We didn't have a lot of money growing up, but we always had food on the table. My mother did the best she could, and my grandfather always taught me that with hard work and passion, you could achieve anything you wanted to. Well, I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I knew that it had to do with languages.
My neighborhood in Bartow, Florida, had a large Mexican population, and I was fascinated by the way they spoke, the food they ate and the music they listened to. I must have been around eight years old when I bought tapes and started listening to Mexican music.
Because I was passionate about it, learning Spanish wasn't a chore for me, and I sailed through Spanish classes at school. At college, I continued with Spanish, but I also took Arabic and French. I simply loved the way I could reach out and connect with more and more people without the language barrier. I even went to Morocco and took an Arabic immersion course in Fez. Then I took Hebrew and German courses, and now I'm learning Chinese as well.
Turning a passion into a reality
In 2007, I finally had a clearer vision of what to do with my passion for languages and how I could turn it into a business. I had worked on and off as a medical interpreter in a local hospital and saw firsthand the difference that languages can make to people.
I knew there was a need to provide translation and interpreting services to people, and I decided to set up Day Translations. I was certain that I could help people and that there was a demand on a global scale.
I took out a personal loan, maxed out my credit cards and started out being a one-man-band. I translated, developed, answered phones and even went out and sold to clients.
Eventually, all that work paid off. We now have a global team of more than 50 full-time employees and a freelance network of around 7,000 translators. I still like to chat with customers and help answer the phones when I can. It keeps me in touch with reality.
Looking into the future
One of the key factors of survival for any business is continual improvement. If you aren't able to face threats and challenges, or respond to changing needs, you'll go out of business. For a lover of languages, that comes naturally. We're used to always improving, wanting to speak better, and learn more. And the same is true with my business.
In 10 years, we've seen a lot of changes, from simple document translation and person to person interpreting, to over-the-phone interpreting and website localization. We offer round-the-clock customer service and respond to queries in less than 10 minutes. A lot of clients have time-sensitive projects and we make sure we can deliver to meet their deadlines.
The future definitely holds challenges for just about every industry there is, whether it's the peer-to-peer economy or artificial intelligence. For us, of course, there are major advances in machine translation and neural network translation. But, we're not worried about getting replaced by robots anytime soon. Machines can't understand culture in the way that humans do, make judgment calls, or find necessary synonyms and understand context. Only humans can do that.
So, I'm not looking to the future with trepidation, but more with excitement. My vision for our company in the future is to leverage new technologies and become relevant in all industries. The more globalized the world gets, the more demand for languages. There's so much we can do, from subtitling and interpreting apps to chatbots and working with streaming companies, like Netflix.
As an entrepreneur, I truly believe that if you're passionate about something, you'll make it work. Your passion is contagious and I'm so proud and honored to work with a team of smart and ambitious people that help move my dream forward. You don't have to have it all figured out. But, handling challenges that come my way push me and my company to be better, and we always step up to the plate. Loving what you do makes it feel like you're not working at all, and I think that's the key to our increased success.
About the author: Sean Patrick Hopwood is a language polyglot, enthusiast and entrepreneur. His goal in life is to bring world peace through education, tolerance and cultural awareness. He is also the president and CEO at Day Translations, a global translation company.
Edited for brevity and clarity by Nicole Fallon.