The annual career fair for our Translation, Interpretation and Localization Management MA Programs is taking place on February 19th, 2016. As I work with students individually and in groups, I was struck by the abundance of variety in opportunities that the current students can pursue compared with my time as a Translation & Interpretation graduate. The multitude of options can sometimes be anxiety-inducing. What type of internship position will give me maximum flexibility in my career choices upon graduation? Is it better to gain experience in an LSP vs. a direct client’s organization? In the long run, is it better to start by freelancing or accepting a staff position? The reality is there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. I am someone who has made some unconventional career moves and I have learned that what you choose is less important than how you approach your work. Every project that you take and every friend you make along the way will reward you with learnings. And the job that you will take in 10 years may not even exist yet. So, I tell my students: “Be open-minded. Be a good colleague, always, always. Relax! Enjoy the journey.”
Dr. Andrew Clifford of Glendon School, York University interviewed me last year about my perspective on career management for T&I students. Here is the link to the interview.
Nataly Kelly and I worked together at Language Line close to 20 years ago. She went on to become a language consultant, an author and a marketer. When our paths recently crossed again, she is now an employer who is very interested in hiring graduates from the MIIS TILM program. She is the VP of International Operations and Strategy at HubSpot, a company recognized by Inc., Forbes, and Deloitte as one of the world’s fastest-growing companies. HubSpot was also voted as the #1 company to work for in Boston by the Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal, and the #4 company to work for in the United States according to Bloomberg. I sat down with her recently to interview her because she is someone who can impart great wisdom for our students and graduates.
WH: Nataly, you were a Fulbright Scholar in Sociolinguistics. Tell me how you ended up in a leadership position in one of the world’s fastest growing companies? What role has your language skills played, if any?
NK: The common thread in my career has been an interest in communication, and overcoming communication barriers. My first job out of college was at Language Line, but I left to pursue a Fulbright grant in Ecuador. When I returned from Ecuador, I co-founded my own business to do research and consulting within the translation industry. From there, I went to work at another translation company, where I developed new services and products, such as language testing and cultural competence training. After that, I joined translation industry research firm Common Sense Advisory, first as an analyst, then as their Chief Research Officer. Later, I moved to a translation technology start-up working in market development, developing a partner channel with translation agencies. That was my first foray into the world of B2B software-as-a-service (SaaS), which is a space I really love. Having dabbled in marketing in most of my prior jobs, I became their VP of Marketing, for which clear communication is an absolute must. And from there, I moved to HubSpot, also as a VP of Marketing. Initially, I led the Latin American Marketing group at HubSpot while also building out a localization program within marketing team. Recently, I moved into another exciting role here at HubSpot, and now I focus on international operations and strategy.
The role my language skills have played has been tremendous. I can’t imagine doing any of the jobs I’ve had without them. Granted, I haven’t needed interpreting and translation skills for each and every job, but those skills definitely enhanced my ability to carry out my work and to speak credibly to language issues. For example, at Common Sense Advisory, I was able to provide the viewpoint of a translator to ensure this perspective was reflected in the research. And in my current role, where HubSpot is a buyer of localization and translation services, I’m able to provide the perspective of the translator to ensure that we are the best possible client we can be, and that we make life enjoyable for the freelancers who work with us through our agencies.
WH: You are no stranger to the TILM programs at MIIS. What are the job titles that you see our students take up?
NK: There are so many important job opportunities available for graduates of the TILM programs at MIIS! The language services market is enormous, worth billions of dollars per year. There are many exciting (and well-paying) jobs within that industry, both on the suppliers side with translation and interpreting agencies, as well as on the buyer side, at companies like HubSpot, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so many more.
Here at HubSpot, we have roles in every single department that support our international business. On our support team, for example, several of our team members are in charge of our international support sites. On the marketing team, we now have a full-time person in Dublin who manages localized campaigns in multiple languages, and we have many international marketers who work with the localization team. On the localization side, we have a full-time person in charge of our software internationalization, and many of our engineers are involved in this work as well. And today, we have a localization manager, Chris Englund, who works with me, and we’re hiring for three full-time localization specialists out of our Cambridge, Dublin, and forthcoming Tokyo office set to open in 2016. This is just the very beginning for us in terms of international expansion. We have a long way to go from here!
