Breaking language barriers at my first tech jobFeatured

Discovering my secret sauce

After searching for a year for a job and highlighting my Spanish language skills on my resume, I finally landed a job in the US after moving from Puerto Rico. The job felt like it was tailor-made for me, as they needed a Spanish-speaking Account Manager. The company connects home improvement contractors with leads and is quite large, with over 600 services nationwide.

Only two weeks into the job, I realized this would be a different 9-to-5 job. I not only had to improve my English language skills to communicate with my colleagues and complete the training, but I also had to learn about various cultures, particularly different Spanish jargon from around the world. To avoid quitting, I used my one-hour commute each way as a mini study session, practicing English words and phrases from my work notes. At some point, I figured that translating all the business jargon into Spanish helped me understand things better and allowed me to explain the service in simple and quick ways.

Around the six-month mark, I became so busy that my clients had to wait two business days to receive a call from me. The demand for Spanish language requests was so high that my team had to create a #Spanishspeaker channel on Slack to direct those requests to me. The number of requests skyrocketed from a mere four to an overwhelming fifty requests in just a few months. Calls became marathons, not sprints, as customers required more than just credits for bad leads, they needed advice on expanding their businesses. So, instead of dismissing their questions, I gathered information from other successful customers and proactively called those in need of assistance. I always intended to fill the gap between the knowledge I was trained with and the customer’s needs, but even with all my commitment, I needed more resources and energy.

Asking for help at work

Feeling a mix of nerves and probably with tears in my eyes, I gathered up the courage to chat with my manager (who's now my mentor) to ask for help. To my surprise, he didn't just say yes; instead, he threw me a curveball and challenged me to devise a plan to fix the issue. So, I immediately started brainstorming: How could I make things better? Was I the only one fighting for our customers? What can we do to do more with less? This was my shot to prove I could do more than just customer service. Within a month, I drafted an initial plan to switch our primary communications to Spanish.

That’s when my study sessions during my commute, where I would translate training materials, really paid off, allowing me to whip up all sorts of stuff without cutting into my phone time. I created templates for everything from post-sale follow-ups and onboarding, to instructions on how to use the mobile app. My favorite was a quick guide with English translations for reaching out to homeowners, convenient for those who only spoke Spanish.

Soon enough, the gap between the sales reps who spoke Spanish as their second language became smaller. As a result, we were able to provide the most accurate information to our Spanish-speaking customers in a format that was easy for them to understand. This helped improve customer retention, as more people were choosing to stay with us.

After that initial spark, I suddenly got last-minute invites to drop some Spanish Persona wisdom in meetings across various departments, including Marketing, Sales, UX/UI, and Product. We were all curious about how we could improve our services for Spanish-speaking customers, so we started rolling out minor tweaks. We added an option for “I want information in Spanish” on our website and set up a new IVR in the phone system to direct calls straight to the Spanish line. These minor changes helped us gather formal data to add Spanish-speaking customers to our strategy goals. The Spanish-speaking Customer segment continues to grow.

Bridging gaps and opening new doors

One day, as I was approaching my one-year mark at the company, I was offered to do a Spanish marketing campaign. The offer came with a request to translate the sales scripts and training materials for the new Native Spanish Speaker sales team through a BPO. I saw this as another growth opportunity, but I needed to figure out how to approach it. I relied on Google templates and the existing English documentation to get started.

Eventually, I accepted the offer which bumped me up to the position of a Customer Success Manager (the equivalent of a Senior Account Manager). My role shifted from answering calls to bridging the gaps between departments. My debut project? Crafting a QA process for sales in both languages, complete with unique metrics because, let’s face it, the typical sales call in English might last 13-18 minutes over 1-2 calls, whereas Spanish conversations could stretch to 3-4 calls, often hitting the 45-minute to an hour mark. So, they couldn't be the same.

Next up on my plate was assisting the Marketing team in reviewing new Spanish content. Then, I dove into my third and most significant project, which was to create a 100% Spanish Account Manager training to welcome our first group of 3 Native Spanish representatives through a BPO service.

After an extensive quality control process, I got another promotion, this time as Sales Operations Manager. In this new role, I oversaw the Spanish BPO Sales Team and assisted with the training and knowledge documentation for all External Sales teams, both English and Spanish. My first project as Sales Operations Manager was to launch a CRM and do training for over 30 representatives in both languages.

What’s next?

I'm not sure yet, but I plan to keep using my language skills to crush it in whatever I do. Not only does it help me grow, but it also opens doors for other Spanish speakers to find success in their careers or businesses.

So, wrapping up these last five years has been wild. From those moments of quietly freaking out in the bathroom to stumbling over words that had different meanings, it's been a rollercoaster. But you know what? Embracing the struggle is where the magic happens. Sharing our own experiences helps us connect with folks on a whole other level and makes teamwork smoother. I've learned that multilingual isn't just about speaking different languages; it's about nailing down killer communication, breaking barriers, and vibing better with clients and coworkers. Sound familiar? I'm all ears for similar stories!

Reading your story made me reminisce and think about all the times I felt 'out of place' or shy about speaking my native language. As a Spanish speaker I struggled with saying the perfect thing to customers even knowing I was 100% confident in myself. It made me feel completely out of place at one of the retail jobs I had that I decided not to even add it into my resume from that point on. It really takes a lot to get out of that and to also have a great mentor who inspires and helps bridge that confidence you have in your everyday life to bring it in to the workplace. I have now added it back into my resume and I never shy away from using my language, the quiet opposite I feel like it helps others connect with me. It has also helped me connect with customer who I sometimes find want to struggle to speak to me in English and helps them be more comfortable. Gracias por compartir!
Hola! @EvelinVG, I'm glad you like it and added it to your resume. It does help others/customers feel more comfortable being themselves. I'm happy to share more stories and help each other grow! Feel free to reach out whenever you need to chat with someone, I'm always happy to have friends that speak Spanglish. 💙