Colleen Feng is expecting to graduate from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) with an MA degree in Translation and Localization Management in summer of 2018. Prior to coming to MIIS, she earned an MA degree in Teaching English as a Second Language and taught English. In summer of 2017, she worked as a Localization Intern at Sony Interactive Entertainment PlayStation in California.
*How did you find your job/internship?
I first saw this internship post on LinkedIn, and later it was posted on Zocalo, an online job board at MIIS.
*What experiences at MIIS?
Through taking courses in TLM, I have gained knowledge of localization project management, CAT tools, Python, desktop publishing and translation. Putting all the course names on my resume helped make it more relevant to the localization intern positions I wanted to apply for. I was also able to be more confident during the interviews with concepts of the localization industry in mind. Besides the coursework, I think having individual career meetings with my Career Advisor was the biggest help in securing my internship position. Those one-on-one discussions helped me figure out what internship position I was interested in. My Career Advisor conducted mock interviews with me, connected me with MIIS alumni, revised my resume and helped me polish my professional presence.
*What advice would you share with MIIS students?
The most important lesson I’ve learned during my first year at MIIS is to always be open to different opportunities and never stop stepping out of my comfort zone. I personally think MIIS is a great place to meet people from all over the world, and it’s been rewarding for me to not simply focus on the coursework, but also to meet new friends and try things I’ve never tried before. In the professional aspect, attending localization conferences and events have helped me learn more about the localization industry and build my network in the localization industry.
When I was a translation student at MIIS in the late 80’s, the concept of “localization” as a service provided by language professionals never came up in our training – I am from the “pre-L10N” era. I did not come into contact with Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) until 2008 when my employer acquired a language services provider (LSP), Lingo Language Services, now named LanguageLine Translation Solutions (LLTS) in Portland, OR. LLTS’ core competency was and still is software localization. Having spent close to 20 years of my career in the LSP space focusing on remote interpretation, I found myself having to learn the new language of localization – file preparation, translation memory, translation management system, term base, and CAT. I also found myself managing as many engineers as I did project managers. For the next 6 years, I would work with the LLTS team on selection of tools and measurement of operating efficiency thanks to these tools, but I never had the time or mind share to actually learn and use them. This is why as soon as I could start taking classes as a MIIS employee, I chose to take Adam Wooten’s CAT class.
Though Adam Wooten’s class is named “Introduction to CAT”, its scope reaches beyond introduction to various CAT tools. It is an excellent introduction to language technology including CAT tools, machine translation & post-editing, controlled languages & authoring, interpretation technology, as well as numerous tips and insights regarding the business of translation.
Leveraging Hands-on Learning of CAT Tools
The aspect of the class that I was most interested in was the hands-on use of CAT tools. As Adam Wooten stated in the syllabus, this is about knowing “how to complete basic linguistics-focused functions in SDL Trados Studio 2015 including but not limited to translation memory creation, reuse of previous translations, terminology management, quality assurance, and translation editing according to best practices.” My objective was to learn the functionalities of a typical CAT tool, and thereby enable myself to learn other CAT tools with efficiency in the future. To my delight, our class had a “Learning How to Learn a CAT Tool” component. The learning objective was understanding “different components of SDL Trados Suite 2015 well enough to learn a completely new CAT tool on one’s own.” Equipped with my knowledge of Trados, I was able to learn memoQ effectively on my own as an assignment.
The class on machine translation (MT) and post-editing was another fascinating experience. We reviewed and compared rule-based MT and statistical MT. Tanya Badeka and Juan Rowda, both of eBay, spoke to us on how eBay utilizes MT and post-editing to manage accuracy given the tremendous daily volume of work. The recent announcement of Google neutral machine translation (NMT) added to the depth of our discussions and debates in class. Our discussion on voice-to-voice machine interpretation heightened my awareness of the role voice recognition tools may play to expedite file preparation and translation output. In my final project, I saved file preparation time by 75% by using the speech to text input method rather than word processing in Chinese. I plan to experiment with using sight translation for production in the future.
Will MT Replace Human Translation?
