Dr Darcy Rose graduated with a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Canterbury. Here she blogs about the exciting new career path it led to.
After graduating with my PhD in December 2017, I’ve now been working for one month at Telogis, a software company here in Christchurch that designs fleet management software. My official title is ‘Data Management Specialist’, but what makes the job especially exciting is that I’m developing the role as I go, since I’m the first person at the company in this role. While it’s very different from being at UC, I’m really enjoying the opportunity to learn about a new industry, and to have a complete change of pace.
Some of the things I get to do are:
- Research how various measures are calculated across the company
- Act as a bridge between my team (who are all developers) and the User Interface team
- Create documents which clearly portray existing functionality and desired changes
- Provide input on potential improvements in the way we present data to our customers
Everyone at work asks me what Linguistics has to do with Fleet Management, and of course it’s not the Linguistics itself, but rather the tools I developed during my study of Linguistics, that make me an excellent fit for this job. Some of the key skills are knowing how to analyze and visualize large data sets, and also how to work independently and manage all aspects of a three (or four) year project. While PhD students often don’t have much work experience outside of academia, we actually have a lot of skills that are not easily acquired elsewhere. The other day, my manager asked me to give a short presentation to 30 people with only 30 minutes warning. It was a walk in the park next to socio meetings! [socio meetings are regular informal NZILBB meetings where people talk about their work as it develops – ed]. One of the most important lessons I learned during my PhD (and am still learning) is how to translate my skills and experience into words that companies are looking for.
Here’s an example:
- Presenting at socio meetings and in other places, going to conferences, writing proposals –> Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Completing a thesis –> Project management experience (yes, a thesis is a project, and yes, you managed it!)
- Fighting with R to figure out what’s happening with your data –> Data manipulation and statistical analysis in R
- Studying at different universities, especially in different countries –> Experience living and working in a variety of cultural settings
- Maybe a little perfectionism? –> Strong attention to detail
Once you’ve translated your skill set, go out and look for possibilities! I actually found this job because I saw a poster that I thought looked really cool, and I went on their website and saw on the job offers page, “Can’t find what you’re looking for? Don’t sweat it – get in touch with us and we may be able to create something that matches your talents”. So I did, and they did.
The truth is, most companies need people who are good communicators, analytical thinkers, independent workers, and have some familiarity with technology. Once you tell them what you can do, they may realize that they actually can’t do without you 🙂
PS – If you’re a Linguist considering careers that are not in academia, I strongly recommend checking out careerlinguist.com, and keep your eyes peeled at the LSA meetings and summer schools for events put on by the Linguists Beyond Academia Special Interest Group. They showed me that I wasn’t alone!