Women Of The C-Suite: “You need to hire people you think are smarter than you.” with Julie C. Giguere

The advice I always give with regards to recruitment and how to put together a successful team is that you need to hire people you think are smarter than you. This means to look for skillsets or experience you don’t personally have. As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the […]

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The advice I always give with regards to recruitment and how to put together a successful team is that you need to hire people you think are smarter than you. This means to look for skillsets or experience you don’t personally have.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie C. Giguere. Julie holds degrees in Specialised Translation and Law, Julie’s career saw her manage translation and communication for BMO Bank of Montreal as well as financial and legal translation projects at major Language Service Providers in France and in the UK. These roles were a natural fit for Julie, a passionate communicator who speaks fluent French, Spanish and English. Currently, Julie holds responsibility for Asian Absolute’s global Sales and Operation teams. She also personally led the start-up of the company’s operations in Bangkok and Panama City. She has over 10-year professional experience in multilingual communications and AI applications in linguistics. She is a regular guest speaker at Localisation and tech/AI events. She recently spoke at the ATC Summits 2017 and 2018; EUATC 2018; Connected World Summit 2018; AI & Big Data Innovation Summit 2018 in Beijing and the IP EXPO Manchester 2019.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My current role is very different than what I had imagined I would do when I started University.

I had this romanticised vision of being a court interpreter, hence why I studied law and languages. In the end, after a year studying abroad, I knew I wanted to travel more and live in a diverse and multicultural hub. This is why I moved from Montreal, Canada to London. Anyone who has started their career again in London with no connections, no network and no job lined up can tell you that it is a hustle. So I took any opportunities that came my way, working my way up at Language Service Providers from junior project manager to team leader to operation manager, etc. I’m a people person and I’ve always been a natural leader, so when I started working in management roles, I knew I had found my true calling.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I had the opportunity to go to Panama City and to Bangkok to establish new branches of the company. Of course, we had a detailed plan of what steps I would have to take for the set up including all legal, admin and HR aspects. However, things are not always as straightforward as they appear to be on paper. When it came to opening a business bank account in Panama only a few months after the Panama Papers scandal had exploded, I found myself confronted with an impossible challenge. The banks were very risk-averse and strict on foreign companies opening bank accounts and they had several new requirements such as a face-to-face meeting with the company owner (who resides in Australia and was not that keen to travel around the globe for a single meeting with a bank manager). In the end, I realised that there was a workaround if you were recommended as a client by an existing client. I had to make friends and leverage my new network to be able to open the company bank account three months in.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started doing temporary contracts in London at the very beginning, I had to be an escort interpreter for the French director of a fashion institute that was conducting interviews for the position of director of their London branch. I was fresh from university training I had received in interpreting, during which they tell you the interpreter should be invisible and not interfere in any way during a meeting. I was quite horrified when my client started asking for my opinion in French in front of the candidate. I did not know what to say as I knew it was not my place as an interpreter to comment on the capacity of the candidate, so I told her I could not give her an opinion on this. She was quite vexed and found me to be really unhelpful and requested another interpreter for the rest of her stay. I learned that what matters the most in business is what the client wants. All the theory is well and fine. But at the end of the day, if you want to stay in business, it is the flexibility and the capacity to adapt to the client’s requirements which matter.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are in the business of translation and we have a global operation, so it makes us very diverse culturally and linguistically. All the linguists we work with are dotted across the globe in their respective native countries. But even within our own internal finance team, we have an amazing diversity. In London, where I am based, I am responsible for the management of the finance team. Sitting in the same office as me we have a Pakistani of Muslim faith working alongside a 79-year-old British part-time credit controller, whose Jewish family immigrated during WWII fleeing Germany — both managed by me — a mid-thirties French Canadian Catholic. You can imagine the infinite potential of banter, but also the amazing strength we get from sharing our respective views on a problem or a situation we need to resolve.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At the moment we are working a lot to develop workflows using AI (Artificial Intelligence). We are focusing on providing services to help companies integrate AI applications for their translation needs, but with quality as the main focus. We are working with linguistic engineers that help with the training process of the “machines” but also with expert translators and linguists. These professionals have to re-train themselves and adapt their skill sets to the new reality of machine translation. We were confronted with a lot of resistance from translators rejecting the technology in the beginning. But we soon realised that if we provided them with the training to transition their skills to be able to work alongside the machine it would be a win for everyone. So, we started our own training program to help experienced translators adapt to the new technologies.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

The advice I always give with regards to recruitment and how to put together a successful team is that you need to hire people you think are smarter than you. This means to look for skillsets or experience you don’t personally have.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Delegation, delegation, delegation! You need to imagine how the team could run without you and make sure that all processes are clear and documented and accessible to all and that each key person in the team has their own delegation plan.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I was very fortunate in that all my managers have provided really great support and given me the confidence to always go for the next challenge. I learned a lot from all of them and I am still in touch with most of them! I love to have this network of support which I’ve accumulated along the way. Recently, I met up with one of my first managers — the Director of Communications at the Bank of Montreal, where I started my career. She was travelling in London for personal reasons and reached out to me on social media so that we could have a catch up while she was here. We had a brilliant time exchanging our current professional and personal challenges.

Thank you for joining us!

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