MT is here to stay and scientists will continue to make improvements to it. Will MT replace translators? The answer is: It has already replaced some. According to Tanya Badeka and Juan Rowda, eBay’s in-house Linguists train MT systems rather than translate. Will MT replace translators completely? Not likely. MT scientists agree that there are still significant obstacles to be overcome and it is not for lack of available computing power. The upside is MT will create new positions. In a presentation at the American Translators Association in November, 2017, Jay Marciano listed the following positions that will be created thanks to AI:
– Translation Technology Expert
– Language Technology Analyst
– Language Process Analyst
– Machine Learning Supervisor
– Machine Learning Evaluator
– Language/Communication Analyst
– Semantic Analyst
– Translation Quality Assessor
– Data Collector
– Data Scientist
– Data Curator
– Corpus Linguist
– Computational Linguist
– Premium Translators
– Premium Interpreter
Lessons Learned From Final Assignment
Our final project was to simulate a real-life translation/localization project. Here is my project overview:
Here is an example of the Chinese source text file provided by the client in PDF format which is not in a translatable file format in Trados and the MS Word file as the output from a voice to text exercise. What I estimated to be a 2-hour data entry exercise was completed in 30 minutes by using voice to text input method.
Here are my lessons learned.
Was it Worth the Investment of Time?
I have been asked: “You are not likely to be looking for a job as a translator or a localization project manager. Why are you investing the time to learn CAT?” First of all, I wanted to have hands-on CAT experience for translation projects in my own multilingual family, a goal that I expected to achieve and have achieved. As a Career Advisor, I am always thinking about how I can best position my students to employers. This class gave me more up-to-date and specific concepts and language to do so.
What I did not expect was how out of my comfort zone I was. On reflection, I realized that the excellent IT support I received at work and, indeed, at home has put me out of touch with basic trouble-shooting knowledge and skills. What used to be a blessing became a challenge when I had to handle tools hands-on. While my classmates were zipping through their class exercise, I was trying to find the file types. This class was a growth opportunity.
I cannot say enough about how wonderful our Professor Adam Wooten is. He is clearly a practitioner in the field day in and day out who is excellent at making his insights accessible to the students. His commitment to the students is commendable. He met with every one of his more than 100 students at the start of the semester and he had every team formally present their sales proposal to him for their final project. As a Career Advisor, I especially appreciate the career management tips that he so generously worked into his presentations. I am grateful for having the opportunity to take this class almost 30 years after I graduated from MIIS.
One of the benefits of my job as a Career Advisor is that I can learn through the exciting and interesting work that MIIS alumni and students do. Even though I have been in the language industry for 20+ years, I knew very little about interpreting in the educational setting. That is why I jumped on the opportunity to learn more from Anelix Diaz (MATI ’16). Anelix has always impressed me as an intelligent and diligent professional. Working with her through her job search and now listening to her reflection, what stands out for me is how level-headed she was in an uncertain time. Her passion for the profession and her sincerity in sharing her learnings also come through so clearly in the following interview. Bravo, Anelix! So proud of you!
Q: Please tell us about yourself.
A: I am Puerto Rican, though I was born in Oklahoma (yes, odd combination). Since junior high I have known that I wanted to be an interpreter, which is why I chose to study Modern Languages (French and German) at the University of Puerto Rico. Upon graduating, I took a year off to dedicate time to some important decisions I needed to make in my life, such as considering graduate schools and deciding what the next step was. That time also served me well in terms of gaining practical professional experience in the fields of interpreting and translating prior to pursuing a Master’s degree at MIIS. Last May I graduated from the Institute with a M.A. in Translation and Interpretation. I always like to challenge myself, which is why my current position as a District Translator and Interpreter for Special Education at the Santa Barbara Unified School District is such a good fit.
Q: What is your typical day like?
A: Every day is different. I arrive and check both my email and calendar to see if there are events taking place that day and if interpretation services are needed. Then, I start working on pending translations, which are mostly Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), but they can also be Individualized Health Care Plans, handbooks or Board Meeting Agendas, among other document types. In sum, I would say that 80% of my job is translating and 20% is interpreting.
As for interpretation, we interpret at IEP meetings for high profile cases. Since I work in the Special Education Department, I have access to the Special Education Information System. That is where I can look up students’ IEP by name, school, etc. If I have time, I review the student’s current IEP to familiarize myself with background information and better prepare for the meeting. The Student Attendance Review Board also requires our services at biweekly meetings with parents and students. If the student is in Special Education, I interpret simultaneously using our portable equipment. Otherwise, my coworker, who works for the General Education Department, interprets. There are also many opportunities to work overtime if you choose to do so. Since my job mostly involves translating, I like to take advantage of them to continue honing my interpretation skills. It also gives you a chance to learn about what’s happening at the school sites, where the district is heading, and to meet teachers, psychologists, paraeducators, etc. from those sites.
Q: Why did you choose to enter this field?
