This is how a lot of Ph.D.'s get in to the business world. As the Ars technica post talks about, you will have fled the lab for many reasons. Most of which have to do with pizza, stale noodles, and the desire to never see these things again never mind eat them every day for two years. You may also not want to go to lab on Christmas day (as I did for the last two years of my Ph.D. as that is when the mice were ready....)(I would add this does nothing to making your fiancee happy...).
A Field Application Scientist has a lot of names. Included are
- Field Application Scientist
- Application Scientist
- Field Support Scientist
- Demo Whore
That is the downer.
The upside is that you get to talk about science all day without having to actually do any of it. For those of us (myself VERY included here) who loved science except for the messy bit of doing it, this is a very attractive part of the job. Whether you are supporting an instrument(Mass spec of some flavor) a sofware package (Bioinformatics of lab LIMS system) or something else, the goal is to sell more of something.
You will be going out and talking to people and working your butt off to solve their problems. They are only talking to you becuase they have a problem, so this is the part I loved. Essentially "Here is something hard to do, you have two hours", and away you go. You have more time than that, but the point is that you are there to solve a problem. You get to think about stuff, ask lots of questions, and then put forward a solution. That rocks (or at least, that is what got me excited).
You will travel a lot. You may have noticed that biology is done all over the world. Thus, if you think about it, you will rapidly realize that the people who will buy whatever it is that you are supporting, are also located all over the world. This means you will get on planes a lot. You will be home for Saturday night ONLY for several weeks in a row at some point in the career. You will learn about all the different frequent flyer programs and be able to hold forth on the merits and problems of each one. You may even think that the rest of the world cares. To put this in perspective, I did a 250,000 air mile year one year. I was pretty proud of myself (and that indicates how warped it made me...). I was sitting on a plane next to a guy who had done 750,000 miles the previous year. He commuted to Asia every week. I didn't even know this level of travel existed. You will meet these people, feeling that you travel a lot, and find out that there are people who travel even more. For the most part, they are divorced, so that is why this job is a burn out job.
MOST, app scientists only last a couple of years. After that they move on to marketing, sales, or business development or ...they must do other things but this is what I have seen mostly.
In the course of the job, you will get good at talking. You will be giving talks to small groups, large groups, hallway groups....essentially anyone who will stand still or who the sales rep points you at. The corallary of this is that if you hated giving talks during your Ph.D., you will HATE this job. DONT DO IT.
People will abuse you. Example- I give a demo in Germany. They listen and then the questions start. "Why are you so stupid?" is the first question. They went on from there with real questions. the goal there was to make me defensive and then, once there, knock the price down becuase "our product was OK and they could work around the problems". Unfortunatly for them, I am a supremly cocky asshole so they whole stupid thing didn't really work. A simple response of just smiling and waiting for the next question really put a kink in things. Then they had to ask questions that are answerable and we ended up with a decent deal being done. The point of this story is not to talk about the fact that I have a big head (while true...) it is to say that you can't go in to this with a thin skin. All of the stuff that you have been saying to sales reps for all of your years in the lab....well people will be doing that to you. You have to be able to take that and realize that they don't really mean it.
You have to know, and beleive in, your product. This job will not work if you don't know what you are talking about. Further, if you don't beleive that what your are selling really is the solution to the problem, then you will not be able to convince anyone. People always talk about "being able to sell snow to eskimos" and while there are people out there who can sell anything, they seem to mostly focus on used cars. For the rest of us, actaully beleiving what you are saying is the best way to actually convince people.
The above paragraph leads to something that you hope you don't have to do, but when the time comes you should do. Sometimes your product ISN'T the answer. You have to say that. It is better for everyone. Your sales rep, if they don't understand that, isn't worth working with. Your integrity, your reputation, your companies reputation, everything rides on this statement. If you want a future career in this business, you have to safeguard your reputation and your integrity, as the world is a very small place and people talk.
In the course of this job, you will hopefully pick up some sales experience. You should see how the sales process works. You should understand how business's are set up as far as making decisions. You should start to get an idea of what you are good at and what you are interested in doing when you grow up. I think you should go in to this job knowing it is a transient position, and just strive to learn everything you can so that you can move on.
This job is the consumate networking job. Make use of this. All the people you are meeting are future contacts, and you should always keep that in mind. The bio world is too small, so there is close to a 100% probability that you will work with/for these people again. If you go in to sales, they are your future customers. Never forget this!