is an asset in non-academia
Non-academic mentors provide doctoral students with the opportunity to connect with working professionals, seek advice and develop meaningful perspectives. Through this process, students are able to promote their transferable skills.
Ralph Useldinger is particularly relevant as he completed a PhD in powder metallurgy at the Technical University of Vienna before embarking on a successful career outside academia. For the last 15 years, Ralph has been heading an R&D department that concentrates on powder metallurgical aspects for CERATIZIT, a high-technology engineering group, in Luxembourg.
While the head of R&D acknowledges that the transition to non-academia was smooth for him, he believes that PhD holders are valuable to private companies.
A high academic degree proves that the person is able to independently conduct an investigation and to come to logical conclusions. Another positive point is the demonstrated perseverance and willingness of the PhD holder to work on a particular topic for a long time and to become an expert in his/her field.
Similarly, private companies in Luxembourg offer great career development opportunities for researchers and highly qualified people.
When it comes to taking a new direction professionally, for example switching to a management position or to product management, a commercial company offers more opportunities for personal development than a research institute.
A mentor should first listen
Mentoring is essential to transition from academia into industry. In Ralph Useldinger's view, PhD candidates need to be aware that some values in academia and in industry may differ. Rightly, mentoring can give some help in identifying and embracing those differences on top of providing an external view of a situation. On this note, Ralph acknowledges that his supervisors' guidance has been valuable.
I did not have a formal mentor but I was lucky to have very good superiors who gave me good advice.
In his opinion a mentor should first listen, then give an honest constructive feedback based on a neutral view of the described situation and provide food for thought to the mentee, supporting them in planning further actions. The mentor should also let the mentee benefit from his/her experience to avoid known or possible pitfalls on the way.
I would have been glad if someone neutral would have taken the time to consider my situation at some steps in my working life, given me neutral feedback and maybe some advice. That’s why I wanted to be this “someone” for somebody else.
2getthere is a free-of-charge mentoring programme managed by EURAXESS Luxembourg dedicated to PhD candidates who see their future career outside academia in Luxembourg. Discover more about 2getthere.
Read more tips from our 2getthere programme.