A: The first time I considered the possibility of working for a school district was after a workshop I attended at the 2015 ATA Conference and after I met two extraordinary women at the conference, who are now my coworkers. Those last few months in Monterey were hard for me. I was at a point in my life where I needed to be honest with myself about how and where I wanted to apply the skills I acquired at MIIS. I sat down and reflected on my personal and professional goals. I loved the idea of working as a conference interpreter on the East Coast, but I wasn’t sure whether that was what I truly wanted and if it would make me happy. I knew it would be easier to start out in California, since I was already living here. I needed a job that would not only be rewarding and exciting, but also one that allowed me to afford living in this state. Finding a job where there could be a balance between translation and interpretation was key as well. I had received an offer from a translation agency in Santa Barbara to work mostly as a project manager, but I wasn’t convinced, for many reasons. I was, however, already very interested in working in the education field and serving both families and students. I always like to challenge myself and broaden my horizons. So I searched on Zocalo, Google and LinkedIn and applied for several school districts. Unfortunately, when I saw the pay I knew it wasn’t enough to afford living here. Shortly thereafter, I became aware that the Santa Barbara Unified School District was looking for a District Translator and Interpreter for Special Education. I was initially hesitant, thinking I wouldn’t land the job because so many people would apply and I had no experience whatsoever interpreting in that field. I still decided to go for it and just hoped for the best. The job description and the fact that there were opportunities for professional development appealed to me. The pay was also good. And, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to live in beautiful, sunny Santa Barbara? I was shocked when I found out I had landed the job. I was truly grateful for the fact that I was given the opportunity to show what I could bring to the table.
Q: How did your education at MIIS prepare you for your current position?
A: MIIS not only provided me with solid research, translation, and consecutive and simultaneous interpretation skills, but also opened the door to endless opportunities for professional growth. Thanks to MIIS, I’ve met an extraordinary network of people from different backgrounds, perspectives, and languages. I learned so much about others, including myself. I continue to set the same high standards my professors set when I was a student. Complacency and I don’t get along well. I always look for ways to continue improving and growing professionally.
Q: For those interested in entering your field, how do you recommend that they prepare themselves?
A: Interpreting skills are undoubtedly important. However, it goes far beyond that. It’s about making quick decisions and using your best judgment during tense, sometimes awkward moments when interpreting. If you do choose to work in this field, keep in mind that most of the cases you will encounter are emotionally taxing. I never thought they would affect me personally. Just last week, I was at a meeting with my coworker, who was to interpret. After the student attendance panel reviewed a student’s case, I felt awful and was about to cry. I told my coworker I needed to leave immediately because I couldn’t take it anymore. So if you’re very, very emotional, then you might want to think twice. With regard to skills, I highly recommend students continue practicing interpretation using portable equipment, both indoors and outdoors. We don’t have booths. There are times when our job gets challenging because we can’t hear well and have to adjust accordingly.
Q: What is it that you know now that you wish you knew as you started your job search 6 months ago?
A: I’ve always been realistic and I knew since the beginning that looking for the right job wasn’t going to be an easy task. I knew I had to be flexible and open. I was also aware that I had to be patient when waiting for employers to respond. I would say that I regret not taking Holly Mikkelson’s community and medical interpreting courses. You would think that all the material you translate and interpret is only about “education.” Well, it just so happens that we do a little bit of everything. One day you could be translating a legal document and the next day you might be working with technical medical terminology. Therefore, my recommendation for all students is to learn about everything they can, no matter how insignificant it might seem at first. You never know when you will need the knowledge.
–Winnie Heh Career & Academic Advisor
Alicia Dominick is pursuing an MA in Spanish Translation with a specialization in Community Interpreting. She is from Phoenix, Arizona and holds a Bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish Linguistics from Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University. While at ASU, Alicia completed the Spanish Translation Certificate program as well as an honors thesis on literary translation titled “The Educational Value of Translation,” through which she was the first translator of a work by Andrés Bello into English.
This summer, Alicia participated in translation and interpretation internships at Maricopa County Superior Court (Phoenix, AZ) and Bilingual Language Services (Lima, Peru). I interview Alicia to learn more about her experience.
Q1: What were your top 3 criteria as you selected your internship(s)?
First and foremost, I was looking for one or two internships that would work with my schedule and summer plans. Before I even started searching for an internship, I knew that I had a wedding to attend during the first week of July. As trivial as it might sound, that wedding was really important to me and therefore I didn’t want a 3-month-long internship on a different continent that would force me to travel back and forth twice to the US – just imagine the cost of four flights to Latin America! (One internship I really wanted was located in Argentina and required a 3-month commitment, so I had to turn it down for this reason.) Besides the dates/timing issue, I was concerned about the location of the internship (based on cost and whether the country had my A or B language), and I really wanted to try interpreting in real life, if at all possible.
