Alumna Laura Panfili (PhD 2018) has been working for the past two years as a Language Data Researcher at Amazon, where she’s part of the Alexa Intelligent Decisions organization. Her team works on making Alexa more conversational in various ways, like resolving anaphors and asking for clarification on acoustically noisy requests.
Her job draws on her skills in experimental design, statistics, scripting, and pragmatics.
Panfili feels very fortunate to work on a team of language enthusiasts, most of whom also have a linguistics background (including two other UW Linguistics alumnae, Allison Germain and Esther Le Grézause, both 2017 PhDs!) and enjoys the research feel of the job and the good work-life balance. Her advice for current students is to squeeze in as many extra skills as your advisor lets you – take a programming class, join lab groups, work with people in other departments, etc. She also recommends what another Linguistics graduate student advised her early on: treat grad school like a job; keep regular hours and keep work separate from things like personal email and social media. Finally, “explore your options not just in academia but also in industry and elsewhere!”