Inclusion & Language: An Interview with Jill Bishop

Jill Bishop is Founder & CEO of Multilingual Connections, an Evanston-based company that helps you understand, engage and grow your multilingual audience through translation, transcription and multimedia localization in over 75 languages. The organization is woman-owned (WBENC) and a member of the Association of Language Companies, GALA, and the American Translators Association.

Jill's Ph. D. in Linguistic Anthropology focused on speakers of obsolescing languages, and her work experience includes UX research for Sapient, implementing language, culture, and diversity training programs for 130 Chipotle Mexican Grill locations and language teaching at the high school, university, and corporate levels.

She is committed to providing linguistically accurate and culturally relevant language services for her clients and creating a work environment that supports and develops the talents of her team.

We were able to chat with Jill about her career and contributions to make the workforce more diverse and inclusive for her clients.

Jill Bishop Headshot ALC 2018 - 2.jpg

What inspired you to choose this career path?

I've always been fascinated by language and culture. My grandparents spoke Yiddish as well as English, and I grew up hearing Yiddish words in everyday conversations in my family.  I spent my junior year of college in Barcelona, and my Jewish friends had a similar experience with language - but in this case, it was Judeo-Spanish, a dialect of Spanish spoken by the descendants of the Jews who were exiled from Spain in 1492. I ended up getting my MA and Ph.D. in Linguistic Anthropology at UCLA and spent a year in Jerusalem among speakers of this language, documenting songs and stories and learning about efforts to keep their language from disappearing. I thought I'd stay in academia, but I had a chance to move back to Chicago to apply anthropology in the corporate world and be close to my family. A few years later, I was hired by Chipotle to roll out culture and language programs across 130 restaurants. It was fascinating work, but after a year I started to think about ways to go off on my own, have more ownership in the work I was doing and also have the flexibility to raise a family.  While my business at first focused on job-specific language training, we don't offer classes anymore and instead provide translation, transcription and multimedia localization in 75 languages.

How long have you been in leadership for?

I started my business in 2005, so it's been 14 years.  

What challenges have you faced being a woman in leadership?

The biggest challenge has been balancing the needs of the business with the needs of my family.  My son was born just a year into the business, and it was a huge struggle for me to give both what they each needed.  I want to be the best mother I can be, and I also want to be a great CEO who's present for her team and also out in the world building the business.  But 7:30 am workshops and 5:30 pm networking meetings aren't all that family-friendly, and I've had to - or rather, chosen to - pass those up in order to be home and present with my son.

What steps have you taken to overcome these challenges?

I've learned to say no. But I've also learned that it's OK to not be there all the time.  My husband joined the company in 2016, and he now has a flexible schedule as a result. I've had to adjust my expectations and accept that "good enough" sometimes is truly good enough.

How do you balance motherhood and your professional career?

Now that my son is in 7th grade, in some ways it's easier - but in some ways, it's not.  He's much more independent, so I don't have to rush out of the office at 3:20 like I used to for years. But now there's homework and offsite activities and other things that require my attention - so I leave work when I need to and try to check in when I can from home.

How does your work help companies foster employee retention and a positive employee experience?

We provide translation services for universities, corporations, and nonprofits, so the impact of our work varies, but one concrete way is in the translations we do for HR and training, where we translate employee handbooks, safety information, newsletters, recipes, technical manuals, and eLearning.  That means that speakers of other languages are able to access important work-related information in the language that they best in: their own. They can work safely, understand the company's expectations, and learn and grow with the company, and I'm really proud of that.

What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion?

For us, it's a no brainer.  We're certified woman-owned. We work in over 75 languages, so the more linguistic and cultural insight we can have on our team, the better we are as a company.  But it goes beyond just language and culture, and we want to be representative of the world we live in and welcome in people of all different backgrounds. And we hope that the work that we do helps companies engage a broader audience, both inside their organizations and outside in the community.

Elda Baez