Fernanda Grether Zdanowsky
Author Fernanda Grether Zdanowsky

Not made in the USA: Working in Localization as an Immigrant

March 30 2020 | Localization

Being new to a country is never easy, regardless of how skilled you are or your level of education. Landing a job can be a daunting prospect. You arrive at a new place with a few bags, and your baggage might be perceived by a potential employer as precious or just ordinary. There is no way to know how to approach all that novelty since everything is foreign to you. So, where to start? We would like to think the playing field is leveled. But marking boxes on Self-Identification Forms when filling out job application after job application makes it feel as if you are being put in a box, and it seems like your chances of getting a “yes” keep getting smaller and smaller.

Nevertheless, you do fill out those applications, check those boxes, and send your résumé to as many companies as possible. That is what you do when you move to a new country not for work, but because you chose it as your new home. After that, you wait.

The wait can be a brutal process given the uncertainty of when and if you will ever hear back from your potential new employer. However, you must tell yourself to stay hopeful. It will happen. You will get it. Today is the day. Maybe it is … Or maybe it is not.

You cannot help but think that there is something wrong with your résumé. You write and rewrite it, making different versions and rearranging it to look more aesthetically pleasing. Now, it’s time to list your references … References? How do you find a reference that is worthy and valid in a new country without ever having worked there? Who would want to make an international call to check your references? Furthermore, if someone were to call a company you’d worked for in another country, would the receptionist even understand the language?

And what about your education? You might have gone to a great university and have all the qualifications. All. Of. Them. You might even have paid a certified translator to translate your diploma for you. Because no, you cannot do it yourself, regardless of the certifications you have. Despite all of that, at the end of the day, it can all look like a piece of paper stating the name of an institution that most people—not to say all—never heard of.

All of this sounds distressing and makes the process way too complicated.

So, in order to become an accepted member of the society in which they are now immersed, what do immigrants do and how? It is crucial that transnationalism or assimilation happens and that a person merges their life into the economic, political, and cultural panoramas of their adopted home country. But when does that process really happen? It makes sense that the more educated one is, the easier the immersion. However, that is not always the case.

When you start over in a new country, it is common to have to take one, two, or even several steps back in your career to make a little bit of progress. I had to take all those steps back and relearn everything I thought I knew.

In Brazil, I earned my bachelor’s degree from a respected university and worked both as a journalist and a translator for many years. I had a stable, full-time job as a subtitle editor—a step up from a translator position at the same company—and then decided to take a huge leap, crossing the Atlantic and making my way to the United States, where people go in search of the American dream.

Soon enough, I realized how big of a nightmare achieving that dream is. Suddenly, I had to worry about immigrant status, government support (or the lack thereof), work permit, and race and ethnicity definitions so I could properly fill out yet another Self-Identification Form. Interestingly, the concepts of race and ethnicity can change when you cross borders simply because different countries establish their definitions based on their specific historical, geographical, and demographical realities.

After three years of freelancing for Brazilian companies that recognized the value of my work, plus hundreds of applications sent, a job as a project coordinator, and two jobs in education, I almost believed my days of working in localization were behind me. Even so, I never lost hope, and I would look for new opportunities whenever I had a chance. Someone had to appreciate all the hard work I had put into my career in the previous decade of my life.

Do the work, pay your dues, and you will reap the rewards, right? I could never abandon my belief that multiculturalism should be the key to success in a country that promotes itself as the promised land and has developed vastly thanks to the minds and efforts of immigrants. Therefore, why not create a nurturing environment where people can gather their talents and together build something amazing? There must be a company that sets itself apart by not only accepting diversity but embracing uniqueness and celebrating it.

It sounds like a cheesy sales pitch, right? Only it is not. It is possible. I found that at Blueprint; I also found myself.

I joined the company in October 2019 after undergoing tests, interviews, and a background check. During the process, though, I noticed something very curious and unusual. They wanted to know me. Yes! The recruiter always took the time to prepare me for the interviews and made sure I knew what would be coming up next. Such attention helped me through this stressful situation. Blueprint kept open lines of communication throughout, so that I felt seen and appreciated, and was never left wondering what was going on. They tested my professional skills thoroughly, more than any other company, to be honest. But their interest in understanding me as a person stood out.

After moving across the country from Atlanta, GA to Seattle, WA to join the team and follow my lifelong dream to work in localization, it all made sense to me. Besides being a fast-growing and highly professional tech company, Blueprint is more than just a workplace. It is a family environment where remarkable work is done every day by people who complement each other’s talents, are generous and kind to one another, and always want to take that extra step to be better.

On the Blueprint Localization team, we all have our responsibilities and our work cut out for us. However, the path opened for us is a broad avenue in which we can take different directions depending on our backgrounds and interests. Teams are formed organically and bloom due to communication, collaboration, and initiatives.

No one can predict where this road will take me next. However, I surely did find a safe harbor and a place where not only my work is relevant, but where I am from and who I am is also celebrated. And I could not be more grateful for that.

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