WH: Something that will be of great interest to our students is what you look for when you hire? And what you look for when you hire language professionals specifically?
NK: HubSpot looks for some very specific things when we hire. This is outlined extensively in our Culture Code, which really encapsulates how we think, act, and work at HubSpot. I encourage everyone to check it out, even if you don’t plan to work at HubSpot, because to me, it outlines a lot of things that I believe every great employer should prioritize for a healthy and enjoyable work environment. We look for people who have a clear track record of growth, a bias for action over inaction, and importantly, humility. One thing you consistently notice about people at HubSpot is that they’re all very nice people. That is definitely not something you see at every company. So, we hire for cultural fit very intentionally here.
As for language professionals, we’re looking for individuals who will play somewhat of an “editor-in-chief” role for the languages in question. This person will own the brand voice and style and help us stay on track with that, but will also be an expert in translation and editing for their language. It’s also very important for this individual to be a digital native who loves learning new tools, including learning how to use HubSpot products. This person needs to have the “final say” on matters of language, but they also need to be very open to the fact that language evolves, so they need to be in touch with the latest terminology and techie speak that marketers are using – or they have to show a strong willingness and aptitude for learning this particular domain. It’s very important that this individual strike the right balance between prescriptivism and descriptivism where language is concerned. That is, they need to be able to come up with clear guidelines to ensure a consistent and clear voice for the brand in their language, but they also need to know when to be flexible and creative with language too.
WH: It seems that how translation/interpretation services are provided and consumed are changing rapidly. What role do you see language professionals play in the future economy and how can our graduates “future proof” themselves?
NK: I think graduates should pay attention to all of the many roles that are emerging for people with localization knowledge and skills, because there are so many great things happening right now. Today, roles like “community translation manager” and “localization director” are popping up in a lot of great tech companies. I would definitely encourage graduates to view their language skills as a gateway into international business, which extends far beyond just the translation and interpreting industry, which is very large in its own right. There are so many interesting career options out there, and language increasingly touches so many of them. Remember too that these are niche skills that are in high demand. Often, companies hire people who don’t have a background in these areas because they can’t find talent locally.
WH: If your favorite cousin were one of our students graduating in May 2016, what advice would you give her?
NK: Well, I can’t pick a favorite cousin since I love them all equally! (Laugh!) However, here are the two pieces of advice I would give to my daughter if she were lucky enough to graduate from one of your programs.
First, follow your passion, even if you’re not sure exactly where it will lead. Look for a job that will align with what you enjoy doing most, and if that includes language, consider positions that will enable you to work in international areas. On my first international flight, I explained that I was traveling to Ecuador to perfect my Spanish, and she told me that every language you learn is like another college degree. So of course I went and studied every language I could possibly get access to! I have always followed my passions for language and international business, and that is where I am truly at home, especially in the world of B2B SaaS.
Second, choose your employers and coworkers very carefully. It might sound severe, but I really mean it. Work only with teams of people you truly admire, from whom you can learn a lot, and to whom you can also contribute something meaningful. Find a place that offers you a lot of room to grow. Look for managers who not only take pride in helping employees move forward in their careers, but who realize that this is actually a huge part of their job to ensure employee retention and overall growth of the company. Most importantly, work only in places with a mission you can truly identify with. At HubSpot, I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had in any job, because I work with extremely talented people who also happen to be very kind, every single day, and I learn at least as much from others as I contribute. Surrounding yourself with great people is a recipe for success in business as well as for personal happiness. As simple as it sounds, it’s perhaps the most important career advice I can give!
–Winnie Heh Career & Academic Advisor
Louis F. Provenzano, Co-founder of Certified Medical Interpreters, LLC and former CEO of Language Line Services was the guest speaker in my Career Management class in December, 2015. Lou speaks 6 languages, has worked in over 10 countries around the world and has successfully started, acquired and sold over a dozen businesses with an aggregate value exceeding $500 million. Many of you are familiar with the two medical certification exams in the U.S. Lou started to organize conferences and other activities in 2007 to push for the certification exams. He was one of the two co-founders of the Certified Medical Interpreters exam that is now administered by the National Board for the Certification of Medical Interpreters. (www.certifiedmedicalinterpreters.org) I was able to take part in this historic movement thanks to his vision.
