How is your typical workday?
Currently I am employed half time at the university supervising computer science students. In the other half of my time I am an entrepreneur. I have started several companies so far and am constantly working on new ideas and projects.
What has your career path looked like up until now?
After I finished my PhD in computer science, I was hired by Hewlett-Packard to take part in a joint research project with AAU. This ran for 4 years after which I negotiated a spinout from HP and was allowed to take the HP/AAU technology into a new company, Dezide. Together with some student programmers I founded Dezide and managed it as CEO until 2014 where I left the company, seeking new opportunities. Since then I have been working on new projects while also teaching at AAU.
In parallel I provide advice and consultancy to new companies as advisory board member and a member of Connect Denmark.
How close is your current career to the ideas and dreams you had as a PhD fellow at AAU?
Quite close, actually. As a PhD student I dreamed of taking my research into the private sector and creating a company out of it. I wanted to actually put my research to use and see that people could get value out of it. Too much research is never applied or used in any way and it is a great waste.
How have you made use of your PhD education, and which of your PhD competences have been most important to you?
The PhD education has given me a research background and insight that I still use on a regular basis. I can apply my research field on real world problems to determine if there is an interesting and valuable application.
What do you remember most from your PhD studies?
My half year studies at the University of Chicago, living in Chicago and our road trip around the US in connection with this.
What is your best memory from AAU?
Early days in the department of Computer Science when there were a lot of activities, i.e. a social committee, a film club, a monthly magazine, and annual trips where almost everyone participated. It was a very nice and welcoming environment.
Is there a teacher/colleague from AAU you remember especially, and why?
There are several that I have a great degree of respect for. These teachers really care about the students and work hard to ensure that the students get a good experience and learn as much as possible. Every year they improve on the work they did last year to further refine and optimize the learning experience.
Why did you decide to do a PhD, and would you have chosen differently if you were to do it today?
Probably not. I decided to do it because I wanted to get deeper into research. It has always been very interesting to me to make new discoveries. In those days I was very interested in the research-side of things while I have later grown more interested in the business side of things. The business side can also be viewed from a research perspective and there are lots of new things to discover also on this side.
What advice would you give to current PhD fellows at AAU that want a career outside academia?
Select a field to do the PhD where there are industrial applications of the research and where there is an active interest from the industry. While you are doing the PhD, you should attempt to develop relationships and collaborate with commercial partners. In addition, you should always try to consider commercial aspects of your own research. It is much more rewarding to do research if there is a chance that it will actually be used for something.
What are your dreams for the future?
Continue to develop and grow companies around research-based ideas. Possibly be involved in multiple ventures at the same time.
Anything else you would like to add?
There can be many opportunities in a PhD study if it is planned well ahead of time. It can also be 3 years wasted if it is not. So new PhD students should use their advisors carefully to plan the studies such that they get some good experiences with a stay in a foreign country, good research partners, good commercial partners, etc.
about CLAUS SKAANING
Place of birth: Esbjerg, Denmark
Current employment: Supervisor at AAU and Entrepreneur, among others Sales on tap and CS Consult
MA programme and university: Computer Science, AAU
Department at AAU: Computer Science
Year of graduation: 1993
Title of PhD dissertation: Blocking Gibbs Sampling for Inference in Large and Complex Bayesian Networks with Applications in Genetics