Episode 68: Leaving Academia for a non-academic career, with Ashley Ruba

Episode 68: Leaving Academia for a non-academic career, with Ashley Ruba, PhD


In a recent episode of The Struggling Scientists podcast, we had the privilege of hosting Ashley Ruba, a former postdoctoral fellow who successfully made the transition from academia to a non-academic career. Ashley shared her personal journey and experiences, offering valuable insights for academics contemplating a similar shift. This blog post highlights key takeaways and practical advice discussed in the episode, aimed at academics exploring opportunities in industry.

Differences Between Academia And Industry

During the podcast, Ashley highlighted her background as a human factors engineer at a medical device company, a role that falls under the umbrella of UX research. She drew parallels between her current responsibilities and her academic career in developmental psychology, emphasizing the collaborative nature of her current role and the involvement of various professionals in research projects. This comparison provides a compelling narrative for academics considering a transition to non-academic careers, shedding light on the practical aspects of adapting research skills to industry settings.

The Struggles Of Leaving Academia

Ashley openly discusses the challenges she faced while navigating the transition from academia to industry. Mental health struggles, experiences of bullying, and the observed stress among faculty positions in academia influenced her decision to pursue a non-academic career. She emphasized the stigmas and discouragement often faced by individuals considering a shift outside of academia, addressing the common struggles encountered by academics contemplating a similar transition.

Furthermore, Ashley’s experiences in the non-academic sector, including transitioning through different non-academic jobs and encountering layoffs at a previous company, provided a realistic perspective on the trials and triumphs of forging a new career path. Her journey from academia to industry, and the lessons learned along the way, serve as a source of inspiration and practical insight for academics exploring opportunities outside of the traditional academic landscape.

The Importance Of Networking And Career Transition

Ashley emphasizes networking as a critical factor in successfully transitioning from academia to industry. It underlines the importance of utilizing platforms like LinkedIn to build professional connections and target specific career paths. It also dispels the misconception that individuals leaving academia do not have value to offer while networking. By discussing the necessity of networking as early as the last year of a Ph.D. program, the podcast provides practical advice for academics looking to make a smooth transition to non-academic roles.


So, whether you’re a current Ph.D. student contemplating your career path, a postdoc considering a transition, or an academic researcher open to new opportunities, this podcast episode provides invaluable insights into the world of non-academic careers. From overcoming challenges to embracing new day-to-day realities and discovering unexpected intellectual fulfillment, the episode offers a realistic and encouraging perspective for academics seeking to venture into non-academic fields.

Remember, you are not limited to academia, and your valuable skills can pave the way for a successful and fulfilling career outside the traditional academic realm. Tune in to The Struggling Scientists podcast for more enlightening episodes and embark on your journey of career exploration and transition.

If you enjoyed this then consider checking out our episode on switching from academia to industry with guest Nicole Betz. Or if you’re contemplating switching to consultancy after your PhD consider checking out epsidoe with Bryan Quoc Le.

Until next time !

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