The Career Profiles in Linguistics section regularly highlights career paths taken by linguists. If you would like to recommend someone (including yourself) for a future profile, please contact Career Linguist.
Kathryn Ticknor is an interactive sociolinguist and human centered design specialist. As she shares in this interview, her work entails drawing from her background in communication, ethnography and social network analysis to develop key insights and actionable recommendations for a variety of clients in the medical marketing sector.
Part II of the interview (below) features Kathryn’s background and advice for the next generation of linguists. Click here for Part I.
How did you find your way into linguistics?
I first discovered linguistics as an undergrad through my encouraging professors at the College of William & Mary. Great teachers have been an important theme throughout my path, and I encourage any linguist to embrace mentors of every kind! Many of my mentors were teachers, but many have been peers, who taught me by example or helped me to voice or re-frame a particular skillset.
My first linguistics class was an intro course taken on a whim. All semester I felt like the physicist in Arrival – “I watched [my professor] steer us around these communication traps that I did not even know existed!” I was hooked, and knew I wanted to join the ranks of these linguistic navigators. The question was – how?
I’d long planned on being a French teacher, but after a bit of career exploration, I decided to pursue my Master’s degree through Georgetown’s Language and Communication program. I chose that program because I knew it would provide academic rigor while encouraging and preparing me to look outside of academia for applications of my linguistic skillset. I was able to proactively explore the question, “what are you going to do with that?” with increasingly more specific answers throughout my Masters program.
What emerging trends do you see in your field/ changes that will impact this work in future? Make way for the linguists! In marketing research and marketing, there is an increasing recognition of the insight and rigor linguists bring to qualitative analysis.
Another area where linguists have a potential to be experts is in the field of communication design. While communication design is often thought in terms of its visual design elements, its applications in the healthcare field fall at the intersection of social marketing and experience design. There is an incredible opportunity for linguists to contribute their knowledge of semiotics, semantics, strategic framing, audience design, etc.
With this increased recognition of our field, I have encountered a new challenge on the job: differentiating myself from computational linguists. These days, I am more likely to be asked “how many languages do you code?” than “how many languages do you speak?” While I do set some expectations about my background (keep learning to code!), I also explain where an interactional sociolinguistic background can fit into questions of user experience, interface design, and analytics.
Feel free to share any resources or stories that these themes / prompts inspire
Social media enables you to expand your network, stay informed on the latest in your industry, and establish a personal brand. I frequently post content on Twitter and LinkedIn that reinforces my professional identity as an applied linguist, researcher, and healthcare consultant. I like knowing that if a potential client or colleague were to find my profile, they would have a sense of what is important to me, and what “special sauce” I bring to the work I do.
Any advice about: Mentoring / Informational Interviewing
I think it’s easy to think of mentoring as a hierarchical interaction: the mentee seeking guidance from an established veteran of a given career path. While I’ve had great many great mentors, they haven’t all been bosses or teachers. I’ve gotten great career advice by taking time to talk seriously with my peers, reaching out to academics with a deep interest in a particular topic, and occasionally going outside my comfort zone and attending events on topics I want to learn more about (e.g., tech webinars, live tweet events, or meet ups).
Finally, this I learned from Anna Marie Trester and the Career Linguist movement: If you know someone who might make a good mentor or mentee, make the connection. If you hear of an opportunity that might make a good fit for someone, send them the job link. If you learn about a linguist doing big things, shout them out on social media. Above all, take time to spread some #careerlinguist karma!
Thank you Kathryn for a great interview and for everything you do for our community! 🙂
If any of you would like to reach out to Kathryn, you can find her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathrynticknor/
Sectors profiled in the “Profiles in Linguistics” series: Corporate Social Responsibility, Healthcare Communications, Library Science, Knowledge Management, Naming, Non-Profit Communications, Program Evaluation, Publishing, Social Media Marketing,Tech, User Experience Research, Training and Facilitation and many more!
If you would like to recommend someone (including yourself) for a future profile, please contact Career Linguist.