A Classicist Goes to Work in Silicon Valley

Kristina Chew writes about what her friend called “the most creative career change ever.”

Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 1.18.41 PMIt turns out a humanities Ph.D. can provide you with precisely the opposite of what people think—skills that are applicable and even useful outside the academy. Graduate training provides one with well-honed research and analytical skills as well as the steadfastness to soldier on with a project in which progress comes slowly and with little immediate gratification. A Ph.D. in literature and languages means you have been trained to read with your mind alert to the play of words and the semiotic power of images. Training in classical philology means that you know you have to assess everything for trustworthiness, whether you’re reading a newly discovered Greek poem or the latest gossip on Gawker. […] In Book 1.174-6 of Virgil’s Aeneid, once the Trojans have landed on the shores of Latium having survived a terrible storm (and much else) after fleeing Troy, Aeneas’ faithful friend, Achates, is able to start a fire with a few shards of flint that have been painstakingly stowed away. The Latin word for flint, silex, is the root of a word we’ve become quite familiar with, silicon. It is only fitting, I suppose, that it’s now in Silicon Valley that I find myself waiting for the Caltrain, the laptop in my bag cushioned by a book of Greek lyric poetry. —The Chronicle of Higher Education.