After the PhD: Interview with Fernando Mondragon, PhD

Fernando Mondragon has a PhD in Civil Engineering. “What I did for my dissertation work was to try and understand what construction field personnel – specifically managers – how they process information that they find in the field, as well as how the information is made available to them,” he says. “And to understand how effective the construction system is.”

It is unsurprising that Fernando has found success as a user experience researcher at Rackspace, a tech company which provides cloud services. Fernando’s communication and problem-solving skills are very useful in his current position, where he works to collect and analyse data on platforms and programs to improve usability.

Initially, Dr. Mondragon found the career transition difficult. “It’s not easy to go into industry with a PhD,” he says, “because construction companies, both commercial construction companies, oil and gas construction companies, will expect you to have a lot of experience in the field.” Fernando knew that he didn’t want to become a professor, and with the support of his doctoral supervisor he started his career transition by securing part-time contracts at software companies to build up his skill set. “I used those two years to figure out how I could get into industry. And what kind of industry was the relevant one, because that wasn’t quite clear to me,” he says.

Fernando’s advice to PhDs currently making the transition? “You’re doing the right thing, you do have the right skillset. You do understand science. And that’s very valuable.”

Watch the whole interview for Fernando’s advice to current graduate students looking beyond the academy. Check back for new interviews with PhDs working beyond the professoriate. Career advice for PhDs, from a PhD who’s been there, done that. Where will you take your PhD?

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