language services

Working as a U.N. Translator – an Interview of Sabela Avion-Martinez

Sabela Avion-Martinez (MATI ‘01) is currently a Spanish Translator at the United Nations based in New York City. She came back to MIIS during an Alumni Reunion in October, 2015 and made a presentation to current students on career opportunities at the UN.  I was impressed by her warmth, openness and her commitment to the growth of our future colleagues.  I made a mental note that she is someone I want to interview when my blog is up.  Here is our conversation.

 

Blog 6 Sabela2 Photo

1. What aspects of your work experience prior to joining the UN do you feel prepared you well for your current work?

I had always wanted to work at the United Nations, but I also knew I had to get experience in other fields. After graduating from MIIS, I worked for a large localization company between 2002 and 2006. I learned about translation processes, tools, budgeting and scheduling, client-provider relations… I’ve found myself applying all these skills at the UN at different stages.

Meanwhile, I kept an eye on any developments regarding careers at the United Nations. This has become increasingly easier over the years, as interested candidates have now access to a great deal of information on working at the UN in different language positions (editors, verbatim reporters, interpreters…), and exams or working opportunities.

 

2. What does your typical day look like at the UN?

If I don’t have an assignment to finish, I let the Programming Officer know I’m available. As soon as a document comes in, she’ll evaluate it and assign it.

We have our own CAT tool, called eLUNa – a translation interface specifically developed for the translation of United Nations documents. It provides access to previously translated documents (bitexts), terminology records and machine translations. As a longtime user of CAT tools, I’ve run the gamut from traditional to proprietary. This new system is web-based, and it’s been developed and adapted according to the specifications and requests of UN translators from all duty stations.

During the translation process, sometimes we find new terms without a set equivalent in Spanish. In those cases, we work together with our terminologists to improve our UNTERM Portal.

We also perform QC tasks on translations done externally. We provide them with an evaluation of their translation. Both internally and externally, translators are expected to have excellent translation skills, a perfect command of Spanish and a wide knowledge of the topics at hand.

The Spanish Translation Service has a strong online presence, and our blog and our Twitter account have hundreds of visits every day.

 

3.  What aspects of your education at MIIS do you feel prepared you well for your current work?

Language awareness. It’s an odd thing to say to speakers of other languages, but Spanish is the official language in 21 countries, and has a large number of speakers in many others. At MIIS, I learned Spanish from my Mexican, Colombian and Argentinean classmates.

 

4. What are the things that you know now that you wish you had known when you were a student at MIIS?

Try to make room for classes in other programs.

Find a language partner in your foreign language.

Don’t forget about your mother tongue.

Live in a foreign country!

 

Winnie Heh
Career & Academic Advisor
wheh@miis.edu

The Reward of Taking the “Road Less Traveled By”

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.

http://www.glendon.yorku.ca/interpretation/how-do-you-plan-your-own-unique-career-path/

Road Not Taken

Winnie Heh
Career & Academic Advisor
wheh@miis.edu

Language Skills as a Gateway Into an International Career – a Conversation with Nataly Kelly

Nataly Kelly International Operations and Strategy Hubspot
Nataly Kelly
VP of International Operations and Strategy
Hubspot

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?

Life at Hubspot
Life at Hubspot

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
wheh@miis.edu

Career Management – a CEO’s Perspective

Lou Provenzano 011116

 

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
wheh@miis.edu

Six MIIS T & I Students Share Internship Learnings

Immersive Learning through Summer Internship

As a professional graduate school, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey places great emphasis on immersive learning which is defined as “intensive, authentic, and contextualized learning that is active, applied, and hands-on and that is related to a specific professional career path.”  One of the best ways for our students to maximize their immersive learning is through internships.  Six of our 2nd year T, TI, CI students recently shared their internship learnings with the first year students in  TED-style presentations.  I posed the following questions to them after their presentations.

Erin Compton (MATI, 2016. English/Spanish. delsurtranslations, Argentina.)
 Erin Compton
WH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

EC: I sought hands-on technical training and exposure to real-world translation and/or interpretation work in a Spanish-language environment.

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

EC: I learned what contexts best foster my ability to produce good work and identified ways to overcome my weaknesses as a translator. I also gained more clarity regarding sector niches to consider moving forward; developing specialized expertise is one of my foremost professional goals.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

EC: In addition to demonstrating an eye for detail and dedication to high quality, my employers appreciated a positive and collaborative attitude. Flexibility is also important, as projects, schedules and plans can change.

