W3bbo said:

If it turns out that I'm not elite PhD material, I'd be happy settling for an SDE position on a user-facing product, but ideally I'd like to form a roving "death squad" that hops between MS product teams to eliminate UI issues, something that's been irking me since Vista came out.

 

But if I do get admitted into the PhD programme I'm aiming for (in a little over a years' time from now) and, of course, I graduate in reasonable time, then I'd like to land a Researcher position at MSR where I can persue my research interests in computer vision and usability.

 

I'd then build a custom designed house in a three-acre hillside plot to the east of the Redmond campus and alternatively hang-glide or drive a Lambo into work.

 

Dream on.

Research students are not paid as well as you think, and their inventions usually are swallowed up by the company or academic institution they work for. Juxtapose this to this 16 year old that is already on his way.

 

Research pays you well in terms of distinction amongst colleagues, and reputation globally. I am now getting to the stage where I cannot really move up the pay scale unless I move up into management, or start my own business up. I think the best position is in being able to create a software product that can allow me to go work in a charity shop 2 days a week, but still afford me a comfortable life

 

Even PhD students reach a point of saturation, most never release a product or work that is of any real financial value, it's important you recognise this, as it can be very challenging working on projects for years that nearly make it. I have been and am working with researchers, so I know just how frustrating it can be seeing products fail - most universities are mini-corporations now so you may not have to go very far to get to a user facing product. You need to be very strong mentally as well as intelligent, cos' it's a hard slog