|Pixabay image by Esa Niemela|
It was fate. My story with language services.
I was 18, a soccer coach for my sisters under 12 girls’ team. After a soccer practice, one of the soccer moms, who was an interpreter, came up to me and said, “You should be an interpreter, your Spanish and English are great.” I looked at her funny, almost with disbelief and replied “You can get paid for that?!”
I always thought it was something you did for family members or for a stranger in need when you noticed there was a language barrier, but never thought you could make it a career. Being so young, and with a laid-out plan to go to college, I did not give that opportunity much thought. After graduating from San Diego University and starting my career in Silicon Valley, like many others, I started working at various startup companies, working hand-in-hand with software engineers. Little did I know that this experience would come in handy when I left California for Texas 10 years ago.
Reconnecting with the language profession was a defining moment in my career. Our profession touches everything, and in this ever-shrinking world, all language professions are now more important than ever. My affinity for technology and my newfound love for truly connecting people that need our voices in their most difficult times, was the driving force that led me to one of my toughest and most rewarding experiences of my career: building out a remote interpreting service line. I was very lucky to have the full support and trust of our CEO, as I dove in feet first into such a wonderful challenge.
Polycom, Lifesize, call centers, 24-7, the chicken or the egg, then VOIP, the interpreters, the end users, the language selection, the connection times. All of these things juggled at once and then falling into place to make things happen. I leveraged technology to help wherever I could and better manage staffing expenses. And of course, I had to have a team to help make it all happen. Without the IT team to deliver on my wild product development requests, I would have not been able to launch a product. And without our valued interpreters, it would have been a useless service.
When you are starting something from scratch, something so new, you need interpreters that stand by you and have the forethought and vision to see the growth path ahead. We all know the business model for remote interpreting services in certain U.S. markets pays per minute, and the clients need interpreters to be available within seconds. The interpreters we worked with during this development at its infancy stage were amazing people.
During this time, over-the-phone interpreting was a more mature service, than video-remote interpreting (VRI). VRI required a huge investment in hardware that posed a high barrier to entry. This is when technology and its fast evolution became the game changer. Living through this is definitely not for the faint of heart. Technology is expensive and has a short shelf-life.
I saw the landscape change with VRI, as it became a strong player, and rivaled with over-the-phone and on-site interpreting. As with other technology, it is always better to evolve with the technology than to fight it. VRI has now gained a very important piece of the market and has allowed our profession to prevail during the current pandemic.
VRI has transformed the healthcare space in a matter of a few years. In 2020, we saw how it catapulted conference interpreting into the limelight with many conferences moving online, and with many great technology partners to choose from.
Technology and interpreting will continue to evolve and to ensure that we can continue to connect in this small world.
Thank you for reading this short product manager's perspective, I invite any feedback and comments.