This month, we’ve taken the opportunity to interview a truly exceptional individual; a man of many talents, with interpreting being just one!
Our booking coordinators have always spoken highly of Sebastian Sek; he’s a genuine pleasure to work with and we feel incredibly lucky to have such a dedicated individual working with us. It may seem like we say that often, but what makes Sebastian different from many other interpreters is…well, a number of things!
Mr. Sek has worked with us for over two years now and in this time we’ve learnt there’s certainly more to him than meets the eye. However, rather than spoil that here, we’ll let you read on to find out more.
So, without further ado:
1. Thank you for taking part; please tell us a bit about yourself.
I arrived in the United Kingdom 10 years ago from Poland. I had been working in the Hospitality industry in a senior management role; however, after seven years, I decided to change career path and (after extensive training) established a Recovery and Wellness Coaching Company. The company provides support to senior executives and professionals who are in recovery from substance/behaviour misuse and mental health issues.
Alongside this, I am working as an interpreter, but I also study law. In my free time I am involved in improv comedy, acting, music production, art, yoga, public speaking, law, human rights, mental health, and animal rights advocacy. In the future, I want to work as a family lawyer, specialising in child care and adoption proceedings.
2. How long have you been working in your role as an interpreter, and what languages do you speak?
I have been working as an interpreter for over two years and specialise in local government, legal, and medical interpreting. I provide services for Polish speaking clients in the Nottingham City area.
3. What drew you to working in this industry? Did you always think interpreting would be the job for you?
To be honest it was a bit of coincidence. I wanted to earn some extra money to boost my income and one of my friends introduced me to the profession. I remember that my first assignment was at a Child Protection Conference; it showed me firsthand how important my language skills could be to other people. However, it took me a while to fully appreciate and understand the challenges of interpreting as a profession. Ultimately, I decided to complete professional qualifications and work towards making interpreting my primary job.
4. What do you enjoy most about working in this industry and why?
I love the variety of one day. I can interpret for clients in legal, medical, or Local Authority settings. Some assignments might be easy, for example: supporting a client with welfare rights issues; or be very pleasant, like assisting parents through contact with a child; while other assignments, like legal or police proceedings, can be very challenging.
All of these scenarios help me to master different parts of the interpreting craft and I enjoy acting as a ‘connector’ / ‘cultural broker’ between a professional and their client. It is always a privilege to be help and support people with a variety of challenges.
5. Do your hobbies or interests influence your approach to language and interpreting? For example, have you travelled a lot, or used your linguistic skills in other roles?
Yes, definitely. I have a strong belief that you can teach most people how to do interpreting, however, only a few can truly be interpreters. My coaching, counselling, and therapeutic skills play a massive role in my day-to-day work as an interpreter. ‘Soft skills’ are absolute must. As an interpreter I often work in emotionally driven situations, and I truly believe that interpreters must know how to deliver their services with empathy, sincerity, and ‘touch of humanity’.
My background in health-care helps me to be more efficient and understanding with clients. As I have mentioned before, I am passionate about improv comedy, acting, public speaking, law, and mental health. These hugely benefit my work, for example: public speaking and acting help me with my voice (being clear) and performing gives me confidence. Similarly, studying law allows me to have a better understanding of legal proceedings and be more confident in my role as an interpreter.
6. How do you enjoy working as a freelancer? Do you feel it gives you freedom and control to be your own boss?
Working for yourself has many benefits, including:
- the freedom of fitting jobs around family life or social commitments,
- picking and choosing your assignments,
- working with different people in variety of settings, and
- being challenged and appreciated by professionals on a daily basis.
You are the captain of the ship and it is really up to you to decide where you want to go and what you want to achieve.
On a more human level, it is hard to describe the great feeling when in one day you could be praised for your performance by solicitors, social workers, and medical consultant, as well as the service users.
7. How would you say the job has affected you personally? What do you feel you’ve learnt from your experiences?
After working as an interpreter I decided, once again, to change my career path and go back to university to work towards becoming a family lawyer. Interestingly, interpreting experience will play an enormous role in my future profession. I would never have predicted that two years after my first assignment, I would be working towards making interpreting my primary profession whilst also studying law to become a solicitor.
