On Taking the Leap – Linh Nguyen’s Journey From Student to Intern to Program Manager

Linh Nguyen (MATLM 2023) interned at PayPal during summer of 2022 and has accepted a return offer to start as Localization Program Manager in July 2023. Transitioning from a student’s identity to a professional’s is always challenging. She recently shared with me how she managed the process. 

  • Tell us about your background prior to attending MIIS.

Before attending MIIS, I spent 2 years in the workforce as an English tutor, teacher, copywriter, and marketing partner. Getting work experience before going to graduate school opened me to the world of business and entrepreneurship and also grounded my sense of accountability and responsibility. As a teacher, I learned how to lead a team of rambunctious students and get out of my introverted shell to focus on what mattered the most: teaching my students. As a freelance copywriter, I not only learned how to communicate better in writing, but also learned the ins and outs of starting your own business and managing clients. As a marketing partner at a boutique website marketing agency, I learned how to manage accounts, people, and my own self-doubt. These various experiences in the workforce prepared me mentally to be professional, accountable, and laser focused on what it was I wanted to do, which has always been to bridge connections between people using language.

  • You did not have localization work experience prior to MIIS. When you saw the internship posting from PayPal, did you have any self-doubts about your qualifications? How did you decide that you wanted to apply for it?

The only localization work experience I had prior to MIIS was volunteering as a translator for Viki. When I saw the internship posting from PayPal, I had major self-doubts about whether I would be able to live up to the job description. I was only a month into my first classes in TLM and had just learned how to use Trados and what the localization process was like. Yet, I knew I had to take the leap.

The position was a combination of all my passions: finance and tech, localization and people. Not to mention, I had prior experience using PayPal products like Venmo and PayPal Business. While I knew I didn’t have all the experience listed in the job description right then and there, I knew I had a passion for the company, and that I would still have an entire school year to bring myself up to the standards of the PayPal localization team.

  • How did you prepare for the application process and interviews?

During the application process, I knew I had to be fast. After seeing the job posting, I immediately started fixing up my resume and my LinkedIn basing my examples on the criteria set out in the job description.

I had two close mentors who were not in the localization field, although one was a tech recruiter, proofread my resume. I then set up a meeting with Winnie to get insights on how to conduct myself during the interview. What questions should I be asking? What questions should I prepare for? I then did two rounds of mock interviews with my mentor who was a tech recruiter. She told me to practice my interview answers using the STAR method, which proved to be super useful in showcasing my skills.

On top of this, I also researched PayPal’s website and learned about their company mission, values, culture, and current news. From conversations with my mentors and from my interviews, I learned that willingness to upskill and learn, adaptability, focus on collaboration were three key points that people were looking for in an intern candidate.

  • What are the key lessons you have learned during your internship that you feel you can leverage moving forward?

Just ask. People are willing to help, you just have to ask.

Learn to pivot. Learn to adapt to changes. Instead of complaining, start problem-solving.

Be responsive. People like people they can trust. A part of building trust is being responsive and accountable for your communication.

  • Any words of wisdom for 1styear students who are about to embark on internship search?

Be confident in yourself and your ability to learn and adapt. Those skills carry you far in any job. Showcasing during the interview that you are willing to learn what you don’t know and that you’re flexible to changes will be to your benefit.

Remember that at the end of the day, an internship is just another type of stepping stone into the career you want. I always had a backup plan. Perhaps your stepping stone is a summer-long project to localize a website for a small business or conducting research in the localization industry, or interviewing professionals on your podcast (ahem shameless plug: https://anchor.fm/localizetheworld). These are all ways to upskill, increase your knowledge, and also increase your visibility as a localization professional. You can learn a lot in an internship, but you might learn more surprising things when you forge your own path forward.

Winnie Heh

Career Advisor