Q2: What did you learn about your field during your internship?
I had been under the impression that in my B-language country, I would only be interpreting and translating into my A language. However, I would say that 60% of everything I interpreted (and maybe 40% of translations) was into my B language! Moreover, I was expecting all the conference interpreters in Peru to be native English-speakers like me, since in the US most interpreters are native Spanish-speakers (and the needs are opposite); however, I only met one interpreter in Peru who was an English A. This means that interpreters in Peru (and probably other Latin American countries) are expected to interpret simultaneously in both directions, although editing and revision are almost always done exclusively in a person’s native language.
Q3: What did you learn about yourself during your internship?
I really narrowed down my career goals this summer. I tried to envision myself in each of the different roles that I observed (court interpreters, translators, conference interpreters, project managers, etc.), and I just could not see myself as a project manager: personality-wise, I’d rather complete a task someone gives me than assign one to someone else. I also realized that I would feel much more comfortable specializing in one area of expertise in either translation or interpretation rather than interpret at a myriad of different conferences and never quite be an expert on one thing.
Q4: From the employers’ perspective what does a good intern look like?
If you are polite, bring a positive vibe to the workplace, and are receptive to new ideas (and constructive feedback), then you will be a fabulous intern. Employers and fellow employees will respect you if you respect them and show that you are willing to try new things as a part of your learning experience. Ask them questions about their careers, and not only will it give you professional insight, but it will make you memorable!
Q5: Any words of wisdom you would like to share?
Make sure to bring your business cards to your internships, and never underestimate the power of an old-fashioned thank-you note! On the last day at my court interpreting internship, my classmate and I gave everyone in the department a small thank-you note with a piece of chocolate and both of our business cards. Everyone loved the gesture, and it ensured that we were memorable as potential job candidates. I did something similar at my second internship, and both workplaces invited me to come back as an intern (or employee!) in the future. I also handed out my business cards to any new conference interpreter or project manager I met in Peru, thinking that this might help me expand my professional network in a different part of the world. You never know!
–Winnie Heh Career & Academic Advisor email@example.com
Growing up in a multicultural environment, Gaya Saghatelyan has always been passionate about languages and culture. In college, Gaya studied Business Administration at a French business school. As an undergraduate student, she worked for the Embassy of Switzerland in Armenia as an in-house translator and interpreter (English/French/Russian/Armenian) — that’s how she discovered her passion for the language profession. Upon graduation, Gaya decided to leave the language industry and start a career in business administration. But not for long. After a year of working for a software company based in Los Angeles, she began to feel that something was missing in her career and decided to “go back to her roots,” as she puts it. Gaya is currently pursuing an MA in Translation and Localization Management, where she combines her passion for languages, technology and business.
This summer, Gaya did a 3-month Localization Program Management internship at Autodesk, a 3D design software company based in San Rafael. Gaya talked about her experience at Autodesk during my Career Management class. I did a follow up interview with her to learn more about the internship.
Q1: What were your top 3 criteria as you selected your internship(s)?
Location: I looked for an internship in the US and abroad. I was especially interested in doing an internship in France to practice my B language and learn from a different business culture. On the other hand, I wanted to expose myself to software localization, and the Bay Area was perfect for that.
LSP or Client: I wanted to gain experience in project/ program management working for an LSP, because it offers a versatile learning environment. I also wanted to explore software localization and experience what it would be like to work for a big company.
The environment: In the process of interviewing for different internships, I paid attention to the overall dynamic and atmosphere between myself and the hiring manager. It was important to me that the company (and the hiring manager) have specific objectives for the internship and an internship plan. I wanted to make sure that the hiring manager could be my mentor.
Q2: What did you learn about your field during your internship?
I learned that localization can sometimes be perceived as a cost center, therefore one of the most important roles of a program manager in localization is to control cost, evangelize localization best-practices and create a long-lasting relationship with stakeholders.
In addition, I learned that software localization is evolving rapidly in response to changes in software development practices. The cadence of software localization is strongly dependent on the software release cycle, which requires localization teams to adopt a continuous localization strategy.
Finally, as a localization program manager, your role is very diverse: from cost management to vendor communication, from knowledge management to stakeholder analysis — there’s never a dull day!
Q3:What did you learn about yourself during your internship?
During my internship I discovered, once again, that human interaction and collaboration are very important to me. I also learned that I thrive in a dynamic environment where I can learn new things and work with different teams. Lastly, I realized that although I didn’t particularly enjoy accounting and finance in college, I love numbers! Anytime I was faced with a new task or wanted to understand how a project was structured, I turned to the data.
