Some in academia liken it to the world's oldest profession. Others to selling your soul. But when you ask former academics who now work in the business world, switching was the best decision of their professional lives, despite some of the disparaging comparisons their university colleagues may have made.

For these researchers--at various stages of their careers, from postdoc to full professor--the lure of the private sector had more to do with finding a suitable career fit than anything else. Working more with people or seeing an innovation through to commercialization are some of the more common motivations cited. Researchers make the initial switch through a variety of means: colleagues, friends, networking, and search firms. One common thread, however, runs through their stories--they all claim a practical, commerce-oriented bent.

For example, George Boyajian, managing director for science and technology for Roundtable Partners Inc., a project finance and strategic planning...

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