ASU professor offers tips for multilingual job seekers

Lorena Cuya Gavilano on how to leverage (and demonstrate) your language, cultural competencies

May 31, 2022

For students or graduates entering the job market who have multilingual skills and cultural competencies, Arizona State University Associate Professor Lorena Cuya Gavilano has some kudos — and advice about how to leverage those talents.

“We live in a globalized, interconnected world, and it's very important to know how to communicate with different cultures. It's not just about the language, but also about the intercultural relationships,” said Cuya Gavilano, who teaches in the Spanish for the Professions certificate program and is a newly tenured associate professor in ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. Portrait of ASU Associate Professor Lorena Cuya Gavilano. ASU Associate Professor and Fulbright Scholar Lorena Cuya Gavilano leads the Spanish for the Professions certificate program in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at ASU's downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Maureen Roen/ASU Download Full Image

Cuya Gavilano was recently was chosen to receive a 2022–2023 Fulbright Scholar Award for her project “Andean Border Thinking and Chinese Migration to Peru.” She has been teaching at the collegiate level since 2002 and said that as a professor of Spanish language, literature and culture, her fundamental goals for students are not necessarily about the language itself, but about “expanding the cultural horizons of my students and developing their critical thinking while stimulating their social sensibility."

“My teaching gives my students the means to interpret, apply and communicate information about the Hispanic world that matters not only in the academic context, but beyond the classroom,” Cuya Gavilano said.

In fall 2021, Cuya Gavilano shared insights and tips with future language teachers about how to make their teaching applications the strongest they could be, as part of a panel of experts at the career guidance site

Recently, she shared with ASU News about how students from any major or prospective career path might market themselves as multilingual employees — and how multilingual skills can give applicants an edge over other job candidates.

Question: To start off, would you recommend that university students pursue multilingual education? Why?

Answer: Absolutely. It's not just about the language, but also about the intercultural relationships that you're going to be embedding in when you're working. It is very important to learn that through language and also to be able to communicate with other people in their native language, because in that way, you can really get the subtleties of their thoughts and their conversations and that kind of thing.

Q: What kinds of employers might place extra value on multilingual skills?

A: Well, especially if the company is in a multicultural city, which most cities are these days, or if we talk about big corporations, transnational industries, they may be looking for somebody who is multilingual. You can see that in the different websites where they publicize their ads looking for different positions — and most of them say a second language is required, or it's a highly recommended preference.

Q: Are there certain professions where these types of skills are more valuable?

A: I think health professionals for sure, especially here in the U.S. with LatinxLatinx is a gender neutral term preferred by some to refer to a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture, or from Latin America. populations, you see a lot of patients who need translation or need interpretation. Also law. Lawyers need to communicate with their clients, especially those who are focusing on immigration issues in the Latin American world and the U.S. People who are interested in programming — there are a lot of very good, very well-paid positions that are asking for people who have studied Spanish, for example, as a second language, linguists who are able to code and to create programs for translation and that kind of thing.

Q: How should someone present or pitch their multilingual knowledge?

A: First of all, pay attention to the ad. Why is this organization requiring a multilingual or bilingual person? And then talk about that in the letter so you make sure they know how you can satisfy that need.

The other thing that I certainly recommend to bilingual students, or multilingual students, is to create a portfolio in the second language, so they can demonstrate how they have used that knowledge. I think that's very important, and you can refer to that in your letter. Share a direct link.

Also, try to portray yourself as a person who can make those cultural connections with different clients and different enterprises abroad. It's about building bridges and growing your company or the service that you're working for.

Q: So making it clear that you have the ability to make connections, that you are prepared to engage in outreach and things like that?

A: Exactly. It's that, and it's all the innovation that comes with that. The person who is more capable to create those connections among different companies within the country and abroad is the person who is really able to be successful have successful intercultural communication. That is key.

Q: When competing with other multilingual applicants, what can someone do to stand out from the crowd?

A: Well, I think that the devil is in the details, right? So you really have to show that your skill is advanced.

Try to present a letter in the second language (and consider including these points):

  • Talk about the varieties of language that you can manage. Take Spanish, for example, because it's not the same in Mexico or in Chile. There are some variations in vocab and pronunciation.
  • Make an opportunity to give a demo talking in the language, or give a sample of your work. You can do it during your interview. And you can absolutely put that kind of sample in your portfolio.
  • If you have studied abroad, talk about your very particular experience and what you gained from that.
  • Talk about any internship you have successfully completed, especially if you completed it in a second language. This is very, very important.

Q: So it's not just about showing you have the skill set, but showing that you've already applied it and are applying it in real time?

A: You'll have to show that you really know the language, and you have to show how you used it, how your skills were useful in whatever enterprise you were involved in.

Q: Is it essential that you have enough language skills to do your entire job in that second language? Or is it more necessary for you to show that you have this language skill that can augment your job duties?

A: Again, it depends on the job. If they're looking for somebody who is multilingual or bilingual, you do need to show proficiency. If you are just applying for any other regular job that does not specify needing these skills, it is a plus. It's not just about speaking the language, it’s about the skills that will come with it.

