I've just come back from the 45th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) in Prague; this was the biggest ever ACL conference, with more than 1,000 people attending for the first time. Attendance at ACL conferences has been growing year on year, and that is a sign of a healthy field. Another sign of health is industry sponsorship. For this year's conference, the Gold Sponsor was Google, and Microsoft and Yahoo! were Silver Sponsors, along with a few companies we have not seen as ACL sponsors before: _textkernel, News Tin, and - a name that seems now to pop up regularly in this column - Powerset. There are all sorts of reasons why companies sponsor conferences like this, but clearly a major purpose is to make themselves visible to potential employees. And, if companies are hiring, that's good news across the board: it gives us a way of attracting more students into the field, and more generally, it speaks to the industrial and commercial relevance of what we do. There is nothing like external validation - especially commercial validation - to wash away those niggling self-doubts about the utility of your research endeavours. I remember attending MT Summit VII in Singapore in 1999, when Jo Lernout, then of Lernout & Hauspie, gave an invited talk in which (I'm sure I'm remembering this correctly) he said his ambition was to hire everyone in the hall. There were around 250 attendees - big for an NLP conference at the time - so that created quite a buzz. Jo wanted to hire everyone, not just cherry pick those with the near-to-product big ideas; in his vision of the future, every teensy-weensy tightly-focused research contribution had a role to play. For just a moment, everybody felt wanted.