Most of us want to know who are behind a brand. And given the translation industry is a people’s business, I am sharing here some of my past experience so you get to know how I ended up where I am today as the spearhead of GeaSpeak.
As soon as I graduated from high school I continued studying English-Spanish Translation at Instituto de Educación Superior Nº 28 “Olga Cossettini” and at the same time music (classical guitar) at Rosario National University (UNR). I got a diploma as a “Guitarist” and after finishing the three-year career in translation I also got a degree in Translation from UNR, where I completed my final thesis on “International Spanish.”
Years later, I complemented my linguistic background with business training through 1-to-1 business coaching sessions, business books, webinars and especially practice. I believe in Kaizen (continuous improvement), an approach we embrace at our organization to improve ourselves as in-house team members, but also to improve our freelance linguists’ performance through feedback on a daily basis.
At the very beginning of my career every opportunity was welcomed. I worked as an English teacher at a private institution for 2 years and I started grabbing every translation opportunity to gain experience. This included working as a translator voluntarily and for some colleagues, a few direct customers, and local and foreign translation agencies.
I could say I was always fortunate enough to work as a translator. My first great opportunity came early as soon as I graduated and it was a real challenge. While I was working as a volunteer translator for a local environmental NGO, Taller Ecologista, I was commissioned to translate an 8,000-word newsletter on nuclear energy, nuclear power plants, environment, human rights, legislation, EU matters and international affairs, published every 20 days, from anti-nuclear Dutch NGO World Information Services on Energy (WISE) and American NGO Nuclear Information and Resource Services (NIRS). I translated this newsletter for more than 3 years (53 issues). During this time I also collaborated with other environment NGOs such as the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)and others.
For over 5 years, I translated hundreds of files for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, especially Individual Service and Safety Plans (ISSPs) for children in out-of-home care, informed consents, legal documentation and text on psychology.
For 9 years, I have translated over 2 million words for one of the world’s largest water companies that manufactures water and waste water treatment systems. Material translated included company policies, employee handbooks, Code of Conduct, collaterals, communications, technical sheets and website content.
For 8 years, I have collaborated with an LSP specialized in Oil & Gas in the following areas: down-, mid- and upstream, geology, simulation software, machinery, contracts, marketing.
In addition to regular marketing projects, where you have to be very creative and have a good command of your mother tongue, I’ve worked for 5 years for a localization company dedicated to transcreation only. Projects for this company included transcreation of taglines and copy for marketing campaigns, mostly for luxury products.
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit since my years as a Translation student. With another student, we had our first try with a pilot project offering English teaching and translation services but we had little or no success. Internet and email were something new and we still had a dial-up connection, (I used to check my email only four times a day!). I then continued developing my career as a freelancer but after reaching my full potential as an individual linguist I resumed my search as an entrepreneur.
I chose a name and created a website and Terralingua was born. There was no office; the headquarters for this project was my studio at home. There were no employees. I was the one-man band playing the roles of leader, project manager, reviewer and more. I tried to get surrounded by trustworthy freelance linguists – I still work with some of them – and I started taking my first steps as a company manager.
This was really challenging because I had no experience working in-house for another LSP or MLV. I didn’t have the know-how and knowledge that you get from working within an organization in the same industry. I did have the technical knowledge but I lacked business skills.
During this time, the solo freelancer mindset began transitioning to a team approach, but meanwhile it was just a group of freelancers and me, so I used to work long hours and I was responsible for every aspect of the business, including tackling technical issues and support requests from freelancers, answering emails from clients at virtually any time and delivering some jobs at night.
I was happy with things the way they were but at some point I considered the possibility of setting up a bigger company with employees. I was more mature as a business manager but I had two fears to overcome. First, I didn’t want to end up as other directors of LSPs I knew, overwhelmed by work stress with little time for personal life. That was the model I had on my mind, but then I realized that you can choose your own management style and it is you who decides how to deal with business/life matters. Second, I didn’t have a partner and the idea of making all decisions and taking risks myself was a bit frightening, but after thinking about it and given there was no suitable partner around, I decided to take the plunge.
I attended 1-to-1 business coaching sessions, started drafting a business plan, set the mission and vision, chose a new name and logo for the company (considering .com web domains available), rented a small office and hired my first employee. I met a new accountant that helped me set the limited liability company and took care of overall accounting and finance matters. Then new employees were hired to facilitate task delegation. After some time and effort everything began to run smoothly. Anyway, you learn new lessons every day and you have to be prepared to change the business course when it’s necessary. Life and business are constantly evolving.