Any scientists here? Need a reality check regarding jobs

31 posts in this topic

Hi Toytown,

 

It's my first time posting, but I have a feeling I'll be coming back here a lot :)

 

I am a 30 year old US citizen in a long-distance serious relationship with a lovely German woman, and I am about to attempt to move to Germany to be with her. I am of South Asian descent and have a Muslim name.

 

I hold a PhD in electrical engineering from an Ivy League university and my research is in an area that has more overlap with theoretical/computational physics than it does with electrical engineering. I am currently employed at a well-known tech company and have 2 years of experience working there with the job title of 'software engineer'.

 

There are no jobs (anywhere in the world) directly in the stuff that I did my PhD in because of its theoretical nature, but jobs in the semiconductor, optics, and computational fields could have varying degrees of overlap with my skillset. Thanks to my current job, I have 2 years of experience coding in C++ and Python, but I don't have any experience in the burgeoning field of machine learning and AI. I say this to give you an idea that while I have a lot of education and even real world experience, I'm not exactly a typical candidate for most jobs that I see.

 

Now to my actual questions...

 

1. If I move to Germany and get married to my girlfriend, is it reasonable to expect that I could get a job in one of the larger cities within 6 months? I'm mostly worried that the combination of an academic leaning PhD with relatively recent software skills might make me too weird for the German market.

 

2. How closely am I expected to stick to either my PhD focus or to my 'software engineering' title when applying for new jobs? I ask this because in the U.S., it's often okay to apply in neighboring fields, and it's okay if you don't have all the listed skills.

 

3. I am not too interested in typical software roles and gravitate more towards research roles, which tend to be fewer in number. I'm wondering if research roles in companies are hard to get for foreigners, and if I need to learn German first?

 

4. Any tips on how I could get in touch with some scientists/PhDs working in industry in research roles?

 

5. I see that machine learning and AI are exploding in Germany right now. Is it still a field there that one can enter without formal training, provided that I have a strong quantitative background?

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I can´t answer your questions but why don´t you simply ask some headhunters? You´d have nothing to lose, after all.

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Have you researched the various Fraunhofer Institutes? Or the Hasso Plattner Institute at the University of Potsdam?

 

SAP might be an option - they have offices all over the country. Deutsche Telekom also runs T-Labs, which does their cutting edge research (much like AT&T in the 60s and 70s).

 

Where in Germany are you hoping to end up?

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@jeba Thanks for the suggestion. I tried reaching out to a few on LinkedIn a few weeks ago but didn't get a response back. I can definitely try and reach out to some more.

 

@El Jeffo Ideally I would end up in Berlin, but if I have a hard time finding a job there, Munich and Hamburg would both be reasonable options. I have looked at the Fraunhofer Institutes but didn't know about the T-Labs, so I'm looking into that.

 

I should mention that I've already applied to 40+ jobs and got some interest (two interviews), though not as much as I had expected. I imagine this is at least partially because 1) I don't speak German, and 2) I don't live in Germany. I'm basically trying to figure out if I should keep applying for another 3-4 months or just quit my job, move there, and then apply. My gf has a job, and I have enough savings to survive, but it would really suck if I'm out of a job for much more than 6 months.

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44 minutes ago, hopefulScientist said:

just quit my job, move there, and then apply.

On what kind of visa do you plan to do so?

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He's American, @franklan, so he can come here on a tourist visa and change it later.

 

1 hour ago, hopefulScientist said:

Ideally I would end up in Berlin,

Well, T-Labs has a site right on Ernst-Reuter-Platz in Charlottenburg. They're affiliated with the Technical University.

 

As I'm sure you're aware, Berlin has a "thriving" startup scene, but IMO you'll want to stay away from the Rocket Internet companies. I doubt they'd want to pay a PhD salary anyway. Here's a non-exhaustive list I found.

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9 minutes ago, El Jeffo said:

He's American, @franklan, so he can come here on a tourist visa and change it later.

Yes, that's true, he can "come" here on a tourist visa.

 

But he said "move", didn't he? I just wanted to make sure that he knows that if the hit fits the shan, he has to leave after the tourist visa runs out, you cannot register as living in D on a tourist visa.

 

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With his qualifications, I doubt he'd have any trouble getting a longer-term job-seeker visa, provided he can prove sufficient resources to fund his stay.

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4 hours ago, hopefulScientist said:

Now to my actual questions...

 

1. If I move to Germany and get married to my girlfriend, is it reasonable to expect that I could get a job in one of the larger cities within 6 months? I'm mostly worried that the combination of an academic leaning PhD with relatively recent software skills might make me too weird for the German market.

We have 40 PHDs in Physics in a 300 person company. Some of them are working in software, so it is not completely weird. Already had 2 PHDs in my team. Granted, we are not the typical company.

