Industry Rising Star Clysree Brown Raises the Bar for New Grads as a Localization Project Manager and Translator


Many translation professionals can pinpoint a specific time or place that set them on the path to translation. Industry newbie Clysree Brown is no exception, but what makes her story different is that her time is now.

Clysree is a recent graduate of the 2020 Graduate Studies in Interpreting and Translation (GSIT) program at University of Maryland College. As a D.C. native, she searched for ways to help underserved communities in her area access healthy foods and joined forces with D.C. Greens. Since then, Clysree has earned both her Undergraduate in Spanish Language and Literature from Howard University and a Masters in Translation and Localization in Project Management from UMC.

On this episode, Clyrsee discusses how she was able to go way beyond the fundamentals as she worked through her schooling and shares how focusing on the art of writing, and even mathematics, were a part of her training.

Join us and hear her rationale for taking the leap into localization from translation and interpreting. If you’re a recent graduate or just want to know how the rising stars of localization are climbing the ranks these days, press play!

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On this episode you will learn:

  • How coming of age in D.C. shaped Clysree’s career path.
  • Clysree’s work with D.C. Greens and how it impacted her profession.
  • Education for modern translators and interpreters and all it entails.
  • Clysree’s experience as she worked through her Graduate Studies in Interpreting and Translation (GSIT) program.
  • More about Cylsree’s decision to move from translation and interpreting to localization.

Keep Up with Clysree and Smartling!

Full Transcript that almost certainly has typos (forgive us!)
Announcer: You're listening to The Loc Show presented by Smartling.

Adrian Cohn: Hello everyone and welcome back to The Loc Show. I'm your host Adrian Cone with Smartling. It's great to have you back here. We made this show for a couple of reasons. Number one, we want you to become an expert in translation and localization. So every week we are bringing you interviews with people who have done some pretty incredible things at companies like FedEx, and GoCardless, and King and Procore. It's been so much fun doing this show. Today, we have a really interesting guest because she has not quite yet cracked into the localization space in her post-graduate life. Her name is Clysree Brown. She is unbelievable. I think this interview is just going to give you such an awesome background on who she is and what she's learned. And frankly, I learned a lot because I didn't realize that there was a master's program for Translation and Localization Project Management. So hey, I hope you enjoy the episode. A massive shout out and thank you to Clysree for being on the show. Let's get right to it. Hey Clysree welcome to The Loc Show how are you?

Clysree Brown: Hi, Adrian. I'm doing fine. How are you?

Adrian Cohn: I'm doing great. It's so nice to sit down with you. We've just been chatting for a few minutes getting to know one another. It's Tuesday evening, it's five o'clock. We've both had long days in the office but I'm still quite excited about what we have to talk about today. Because you are someone who we're bringing onto the show that is new to the industry simply because you are younger and you have just come out of a series of higher education and I'm really looking forward to hearing about what your perspectives are and where you're at in this journey. And yeah, I'm excited to dive into everything. So maybe we should just start a little bit with what's your background? Where are you from?

Clysree Brown: Okay, so for a little background on me I grew up in Washington D.C. in southeast.

Adrian Cohn: Which town? Is it southeast the town?

Clysree Brown: No, southeast Washington D.C. because the city is broken up into four quadrants.

Adrian Cohn: Sure. Okay. So, if I pull up Google maps and I look, because I know Georgetown is on the west side, right?

Clysree Brown: Northwest.

Adrian Cohn: Northwest okay. So I'm on the complete wrong side. All right. Keep talking. I'm going to look at the map.

Clysree Brown: Yeah so four different quadrants of the city and I grew up in southeast and southeast DC it has a bit of a reputation of being the part where most of the poor people live and admittedly I did see people around me grow up poor but I personally didn't grow up poor. It's been something that I realize is... I guess the way that I should say this is that I realize that I have privilege and I think that it's my duty as a person who has privilege to like give back. So that's why I've always managed to find ways to give back even through my career for example is what inspired me to become a medical interpreter and even help out with food access with D.C. Greens because I have helped out in southeast around the Eastern Market area where they would give out the checks for D.C. Greens for people to get healthy fruits and vegetables. And I've also done work in Columbia Heights too at their food market and Columbia Heights is where they have a larger amount of the Latino population and some of the Mandarin speaking population of the city.

Adrian Cohn: You said that you realized that you had privilege. Is that the word that you used?

Clysree Brown: Yeah.

Adrian Cohn: When did you first realize that? What was the moment in your life where you're like, "All right, I've got an advantage here."

Clysree Brown: It will come to me in several little moments in my life. It's like that thing that I just read it last night in Michelle Obama's book Becoming. She said, "We were similar but of two different worlds." So a way of explaining that would be like if I'm just going to the Metro before COVID someone will come up to me and then we'd have a conversation and this person will be about my age and we might get off at the same stop. And then they're like, "So, where are you from?" And that's when I was like, "I'm from around here. I live not too far from here." And they would be like, "Really? You don't seem like it."

