Showcasing careers beyond academia

Gianluca Bortoletto

Data Analyst
NTT Data

Year entered into a non-academic position: 2022

Job highlight: It is a data analyst job where I am working on a project about a taxonomy of occupations; namely the European Skills, Competences and Occupations (ESCO). The aim is to create a dictionary putting together job portals, statistical data, and continuous learning.

My research training set me up to…: I obtained the skills in database management and analysis of quantitative data through my doctoral training and the two main academic research contracts. These skills allow me to be a good candidate for working as a data analyst in the industry.

Left academia after: PhD


What’s your background?

I am an Economist. I have studied International Economics in both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and I have obtained a PhD in Economics from the University of Birmingham (UK).

Why did you move away from academia?

The main reason is that I wanted to have an experience in the industry.

Not least, industry gives you more stability in terms of the duration of the contracts and the opportunity of better planning ahead life goals.

Is there anything you miss about academia?

I miss the opportunity to manage your working hours in a flexible way.

How did you get this job? Did you face any challenges when considering a move away from academia or applying for the role? 

I applied through a referral by my Master’s dissertation supervisor. The main challenges that I have considered concern the level of micromanagement that is generally higher in industry compared to academia. This adds also to the stress in finishing a job in shorter times compared to academia.

What motivated you to/why did you choose the sector you transitioned into?

Consultancy has some similarities with academic research because my work is analytical and based on data. Moreover, I understand the challenges faced by the clients who want me to use a dataset for research purposes given that I have experience as a researcher.

Did you think you had the skills required for your current position before you started? Were you right?

I thought I have skills that match the expectations of the employer although I did not have applied experience in the field. I was right, because my background allows me to understand the main issues related to the job and the project, and how to offer some potential solutions to that.

How did your PhD prepare you for your current job? For example, what were the transferable skills that you developed during your PhD that are most relevant to your current job?

The analytical skills applied to datasets are surely skills that are important in the job. Not least, the skills in understanding the issues related to the use of a dataset as a researcher are potentially very valuable for the company. For instance, in my last research contract I have worked on a project about the skilled-bias changes in employment structure within firms. To support the research I wanted to use the data I am handling in my current job specifically to define occupations and related skills, but I was not able to, because of how the ESCO database is structured.

I have brought my experience in ESCO to prompt changes in order to make the database easier to be used for researchers.

What is the workplace culture like? Please include comments on work-life balance, flexibility, remote working?

The workplace culture is very flexible. Many people are allowed to do remote working at least two days per week.

Do people with a PhD frequently get hired in the company/sector?

Yes; many employees in NTT data hold a PhD degree.

What are your reflections on your career path?

I think it was a good choice to leave academia for more stability and to explore the type of work that is done in industry.

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

Career in academia can be very rewarding, but it is also very precarious, and it does not allow medium-long term planning. Working in the industry allows this type of planning and it is more secure.

 Can you recommend any relevant resources, organisations or events that might help somebody new to the sector find out more about it?

I think LinkedIn would be very useful for finding a job in the industry. Companies also organise open days and they publicise them through LinkedIn or Twitter.