Transferring from academia into industry, by building transferable skills

Graduate Engineer, BT Tianhao He
Dr Tianhao He
PGR Careers Case Study

Introduce yourself by providing information about your research and current role

My PhD study was on electronics and electric engineering. The research was about the design of novel microwave components and circuits for communication purposes, and new design methodology has been developed and tested on design. I completed my PhD in April 2015 and recently started working for BT in Ipswich. I have joined a busy team of people managing the BT network for customers. I have been assigned a line manager to look after my personal and professional development, who acts in a similar role as a mentor or supervisor would at University.

How has your PhD prepared you and given you relevant transferable skills for your current role?

My studies at University and my job experience through Careers Network and WorkLink have helped me a lot to prepare for this current role as I now have excellent and relevant transferable skills. As a result, I believe I can successfully transfer from academia into industry during the two year graduate development scheme.

Was it always your goal to pursue a career outside of academia? If not, at what stage of your PhD journey did you decide not to build an academic career?

During my PhD, I seized several opportunities to work on campus to develop my career capabilities and earn extra money for my living. This helped me to consider from the first year onwards opportunities outside of academia.

What support have you had to help you make the move from your PhD to your job? For example from Careers Network, mentors and academics?

I worked as a project coordinator for the ADEPT project, which was led by Careers Network and run by PhD students to help PGRs develop career awareness and skills. I worked on the marketing aspect of the project and I learned so much about marketing, team work and communication skills.

As an international student, working in a team with people from all different backgrounds was really amazing and the project helped me become more confident in communicating in English. By working and attending the ADEPT conference, I met a lot professionals working in industry and also alumni from the university. A number of these shared with me their experiences and suggestions on my future career choice, which was working in industry. Working with Careers Network on the ADEPT was of the most rewarding and best job in my PhD.

Postgraduate Enterprise Summer SchoolI also attended several training and professional development courses run by Careers Network such as Leading Academics, Talent Pool and Postgraduate Enterprise Summer School (PESS). During those courses, I learned skills such as leadership in academic and industrial environment, consulting skills, communication skills and the basics of finances and opening a new business. Those skills are essential for working in the commercial market as an engineer, however, cannot be covered in core PhD training. The commercial skills developed in those training courses have given me more confidence in job hunting and job interviews.

Please add any tips or advice for researchers considering a career outside of academia.

I would highly recommend that PhD students can look for part time jobs during their study and actively attend the training courses provided by Careers Network, as these are invaluable for future professional development.

Please invite your employer to add any relevant information about job opportunities for PhDs with their company.

All the up to date BT recruitment information for graduates can be found at, where you can find useful information to join BT as a graduate.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s