Proprietary R&D makes terrible resume-filler.
October 31, 2012 4:48 PM Subscribe
How does a scientist doing R&D work in industry maintain a Linked-in profile or have a great resume, when the work in question is company-confidential or proprietary?
posted by aimedwander to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We don't publish much in peer-reviewed journals or go to a lot of conferences because there's a long process to get the legal department to clear anything for external presentation. I've seen interview talks by applicants who presented old grad-school work because they couldn't present on their current industry job; so I know it's kind of an issue.
I'd like to update my professional profiles and my resume to say what I've been doing with my time, but I really don't know where the boundary is for proprietary information.
To use a ridiculous analogy: I spend every day doing experiments to optimize the perceived cuteness of kitten photos by adjusting their ear size. Every document I've ever written for work is stamped "proprietary"; clearly I'm not supposed to talk about my research. I know I can say I'm an expert in Photoshop and in statistical analysis of preference-based data sets. But so are a lot of people, so I'd like to be more specific. Is it revealing too much to say
(a) In the 10 years I was with the company, I studied kitten, puppies, and dolphins. (OMG dolphins? KittnPuppLabs worked with dolphins? who knew?)
(b) I was project leader for the Kitten Cuteness project in 2010 (i.e. admitting that cuteness is something the company cares about enough to put a research team on it 2 years ago)
(c) I developed a metric to accurately calibrate the ear size of kittens based on the ear-to-head measurement ratio (i.e. describing the technique used but not the purpose of the project)
(d) I improved perceived kitten cuteness by 10% through survey-based optimization techniques (the overall accomplishments of the project but not revealing technical information)
If one of c/d is allowable, could it become not-allowed in the presence of the other? (i.e. I can talk about techniques OR big-picture accomplishments but not both)
Or are all these pretty much okay because seriously everybody knows the internet demands cute kittens and anybody who's thought about it would guess ear size is a factor? So I can say both those things because I will never disclose the all-important ratio of 6.2 that optimized cuteness?
(note, if you answer this, please tell me whether it's an educated guess or just a guess)
I can look on the web for examples of other scientists' resumes, but I don't know how to tell if it's a good example, or an example of somebody being clueless. Google searches involving "confidentiality" and "resume" revolve around "how to keep HR from knowing I'm looking for another job"; I'd welcome better search terms.
Asking HR is kind of out of the question - not only are they unfamiliar with the intricacies of the R&D department, it's the type of culture that they'd assume I was about to quit if I mentioned keeping my resume current.
Asking legal has been very unhelpful in the past; their default answer is "say nothing" (or "document everything" depending on what the question was).
Asking my more-senior coworkers is a possibility, but it's something I'd have to wait for the right time and place to do, as I anticipate it being a kind of awkward question (hey, help me with my resume, so I can get out of here, please?) and it's quite possible they won't really know either.
So, I'm asking the internet. I realize that nobody knows how things are done in the particular company I work for, but I think there's probably a general answer. I'd be interested in anecdata or any form of info on what might be a standard expectation for an appropriate level of technical secrecy in any context. Ideally an article discussing this. Stories about how you handled it that one time. Examples of good resumes? Example of someone who got in trouble for saying too much? Anything you've got, really.