 

Quote

 

2. How closely am I expected to stick to either my PhD focus or to my 'software engineering' title when applying for new jobs? I ask this because in the U.S., it's often okay to apply in neighboring fields, and it's okay if you don't have all the listed skills.

In Germany they expect good matches, which is stupid, but that is how it works here.

 

Quote

 

3. I am not too interested in typical software roles and gravitate more towards research roles, which tend to be fewer in number. I'm wondering if research roles in companies are hard to get for foreigners, and if I need to learn German first?

Software has high demand. Physics, especially research, doesn't. Either you are a true genius or otherwise it will be hard for a non-german speaker from Asian descent with a Muslim name to step over the thousands of native PHDs that want the same.

 

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5. I see that machine learning and AI are exploding in Germany right now. Is it still a field there that one can enter without formal training, provided that I have a strong quantitative background?

Data scientist is in demand in Munich. One of my team's PHD guy got bored with SW and went into that role.

 

Bear in mind that most large companies have a mandatory minimum and maximum salary per qualifications. Meaning that they would not be able to pay you, let's say 75k€, as you are a PHD. This also means that they might not hire you because the position does not pay that much.

 

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6 hours ago, hopefulScientist said:

3. I am not too interested in typical software roles and gravitate more towards research roles, which tend to be fewer in number. I'm wondering if research roles in companies are hard to get for foreigners, and if I need to learn German first?

 

That is excluding the vast majority of jobs, so yes obviously it makes it way way harder to find a role. Not speaking german isnt a deal breaker, but it will make it harder.

 

6 hours ago, hopefulScientist said:

I'm mostly worried that the combination of an academic leaning PhD with relatively recent software skills might make me too weird for the German market.

 

As a software developer no, its fine.  But you dont want to be a software dev.  What makes you "weird" is that you dont want to do the jobs that are available.  I expect agents will constantly put you forward for roles you dont want, for example.

 

6 hours ago, hopefulScientist said:

I see that machine learning and AI are exploding in Germany right now. Is it still a field there that one can enter without formal training, provided that I have a strong quantitative background?

 

Doesnt matter too much.  For the most part its skills that are important here.  Many people have a math background, but at the end of the day its not super important.

 

2 hours ago, MikeMelga said:

Bear in mind that most large companies have a mandatory minimum and maximum salary per qualifications. Meaning that they would not be able to pay you, let's say 75k€, as you are a PHD. This also means that they might not hire you because the position does not pay that much.

 

I think this might actually be the sticking point, german tech jobs dont pay the super high salaries many people expect.

 

6 hours ago, hopefulScientist said:

I am of South Asian descent and have a Muslim name.

 

Thats pretty normal for software and related work in germany.  FWIW in my experience most germans dont seem too clear on what a muslim name is, they are likely to assume you are indian and a hindu regardless of your actual origins and beliefs.

 

5 hours ago, hopefulScientist said:

I imagine this is at least partially because 1) I don't speak German, and 2) I don't live in Germany. I'm basically trying to figure out if I should keep applying for another 3-4 months or just quit my job, move there, and then apply.

 

Location is probably a bigger issue than language.  The question for me is how flexible you are on the role, a good software dev is unlikely to be out of work for more than a couple of months provided they have realistic salary expectations.  Wanting to work in research moves the goalposts significantly, depending on how picky you are.  Actual "proper" research at universities is often on a shortish contract basis and is at least amongst the few people I know a massive pain in germany.

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I would also throw Dresden into the ring plus look at the Technical Universities in general for research consortia and spin offs. 

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@zwiebelfisch Thanks for the detailed reply. I should clarify my stance on software vs research. I have already put academia behind me and currently work as a software engineer. It’s just that having spent so many years doing numerical development, I was wondering if I might have any edge in that market (and I do love it more than some software jobs). From the replies here though, it seems that Germany is already overrun with PhDs with a quantitative bent, so I guess not.

 

Coming back to software, what is in demand currently? If I spend a few months studying, what technologies should I learn? And what qualifies as a “good” software dev in Germany? In the US market, for someone out of school or a couple of years of experience, all that matters after getting your resume noticed is your ability to solve leetcode problems quickly. Do companies in Germany also assess developer quality in this way? Personally, I’m not a fan of this but given enough time, most people with the ability to get an interview (ie: good degree or network), who are reasonably smart, have a shot at getting a job at competitive companies.

 

@MikeMelga When I say research, I don’t mean tenured positions in academia and the various institutes. Don’t get me wrong, I would love those jobs but I know they are hard to get (same in the US) and they have some other drawbacks too. I mean mostly the roles in AI, NLP, autonomous driving, etc popping up in a lot of companies. These roles may not be appropriate for my current skill set but I’m wondering if hiring is more heavily biased towards Germans for such roles. Basically, if the role probably requires a PhD, am I at a significant disadvantage compared to typical software roles, provided I meet most of the job’s requirements?