On a personal level, interpreting has helped me to be more open and transparent to people’s experiences. Furthermore, it gave me a full appreciation of language and the importance of being able to communicate clearly and coherently. In general, I believe I am better person because of my experience as an interpreter.
8. Do you have any advice you would give to anyone new starting in the language industry?
I would offer five pieces of advice for anyone considering entering the interpreting industry:
- Firstly, complete thorough research of the industry. Find out about pros and cons of working as an interpreter; this will help you to steer your career in a right direction.
- Secondly, enrol on interpreting courses and work toward obtaining professional qualifications. This will help improve your skills and open doors for you within the industry.
- Thirdly, look for volunteering opportunities with reputable organisations. Charities and non–Governmental organisations will always be grateful for your skills and provide you with relevant experience. However, be cautious to ensure you’re not be taken advantage of. Your main goal should be to get experience and build your interpreting portfolio. Interpreting for community law centres will offer many benefits, but interpreting for random individuals will likely be less productive.
- Fourthly, before joining an Interpreting an Translation agency, make sure to complete thorough research. You want to work with professionals, not amateurs.
- Finally, if you want interpreting to be your full time ‘job’ you will have to be patient and creative. It is very competitive market; however, if you are really committed I am sure you can make it work.
9. What are some of the difficulties you have encountered on the job and how do you ensure you can resolve them?
Interpreting in public, medical, or legal sectors is always charged with high emotional intensity and pressure. The key is to use your interpersonal skills without getting emotionally involved in the assignment. Empathy and understanding are always welcome, but voicing sympathy or making judgments is unacceptable.
That being said, looking after your own well-being has to be your priority too. I personally love practicing yoga, engaging in music production, or spending time with my parakeets. If you neglect your well-being, it will affect your interpreting performance. Equally, do not be ashamed to reach out and ask for help if one of your assignments has been overwhelming.
Moreover, professional development is a must. You must understand the context of the work you are doing. If you are involved in legal proceedings, you should know what is happening, why, and be familiar with all appropriate terminology being used. There is nothing worse than hearing a term which you know is important but which you cannot translate.
Above all else, you must maintain professional boundaries with your clients. You are not their friend or their ally. This is probably the most common challenge I encounter, but you must be polite, approachable whilst also being assertive and firm. Remember, your reputation is everything.
10. You’ve completed 500+ jobs for the company, which is an amazing feat! What has appealed to you most of all about working with the team at DA Languages? Was there anything in particular that brought you back to working with us after a brief time working away?
I have worked for DA Languages for over two years and I have never encountered any problems or issues with the agency. I have always had fantastic booking coordinators and team leaders to work with. In addition, I am always provided with regular assignments within the Nottingham City, where I live. Above all, I know that if I have any issues, staff members at DAL are always on the other side of the line to offer support.
Nominate, Review, Contact!
Sebastian has provided some truly wonderful answers for us this month; we hope you enjoyed the insight he provided into life as an interpreter. Be sure to take note of his suggestions to improve and maintain your own interpreting skills. We can help there too! We provide Resources and training via our DA Link website and the NEW DA Languages Training Centre.
Take it from an experienced interpreter: there’s always more to learn, and plenty more work to do! We’re incredibly proud to have Sebastian as part of our team; his enthusiam and high quality of work that he provides is truly appreciated.
As usual, we’ve got more interviews planned in the months to come, so please do keep an eye out! That said, if you work with us, or know someone you’d like to nominate to feature ‘In the Spotlight’, then get in touch below!
Finally, one thing we’re always keen to receive is feedback! Without it, we couldn’t continue to improve and adapt our services to help you and our clients alike. We’d also love hear from you, so please do get in touch via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor; you can review us, or send suggestions. Visit the page linked here to contact us directly. We endeavour to respond to every message that we receive.
Many thanks again to Sebastian; we’ll be back soon!
Written by Rhys Pattimore
Title image produced with Snappa.com.