NYU Alum, Alexandra Karasavva, chats about her working experience at TransPerfect, a global business services company. If Alexandra’s story and the company focus interests you, be sure to follow their guest tweets on Wednesday, October 23rd, at @nyuwassemployer, attend their Employer Presentation on November 6th from 3:00-5:00pm at Wasserman, or apply for their Project Coordinator position, Career Net ID 908030.
Language services seems like a “niche” industry, how did you get involved with that?
It’s definitely a specialized and emerging industry on the world stage given the growing importance of globalization; but it incorporates so many fundamental and universal aspects of international business, such as communication, profitability, negotiation, people management, and cultural sensitivity to name a few.
I have always been internationally minded, having worked for the United Nations, founded a non-profit organization involving Middle East Conflict Resolution, studied abroad in Prague, and taken intensive Arabic classes, all while at NYU. It wasn’t really until I saw TransPerfect at an NYU career fair that I realized there was a company which incorporated so many of my strengths, interests, and passions into one position. That’s why I’m so eager to spread the word to the rest of the NYU community about our incredible opportunities!
What was the transition like for you from the public sector/non-profit world into this company?
I left NYU feeling frustrated with the public sector-the bureaucracy, red tape, inefficiencies… I wasn’t sure that the corporate world would be right for me, but I soon realized an environment that is more fast-paced, direct, efficient, and autonomous made me feel like I personally accomplished something every day. I could see my own projects through from start to finish, take full accountability and ownership, and create, foster, and lead change. I set out to feel that my company is a different place with me in it; I can SEE those results, I can see a team that I helped to build and grow, I am surrounded by what I helped create every day, and that gives me an enormous sense of accomplishment.
What is the best part about working with different languages? Do you work with people in other countries?
That’s one of the best parts of this job-I have strengthened my skills in languages I already had knowledge of, and have learned so much about the ones I had never been exposed to. Our team can tell you something is wrong in Korean or Hindi, without being able to speak them. We can look at language and tell you if it’s Finnish or Swedish, Spanish for Latin America or Spain, or why it’s important to know what area of Malaysia you are translating something for. You learn all kinds of cool things on the job.
We work with people from other countries all day, every day. You learn to develop your communication skills in dealing with people from other cultures, make friends all over the world, and learn as much as you open yourself up to-I worked with one linguist for about a month in 2008 on a Georgian project, and got real time updates multiple times a week on the Russian invasion as it was happening!
Have you gotten opportunities to visit these other places?
Absolutely. Travelling opportunities are a very attractive part of any job, and so long as you have a business case for them, have proven yourself capable, and have paid your dues, they are available. I have spent weeks and months at a time in our Barcelona and London offices, have travelled on business throughout the US, and have gone to meetings in Paris, Brussels, and Dublin to name a few. I also have an extension of my team working out of Hong Kong. That’s one of the best parts of working for a company with over 70 offices worldwide!
You’ve gotten chances to work with people from other cultures, but what’s the culture within TransPerfect like?
We honestly have one of the best corporate cultures I have ever seen or heard of. TransPerfect is a very innovative, vibrant, and young company. My colleagues are ambitious, worldly and highly educated. They speak numerous other languages, have lived in a variety of other countries, and can teach you more than you thought possible just by being in their presence. Our team is filled with competitive banter, laughter, and contagious energy. We spend time together after work, support each other through the more challenging times, and hold each other to extremely high standards. It’s an intense environment, but one that makes the time fly by.
When did you know that senior management was the path for you?
I knew as soon as I moved to the Team Lead position and had my first employee. I started to feel that sense of accomplishment and pride associated with being able to drive and foster someone else’s career, to teach them, watch them succeed, and move up in a company that only promotes from within. To have the company’s investment and trust in you to innovate, lead, and grow your own small business within the TPT family is a great source of pride. I started 6 years ago in an entry level position and have watched my sphere of influence expand from handling a small individual project to running a team of over 40 of the best business people in the industry. If you’re ambitious, and prepared to work hard, you will see and feel results that make it more than worthwhile.
What do you look for when hiring people?
I look for people who have passion before anything else-who take their careers seriously, with an intensity and a fire that is impossible to fake. I also look for people who realize that incredible opportunities like this come with a commitment to hard work, with a realization that they need to earn the career that they want, and are ambitious enough to do what it takes to get there. This job is not for everyone. It can be extremely stressful and intense at times-we are dealing with the heavy hitters in every industry on a daily basis, and millions of dollars are at play. If those are the stakes that drive you to perform, which they certainly are in my case, then we want you on our team.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in his or her career?
Stay with it. It’s hard to know exactly what you want to do when you first graduate from college, but in most industries cherry picking aspects of a career isn’t possible, and moving from one company to another early in your professional life won’t get you ahead. The grass may always seem greener on the other side, but nothing beats the good old-fashioned road of working your way from the ground up with unassuming, hard fast tenacity. It’s a principle from our parents’ generation that would be wise for us to remember.
I also think in this new generation of instant gratification and technological advancement, patience and resilience are virtues often overlooked. It takes time to build something from the ground up, even if it’s your career in an already well-established company like TransPerfect. Things don’t happen overnight, and without the patience to do things correctly, see them through, and employ that methodical “quality over quantity” approach to your job, it’s easy to miss unbelievable opportunities. No matter what you do, there will be ups and downs. You’ll fall, and you will fail. I certainly have, but I’ve gotten back up. It seems clichéd, but people forget it. As a manager, I pay a lot of attention to how people dust themselves off and pull themselves up on my team. The ones that do it with grace, humility, and more drive than they had the first time around are the ones that really make it.