Last week, I gave a guest lecture at NYU School of Engineering last week to Financial Engineering students on a Data Science topic. The lecture covered Unsupervised Learning techniques: PCA, K-means and Hierarchical clustering. I started the lecture by discussing the breadth of potential career paths in Finance. On the train ride home after the lecture, it occurred to me that I could use a clustering algorithm to build a map of the roles within a Bank. I think this would be helpful to anyone because there are universes amongst universes inside these large Banks; only select gray haired veterans have a true understanding of. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could draw a diagram showing that?

The Data

The most obtainable data on jobs that I could think of are the descriptions themselves. The goal would be to related the descriptions, a natural language processing (NLP) problem. However, the first issue getting the job descriptions to create a first pass/proof of concept. Using’s “rss” feed, I was able to get about 15 descriptions for 4 separate job searches: 'financial analyst', 'accounting manager', 'web developer', 'pharmaceutical sales').

The Code

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is notoriously difficult and I have never used any of the Python NLTK libraries to solve a problem. Fortunately, bloggers have posted prototype proof of concepts. In particular, this approach for clustering movie descriptions was highly translatable to job description clustering. Briefly, after vectorizing the job description, a distance was calculated between vectors. Then the vectors were clustered using Ward’s linkage function.

Much more work is required to take this seriously. Specifically: 1) more data 2) optimize vectorization thresholds 3) scrub/vet data appropriately 4) pick a good distance measure.


In the diagram below, the horizontal length of the legs joining two nodes is proportional to their dissimilarity: nodes joined by short legs are highly related. Of the 4 job descriptions, web developer stands alone and tends to have job descriptions highly related to each other. Pharmaceutical sales is also well clustered, although can be found closely linked to accounting managers in some cases. Financial analyst, a very vague title, tends to be sprinkled in.


Figure 1: Dendrogram of 15 job descriptions from each of 4 searches: 'financial analyst', 'accounting manager', 'web developer', 'pharmaceutical sales'.