Contributor: Claire D
What? Corpus Manager – Cambridge University Press
Why did you choose this place? Once I’d seen the job advertised, I just had to apply – there really aren’t many jobs that matched so closely to the degrees that I’d done. It seemed really interesting, and despite not know anything about ELT, I felt that I had enough knowledge about Corpus Linguistics to apply. At the time, I’d applied for a few academic teaching jobs but had had no luck, so I was interested to find out if a job in the commercial sector might suit me.
How did you find the application process? As someone who quite likes interviews, I actually quite enjoyed the interview process. I had an initial 45 minute interview in Cambridge where I gave a presentation about corpora in ELT. After this I was asked the expected range of questions about me, the job and the subject area. Before the second interview I had to complete a task detailing how (and what) I would collect in order to build the perfect corpus for ELT. The questions at the second interview were much more relaxed, and indeed the interview took place over lunch (which at the time was pretty stressful – trying to give intelligent answers and not choke on a ham sandwich!) But, it all worked out fine and I got the job.
What do you do here? I manage the development and collection of corpora needed for ELT publishing. The job is pretty varied and no week is really the same. The job involves three main things: collecting corpus data; showing others how to get the most corpus data; and using the corpus to improve ELT teaching materials
We work in partnerships with universities and other organizations on research projects in order to collect spoken and written data. This involves lots of project management: identifying what data we might need and what is possible to collect; arranging data collection and transcription (if applicable); drafting legal agreements and formatting and processing files for upload to our corpus software.
I also provide all of the training and ongoing support in using the corpus resources we have (e.g. by writing user guides and giving group and individual training sessions). This includes both editorial staff working in Cambridge offices around the world, and out-of-house authors, researchers and project managers.
I also manage and undertake project-specific corpus research. A huge amount of our ELT publishing is corpus-informed, and often editors put together a brief that raises questions about particular grammar or vocabulary areas that will be covered in their materials. I then either commission freelance Corpus Researchers to undertake this research, or carry out the research myself in order to provide a report to the editors and authors that they can use when writing their books.
The good things: I’m not sure I could have found a job more suited to my skills, so it’s great to feel that the years of study did have a point after all! The job is very flexible and there’s lots of room for new ideas and creativity. I also get to travel from time to time – I’ve been to the Cambridge office in New York to run corpus software training, and to a good number of conferences both in the UK and in Europe. While it is a commercial job, there’s still a good dollop of academia in there, and this is a nice balance.
It’s a great place to work – my colleagues here in Cambridge are really nice, there are lots of facilities (bar, gym, good restaurant, green space). Along with that, Cambridge is a really beautiful place to live.
The bad things: Sometimes I do get frustrated by the administration side of things and with the slowness of some of the processes and procedures, but I’m sure this would be the case with any job. The department I work in is very small, so there isn’t the same opportunity here for career progression and promotion (as compared to e.g. an academic job). I also finished the final part of my PhD while working in Cambridge full time – this is not recommended!
Outside of work, I’m a northern girl, and Cambridge is very different to and very far away from Sunderland!
Anything else we should know: Consider Corpus Linguistics as a career! While there may not be tons of jobs going, I’m proof that that do come along sometimes. If Corpus Linguistics is your thing, why not also consider working as a freelance Corpus Researcher?