Skills You Need As A Natural Processing Engineer

Mellivora Software boasts its stellar staff in each of the core expertise directions. In this brief interview, we decided to ask our lead NLP Engineer, Olga Kanishcheva, what skills should a person have in order to become a NLP engineer. Is a specialized education a must? Does one need a college or university degree to become a NLP engineer? All the answers uncovered!

Question 1. Could you please briefly describe what it is actually that NLP engineer does? What are typical tasks that NLP engineers solves? And for which practical use you could apply those tasks? 

In a nutshell, NLP engineer is an engineer, who combines technical knowledge with linguistics, and tries to make our applications more “intellectual”. Such engineers work with natural language data, and transform this data into useful features and NLP techniques and machine learning algorithms. 

The most typical NLP tasks are: part-of-speech tagging, named entity recognition, sentiment analysis, topic modeling, information retrieval, machine translation, automatic summarization, etc. 

These tasks could be used for finding similar texts (checking for copyright), spell checking, intelligent search, chatbots, etc. 

Question 2. And what are the skills that a person needs to become NLP engineer? What sort of a background would be better to have to become a NLP engineer?

In my opinion, it will be better if a person has a technical background, and on top of that, receives linguistics knowledge, than vice versa. NLP engineer must know one of the programming languages, such as Python, and should have an understanding of statistics analysis, machine learning methods, and text representation techniques. 

So to sum it up: Math background is important, and of course English and basic understanding of linguistics are as well.

Question 3. And in your opinion, what are the steps a person should take, if he/she would like to become NLP engineer? Like, from scratch.

First of all, I’d recommend taking an online course (e.g. on Coursera or FutureLearn), and trying to understand if you actually want to work with language-related tasks. After that, if not discouraged, master a programming language (e.g. Python), read books and articles about NLP tasks and algorithms, take advanced courses, do pet projects, seek for mentorship, and do your further research. 

Question 4. And how come you ended up in IT? You primary focus has been on linguistics, how come you became a woman in tech / NLP engineer?

I started to work in this area on a master level at my university, and my primary specialized education had also helped me to start working in IT. All this time I worked in NLP area and never regretted it. 

I’m a Bachelor in Applied Mathematics, and I’ve also got a Master’s degree in System Analysis. I’m also a PhD in Computer Science in the Intellectual Computer Systems, and I’m a lecturer at Kharkiv National Tech University. I teach NLP, language modeling, web design and object-oriented programming.

Question 5. Last but not least: do you enjoy your profession? Would you like to change it perhaps in several years? And would you recommend young people to start looking in this direction?

I love my job 🙂 And of course I recommend young people to look into this direction, because that’s an actively developing area and pretty challenging as well. I’d love to dive more into machine learning techniques, and there is much to learn in this direction. 

Video. Skills You Need As NLP Engineer

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