Clysree Brown: And I never really knew how to necessarily take that growing up but I mean in a way it did make a lot of sense because I never went to public school in D.C. I always went to private schools and then for high school I went to a Catholic school out in Maryland. So it was that thing where I know that my mom wanted to give me the best education, the best chance in life so that's why I did go to private schools. But if you actually go to a certain public schools though you do have a good shot in D.C. but in order to get into a good public school unfortunately there's a lottery system that you've got to go through. So, unfortunately not every kid has access to the best of the best education.

Adrian Cohn: How did you take on this privilege when you were in... It sounds like you realized this when you were in your teens if you're traveling on the Metro. How did you onboard all of this? And you talked a little bit about the volunteer experiences you had but how did you channel the energy and what were some of the first things that you did?

Clysree Brown: Some of the first things I did actually was just take a good solid look at my life. Because sometimes when you're living your life so closely you don't stop and look around and think like, "Hey, I'm a little bit different." And it was that moment where I realized that yeah I was different and it was time to just actually put it to words. So when I did take into account I was like, "Yeah I did go to private school my whole life and that my mom is financially stable." Then I realized that, "Okay yeah, I do have the privilege of knowing that I will be taken care of financially and then education ways." So I decided that it was definitely important to start looking for ways to give back.

Clysree Brown: And fast forward to when I was in college and we had our capstone project which was our project that we had to do in conjunction with a paper so that we could graduate I decided to tackle the problem with food access in Washington, D.C. Because Washington D.C. is a food desert and that means that there aren't too many grocery stores that are accessible to the people who need them the most. So, they'll usually settle on unhealthy options and that's why the organization that I volunteered with, D.C. Greens, they would hand out checks at farmer's markets so that families could afford healthy fruits and vegetables.

Adrian Cohn: Wow. So fast forward to now, I mean you've come quite a long way. Tell us a little bit about where you are now in terms of your career and some of the achievements that you've had to date.

Clysree Brown: So in terms of my career I've just graduated. I'm a May, 2020 graduate from the Graduate Studies in Interpreting and Translation program, or GSIT, from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Adrian Cohn: Congratulations.

Clysree Brown: Thank you.

Adrian Cohn: You are newly minted. And before the University of Maryland you also were at Howard University.

Clysree Brown: Yup.

Adrian Cohn: So tell us a little bit about your trajectory in higher education.

Clysree Brown: You mean more so how I chose my career path that led me to localization or in general?

Adrian Cohn: Well, I understand that Howard University had a pretty substantial impression on your life. It helped to provide you with some identity. Tell us more about that.

Clysree Brown: Oh, so particularly about Howard University it's a HBCU so it's a Historically Black College or University. I want to say that it's something that's hard to put into words and you have to live it to know it but it's such a great feeling knowing that you can be around a bunch of people who you identify with and you can learn your history and culture a lot deeper than you did in school. And that for me was just something that I will always remember and cherish. So, Howard University did have a lot to do with me finding pride in being Afro-American because beforehand it was simply like it was just a fact of life. And then afterwards, after being at Howard, it felt like something to definitely take deep pride in.

Adrian Cohn: Wow. Do you still have good friends from Howard?

Clysree Brown: I do. I still hang out with a few of my Howard friends.

Adrian Cohn: That's cool. Yeah. I've been out of school now for a little bit and my friends are all over the country which is really hard. I have a friend in California, a friend in Oregon, friends in Tennessee, probably a couple in New York, but they're spread out. And it's really hard to see everybody, obviously things like Zoom or FaceTime and text messaging helps keep us together but it's not the same as having the ability to go down the hallway. I remember my college years, I remember them and I remember them fondly.

Clysree Brown: Yeah. And luckily for me a few of my friends still do live in this area. Some of them did go back to where they were from though.

Adrian Cohn: And so, it was at some point when you were at Howard that you went to a conference and started to do some interpretation work?

Clysree Brown: So, at Howard University they had this interpretation program and I did three semesters there. And every year there would be a field trip, not every year but I mean every semester there would be a field trip and they would take us to the African Union Mission in Georgetown and we'd have a chance to show the ambassador our interpretation skills. And it was a very nice thing to do because we would be able to go into a real interpretation booth and use the equipment and I thought that was really cool.

Adrian Cohn: I love doing field work. It definitely makes me feel alive so I can see you doing this right now and that's a nice picture that I have. So was the real beginning into your interest in the field of language and the possibility of what you might be able to do in terms of a longterm career in the field of communication and language and translation?

