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Alexa, What are our Alums at Amazon up to? Meet Alex Estes (BA 2013)

Submitted by Michael Neininger on October 7, 2020 - 1:06pm
Alum Alex Estes, BA 2013
Alex Estes, BA 2013

After graduating with my BA in German in 2013, I immediately began my graduate studies in the German department at UC Berkeley. Having worked closely with Chuck Barrack and Joe Voyles at UW, I was well prepared to continue studying the history of the Germanic languages. I spent five great years in Berkeley, where I had the opportunity to teach German for three years, present at conferences, travel abroad to study medieval manuscripts, and enjoy the wonderful Bay Area weather. Although my research focused on historical phonology, in my last few years of graduate study I also began working on computational linguistics in order to expand my opportunities beyond academia. In May of 2018 I graduated with my PhD. My dissertation, titled “Selected Problems in Germanic Phonology: Production and Perception in Sound Change”, investigated 3 sound changes in the early history of the Germanic languages.

Shortly after graduating I moved back to Seattle to begin working at Amazon as a computational linguist on Alexa. At the end of September it will have been two years for me at Amazon, and although moving from academia to industry was certainly not a trivial transition, it has been a lot of fun, and a very different type of challenge. Although I’m not using my German very much at work, there are a surprising number of German PhDs working on Alexa—I’m not even the only one on my team!

I hope everyone is healthy and safe, and I’d be happy to hear from anyone who’d like to reach out. You can contact me at