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Ask HN: HCI Careers at Google/Disney/Microsoft?
11 points by WilandOr1903 on Oct 11, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 10 comments
I'm currently working as an iOS / OS X developer, but my main passion and interest (which includes my MSc work), lies in Human-Computer Interaction. I'd love to work at places like Google ATAP, Disney Research, or Microsoft Research in the HCI field. Do careers like this require a PhD? Does anyone have advice on transitioning from software development to HCI research?

I can't speak to Google ATAP or Disney, but getting a job at MSR almost certainly requires a PhD. HCI is an incredibly broad field, though: do you have more specific interests? Did you do any research as part of your MS? Broadly speaking, a PhD is only going to help you to the extent you want or need to participate in the academic community, for example by publishing papers. That would be the case at MSR and other research labs, but not so much in the majority of industry jobs.

(I'm an HCI PhD student at Stanford.)

How difficult to get admission in standford for HCI? and What requires to get in standford Just want to know. Thanks for help

I'm really not an authority on this, but to answer the question of "do I need a PhD", my view is that it depends on which 'part' of HCI you want to do.

Do you want to work on Project Soli at ATAP? Which part, the actual hardware / Radio antenna design? Then a PhD in analog design might be required to be qualified. Do you want to do the signal interpretation / analysis to detect gestures? Maybe a strong background in signals, filtering or even machine learning may be required.

HCI work can involve a lot of specific specialization which often requires these research / industry giants to demand a strong testament of your qualifications. Although not required, a PhD is often an easy way for them to see that.

If it is the more 'high-level' stuff, I'm not sure, as sometime a 'PhD in HCI' itself may be required (although I don't know too much what a 'PhD in HCI' entails)

Source: Experiences with HCI PhD's at UC Berkeley

If you can, the best way to get into research might be to go get the MS or doctorate. Disney research is made up of multiple labs, several of which are university programs that Disney sponsors, and full of people going for PhDs. In the internal labs most of the core researchers do have PhDs. There are ways to get in, it doesn't require a PhD, but it might take a demonstrated history of commitment to research, or willingness to take a job that is supporting or doing something tangential to core research. I have a friend who worked doing core research for both MSR and Disney research who doesn't have a PhD, but he published heavily and demonstrated he didn't need the degrees by being smarter and harder working than most researchers.

I have no advice for you (sorry!). I'm just interested in hearing what you like about HCI and why you are moving from dev to HCI research?

I had one class in it. I didn't mind it but I didn't love it either.

I would say that the reason I'm passionate about HCI is that I want to work toward better ways for people to interact with the digital tools they use. If I can research, design, or implement something that makes the "digital experience" better, I would be happy.

You can do that as an iOS developer too right? E.g. things like pull to refresh were designed by lone developers.

I'm in the same boat as you, except that I lack a degree.

Although I would love the opportunity to work at Microsoft Research, I accepted the fact that I likely never would.

Lately, I've been considering to join and/or create a distributed research team. The most challenging part has been to find people whose vision align with mine.

Feel free to contact me if that's of interest to you.

How do I contact you? Your profile doesn't list any contact information.

You can email me at aethjgore@gmail.com with your vision. I saw your other post re: the singular app / OS that does everything. I've been working on that and would love to have another person onboard.

You can work at MSR as a research engineer (basically, you make software to help the researchers). You're a support role, but can still do some of the research under the direction of someone with a Ph.D.

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