Q4: From the employers’ perspective what does a good intern look like?
A good intern takes initiative to benefit from the experience and contribute to the team. As an intern, you may think you don’t have a lot to contribute, but you do! A good intern observes and asks questions with the purpose of understanding the business and contributing fresh insights. A good intern also interacts with everyone on the team and takes initiative to become a part of the company culture.
Q5: Any words of wisdom you would like to share?
These are things that I think made my internship successful and I hope they will help students during their future internships:
Find a mentor: Work closely with your manager and express interest in projects.
Be open to new opportunities: You may be set on a specific career path you want to pursue, but you never know where the road may take you! Be open to exploring new opportunities.
Use what you learn at MIIS: I didn’t know all the tools and processes when I started my internship, but what I learned during my first year at MIIS taught me to think like a localization manager.
Do a final presentation: At the end of your internship, ask your Manager for a review of your work and suggest doing a final presentation for the team you worked with. This will leave a lasting impression on your team and showcase, once again, your growth throughout the summer.
Stay in touch: Make connections with everyone at the company and stay in touch! Don’t underestimate the power of human interaction.
Do you have a question for Gaya? You can connect with her via LinkedIn or reach her at saghatelyan.gayane(at)gmail.com
–Winnie Heh Career & Academic Advisor firstname.lastname@example.org
Ten months ago, I returned to my alma mater, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, as Career and Academic Advisor specializing in the translation and interpretation programs. My first “cultural shock” came when the incoming 1st year students answered my question: “What are your career aspirations?” To my surprise, 90% of them want to become diplomatic interpreters. I applaud them for aiming high, but I also knew the world they graduate into offers them an abundance of career choices. There are many careers within the language field, such as diplomatic interpreting, that can be deeply gratifying and rewarding. My students motivated me to “paint the big picture” and “connect the dots” for the wide spectrum of career choices. I created the “Eco-System for Language Professionals” to paint the possibilities. I want my students to make career choices after they have contemplated their own interests and options rather than going for a default answer.
My graphic depiction attempts to show the possibilities rather than a complete list. I have no doubt that new jobs will continue to show up. All of the jobs here are real and I have held or managed many of these positions during my 25-year career in the language services industry. Language professionals can transition among these positions with the understanding that each move requires education (formal or informal), networking, and diligence.
You may say: “I get it. There are many career options in the language world, but are there really career opportunities for me?” The answer is “yes.” Here are some good news I would like to share with you.
Big industry: According to Common Sense Advisory, the outsourced language services is worth US$38.16 billion in 2015. Please not this amount does not account for the money spent by government and NGOs on providing language services.
High growth: Common Sense Advisory is predicting that this market will grow to $47 billion in 2018.
Globalization helps us: According to Byte Level Research, the top 25 websites support an average of 52 languages.
New U.S. import tax law helps: The U.S. raised the import duty exemptions in April, 2016. Overseas eCommerce merchants are expected to increase their efforts to reach U.S. consumers which will create opportunities to localize communication into English.
If you choose to live in this eco-system, with exposure and focused learning, you have many future career options to move into. What are your thoughts?
My 2nd year T&I students are about to graduate. I spoke with them during their last “Translation and Interpretation as a Profession” class today. This is my “send-off” message as their Career Advisor:
In the last two years, you have spent thousands of hours honing your professional skills and you are ready to be strong contributors to our profession. Here are some lessons I have learned in my professional career and would like to share with you.
First, speak your gratitude. A simple “thank you” goes a long way AND it makes you feel good saying it.
Second, I can guarantee that you will encounter setbacks in your career. When I encounter a stumbling block, I tell myself I am going to use it as a stepping stone. Rather than allowing it to block my way, I step on it.
Third, make your communication actionable and precise. Minimize adjectives and adverbs. Discipline yourself to use verbs, nouns and numbers.
Fourth, when you are in meetings and see people talk round and round in circles. Remind yourself of this question: “What problem are we trying to solve?” If it is appropriate, ask this question respectfully. You will stand out as the voice of reason.
Fifth, Be nice to people. The best thing to do is to be nice always. This way you don’t have to expend mental energy to remember: Am I being nice on my way up or on my way down now?
Sixth, when my team comes to me all flustered because we have encountered a problem. This is what I say: “No one is going to give you their good money if you can’t make their lives easier. Problems are job security. Be the solution.”
Seventh, don’t gossip. Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people.” Stay away from small minds and strive to have great minds.
I wish you the best of luck.
–Winnie Heh Career & Academic Advisor
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