Languages and Careers - Alumni Profiles

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Career Advice from the Workplace for Current and Incoming University Students

This webpage presents success stories of college graduates who studied languages, explaining how their world language knowledge has impacted their careers and lives.

 

 

Brew_Jeanie

Jeanie Brew
World Language Educator

Christine Carlson

Christine Carlson
Bilingual Educator

Michael Doherty

Michael Doherty
Internal Auditor

Jennifer Flamboe

Jennifer Flamboe
Medical Interpreter, Professor, Translator

Sarah Fonseco

Sarah Fonseco
Bilingual Resource Specialist, Medical Interpreter

Gavin_Kelsey

Kelsey Gavin
Servicing Analyst

Meghan McCallum

Meghan McCallum
Translator

Monfils_Kathryn

Kathryn Monfils
Microbiology Laboratory Analyst

Mary R. Pirrello

Mary R. Pirrello
Self-Employed

Quainoo_Mandy

Mandy Quainoo
Corporate Recruiter

Milaena Reade

Milaena Reade
Flight Attendant, World Language Educator

Michael Simon

Michael Simon
Latin American Finance Manager, Edgewell Corp.

Katrina Steffes

Katrina Steffes
Business Owner, Translator

Wiggert_Sandra

Sandra Wiggert
Gate and Ticket Agent Delta Airlines, Educator

Kiersten Yeazel

Kiersten Yeazel
Recruiter Coordinator, Manpower Group

Famous Multi-linguals

Famous Multi-linguals
Film, Social Media, Sports…

“So often people we may know might underestimate the power of knowing another language fluently, and they rarely grasp the vast advantages that multilingualism and multiculturalism can afford to us as an individual and as a society.”

“There are also many exciting careers that require language skills. In college I wasn’t quite sure what I would do with French, but I’m so glad that I ended up finding a career that I truly love.”

“Choosing to study a language, even as a complement to another area of study, is such a wonderful way of expanding your personal horizons and your professional network.”

“Study language! If you already have some experience under your belt, keep going. And, if you haven’t started yet, it’s not too late. Language will open up many opportunities for you, one of them being study abroad.”

“KEEP LEARNING – Languages are living, breathing creatures that are constantly adapting. I’ve learned the hard way that language skills, like muscles, need constant training.”

“BE BRAVE – no matter your age, when you learn a language you will make plenty of mistakes (some of them embarrassing). In order to attain fluency you have to put yourself out there and converse with native speakers.”


Jeanie Brew

(German, Italian, & French)

Hometown: West Dundee, IL

Degree: B.A. German Linguistics

“I have been a high school German teacher for 15 years, so clearly I use German on a daily basis. Taking Italian and French helped me with the concept of learning a second language, much like my students experience. All of the language classes at UW opened my eyes to culture, communication skills, research and comradely in ways other courses did not.”

Learning a language “has definitely made the world a smaller, yet more interesting, place. It motivated me to travel the world, far beyond the countries where I studied the languages. It allowed me to share this excitement with high school students since I take them to Europe every other summer.”

“No matter what field you are in, learning a language is beneficial and could even change your future. I had no plans to continue with German and it is my life now! Luckily a school like UW has a vast number of language courses, so choose what is most interesting – that can lead to lifelong learning. Also companies really do look for employees with a global perspective. It is surprising how many internationally-based companies are in our area when you take a closer look.”


Christine Carlson

(English, French, Spanish)

Christine Carlson

Hometown: Antioch, IL

Degrees: in Spanish Education and Bilingual/ESL Certification

What motivated you to study a word language?

“In high school, a friend of mine was taking Spanish. I grew to love it. It was a fun class and came easy to me.”

How has knowing another language impacted your life and career?