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

EC: Don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand something or need further explanation; this is your chance to ask all the questions you can in a safe and supportive professional environment before venturing out on your own. You will be interning amidst professionals who are in positions similar to those that you aspire to fill. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by!

 

Anelix Diaz Quinones (MATI, 2016.  Spanish/English. Organization of American States, U.S.A.)

Anelix Diaz QuinonesWH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

AD: I wanted to have the experience of both translating high register documents in an organization using a CAT tool I’ve never used before and interpreting in a mute booth in high profile and confidential meetings.

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

AD: In very simple words, I challenged myself and realized I’m capable of doing so many things that I thought I couldn’t do. I learned to believe in myself. Most importantly, I realized that I still do have a passion for conference interpreting and that this is the type of setting where I would love to work in the near future.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

AD: From the employer’s perspective, a good intern:

  • Follows specific translation guidelines given by the reviser
  • Is able to meet very tight translation deadlines
  • Is able to learn how to use a tool without needing constant assistance
  • Gets along with the T&I team

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

AD: Even though they don’t expect you to know how to use Trados Studio 2014 perfectly, it would be best if you could be already be familiarized with some of its basic features. Otherwise, you would have to study the guide on your own and then maybe ask specific questions. Also, it’s a good idea if you could visit their website and take a look at their thorough glossary and other useful resources available for OAS translators. These sources can be helpful for interpreting too. Lastly, since you won’t be too overloaded with work, take advantage of your free time and observe meetings of the Permanent Council, which are open to everyone who works at the OAS, and listen to the interpretations. Be willing to learn at all times!

 

Katrin Larsen (MATI, 2016.  Japanese/English.  WIPO, Switzerland)

Katrin LarsenWH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

KL: Useful career experience

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

KL: I originally wanted to see whether I liked patent translation and the possibilities in this area for my future career, and through this internship I learned about what patent translation entailed and was able to develop skills that will help me in this area in the future.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

KL: I believe that WIPO wants an intern who is curious and open to learning, who will be able to quickly learn about a very difficult and technical area of translation while also keeping their intrinsic writing skills in English to produce a translation that is both accurate and readable.

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

KL: Everything that you do can be an experience, so what is most important is to determine what you can learn from a given experience and to get the most out of it. Don’t worry that you might be wasting time on the wrong thing—rather determine what insights you can gain and focus on applying them towards your future.

  

Anna Suades Vall (MATI, 2016.  Spanish/English.  DA Office New York County, U.S.A.) 

Anna Suades ValWH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

AS: The possibility of gaining interpreting experience.

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

AS: The internship made me realize that I am ready to and capable of translating and interpreting in the professional world. It also confirmed what I suspected; I love interpreting in court settings and I would like to combine conference interpreting with this other modality.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

AS: Someone who is eager to learn, proactive and hard working.

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

AS: The main advice I can give them is to be patient and to keep their mind open to different possibilities. They might not know where they will intern until the very last month of the semester. I would also say that it is important to keep in mind that no matter where they go, they will be there to learn, they don’t need to know everything beforehand. Accepting this will help them enjoy the experience even more.

 

Lijuan (Delia) Wang (MACI, 2016.  Chinese/English.  Workday, U.S.A.)

Lijuan (Delia) WangWH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

DW:  Does it offer a position that challenges me and makes my summer worthwhile?

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

DW: I discovered the fact that I can be very tech-savvy, if not everything else I want to be, as long as I put my mind to it. The internship also put localization PM on my radar as a potential future career path.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

DW: I have a long list of adjectives to describe an ideal intern, but all of them truly boils down to some basic qualities: a good intern knows how to carry himself/herself in a professional setting and think like a business owner on a daily basis.

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

DW: Think as if you own the business (not the part of bossing people around)!

 

Kimberley Hunt (MAT, 2016.  English/French.  Technicis, France)

Kimberly HuntWH:  What was the #1 selection criterion as you looked for an organization to intern?

KH:  I was looking for an internship, preferably paid, in a French-speaking country to improve my language skills.

WH:  What insights did you gain about yourself and your professional future thanks to the internship?

KH: I learned that I loved translating and that I definitely chose the right career path for me.

WH:  From the employers’ perspective, what does a good intern look like while working for them?

KH: I produced quality work and asked questions when I didn’t know how to do something, instead of just sitting around having no idea what to do.

WH:  Any other words of wisdom to share with the 1st year students?

KH: You will be pleasantly surprised by how professional your training at MIIS is, and how prepared you are to do real-world work during your internship.

Winnie Heh
Career & Academic Advisor
wheh@miis.edu