June 10, 2008

Is text analytics a good technology career path for humanities majors?

One of the major dilemmas facing a group of people we all know is: How can humanities majors make money? Sure, they can become lawyers. And they can join the tech industry and write documentation. But what else?

Well, what about text analytics? Much of what I know about natural language processing (NLP) I learned from my friend Sharon Flank, who I met when she was a Slavic Linguistics PhD student at Harvard. My partner in first figuring out search engines — and later in running Elucidate — was my wife Linda Barlow, a 15-times-published novelist who’s also taught English at the college level. And Olivier Jouve’s education is in paleontology, although whether or not that’s a humanity is a sort of borderline definitional issue.

So I ask you all: Is text analytics a fruitful area for humanities majors to find lucrative careers? All insight would be appreciated. If the news is good enough, I’ll do my part in publicizing it to university placement offices and the like.

I’ve started out by asking Attensity (David Bean) and Clarabridge (Sid Banerjee). Attensity turns out to hire humanities students most years, both as full-time employees and interns. Linguistics students are the top priority, but language students and other language-friendly types are of interest as well. David is even involved in trying to set up a computational linguistics certification program at the university where he teaches part-time. And Clarabridge, the much younger company of the two, has over the past year used humanities majors quite successfully as well, for multiple aspects of ontology-building.


5 Responses to “Is text analytics a good technology career path for humanities majors?”

  1. Jean-Francois Martin on June 10th, 2008 7:38 pm

    Same is true for Nstein. Computational linguists are indeed a top priority, mostly full time employees.

  2. Curt Monash on June 15th, 2008 7:42 am


    Are those basically computer science kinds of people, or basically languages/humanities folks?



  3. Jean-Francois Martin on June 18th, 2008 5:26 pm

    We have languages/humanities folks that are working on the text mining engine part of our solution and computer science people working on the DAM, WCM part of it. We also hire domain experts in e-publishing obviously. Quebec universities have comprehensive programs in computational linguistic.

  4. Ananda Lima on September 14th, 2008 12:07 am

    Hi Curt,

    I know of UCLA Linguistics Alumni working at Google, Cognition Technologies and InQuira (there were a couple more, but I can’t recall). Not all of these guys were primarily trained on computational linguistics to begin with (the analytical training they got in Linguistics prepared them to learn on the job)… I believe that they have been doing a good job and making progress in their careers. I am working on going that way too.

    Thank you for the post!


  5. Curt Monash on September 14th, 2008 7:04 pm

    Thanks, Ananda!

    Do you mean guys w/ undergrad or graduate degrees?

    CAM, who attended UCLA from 1972-4, and whose mother attended UCLA as well

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