“My English skills are in the top 1% on all college entrance exams. I am a native English speaker. I can now understand written Portuguese and Italian, as well as some Tagalog. Meeting people from other cultures and learning about their personal lives has broadened my understanding and appreciation. I am able to empathize with others, and I do not tolerate racist or bigoted comments from friends. I try to make others more aware of their misconceptions based on what I have learned over the years.”

“Do not be afraid of learning a second language. It is an excellent career opener, even if you are
not entirely fluent, but can communicate in a simple manner, you can have more job
opportunities than those who cannot speak a second language. Be patient with others who
are learning English. It takes years and years to master a second language, especially when
starting out as a teen or adult.”


Michael Doherty

(German & Spanish)

Hometown: Greendale, WI

Degree: B.S. & M.B.A.

What motivated you to study a language?

“Work for VW [Volkswagen] – German helps immensely in understanding plans, documents etc., and it even helped make my foreign assignment to Germany easier.”

How has knowing another language impacted your life and career? 

“I am in internal audit, so when I ask questions, people try not to answer and sometimes will collaborate in a foreign language. I will never forget the time that I was talking with someone and he and his colleagues started speaking German to avoid the question – I responded in German, then they switched to Spanish, I responded in Spanish. We finished the conversation in English.”

“Learn a foreign language! It doesn’t matter what language, but it helps you understand other cultures and makes you more flexible and tolerant towards others.”



Video: Jennifer Flamboe  How language has impacted my career.

Jennifer Flamboe

(Spanish & Italian)

Jennifer Flamboe

Hometown: Milwaukee, WI

Degrees: BA in Spanish; MA in Foreign Language and Literature

“I studied abroad for a semester and eventually moved back after graduation, so my knowledge of Spanish was helpful in landing jobs that required bilingual skills. I was an account executive at the largest rose export farm in Ecuador. Then, when I came back to the U.S., I obtained work as a Spanish medical interpreter with different language agencies and healthcare organizations. I am now associate professor of Spanish and director of the healthcare interpretation program at Alverno College, as well as Spanish interpreter and translation coordinator at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. My knowledge of Spanish and the demand for language services motivated me to launch my own business doing freelance translation and interpreting.”

“On so many levels, my viewpoint of the world has changed. First and foremost, living among others abroad taught me what it was like to feel like a minority, so I can empathize with other immigrants’ experiences in the U.S. and some of the struggles they may face. That in-depth immersion experience has led me to develop strong ties with my local Latino community — I am accepted and well-regarded as a professional.”


Sarah Fonseca

(English, Spanish, & Italian)

Hometown: Black River Falls, WI

Degrees: B.S. in Spanish and Statistics, and M.A. in Spanish/English Translations

“I worked as a Bilingual Resource Specialist for the Madison school district for 5 years and a project manager for Allegro Translations for a year. I am now working as a Spanish medical interpreter (CMI). My language skills have been key in all those positions. On a more personal level, I met my husband on an interpreting assignment. He is from Honduras, and our relationship would not have been possible if it were not for my language skills.

Learning and studying languages has allowed me to speak with and have a greater understanding of people from different cultures. It has also made me more aware of the difficult situations they sometimes face.”

“Whether or not you plan to use your language skills in your future career, you’d be surprised just how applicable those skills can be in nearly all fields. Keep studying languages!”


Kelsey Gavin

(Spanish)

Hometown: Watertown, WI

Degree: Spanish

What motivated you to study a language?

“To me, learning a second language allowed me to not only speak to another group of people, but understand them better. I had ambitions of becoming a healthcare interpreter and being able to assist others with a critical service.”

How has knowing another language impacted your life and career?

“My first job out of college was with WPS as a Foreign Customer Service representative. I worked in a call center that was responsible for managing the medical care of US military members and any covered family members that were receiving healthcare outside of the country. Being able to speak Spanish, I was able to help service members, their spouses or even medical providers, often from foreign countries, navigate the confusing and often frustrating US Government healthcare system. Aside from the obvious side of helping individuals receive healthcare, by being able to speak in their native language I was able to help these individuals feel confident and comfortable that they understood the information being provided. I have since moved on, and no longer work with this company for many reasons, but I still miss the individuals I worked with regularly.”

