Find out how David is bringing language data online to improve people’s lives

David Zack, Director of Technology in Academic Dictionaries

What do you enjoy about working for OUP?

I really didn’t know what to expect when I joined OUP. I’ve worked at large high tech firms and also several start-ups. Honestly, I thought it might be boring, but it’s actually turned out to be really exciting. One of the things I’m pleased about is the technology team here in our division. We’re from all over the world, from the Americas and Europe, Asia and Africa and we work together very efficiently. We work very agile, we work very lean, and we’re leveraging all kinds of new tools and technology. I’ve probably learned more in the last year or two working here as I have working at some of the high tech firms I’ve worked with.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

One of the biggest challenges has been identifying what our core value in the Dictionaries division is. What we’ve realised is that while dictionaries is a huge part of what we do, the main value we bring is language data. You can see that in programmes such as Oxford Global Languages, an initiative bringing 100 digitally-endangered languages online over the next 10 years. We are delivering this data to thousands of developers all over the world so they can create applications and services in their local languages, as well as providing it to big tech companies like Google and Apple for them to embed the languages in their global operating systems.

What impact does this have on people’s lives around the world?

We’re doing really exciting work that’s technically challenging, but at the end of the day it makes a real difference in people’s lives. Whether you’re talking about games, learning tools, or new applications, it’s always going to help to have that in your local language. It’s not only about leveraging this data so that people can learn; it’s about creating new eco systems and economies so that new businesses can crop up.

In the past, many people have assumed academics and people working in technology were of two different worlds. Is there a person that can be good at both now?

There is. What’s interesting is that Oxford has a reputation for being very academic, and we are, but we’re marrying that sensibility with a forward-thinking technology strategy that has put us at the forefront of language data innovation. Our data is used by some of the top language companies and tech firms in the world, and now we’re making this cutting-edge data available to anyone. Whether you’re a developer in Malaysia, a teacher in Colorado, a student in Mexico, or an innovator in Romania, you can use and leverage this data to bring their dreams and applications to life.