Interning at VocaliD was definitely more than I expected it to be, and I was able to achieve my learning goals. The summer between my penultimate and final year was the perfect time for this opportunity, and I’ve come out of it with a greater sense of clarity when it comes to career paths I can pursue after graduation. A huge part of this was my career-specific goal of exposing myself to programming and its role in linguistics and speech science. For the past couple years at Brandeis I’ve considered more and more the option of pursuing further education in computational linguistics, and have become more interested in topics related to the field. The central role of speech science and text-to-speech technology in VocaliD’s work resonated with this interest, and has been all the convincing I need that this is a viable industry to attempt to enter in the coming years.
To another student looking for an internship at VocaliD, I would say this: be prepared for a fast-paced, interdisciplinary environment, and get ready to work with people of all calibers from all sorts of backgrounds. On more than one occasion there were company advisors in the office – often for advertising – and every one of them wanted to hear the opinion of the interns. Rather than sit back and simply absorb knowledge from experienced professionals, we were allowed to engage with them and be taken just as seriously.
This sort of open-mindedness could be an industry thing, or, more probably, due to the nature of small start-ups. There is a sense of urgency to everything that reinforces the “team” environment, requiring different, multi-faceted tasks from us on a daily basis. For this reason it felt very demanding, in a good way. The advice for somebody doing work for a tech start-up like this would be essentially the same, but phrased differently: the work you do is important, just as important as everyone else’s. This was by no means a “fetch coffee for the office” internship.
Working for a company with a social mission was generally very rewarding. The effect we were having on people’s lives was so tangible, especially so when Samantha, a previous recipient of a VocaliD voice, came in to visit us at the office. Being able to see the difference in her regard for her old, generic voice and her new VocaliD voice put it in perspective how necessary the product is.
And while my work this summer will go into voices that will be finished months from now, I am still proud to have participated in their creation. There are also customers awaiting their VocaliD voice currently (like Maeve, pictured above), and getting to see them receive it in the future is something I’m very excited for.
-David Stiefel ’16