Moving to the Dark Side

Leaving the Pipette for a Keyboard.

Help. I am a bioinformatician looking for a job

Usually a Data Science job, and I am here to help you. In the past year or so I have been doing a lot of mentoring with bioinformaticians / data scientists who are looking to exit the professorship career path. It seems like I have been doing a decent job because people keep approaching me for help on a regular basis. So I am making a series of posts with thoughts, notes, and advice, collected through several mentoring conversations in the hope of reaching and helping a larger audience.

The target audience are mid-to-late stage PhDs and Postdocs who have no desire of climbing the academic ladder. They will have data science skills of a very wide range. For example, very good knowledge of genomics but basic programming (R / bash), or strong biostatistics and basic knowledge of biology. The exact set of skills is not very important because the advice will be general, however I am targeting bioinformaticians because I feel like I am best placed to give advice to people with a similar(-ish) path to my own.

Note: I consider bioinformatics broadly as part of what recently became known as Data Science.

The content is based on either my experience or second-hand accounts of others, and should not be treated as gospel. I am also speaking with my European glasses on, and some knowledge of the USA market, so ignore anything that doesn’t apply to your locale. Feel free to disagree and ignore with some or all of what I’ve written - in fact I’ve done the same a few times when given career advice1. I will not lecture or pretend that this advice is the “best” because there is no such thing. You will have to decide your own priorities, and thus what is a good path for you may be terrible for others.

But please allow me to introduce myself2

I started as a wet-lab scientist, Biology was my first degree, eventually did a PhD in Neurobiology, and only transitioned to bioinformatics / Data science during my Post-doc (Genomics). From there I held positions as a bioinformatician in two different service facilities, was an embedded bioinformatician in an academic group, and I have been a Data Scientist / Bioinformatician in an early stage biotech / Pharma company for a little over two years. All this to say that I have a fairly good understanding of different roles, and in different industries through either first-hand experience or because I meet a lot of people along the way. There will be others with more experience, but I left my last “academic” position recently enough that aspects of the transition are still fresh in my memory.

Topics covered:

  • Part I. Should I stay or should I go? Industry is not the only option and staying close to academia is a good option. link
  • Part II. Lost in Translation. Some job description appear to have been written in Klingon! I’ll help translate. link
  • Part III. Is there any job out there!? Many roles exist in the industry that you wouldn’t even consider but might be just right for you.
  • Part IV. Time. When to start looking for job.
  • Part V. What have I done!? A lot, and your CV should reflect that.


  1. First was when advised against going to Germany for a Postdoc and rather go to the US - I came to Germany and haven’t left since. the second occasion was when I was given tips on how to improve my CV which I mostly took, but also ignored a couple. 

  2. Bonus points if you guess the cultural reference. I am not like this character, I swear.