Need helping choosing Recommendation Letter Writers

Hi all,

I need some help in deciding how to divide my letter writers between recommendation letters and “reference” letters (for meeting mandatory and optional criteria). Here are some of the people I have:

  1. CEO of £2M UK-based AI FinTech startup (it was one of the 31 companies chosen in 2020 by Tech Nation as part of the FinTech 3.0 Cohort). Please note that I would be centering my application around working for this startup - so this would be a kind of soft job offer.

  2. Senior Professor of Computer Science from the University of Oxford, and one of the pioneers of my research subfield in AI. Recognises my work, and has cited it in many of his papers.

  3. Chair of the research group (in my field) at the Alan Turing Institute and a Reader (Associate Professor) at the University of Edinburgh - he has not directly worked with me, but based on my resume and through interviews, will be the primary supervisor in my PhD studies.

  4. Reader at the University of Edinburgh - and one of the world-leading researchers in Natural Language Processing (NLP). Also co-founder of the startup mentioned in #1. Has been my research advisor for the past year.

  5. Senior language technology producer at the BBC - My research work at the University of Edinburgh involved training Machine Translation models for use by the BBC (who were our media partners and innovation co-ordinators) in journalism in developing Asian and African countries. This work was done as part of an EU-funded project.

  6. CTO of an open-source organization I worked for as part of the Google Summer of Code. Has nothing to do with research as such but he can assert to my skills as a software developer, which would be useful in helping me prove my ability to develop software for the startup.

  7. Senior Research Scientist at IBM Research India - advised me for about 6 months and co-authored 2 papers with me when I interned there. I also built a software that was used in IBM internal applications.

  8. Senior Vice President of Innovation and Research at Wells Fargo India - worked with him for about 3-4 years when he was a PhD student at my previous uni (and I was a Masters student). Co-authored multiple papers with him (as part of my Masters thesis research) and he pretty much directly supervised me.

  9. Senior technology architect at $81M startup offering tech services for HR-based tasks. Worked with me when I interned there at the end of my first year of undergrad studies, and I created (NLP-based) products that contributed to their revenue

  10. Senior tech lead at an AI-based startup that develops healthcare technology for use in AI-assisted surgery. I developed software based on Augmented Reality when I interned there. But this person does not have too much of an online presence (no Linkedin profile or website), so I am kind of worried about whether or not to use him.

My [Tentative] Letter Plans

Recommendation letters: 1,2,3
Reference Letters (Mandatory Criteria) - 5,6,7,9. I will be using them to show that I led/was a senior contributor to an industry-led tech initiative. I might exclude 10.
Reference Letters (Optional Criteria) - 4,8. I will be using them to show that my research has been endorsed by an expert.

The main reasoning is to use the recommendation letters from people who have not directly worked with me (though writer #3 will be my primary advisor in the coming years), and reference letters to match the evidence. Here are some areas where I have questions:

  1. Some of my letter writers (eg. #1) may be MBA/business experts despite working in the NLP/tech industry. They are obviously well-recognised as digital tech experts, but maybe from different roles as others are professors/researchers. Would this be okay?

  2. The models I built for BBC were part of a project where they were innovation co-ordinators, like I said. I work as part of the research staff at the University of Edinburgh as an employee - so I am slightly worried this work could be considered tech outsourcing? Research conducted at the University was used to train models useful to the BBC, and BBC developers then built software that integrated our models to meet their real-world use cases - so, I would say it was more collaborative than “outsourcing” would be. Would this be okay?

  3. Letter writer #8 worked with me during my Masters research, like I said. Tech Nation says research papers submitted to journals as part of undergrad/MS research is not accepted, so I will be showing other publications to match that but is it okay to have letter writers who worked with you on MS research projects endorse your research?

Please also let me know if there’s any other advice anyone would like to offer. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks in advance!

@remorax I might be coming from a position of ignorance. But I find it unusual to have 7 out of 10 evidence documents to be reference letters. But that might just be me. Having said that, your profile does stand out as strong, given the sheer number and level of each of your references.

Curious, since this post is already 5 months old now, what did you end up doing in your final package? What were your 10 evidences apart from the 3 recommendation letters? What was the final outcome? I hope it was Exceptional Talent.