As part of our employability series, our last visitors of the semester were Sarah Lowe (Vice President of Language Resources in the United Kingdom) and Rosie Lazar (Linguistic Project Manager) from Appen, a language services provider (LSP). Appen is a global leader in the development of high-quality, human annotated datasets for machine learning and artificial intelligence. They kindly spoke to staff and students about the company, the work it does and the potential roles for graduates with Appen, and the wider field where linguistic knowledge is a key skill needed by employers.”
So, we were excited to welcome Sarah and Rosie, who came to Swansea University’s Applied Linguistic department to talk about Appen. This was a rare and valuable insight into their organisation, as well as an opportunity to offer bespoke career and employability information for our students.
About the company
Appen was founded in Australia in 1996 and has expanded to become a leading global corporation that is recognised for their speech technology support by significant clients. In fact, they are a trusted partner of some of the largest technology companies and their work covers over 130 countries and deals with 180 languages. Moreover, they have an impressive 200+ clientele which ranges from UK Government departments and agencies, UK and overseas police forces, local authorities and councils, to law firms, corporate organisations and international humanitarian agencies. Initially working on transcription and annotation of audio data, since the beginning of 2018, they have also started to work on video data annotation. They pride themselves as a company that has, as Rosie says, “no limits to languages, geography, collection modes and data values”.
What do they do?
Appen brings over 20 years of experience capturing and enriching a wide variety of data types including speech, text, image and video. They offer services such as speech and non-speech data collection (from specific domains such as in-vehicle, restaurants, airports, conversational telephony); transcription and annotation (including video transcription), translation and localisation, and other custom linguistic solutions. They are not just a standard transcription service, however. Appen offers their clients accessibility through a range of platforms such as audio and video, and provide services such as summarisation, typing and data entry, speech recognition training data, audio enhancement, building lexicons (dialects, spelling, phonological rules, foreign and loan words), providing content analysis (i.e. deep linguistics analysis, parts of speech, morphology, topic, emotion, opinion, sentiment, tokenization and stemming), data collection from a variety of domains (in-vehicle, airports, railways, bus stations, restaurants, video game settings, and conversational telephony) and secure transcription.
Providing secure transcription services often involves working with highly confidential information. At their secure Exeter site, Appen ‘s staff work with sensitive digital, audio and video materials, often generating more than 12,000 transcripts a year. Housed at this site are the transcription services that produce verbatim transcripts as official record documents, for example investigative interviews carried out by PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence). They also provide transcriptions of covert recordings, emergency calls, body worn video, as well as meetings, conferences, material from focus groups.
Watch the video below to gain an insight into what types of data Appen works with. Recently, they have worked with the Microsoft Skype team to develop real-time translation during video calls.
What is it like to be an employee?
At Appen, employees have a choice of working space: many people work from home and in office hubs. The flexibility with employees working from home is appealing to individuals and has allowed them to win various awards and recognition. Currently, the company has over 370 full-time staff world-wide and are proud of their high staff engagement and low employee turnover.
Watch the short clip below called ‘Life at Appen’ which will show you how you can have an effective life-work balance and enjoy having a position that works around you.
What types of roles can I do?
For the recent graduate, Appen can provide various roles in their company such as project manager, linguistic project manager, project engineer (Sydney only) and being part of the data collection and transcription teams. Additionally, there are opportunities in other departments such as budgeting, payroll, managing quality, recruitment and screening, and cross-department communication.
What skills do I need to work for Appen?
Appen look for individuals who have;
- A strong linguistic background (an understanding of phonetics, phonology and syntax)
- ICT and an aptitude for learning new IT skills (Python, Excel, UNIX for example)
- Organisational skills
- The ability to communicate and network effectively
- Have the passion and drive to learn ‘on the job’ and the aptitude to apply what you learn to your work
- Having a second language is a plus!
How do I find out about Appen’s job opportunities?
Appen offer a range of jobs and are keen to hear from interested students and graduates.
Also, you can visit their website: https://appen.com to find out more information about the company.
“I just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity to hear the talk from Appen. I had no idea what career prospects I would have access to from this degree when I started it, and even after my first year but the possibilities now seem endless!” (3rd year Applied Linguistics Student at Swansea University)
We would like to say a huge thank you to Sarah and Rosie at Appen for their inspiring talk and their advice to our students.
Carlie Andrews is undertaking an MA Modern History and is the College of Arts and Humanities (COAH) Postgraduate College Representative for 2017/2018. She is also currently an intern in COAH’s employability office.
Dr Alexia L. Bowler is a lecturer in the department of Applied Linguistics and is Admissions Tutor, Employability Officer and manages the department’s blog and Twitter account.