How has learning a language changed your views of the world around you, near and far?

“In my opinion, learning a second language is like traveling; it exposes an individual to a way of life different than their own. Being able to understand where someone else comes from, from a social, political, economic or physical standpoint allows for greater empathy and understanding in my opinion. Learning a second language is like a gateway to compassion; and in my opinion, this world could use all the compassion right now.”

“Study a second language!
If not for the ability to speak it, or even use it frequently in a career setting, for the ability to understand more people. Learning a second language expands the way you think and process everything.
Second; if you do plan to major in a foreign language, be sure to have a plan for what you want to do with it. I was not provided very much guidance and while I do not regret my Language degree, I do wish I had double majored and paired it with something a bit more practical such as Business Administration.”


Meghan McCallum

(French)

Meghan McCallum

Hometown: Milwaukee, WI

Degrees: B.A. in French and English; M.A. in Language, Literature, and Translation

During my last year at college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I knew I was interested in language and writing, but I didn’t have a clear vision of what career I wanted to make out of my studies.

I took a deeper look into translation as a possible career, and discovered that there was a graduate program for translation at UWM that was recommended by the American Translators Association. I decided to enroll in the program to see if this career would be a good fit for me.

During my graduate program at UWM, I knew almost immediately that I had found the career path I wanted to pursue. Translation is a perfect combination of research, reading and writing in both English and French. It feels great to be able to do something I love and also know that I am helping people around the world communicate with one another.

After graduating from UWM I worked at a translation company for about five years. I then left the company to start my own freelance translation business, which I have been doing full-time for two years. I’m very happy working as a professional translator, and I couldn’t have done it without everything I learned at UWM.”

“Speaking French has opened doors to understanding and experiencing cultures all over the world. My first study abroad experience was in Dakar, Senegal. I was so happy to use my French skills in Senegal, and enjoyed learning about a culture that was so different from my own. My experience in Senegal sparked a real passion for travel. I studied abroad two more times, both in France, and was able to further use my language skills to fully immerse myself in French culture. Each time I travel is an opportunity to further my cultural education, and using French is an added bonus!”


Kathryn Monfils

(Dutch & Spanish)

Hometown: Greenville, WI

Degrees: B.Sc. Molecular Biology

“I work as an analyst in a microbiology laboratory in the Netherlands. I use my Dutch skills every day as the environment I work in is completely Dutch. I write protocols for the laboratory where I use my writing skills. Coming into this environment, I had to learn 80% of the language based on my experiences at work and at home. By learning the language in a country where almost everyone can speak English, I have gained more respect than I ever imagined from almost everyone I meet. My Dutch isn’t perfect, but I can successfully integrate myself into their culture with my communication skills.”

“Learning a language has helped me break the common misconception that someone who struggles with speaking the language is stupid/less than the native speaker. I believe it has also opened my eyes to the fact that people far away are still just normal people who also worry about normal problems.”

My advice for incoming or current university students:

“Don’t underestimate the future power of your language skills!”


Mary R. Pirrello

(French, Spanish, Italian, & Mandarin)

Hometown: Racine, WI

Degrees: M.B.A.

What motivated you to study a world language?

“I was motivated to travel overseas to participate in a Maya Expedition and earn credits. Also as an MBA student to earn credits and experience Asian culture.”

How has knowing another language impacted your life and career?

“Going outside the US certainly has influenced my life and career. It broadened my critical thinking skills, cross cultural skills immensely. What does this mean in a real sense? I am much more likely to think and consider before I respond to another person about what their life experiences may be and why their conversational content may be influenced by the language they speak, which has a great deal to do with the way they may think that is different from me. It was eye opening for me to realize this.”

