When Lead Architect, Michael Armstrong, mentioned to our CEO, Amy Brown, that he had met an NLP Engineer who had an Indiana University degree in computational linguistics at the Fishers Code and Coffee, they both were intrigued and jumped at the chance to learn more.
Chris Riley, a native Hoosier, recently came back home to Indiana after several years as an engineer at Chicago-based Audience.ai (formerly) Networked Insights, as well as Facebook in Seattle. After several interviews and mutual tire-kicking sessions, we are thrilled to announce that Chris has joined our team as an NLP Engineer. We asked Chris to reflect upon his craft, as well as what it’s like to come back to the tech scene in Indy:
Q: So, what is Computational Linguistics and why does it matter?
Chris: Well, Linguistics is all about figuring out how human language works, and Computational Linguistics is “just” using computers to help us try to answer the questions we have. As humans we’ve each invested a lot of time and energy learning how to use our languages to communicate with one another, and it would be pretty great if computers could communicate the same way. Machine Learning has seen some pretty incredible advances even in the last few years, but when it comes to natural language the focus is usually on how often the machine agreed with the human annotator. I’d like to see the focus shift to why the machine made its decision, and I think that’s where linguists can be extremely valuable.
Q: What did you do at Facebook and what brought you back to Indiana?
Chris: I worked as a contractor, with a really talented team of linguists as a tools engineer. I relied on my linguistics background to help me understand the problems my fellow linguists were solving, and built tools and automated processes to help them.
I came back to Indiana because the West Coast tech scene just wasn’t for me. I grew up here in Hoosier country, and I missed the Midwest, especially the people. I had to get used to saying hello to strangers again, and it feels pretty great!
Q: What do you think about the tech startup community here in Indy?
Chris: Coming from Chicago and Seattle, I see a burgeoning version of those startup communities here. It’s an exciting time to be in technology in Indy – plenty of meetups to attend and talented people to network with. I think you can really feel the energy and passion people have for making Indy a new tech hub.
Q: Why AuthentiCx?
Chris: I think I would be hard-pressed to find any place that’s a better fit for my skills and experience, and getting in so early is a tremendous opportunity (and incredible challenge!) to help shape the vision. And it really feels like the product is not the objective. Yes, we’re building cool tech, but the real goal is to help people understand each other. We happen to be pursuing that goal by building mindful technology, and the technology that we’re building happens to be cool.