Five Questions for Free the PhD Founder, Vay Cao

Quantic Alum, Vay Cao, PhD, founded Free the PhD, a career development and advocacy platform for PhDs who want to learn more about the world outside of academia and kickstart an exciting career. You can check out their programs, talk to their advisors, and access their resources year-round.  Vay spoke with us about the initial inspiration and future goals for the program.

What inspired you to create Free the PhD? 

More PhD graduates are produced than there are traditional full-time faculty positions. This is a trend that has been happening for decades. The simultaneous shrinking of the academic faculty pool, especially in current times, has exacerbated an already stressful professional reality for many academics. Many who complete a PhD degree are not sure what they can do professionally afterwards. I was in this camp: not interested in continuing in academia, but not sure what else I could do.  After I made my own career transition, I was inspired to create Free the PhD because I didn’t want that experience to go to waste. 

How did you launch the platform?

It started off as a typical resume-editing service, but has evolved over the years into a platform where academics can do the important work of learning to shift their mindsets from that of only an academic, to a versatile professional. Free the PhD today is a supportive digital community. It’s a set of empathetic, practical online courses to assist academics in the career transition that’s right for them. There is personalized career guidance, provided by fellow PhDs. We teach PhDs how to free themselves from their own mental limitations and become independent job seekers, including guiding them on how to edit their own job applications and do their own interview preparation.

How would you like to see it expand in the future? 

The pool of PhD talent has so much to offer all sectors of society. I would love to continue reaching more PhDs interested in exploring and pursuing diverse career paths. Alongside our own career coaching, we have been doing workshops with different institutions and are piloting a joint career course with a UC university, which I hope might expand into other institutions that would like to work together to serve their trainees.

Why did you want to pursue your MBA? 

When I first began working outside of academia, I had no prior formal “work experience.” Joining a start-up out of grad school meant I was learning as I went every single day, trying new things and loving the experience. I realized I really wanted a comprehensive understanding of business, rather than this patchwork of information to make me a more effective and efficient professional. I enjoyed being in the business world, and wanted to ensure I was empowered to both deliver results and accelerate my career. 

What did you like about Quantic’s pedagogy method?

What I wanted from an MBA was to get the needed information in a streamlined, time-efficient, affordable, curated manner, all from a trusted source. Knowing that the people behind Quantic are proven in online education, and checking out the freely available Business Foundations courses on their app, helped convince me that this was exactly what I needed! Now that the Quantic MBA is officially accredited, I am even more convinced that I made the right decision in choosing Quantic.  

I have leveraged a lot of the business knowledge and frameworks from my Quantic MBA experience, both in my day job and constantly improving Free the PhD. Knowing that I have the fundamental knowledge needed to go out and make an impact in the world has provided me with the confidence that every professional and entrepreneur needs to succeed!