My Journey Towards Natural Language Processing

You might be wondering if Natural Language Processing is the right path for you. I decided to share my journey and what drove me towards Natural Language Processing to help others who might be in doubt.

Why I decided to Share My Experience

If you stumbled upon this blog, it is fair to assume that you have at least a vague interest in NLP. However, you might be just exploring, and/or you might have doubts regarding your involvement with NLP. You might be interested in the field, but unsure if you can make a career out of it. Or, you might just want to learn more for fun, but you are afraid you don’t have the right background. Whether you fear that NLP might be “too hard” for you, or you don’t see the interest in learning about it at all, or you are unsure about how to move forward in the field, this is the right place for you. I decided to share my journey towards Natural Language Processing, hoping to answer some of your questions or dissipate some of your doubts. So I’ll tell you a bit more about my background, and if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!

My Journey Towards Natural Language Processing

To tell you all about my experience in NLP, I feel like it’s only fair to take one step back and share my background. Don’t worry, we are going to keep this short and sweet.

I have always been interested in Computer Sciences, and I actually choose a high school that had CS in their curriculum (not very common in Italy when I was young, unfortunately). But the school curriculum was mediocre at best, and it didn’t really click with me. So after an exchange year in the US, I decided to pursue a major in Linguistics and Translation for my BA. It gave me the opportunity to travel and live in other countries, and it really opened up my mind to the world. However, every time I would turn my pc on, there was a little voice in my head going “you basically live with this thing, and yet you know nothing about it”. 

The curiosity was always there. But I was busy building my CV as a Translator and Interpreter, and Computer Science felt like such an obscure and geeky science, unattainable by the uninitiated, that I never tried.

Until, one day, one of life’s twists and turns made me decide to undertake a second masters’ degree. I always say that the best things in my life happened by chance, and this is definitely one of those lucky chances. So as I was looking for good programs I could do online (this was well pre-covid times, when online classes were still somewhat rare), and I found a well-rounded M.Sc. in Multilingual Computing and Localization. I thought to myself – why not kill two birds with one stone? That’s when it all started.

Starting Out

During my M.Sc. I got the opportunity to discover a new side of linguistics – Computational Linguistics. I experimented with Language Engineering and Language Technologies, and my eyes sparkled. Finally, my curiosity for Computer Science and my background in linguistics came together! As I said, the program was very well-rounded, and it gave me an opportunity to discover new paths I could undertake with my background. Still, I wasn’t confident enough to fully embrace computational linguistics and Natural Language Processing. I thought I didn’t have the right experience and knowledge, and surely needed to learn programming before I could even be considered for a job. So I kept thinking about it, but I was discouraged and didn’t think I could make a career out of it.


Then, I got an internship that actually involved some NLP and Computational Linguistics, and I started learning more about it. I took some courses on my free time, and I tried to apply for a job that could help me further develop my skills and knowledge. I was lucky enough to get accepted by one of the first companies I contacted. It was truly an amazing opportunity for me, since they allowed me to grow and learn more and more. Mind you, it wasn’t a big company, which is part of the reason why I could get in even though I didn’t have much experience, and also one of the reasons why there was room for me to grow. I am not saying you can’t do it in larger companies, but it is probably going to be harder. You will need to really stand out, and there are usually company procedures you will need to navigate to get more responsibility or different tasks and grow within the company. So bear that in mind if you’d like to make a career out of NLP.


In the beginning, I had more of a linguist’s role. But I showed interest in more technical tasks and asked to take on more responsibilities and work more closely with the tech team. I slowly moved to a more technical position, and within a few months, I moved to the technical team almost entirely. The important thing, at this point, was to define my goals and then design a concrete roadmap to achieve them. If I could go back in time, I would probably be more methodical about it. I was still pretty young and had little experience on the job market, and even less experience in the programming field, so I stumbled my way through at the beginning. More importantly, I reached out to some colleagues to ask for advice, but I probably should have asked for more advice from other people with different backgrounds. Networking and leveraging one’s network is key when trying to build a career path. 

The process of building a network, looking for people with similar stories and/or backgrounds to yours, and asking advice in order to find the right direction takes time, but is really important. I wish I knew it when I started out. I am still building my network, and I still sometimes struggle to have a clear vision of my next steps, and to organize my knowledge in an organic manner.

My PhD – An Important Step in My Journey Towards NLP

Still, I managed to find my path, more or less, and after a while I decided to pursue a PhD in Natural Language Processing to really strengthen my knowledge of the field. Of course a PhD is not necessary, but a specialized professional course or program is sure to help you out, especially if you come from a totally different background. While I am writing this article, I am halfway through my PhD, with one article published and more publications hopefully on their way. I also gained a new sense of time and task management, and I have a better vision of the gaps I still need to fill on my resume, both in terms of skills and experience.

“The more I study, the more insatiable do I feel my genius for it to be.”

                           – Ada Lovelace

Still Growing

So what’s next? Well, I am still growing. My journey towards Natural Language Processing is not over and will probably never be. This is the beauty of this field. There is always something new to learn, a new challenge to face, a new problem to solve. I keep setting roadmaps and SMART goals for myself, and slowly but surely tick off all the boxes, just as I add new goals to the list. This very blog is part of my journey, and hopefully we can walk a bit together. 

As always, have fun with it and see you in a bit!