Campfire Q&A with Julia McAnallen

This Q&A with Julia was conducted by guest blogger Patrick Goodridge a linguist, language teacher, and writer based in Philadelphia, PA. Read more about Patrick below or on the Career Linguist guest bloggers page where you can also learn about being a guest blogger for Career Linguist yourself!!

Julia McAnallen picAbout Julia
In 2011 I earned a PhD in Slavic linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley. Since graduation my career has taken a few unexpected turns. My first job out of graduate school was a postdoc in Spain at IE University (affiliated with the business school IE – Instituto de Empresa) where I taught undergraduate humanities courses with linguistic themes. Then in 2013 I came back to the US and transitioned into academic administration, specifically in the growing area of PhD career development. I started out as a coordinator, then transitioned to director, of PhD Career Services at Michigan State University, where I learned a lot about the variety of careers PhDs pursue, as well as how the university works, and dealt with broader institutional and structural challenges in helping PhDs transition into expanded career paths beyond the professoriate.

In July 2016 I left MSU and started working as a social media analyst for the company Treato. Treato is a data technology company that specializes in collecting and analyzing healthcare conversations from blogs and social media using NLP (natural language processing). I work on the client-facing side, which means that I look at UGC (user generated content) that the Treato Analytics team collects from blogs, Facebook, medical forums, etc. to address questions pharmaceutical marketers have about diseases and treatments. For example, a pharmaceutical client who is launching a new treatment for psoriasis might want to understand psoriasis patients’ conceptualization of their disease. On the surface, psoriasis appears to be a skin disease, but its underlying cause is in the immune system. I would analyze conversations by different groups of patients online to figure out sophistication of disease understanding among different groups and provide recommendations to the client on outreach and messaging to these groups. Basically, what I do is storytelling through numbers – looking at volumes of online conversations – and discourse analysis – teasing apart patient opinions, feelings and understanding about their disease and treatments.

Patrick: What has turned out to be the biggest professional advantage of having a linguistics background?

Interestingly, my main areas of focus in graduate school – Russian and Slavic languages – have been less professionally useful for me than my more general linguistic training. During my postdoc in Spain, I taught linguistics – cognitive linguistics, discourse analysis, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, history of linguistics, and more – in a variety of courses. In my current role at Treato I analyze online patient language through the lens of cognitive linguistics and discourse analysis.

Perhaps most surprising is the relevance of linguistics, especially cognitive linguistics, in the work I did in career advising. I found almost everything – from reviewing resumes to talking about career paths (journey metaphor alert!) – to benefit from a linguistic perspective. The academese that many PhD academics use in their CVs and academic cover letters needs to be translated to language appropriate to industry and other settings. And the way we conceptualize our careers – e.g. as a single career track (toward becoming a professor) versus a traffic circle with a variety of exits (towards many different careers) – can have far reaching implications. I even wrote about these two topics for Inside Higher Ed:

What’s one fond memory you have, professionally or academically, related to linguistics? 

In my first year of graduate school at UC Berkeley, I was fortunate enough to be involved in an experimental course called Language Ecology as both a GSI (Berkeley-speak for TA) and student (it was a mixed undergrad-grad course with a graduate seminar component). The course, created by Professor Dan Slobin, a prominent psycholinguist – covered a broad overview of interdisciplinary approaches to language with faculty from different departments at Berkeley – Linguistics, Psychology, Anthropology, Slavic, German, and more – who taught 1-4 lectures each on their areas of expertise. Each faculty member came from a different scholarly area, but all were united in an “ecologically” sensitive approach to language: an approach that incorporates culture, history, society, education and other aspects of the human

Click here for Part II of the Q&A with Julia, sharing her thoughts on the role of linguists in shaping the future.  Julia will also be joining us next month for the Campfire chat series.

Tune in Fridays this Fall at 1pm PDT / 4pm EDT! You can find the campfire here:

Thank you Patrick for this great interview, and thank you Julia – very much looking forward to the next post and to chatting with you at the campfire!!!  🙂

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