I still collaborate with my old company, but with completely different groups. My old group would not have been conducive to this. I had a great relationship with the group, but what they’re doing doesn’t always mesh well with my research interests. Having industry contacts came hugely in handy because I have been able to easily reach out to the people I know that can cut checks to fund my research. As funding is getting tighter and tighter from federal agencies I have to lean more and more on industry.
I recently visited the old facility where my lab in industry was located. I did the meetings and demos required, and I feel I did an okay job of keeping the funding rolling. We’ll see in a month or so. The questions are always so different when I visit companies versus a conference. Companies want to know when they can take on the project and turn it into something profitable. No one else gives a crap. But it’s neat to see how things grow and how projects I proved out when I was there are turning into actual products that will soon hit the market. Seeing them grow is a cool feeling. I enjoyed it then, and I continue to appreciate a project ramping up. But while I was there I thought it would be a good time to check out the old stomping grounds. So I called up who I groomed to be my replacement and found out that she left. I’ll go into the reasons in a second. So I texted an old employee and they were gone. So I texted another one and she said the new group leader didn’t want me there. I’m an outsider and they have company secrets to protect. I said that I understood and offered to grab a drink and dinner later. She was more than happy to accept on the invite.
At dinner, she spilled the beans. The new guy is a hardcore ‘get products out’ kind of guy. Smart and incredibly cocky, and doesn’t really have a scientific attitude. He likes to just make things quickly to impress higher-ups. The rest of the team are more classically trained where they understand the theory really well. If a new problem comes up they (like I) like to do the math to get a handle on the problem then build a device to how the theory stands up. The new guy isn’t so strong in the theory so he makes up for it by just building tons of stuff, trying everything, and being happy when it’s good enough. I built the team to build it the best way possible, tying in physics with medicine in new ways and we were very successful because of it. My replacement recruited this new guy in because he seemed to have a nice knowledge set to help her manage the team. But apparently, he took over hardcore and stroked the ego of the higher VP of the company to start usurping responsibility from my old number 2. So she left, the next up left as well, and the remainder of the team doesn’t like his attitude. It’s sad to see my old team falling apart because of one overcocky pseudo-psychopath (according to my old employees). A lot of the team will never leave because they have pensions and families to think about, or aren’t as marketable. So this new guy will definitely be very successful because of the way I set up the infrastructure of the group. This is a regular occurrence. A (usually) guy comes in, acts incredibly aggressive, chirps the loudest, gets their way, then riding on the shoulders of their team gets all the credit, raises, etc. and goes home happy while the other employees that can’t really go elsewhere have to shoulder the burden until they retire. Welcome to the business world. Seeing stuff like this makes me much happier to be in academics. We have our problems here, but nowhere near as bad as what I’ve seen in industry.