At Duolingo, we pride ourselves on hiring individuals who are passionate about our mission and want to use their expertise to change the world for the better. To give you a peek into what it’s like working for Duolingo, we’ve asked our team members to share more about their experience at the company! Today, meet Jackie, an AI Research Scientist!
What’s your background and what did you do before Duolingo?
I grew up in Taiwan and learned how to program in C in high school. That was my first encounter with computer science, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. I took many machine learning courses and did some research in speech recognition in college. After college, I went to MIT for my Ph.D. and did research at the intersection of speech recognition, natural language processing, and cognitive science. My doctoral thesis was about designing a learning framework for a model to acquire linguistic structures from just speech data! It was really fun. I worked at a couple of start-ups and eventually founded one myself after graduating from MIT. The biggest company I’d worked for before Duolingo had just 27 employees, but all of my employers, past and present, share something in common: a great mission!
Why did you choose Duolingo?
I chose to interview with Duolingo because everyone I knew in Pittsburgh said good things about it, and that is rare. I started using Duolingo in 2013, but I didn’t know anything about Duolingo’s mission. It was the positive experiences from current Duos that got me interested.
I decided to join Duolingo for a couple of reasons. First: the mission. Knowing that your work creates a positive impact on people is motivating. That’s how I want to spend my life, so nothing beats that. Second, it’s a fast growing company, which means there will be a lot of opportunities for personal growth as well.
What team do you work on? What excites you about what your team is doing?
I’m a member of the Personalization Lab, and we create AI models that power personalized learning experiences at Duolingo. Duolingo has a large user base, which is what sets us apart from other companies in the field. If we are able to leverage the user data well, we will be able to provide a very, very precise learning experience for our users and help them reach their personal or professional goals more effectively. This really excites me.
What are some of the technical challenges you face as a Staff AI Research Scientist?
As a Staff AI Research Scientist, the main challenge of the job isn’t always technical. For me, the major challenge is to identify great problems to solve. I constantly ask myself: “What are the most high impact problems we can use AI to solve?”
What is unique about working at Duolingo?
Duolingo is a successful company that is also growing fast. The fact that it’s successful means it is able to take good care of its employees. The fact that it’s growing quickly means that you can keep your skills up-to-date and have abundant opportunities to apply them.
What are three words that describe Duolingo’s culture?
Smart, nimble, and kind.
If you could have lunch with one Duolingo character, who would it be and why?
I’d meet up with Vikram because he enjoys baking, and I’m hoping that by having lunch with him I will be able to taste all the delicious-looking cakes he shows off in the app.