WH:Lou, thank you for making the time to meet with my students. I bet in all those years that we worked together, you had never thought that you would be speaking to MY students at MIIS.
LP: No, I didn’t. I guess anything is possible in life. (Laugh!)
WH:And I think that just goes to show that career management is not some static end state that we choose upon graduation and it shall remain unchanged. A professional who cares about their growth needs to be ready to make positive changes that they may not have planned. With that in mind, I want to point out to our students that you have had a very successful and varied international career. Please tell us how you started?
LP: Thank you Winnie. My father was active in the student exchange program with Kiwanis in Europe. He and his colleagues observed how European children learn multiple languages and conceived the idea of starting a similar program. I, along with 25 other lucky children, was in an experimental program where we studied Spanish in first grade, added French while keeping Spanish and then added German while keeping Spanish and French. With this program and my higher education, I learned Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Russian. I studied Romance languages and international law in college. My language and business training opened up opportunities in my international career.
WH:That’s fascinating. Now starting a job is one thing, to keep the growth momentum going is another. How do you approach keeping your career growth?
LP: I am not an interpreter by trade, but I understand the importance of bridging language and cultural barriers. I have always been ready to use sound business protocols, my experience and my languages to build relationships. In addition, it is important to have a growth mindset – always learning and growing. I work as if I were looking for a career change every day. And you have to be well-prepared to function this way. I have found that every experience I have seems to be more exciting than the previous one.
WH:The two most “anxiety-inducing” topics for our students are “networking” and “compensation.” If you wouldn’t mind, I would like to focus on those topics for a bit. You are one of the best networkers I know. It will take us a while to get to your level. Please think back on your earliest professional life, what are the approaches that you used at those early stages of your professional life that you think our students can learn from?
LP: In terms of networking, I’d say the more you give, the more you will get. Networking is about contributing. For example, early in my career at Northern Trust, I volunteered to serve in a community outreach program because I am naturally outgoing and gregarious. The unintentional benefit from this volunteer activity is that I made amazing contacts with Board members and community leaders throughout this process. As a young professional, this opportunity also allowed me to hone my presentation and communication skills not the least of which was to develop new business opportunities for the bank!
You also have social media at your disposal. LinkedIn, Twitter and FaceBook are your friends. Use them wisely.
When it comes to compensation, I’d say: “Get over it!” (Laugh!) Do your research. Understand your value and stand behind your value. Start high and have the confidence to believe that you deserve what you are asking for. Salary negotiation is not confrontation. It is an opportunity for both parties to understand their assumptions and positions.
WH:You came into the language industry in the last 15 years after having achieved great success in other industries. Your language skills and your world view have given you the passion and unique perspective on this industry. Where do you see the language industry going and how can the new graduates from MIIS with their unique and excellent education prepare themselves for the test of time?
LP: Our world is becoming smaller and smaller. In today’s world, the ability to exchange goods and services are limited only by the ability to communicate. This makes interpreters essential for the global market. We have seen 10% to 15% annual growth within the language industry per year driven by migration and trade. Spanish speakers are predicted to be the majority in this country in 25 years. All that is to say there are tremendous opportunities for language professionals if you are open-minded and manage your careers diligently. Always look for and acquire the new skills needed in the future market. Getting your degree does not mean the end of your education. To future proof yourself, you need to keep learning. This is something I heard from Winnie: “Interpreters need to read a daily a day, a weekly a week and a monthly a month.”
WH:One of the questions that was raised by our students is this:
“I would like to know what the CEO looks for in an employee when hiring or promoting an employee internally. I’m hoping the answer will be something more concrete than just ‘leadership potential’.”
LP: I believe in performance-based recognition and reward. I look for someone who is creative, goes above and beyond their job description and who acts on the best interest of the company. At the end of the day, the most successful employees are the ones who make concrete and on-going contributions to the organization’s growth.
WH:One of the questions that was raised by our students is this:
“What steps can an employee take to make sure that every one of their jobs are fulfilling and educational?”
LP: Seek out learning opportunities and mentors. Ask for and take feedback. The biggest mistake any professional can make is complacency. Nothing stays the same for long. Always ask yourself: “How can I improve myself?”
WH: Thank you for your generosity in sharing your insights.
LP: My pleasure and best of luck to all of you.
–Winnie Heh Career & Academic Advisor