“Before or as soon as you graduate, take a position as an intern. I was not advised to do that (still don’t know why not). It is essential to getting experience in the field you want to secure employment in…immediately upon graduation. Don’t wait. Start searching a year before you graduate, because you can get recommendation letters from your professors that help in securing the internship opportunity.”


Mandy Quainoo

(Spanish)

Hometown: Rhinelander, WI

Degree: B.S. Elementary Education & M.S. Educational Leadership

“I have had a wide variety of positions since graduating college, from teaching kindergarten to being a project manager to my current role as a corporate recruiter. I have communicated with students, parents, administrators, clients, supervisors, executives, and more. I have been able to find multiple ways to get across my message to those different audiences because of my foundation in learning another language, traveling to countries where English is not commonly spoken, and living abroad for almost two years. I’ve had to try several messages, sometimes using a very limited vocabulary, before the meaning was correctly received. This skill has certainly helped me in all of my roles to think about the key pieces of information I’m trying to convey and try a variety of ways to communicate, to clarify, and to understand my audience. It has also helped me build my resilience and flexibility and being able to adapt to new environments.”

What motivated you to study a world language?

“One of my favorite teachers in high school was my Spanish teacher, so I really just wanted to keep having classes with her. I was also part of Spanish Club in my high school and got to go to Mexico my senior year. I was also able to test into 4th semester Spanish as a freshman in college, so the tuition-free credits were a nice bonus as well!”

How has learning a language changed your views of the world around you, near and far?

“Learning a language, being introduced to new cultures, meeting people with a variety of backgrounds has certainly in influenced my world views. Unfortunately, the media in America  often makes other countries look dangerous and scary. But after visits to places like Honduras, Croatia, and the Dominican Republic in person, you realize that these aren’t just beautiful places to visit, but they are filled with amazing people with wonderful families, who contribute valuable skills in the areas of social justice, education, healthcare and beyond. I take everything I see in the news with a grain of salt because I’ve gotten the chance to experience languages and cultures that are not native to me, and know there are more sides to the story than the single one being told.”

“I highly recommend studying abroad for a semester or a year! A seven or ten day trip to another country is fun, but it doesn’t give you the chance to immerse yourself in something totally different–the language, the practices, the celebrations, the chance to build relationships that will last a lifetime.”


Milaena Reade

(German & Swedish)

Hometown: Menasha, WI

Degree: B.A. in German, M.Ed. in Secondary Education

What motivated you to study a world language?

“In high school German was my favorite subject and I really enjoyed my short-term exchange program in high school.”

How has knowing another language impacted your life and career?

“My first career after college was a flight attendant for United Airlines. While I never had enough seniority to work international flights, being bilingual was a job requirement at the time I was hired in 1997. I used communication skills and cultural understanding every single day on every flight for the eight years I worked there. I needed to be flexible, since travel is never guaranteed or easy, even when it’s what you do for work! There were a few times that I used my language skills on domestic flights as well.

Mileana’s second career is in education: “I’ve been teaching German for 11 years at Muscatine high school. I’m also the world language department chair for 4 years. In 2013 I participated in a Fulbright program about the German education system and started an exchange program with Theodor-Heuss Schule in Reutlingen. None of which would have been possible without my language degree from Madison.”

How has learning a language changed your views of the world around you, near and far?

“I’ve learned to see connections in languages, people and cultures. I like to be able to gure out why a language will use a certain word or phrase and the history or story behind it. I think it’s made me very tolerant and understanding of people from other cultures and more likely to speak up when someone is spouting misinformation. I tend to see similarities more than differences and it’s easy to find the positives in people and instances. I’ve been able to clarify misunderstandings by using another language, even if it’s not the other person’s first language.”

“Study abroad! Or do an internship abroad at some point as a young adult. I studied at an International program in Sweden after graduating from Madison. I wasn’t ready to go during my four years of undergrad, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. The experiences I had were nothing like I could’ve had in the US. And my language abilities grew exponentially. Studying a language in school is a great start, but to really solidify the culture with the language you must experience it firsthand in the country.”