 

And how does this bias change if I have permanent residency and authorization to work? For example, if I obtain that authorization through marriage.

 

 

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Im involved in recruitment in Berlin, so my views may have various biases.

 

1 hour ago, hopefulScientist said:

Coming back to software, what is in demand currently? If I spend a few months studying, what technologies should I learn? 

 

At the moment java and javascript developers are in fairly high demand.  Data science is a buzzword and in theory there is a lot of work but Im skeptical that many of the roles may not be much more than reporting in excel.  Python seems to be somewhat in demand.

Everyone is talking about scala but noone seems to be doing it, same with kotlin.  Lots of mobile, with flutter being the current darling.  

 

Ive seen various people posting here about C# but all the c# developers I have met say there is no work.  Read into that what you will, maybe Berlin isnt the place.

 

A general interest in tech is also often a big plus.  A link to an empty github repo is pointless (and alarmingly common), but a few Raspberry pi projects or work on some open source stuff looks good.  If you have written some mobile apps, make sure they are intalled on the phone you take to an interview.

 

1 hour ago, hopefulScientist said:

And what qualifies as a “good” software dev in Germany? In the US market, for someone out of school or a couple of years of experience, all that matters after getting your resume noticed is your ability to solve leetcode problems quickly. Do companies in Germany also assess developer quality in this way?

 

Not in my experience.  Mostly interviews are done by both technical and HR/management, with the technical people asking about experience and concrete "how ddid you do this previously, or, if you havent done it in real life how would you expect to do it on a real project", and the non tech bit focussing on motivation, teamfit (in this context more or less can I work with you without pulling my hair out) and some amount of selling the company to the applicant.

 

No doubt lots of people will disagree with my analysis, but thats more or less how I see it all right now.

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Agree with Python.

 

With C#, there is a lot of demand, but varies a lot from industry to industry. C# is huge in Asia. 

Especially .net Core seems to be incredibly good and with great acceptance, as it is cross-platform.

 

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On 5.12.2019, 11:48:03, MikeMelga said:

Software has high demand. Physics, especially research, doesn't. Either you are a true genius or otherwise it will be hard for a non-german speaker from Asian descent with a Muslim name to step over the thousands of native PHDs that want the same.

My company has high demand for both.  Plus mathematicians.  The love to hire Ph.D.'s (Or at least they used to until Brexit and Trump).  However the "non-german speaker" bit is a killer.  If your plan is to live here, I cannot stress enough how important it is to learn the language.  

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On ‎05‎.‎12‎.‎2019‎ ‎11‎:‎48‎:‎03, MikeMelga said:

Either you are a true genius or otherwise it will be hard for a non-german speaker from Asian descent with a Muslim name to step over the thousands of native PHDs that want the same.

Given that there are several million immigrants working in Germany (EU and non-EU), many of them in skilled, high-paying jobs, I don't see the poster's Muslim name as being a huge stumbling block to his chances. Employers tend to hire the best (and cheapest) workers, they're usually not too concerned about nationality or religion.

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8 hours ago, hopefulScientist said:

Coming back to software, what is in demand currently? If I spend a few months studying, what technologies should I learn? And what qualifies as a “good” software dev in Germany?

 

I would think that someone with your research credentials would be able to find answers to these questions by searching various job boards, linkedin, since that's where jobs are.  Likewise, you might contact US international companies and universities that meet your criteria and see if they have offices in DL.  That's how I found work and I don't even have a PhD.

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I have a PhD in nuclear and experimental particle physics from an American university (background in C++ which is a waste here in Germany apparently). I now have a job as a data scientist for a pharma company doing R, Python and a variety of other things (we are trying to get the scientist away from Excel, its a serious challenge!). It is DEFINITELY possible to find a job that is not directly related to your degree. With a degree in science, don't limit yourself, apply even if you only have 7 of the 10 requirements. When I was searching for a job, I just typed in data and physics into Xing and LinkedIn and there was plenty of possibilities. You just have to find the one you want and even though I am a data scientist, I am doing research, just in a different way than my postdoc or PhD. You'd be surprised how many data scientist roles are doing research. 

 

For the AI and ML, you can take some courses online, lots of people love Coursera. Or do some tutorials on your own. These are buzz words now and most people haven't got a clue about them anyways.


Regarding the visa, go with the blue card as you have a PhD. And start learning German as soon as you have time. I have a B1 certificate from 4 years ago and it was good enough to please my company and now my work day is 80% auf Deutsch.

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