What are the niche skills that have helped you the most in your language industry career?
In 1999, I stumbled into a database development project that would forever change my career. Inefficiencies have seemingly always troubled me faster than anyone else. Working as a project manager in my first language-industry job, I was asked to manage complex Website Localization projects solely using spreadsheets. Even during those beginning dark ages of Silicon Valley, before the dot com bubble burst, that quickly turned out to be a nightmare. I bit my tongue for about a week, after which I promptly volunteered in my boss’s office to build a small database solution to optimize the workflow.
Not even a year later, I was managing my own localization department, and my not so small-anymore database program was now running the operation from cradle to grave. I never looked back. I quickly learned how valuable my repeatable systems and automation of repetitive actions could be to help scale the businesses I was involved with. Building internal solutions also gave me access to a lot of direct user experience feedback, which later would pay dividends when designing client-facing solutions.
Have you also found that, very often, it is not your basic educational credentials but specialized niche skills that can make the biggest difference professionally? I landed one of my first summer jobs as a tour guide in Greece just because I spoke four languages fluently, three of which I had learned simply by living abroad in Switzerland. I wasn’t even considering the doors languages would open for me until then, never mind that I would end up being a translator and that English alone would help me to immigrate to the United States.
It is truly humbling to see some of the extraordinary complementary skills so many of the brightest localization folk bring to the table. I am always in awe of those that are involved in cutting edge technologies like AI. What is some of the more exotic niche expertise you bring to the table? What special competence would you recommend gathering to anyone starting a career these days?