For programming, for example, say people who work for Google or Facebook, it's absolutely essential to know the subtleties of language. Same thing for lawyers or doctors. If you misrepresent something in your interpretation, you can be creating a lot of trouble for some people, so that's very important.

Written by Nathaniel Boyle, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts student marketing/communication specialist (ASU Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Class of 2022)

Maureen Roen

Director of Communications, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


Closing the gap for real-time data-intensive intelligence

NSF CAREER Award funds ASU engineer's novel solution to speed up inferences in computer databases

May 31, 2022

The online world fills databases with immense amounts of data. Your local grocery stores, your financial institutions, your streaming services and even your medical providers all maintain vast arrays of information across multiple databases.

Managing all this data is a significant challenge. And the process of applying artificial intelligence to make inferences or apply logical rules or interpret information on such data can be urgent, especially when delays, known as latencies, are also a major issue. Applications such as supply chain prediction, credit card fraud detection, customer service chatbot provision, emergency service response and health care consulting all require real-time inferences from data being managed in a database. ASU Assistant Professor Jia Zou holding a laptop open as two students at a table behind her look on. ASU Assistant Professor Jia Zou received a 2022 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award for her proposal to design a new database that seamlessly supports and optimizes the deployment, storage and serving of both traditional machine learning models and deep neural network models. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU Download Full Image

The current lack of support for machine learning inference in existing databases means that a separate process and system is needed and is particularly critical for certain applications, like those mentioned above. The data transfer between two systems significantly increases latency, and this delay makes it challenging to meet the time constraints of interactive applications looking for real-time results.

Jia Zou, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, and her team of researchers are proposing a solution that, if successful, will greatly reduce the end-to-end latency for all-scale model serving on data that is managed by a relational database.

“When running inferences on tens of millions of records, the time spent in moving input-output data around could be 20 times more than the inference time,” Zou says. “Such increase in latency is unacceptable to many interactive analytics applications that require making decisions in real time.”

Zou’s proposal, “Rethink and Redesign of Analytics Databases for Machine Learning Model Serving,” garnered her a 2022 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award.

Zou’s project aims to bridge the gap by designing a new database that seamlessly supports and optimizes the deployment, storage and serving of traditional machine learning models and deep neural network models.

“There exist two general approaches to transform deep neural networks and traditional machine learning models to relational queries so that model inferences and data queries are seamlessly unified in one system,” Zou says. “The relation-centric approach breaks down each linear algebra operator to relational algebraic expressions and runs as a query graph consisting of many fine-grained relational operators. The other approach is to encapsulate the whole machine learning model into a coarse-grained, user-defined function that runs as a single relational operator.”

The major difference between the two approaches is that the relation-centric approach scales to large models but incurs high processing overheads, while the user-defined, function-centric approach is more efficient but cannot scale to large models.

Zou’s proposed solution is to dynamically combine both approaches by adaptively encapsulating subcomputations that involve small-scale parameters to coarse-grained user-defined functions and mapping subcomputations that involve large-scale parameters to fine-grained relational algebraic expressions.

In order to accomplish that, Zou — who teaches in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, one of the seven Fulton Schools — proposed a two-level Intermediate Representation, or IR, that supports the progressive lowering of all-scale machine learning models into scalable relational algebraic expressions and flexible, yet analyzable user-defined functions.

“Based on such two-level IR, the proposed accuracy-aware query optimization and storage optimization techniques introduce model inference accuracy as a new dimension in the database optimization space,” Zou says. “This means the model inferences and data queries are further co-optimized in the same system.”

Zou says that is critical and urgent to integrate data management and model serving in order to enable a broad class of applications that require data-intensive intelligence at interactive speed, such as credit card fraud prediction, personalized customer support, disaster response and real-time recommendations used on all types of apps.

“In the past 10 years, I have been focused on building data-intensive systems for machine learning, data analytics and transaction processing in both industry and academia,” Zou says.

Zou and her lab have also worked with potential industrial users, such as the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, as well as multiple academic users.

In the future, she says this work will deliver new techniques to advance logical optimization, physical optimization and storage optimization of end-to-end machine learning inference workflows in relational database.

“We will also develop and open source a research prototype of the proposed system,” Zou says. “Moreover, the research results of the project will enhance and integrate educational activities at the intersection of big data management and machine learning systems.”

As part of the NSF CAREER Award, Zou’s work will also support a Big Data Magic Week activity for underrepresented K–12 students and refugee youths in Arizona. The activity will be used as a platform to prepare selected ASU undergraduate students for international research competitions and be integrated with an ASU graduate-level course on data-intensive systems for machine learning.

“ASU provides a collaborative environment for machine learning-related research, through which we can easily identify the potential academic users of our research results,” Zou says. “The Fulton Schools of Engineering and (the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence) provide great support to junior professors’ career development.”

Erik Wirtanen

Web content comm administrator, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering