So, Paul, for those who may not already be familiar with you, could you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?
Thanks Laura. Well, I’m from the UK and I run two language service companies. One is based in Bogotá, Colombia, where I live and the other one is based in England. I’m also very enthusiastic when it comes to talking about anything that is going on in the languages industry, and especially anything that is translation-related. On a day-to-day basis I’m a manager, but I am also very interested in developing digital products, webinars, innovations and so on…
How did you get started in the industry? Do you remember your first translation job?!
It was a long time ago now. I was working in a soap factory in Germany during university to earn some extra cash and my tutor offered me an alternative: translate some manuals from German to English. The rate of pay was about double what I was getting in the factory, and the work was much more interesting, of course, and less dangerous.
Upon qualifying as an engineer, I embarked on a career in finance. That might seem strange, but at the time most of the graduates from my aeronautical engineering course went to work in either IT or finance – those were the sectors in demand, and I didn’t really think about working in languages for many years.
Then I moved to Colombia and decided to switch from finance to languages. I started teaching English, and then added translation work. To this day, I still find it invigorating to be working for myself and in an area that I am truly passionate about.
Could you tell us a little more about 100 Percent Languages, a UK-based company founded in 2013 to bring together language services companies from around the world?
The idea behind 100 Percent Languages is to serve as an umbrella organisation for different language projects. As we know, the languages industry is global, and I wanted to set up a company to bring the different projects together under one roof – so that’s what I did. 100 Percent Translations and 100 Percent Business English are two such projects.
You produce a great podcast, 100 Percent Translations, which has been nominated for a ProZ.com Community Choice Award in the ‘Best Podcast category’. For any readers who may not have tuned in yet, could you provide a quick overview of what your podcast offers?
Thank you Laura! I like talking about translations and especially enjoy interviewing other people in the industry – I learn a lot from guests and its great to be able to share the interviews with a wider audience. So I guess what the podcast really offers is an insight into what others are doing, their successes and failures, how they got where they are etc.
It’s interesting to note that you also do voiceover talent work for a number of prestigious brands and companies. Could you tell us a little about what is involved in this?
I record for a number of brands and each one is different. I think one of the main aims of voiceover is to give the client the “sound” or the style that they are looking for, whether that’s happy and up-beat, serious and British, or relaxed, guy-next-door. So I change my voice as needed and try and get into character so that the end result comes out right. I really enjoy working in the studio and it is good complement to the other language services – sometimes a client will need to translate a script before it can be recorded, for example.
You launched your first language company in 2004, following a career in finance as an investment specialist. What’s the one thing you love the most about this industry and what you do now?
Can I say two? Having the opportunity to meet with fantastic people and learn from them, and secondly to develop new, innovative products or ideas. The translation industry is great, by the way!
What would you say has been your greatest career success so far?
Launching a company from scratch and with no money.
And your biggest challenge?
Expanding the company past a certain point – that’s what I’m working on right now!
What's the most valuable piece of business advice you have ever received?
Sell first, find solutions later.
One of my first deals was to sell English classes to a company. I went to a meeting and I was going to be the teacher for just one group. The HR Manager asked me about my other teachers and if I could cover 8 groups. I didn’t have any teachers, but I said yes anyway, agreed the contract and then went out and found the teachers. I worked with that client for 8 years.
And finally, what’s the one tip you’d give to someone just getting started in the translation industry?
Ask plenty of questions. Most people are incredibly helpful and you can learn a lot simply by asking them.