Collaboration between the Language Industry and the Academic Community: Interview with Sanja Seljan

Ciklopea 2 weeks ago Comment

Dr. sc. Sanja Seljan is a full professor at Department of information and communication sciences of Faculty of humanities and social sciences in Zagreb. Her main interests include machine translation, computer-assisted translation, localization and natural language processing. We have collaborated with Ms Seljan on several projects over the years and, following this year’s Ciklopea Summer School, we had a chat on the cooperation between the academe and the industry and the meeting points of linguistics and information sciences.

How would you describe your collaboration with Ciklopea?

The Department of Information and Communication Sciences of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb and Ciklopea have been collaborating for many years on internships, summer school and guest lectures and four of our students are now Ciklopea employees. They all work in the newly formed technical department and I believe one of your department managers is also our alumna.

To what extent do you believe that our universities prepare the students for work in the language industry?

Information and communication technologies have become irreplaceable in every field, including the language industry. Application of information and communication technologies represents an essential professional skill in today’s world of global communication, but it involves much more than knowing how to use specific tools. We strive to make our students competent by providing them with a vast knowledge base that will help them choose their desired career later on. The language industry demands a versatile person with technical, information-communicational, organizational, linguistic and marketing knowledge and skills. Knowledge and application of technologies, development of new solutions (such as databases and applications) and new models of integrated systems, quality assurance, process automation and business analysis are in high demand. This is a particularly multidisciplinary field that is continuously developing and we use the knowledge and experience acquired through scientific research and practice to improve education and teaching.

What are the skills that universities should be more focused on developing in students?

Practical experience is extremely important, as well as teamwork and independent research work. The students need to know theory to understand their current level of knowledge, and through their development they can recognize the different approach and application methods, limitations, assessments etc. Software licenses used to be much of an issue until very recently, but many software companies have come to understand the importance of their collaboration with the academia, so we have entered into different agreements on academic use of software packages and resources.

What is Ciklopea’s contribution to preparing young people for the job market through various projects such as the Summer School and internships?

Ciklopea has recognized the importance of such projects and the summer school provides young people with a set of new skills and knowledge, especially for those who didn’t have a similar curriculum at university.

Do you think such projects are useful?

I believe these projects are extremely useful both for the company and for young people, for whom they open up new opportunities.

Are the young graduates without any professional experience ready to work in the language industry?

I believe the students who study information and communication sciences and lingustics are a perfect match. There are various courses covering language engineering, technology application, the necessary technical skills, database development, programming etc. at the Department. The course on language technology is open to other students as well, as an optional course. Judging by the feedback that I received, our students are doing well, but it goes without saying that the required experience comes from work, with subsequent specialization and career development providing for further research work.

We’ve had a student from the Republic of Macedonia for the first time this year. What are your thoughts on that?

The language industry and global communication have no boundaries and collaboration is always welcome.

Do you think there is still room for improvement in the collaboration between Ciklopea and the university? What else do you think we could do for the academic community?

There is always room for improvement, which only serves to benefit everyone involved. I believe there is a significant interest for the summer school in areas of programming skills and business automation. We are also always open to collaboration through guest lectures, where students can ask questions, or through specific workshops.

What part of the Summer School do you think was the most useful to students?

Seeing the practical workflow of file processing – from order receipt, project management, application of technology, problem management, quality assurance, delivery and the importance of communication with the client at all stages. It is important to understand the technology, but it is also crucial to understand the work process and the importance of good communication.

What was the most interesting part of the Summer School for you? Was there a particularly interesting moment?

I was really pleasantly surprised with the working atmosphere in the company – it’s very professional and dynamic, but also positive and relaxed. Good human relations, good communication and sharing a cup of coffee surely contribute to the performance.

You are a highly knowledgeable and competent person. But was there something that you learned at the Summer School? 🙂

Of course. That’s the challenge in this line of work – continuous improvement and finding new opportunities. Is there any better news than the all-round satisfaction of the academia, and the industry, and young people deciding to remain in Croatia?

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