Michael Simon

(Spanish & Portuguese)

Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Degrees: Business Administration

“I have been using foreign languages in my professional life since 1991 and I feel so fortunate that I studied enough in school to have a solid base, though I was not thinking about that at the time. It was a major factor in being able to live and work abroad.

I have a much more rounded view of the world as well as my own country and city. Learning a foreign language opens your ears and eyes to so many different points of view.”

My career advice for current and incoming university students: “Learn to listen and make the most of every situation, even when you think it is a bad one.”


Katrina Steffes

(Spanish)

Katrina Steffers

Hometown: St. Charles, IL

Degrees: B.A. in Spanish; B.A. in International Studies; M.A. in
Foreign Language and Literature with a concentration in Spanish to English translation

“Throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies I was able to find positions that utilized my language skills including legal assistant, translator and interpreter. Since finishing my graduate studies I started my own translation agency which has grown to now offering translation services in over 75 languages and supports our local community:  www.salttranslation.com”

 

“Learning an additional language has gradually shaped my view of the world around me by exposing me to the needs of others and affording me the ability to fill those needs through my language skills. My career advice for incoming or current university students would be:
Continually seek experiences that utilize your language skills even if that position or experience is not ultimately your dream job. The experience you gain by using your developing skills and the networking contacts you make may prove invaluable to your future career goals. (For example, in order to practice my Spanish skills while studying, I worked at a Hispanic supermarket, at various not-for-profit agencies, as a receptionist, and as a legal assistant.)”


Sandra Wiggert

(French & Spanish)

Hometown: Beloit, WI

Degree: B.S. French/Spanish Education & M.S. Educational Development

“During my career I participated in the Fulbright Teacher exchange. My family lived in France for a year and experienced the beauty of another culture. My children went to French schools and this opened their minds to global thinking. I currently work at Delta Airlines as a Ticket and Gate agent. I often use my global awareness and of course my languages, to assist customers.”

How has learning a language changed your views of the world around you, near and far?

“Awareness of cultural differences has opened my acceptance of others and eased my travel experiences. Being able to see that there are various ways to live in this world is key.”

 

“Gain even a small amount of knowledge of a language and its culture. Use that as a foundation to visit that culture and build upon the foundation. Try to do a semester or year in another country as part of your study. Potential employers admire candidates that have experience abroad. Keep your mind open!”


Kiersten Yeazel

(French, German, & Spanish)

Kiersten Yeazel

Hometown: Shorewood, WI

Degrees: B.A. in Linguistics

“I currently work as a recruiter coordinator at Manpower Group Solutions. I was hired for the job because I am fluent in French and English, a skill which is difficult to find in this area. I love getting to speak with job candidates over the phone in French, particularly since I encounter many different accents (providing an ongoing challenge for myself!) At the health club I used to work at, my job description did not call for french, but we had multiple French families join the club. One day, I was called into the childcare to help with a young French girl who didn’t know any English since her family had just relocated. Not only did I later get company-wide recognition for creating a positive customer service experience, but I made life-long friends with the family.

“One of my favorite uses of my multiple languages is to follow the news – whether I am listening to the radio, reading online or watching a live stream, it provides me with different perspectives on global or national events. I’m also able to keep up to date with events in other countries that the American news outlets don’t focus on.
Another great use is for travel! Knowing at least a bit of the language of the country you are visiting opens so many doors and creates a more welcoming and positive experience. You get to know the locals better while also helping to break stereotypes about Americans. Language can provide many interesting insights into other cultures. During a recent trip to Mexico, I ended up in a lengthy political discussion with a local shop owner and a French friend of mine, only because we were both able to converse in Spanish. Right now I’m preparing for my first trip to South Korea, which is teaching me about the system of formality while learning useful phrases.”


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