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The Importance of Studying Languages

Why Im Glad I Paid Attention in French Classes at School

Maria Sarkar Co-Founder and Vice President, DriveWorks Ltd.

I took A-Levels in French, English and Maths (a long time ago!). I went to Birmingham University and graduated with a combined degree in French and Modern Greek.

As part of my studies, I spent 10 months of my 3rd year living and studying in Strasbourg on the French/German border and 1 month at the University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

Although these overseas stays were intended to help me build proficiency in the spoken language what they actually gave me, was a much wider appreciation of communication in general and the nuances of our different cultures. Even though the world is ever more connected digitally, where we live and work, the people we interact with, the environments we frequent, are all quite different! Sometimes in surprising ways, sometimes in very subtle ways.

Being aware of these differences has made me the person that I am today and has also enabled me to achieve success in my career.

When I first graduated, I joined British Rail on their Graduate Training scheme. I learnt about Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR Policies and much more. I didnt speak a word of French or Greek.

I did, however, have to write quite a lot of reports and the fact that my course at university had involved quite a lot of essay writing and learning about grammar and punctuation, meant that I did well during those 18 months. I was told I was articulate and a good communicator.

My next step was to join the Marketing Consultancy of a leading advertising agency in London. No French or Greek involvement there either but lots of research, reading articles, pulling facts into reports, client meetings and presentations, often to senior managers and influencers. Again, being articulate and able to choose words carefully helped me progress within the company.

Fast forward to my present company, DriveWorks Ltd, a software development company where I am
Co-Founder and Vice President of Sales & Marketing.

Im not a programmer/software developer but I relate to the code our developers are writing because of my interest and experience with modern languages.

Our company, with 2 Queens Awards under our belt is successful.

Today we have resellers selling and supporting our software across 53 countries. Our Queens Awards are for Innovation and for International Trade and Im an Export Champion for Northern Powerhouse.

Although the US was our first export market, where we and they both speak English, culturally we are different. My experiences of being proficient in other languages, definitely helped me to relate to our new customers and resellers across North America.

Several years after my graduation, someone from France called our office enquiring about our software, hed come across our website thanks to Google. And I was able to dig deep and find some of my forgotten French vocabulary.

Whilst I was far from proficient, the very fact that I was able to acknowledge him in in his own language, was the start of a sales pipeline that has grown and grown.

We decided to advertise for a native French speaker to join our team and Thomas, a young graduate engineer joined our team. He translated 2 of our training manuals into French and our resellers became more engaged. I learnt how to present the basics of what we do in French and found myself chatting in French more and more. Whilst still not fluent I do listen to a current affairs podcast at least once a month and its good to feel connected to our customers.

With success in French-speaking areas think Canada as well as France –we next decided to tackle the German market. Mark joined us. He had studied International Business with German and again whilst not a fluent speaker, the fact that he was able to meet and greet our German resellers in German showed our commitment to their market and weve seen exponential growth over the last 3 years.

We firmly believe that people who have studied languages can do well in Sales, Marketing and Account Management, in fact, all roles where communication is important.

Weve chosen other people to join our teams who have shown an aptitude for languages.

Sarah our former Development Team Manager had a GCSE in Russian. Bridie, who works in Community & Business Development, studied Italian and Latin at Warwick University and completed a fast track Spanish course before joining us in 2018.

Bridie has now helped us grow our customer base in Portugal, Spain, Italy and South America and has enjoyed visiting and meeting the resellers from those countries.

In addition to face to face communication at industry events and when we visit our resellers, we all end up writing lots and lot of emails. Being able to write succinctly and at the right level for an audience whose first language may not be English, is something that we are very practised at. These are all great transferable skills to have.

So, if youre wondering whether to bother with your language studies, think again. It could grab someones attention and open many doors for you too.

Ready For a New Challenge? Join Us!

Were always on the lookout for talented people to join our team.Attitude, Aptitude, and Ability are all really important to us.

Ifyou would like to work in a challenging and fun environment, where youre contributing to the future of our award winning software and team, send us your CV or LinkedIn profileby email.
Be sure to tell us why youreinterested and what you could do as a member of our team.