Linguistics jobs - Interview with a Client Services Manager
I met Tom in the first week of our Intro to Linguistics tutorial (fun fact: previous linguistics job interviewee Steph Campisi was also in that class). The three of us very quickly figured out that we all really liked linguistics, and were pretty good at it, and set about troubling our tutor with endless questions for the rest of semester. Tom and I are still good friends, the fact that he married one of my high school friends has helped us stay in touch (maybe there’s a spin-off series of interviews to do: how studying linguistics helped me get a date). These days Tom has a fancy job ‘in the City’, as I am supposed to say here in London. He let me interview him about the transition from academic to commercial research.
What did you study at university?
originally enrolled to study a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of
Arts concurrently. I had always intended to focus on linguistics as my
Arts ‘major’, and took up a number of linguistics subjects in my first
year. I also took microeconomics, macroeconomics and quantitative
methods under the Commerce umbrella. I had (and retain) a broad interest
in economics, commerce, and capitalism in general, but at the time came
to find the academic study of these subjects tedious. Consequently, I
ditched the commerce degree and focused solely on the arts degree, and
in particular linguistics. I focused very much on the ‘pure’ linguistics
subjects, with a particular interest in phonology, phonetics, syntax and
morphology, along with further study in quantitative methods specific
to linguistics. I supplemented my linguistics studies with ancient
history and Old English.
After completing my
BA I proceeded onto an Honours year. In my thesis I conducted an
articulatory and acoustic analysis of phonation contrasts on consonants
in Sumi, a Tibeto-Burman language from North-Eastern India. After
completing my Honours year, I applied for a PhD place on an Australian
Postgraduate Award, and after being accepted moved straight into
research. I again focused on articulatory phonetics, this time working
on the wide variety of alternations of vowels (tone, length, phonation)
in the Dinka language of South Sudan. I was very lucky to have access to
a wonderful community of Dinka speakers in Melbourne who were eager to
participate in my research.
I had continued
to work part- and full-time jobs in various management roles in
hospitality and retail throughout my undergraduate studies, and while
taking my Honours year, but when I started my PhD I focused solely on my
research, additional research assistance work and tutoring jobs.
nearly 3 years on the PhD, about 9 years on the trot at the University
of Melbourne, and the birth of my first child, I started feeling the
need to return to a salary outside of academia! I made the difficult
decision to seek full-time employment and continue with the PhD
part-time. After tasting life outside of university, the PhD moved into
long-term hiatus mode, and will likely never be completed.
What is your job?
My job is hard to describe! I was hired in 2012 by a global, boutique consultancy specialising in executive search (headhunting), HR consulting and industry research/analysis in the natural resources sector, joining the Research Team in Melbourne as a Research Associate. They were trying to improve the company’s research 'profile’ and capabilities, and so I was the first of a series of new hires around the company with more traditional/academic research expertise.
promotions later, and after a relocation to the UK, my title is now
'Manager - Client Services (Europe)’. I am Head of the research team
looking after Europe, the Middle East and Africa and I also run the Client
Services function for the region. Being a relatively small company, I
wear a lot of different 'hats’. I am responsible for proposal and pitch
preparation; contract preparation and presentation of terms; liaison
with and management of current clients; oversight and on-going
development of the team of researchers in the UK; project management of
active assignments and oversight for all 'work in progress’; liaison
with other members of the company’s Global Research Unit and input on
global research innovation and strategy; and post-placement client and
candidate care. As second in charge of the Europe business, I also assist
with operational, strategic, marketing and business development aspects.
The company originally relocated me to the UK as Project Manager for a multi-million dollar assignment with a FTSE 100 company. Having never undertaken anything like this, it was an eye-opening experience! As well as managing a very complex client relationship over 12 months, I also managed a team of 15 researchers based in 5 different countries/time zones. This was one of the most intense professional experiences I’ve ever had!
job sees me working with some exceptional colleagues around the world,
and gives me the opportunity to speak and meet with some incredible
people - from CEOs and Chairmen of some of the world’s biggest
companies, to politicians, diplomats and other seriously smart people.
How does your linguistics training help you in your job?
I don’t think my linguistics training assists any more so than any
other social science would. I strongly believe that I use daily the
'generic’ skills developed through my undergraduate study, and even more
so during my PhD - particularly the ability to both quantitatively and
qualitatively analyse scenarios and to quickly assess the feasibility of
a research project. This is particularly useful in a corporate world as
there’s a fee attached. Writing a PhD provides very good experience for
project management. I am very lucky that I have a team who puts up with
my occasional IPA demonstrations on the office whiteboard!
With a limited domestic mining industry in the UK, the majority of
clients who I deal with are located in Russia, the Middle East and
Africa, so I
am exposed to a wide range of cultures - this is often one of the most
challenging aspects of my role, and where my linguistics background does
tend to help.
Do you gave any advice do you wish someone had given to you about linguistics/careers/university?
is an interesting one. I have always been passionate about it, but I
realised towards the end of my time at university that career
opportunities directly linked to linguistics are limited outside of
academia. So my advice is always to value the generic skills learned at
university, and to try and broaden your horizons while studying. Don’t
be afraid to do something that you’ve not had specific 'training’ for -
common sense and an enhanced ability to analyse and problem-solve are
highly regarded. Having said that, if leaving academia be absolutely
certain about it - you won’t often have the opportunity to freely
research outside of a university environment.
- Interview with an English Foreign Language Teacher
- Interview with a Speech Pathologist
- Interview with a computational linguist
- Interview with a language revitalisation program director
- Interview with a media language researcher
- Interview with an editor and copywriter
- Interview with a humanitarian aid worker
- Interview with a high school teacher
- Interview with an interpreter
- Interview with a journalist
- Interview with a data analyst