Clysree Brown: Well, I would say that my interest in language went a little bit further back because in high school I was always in honors Spanish. So I decided since that [inaudible 00:13:17] were my highest grades I was like, "Why not become a Spanish major and a photography minor?" I mean, I eventually became an English minor but I decided that I wanted to be a Spanish major because it felt like it just made the most sense to me. But I was not really thinking too far ahead as to how would that necessarily help or benefit me further on. And then later I started looking through the course catalog the semester, I think it was second semester of my sophomore year and I saw interpretation was going to be offered. So I was just like, "Why not just dive in and take it?"

Clysree Brown: So I just didn't really know too much about the whole language services industry so I was like, "Okay interpretation, maybe I want to be an interpreter." So, I did three semesters of that. It was very fun. I definitely bonded with my professor Dr. [inaudible 00:14:12] She's amazing. And after that I was talking to the head of the department of world languages and cultures, which my major is listed under, and she told me about the University of Maryland GSIT program and she said, "I think that if you really want to be an interpreter you should go to GSIT." So that's when I applied. And I applied to GSIT originally wanting to be an interpreter but they got back to me and said they liked my translations better and they thought that I should really foster that. So, I went in on the translation track.

Adrian Cohn: Tell us a little bit more about the GSIT program because I'm not sure how many folks who are listening have heard about it.

Clysree Brown: Well, the GSIT program, or Graduate Studies in Interpreting and Translation program, was founded around 2016 by Dr. David B. Sawyer and he actually is still one of the professors in the program. He is a very great professor. He has for over 10 years been the chief of European languages branch of interpretation at the state department. And he's a very good source of information. He shows us the ins and outs of this industry that I wouldn't have even guessed were there. And I just say that you have to actually be in class to experience it because he really goes in depth. He leaves nothing unanswered.

Adrian Cohn: Wow. You sound excited about the leadership that he brought to this program.

Clysree Brown: Yup

Adrian Cohn: So, give us details. What was the makeup of the class and what interests did other classmates of yours have? Tell us more about the program and the people.

Clysree Brown: So the people in the program, there were about 15 in my cohort. Some of them were diplomats, some had already been translators for about 10 years and decided to get their masters then, some had been removed from or graduated from undergrad and were just deciding to come back for their master's. What else? Oh, and there was one person who was actually a former teacher in high school well a former high school teacher.

Adrian Cohn: That's a pretty wide range of people who were in your group. You may even have just labeled 15 categories and there were 15 people in the class. When you say cohort, do you mean that was the number of people who graduated the year that you were there or the two years rather? Okay. That's an intimate program so it gives you a lot of opportunity to get to know the people.

Clysree Brown: Definitely.

Adrian Cohn: What were some of the classes like? What were the titles of the classes?

Clysree Brown: So we have some courses in public speaking, translation for specific markets, translation for specific domains. And then we had intensive writing both directions. Because this program they definitely focus on if you're on a translation track they'll definitely focus on translation and the whole art of it and writing, just simply writing in both languages or if you're doing three tracks in all three languages. Because it's really critical to just separate translation and writing at a certain point because sometimes it's easy to get distracted by the fact of translating that you just get sloppy with the art form of writing. So, it's something that the program is really good at.

Adrian Cohn: Awesome. So, you said that you had one class that was called How to Translate in Different Markets, what'd you learn?

Clysree Brown: So for a translation into specific markets we learned certain phrasing that is appropriate for certain times. So for example, if we are doing an advertisement versus the language that we would use for doing a treaty or even a recipe book. So we learned how to translate a variety of texts.

Adrian Cohn: So it was how to effectively translate different types of content in a particular market?

Clysree Brown: Yep. And there was one course where we spoke about translation theory or I think it was maybe two or three courses where we talked about different translation theories but the translation for specific markets it was definitely hands on. So it was like every class we had to turn in an assignment that was an actual translation. So I think that they're very thorough with making sure that you understand the heart of the translation itself as well as actually giving you a chance to really apply yourself. Because sometimes it could be a thing where you focus so much on learning about doing it that you don't end up doing it but this program gives you an ample opportunity to just learn it as well as do it.

Adrian Cohn: So could it be that one of your homework assignments would be, "Take this recipe and translate it into Spanish for Spain, see ya Monday." Would that be one of the assignments?

Clysree Brown: Yeah, that definitely would be something that would be one of the assignments.

Adrian Cohn: So what was the training to help you be successful? Because I know that I definitely had some professors who just gave you homework and didn't really care if you did well. I hate to admit it but I think that's true. But I had most of my professors were just so deeply invested in my success and they would provide great training in the classes that teed me up for a really good assignment that would be due the next week for example. What were some of the lessons that your professors imparted upon you that stood out that were helping you to complete assignments well or that you feel have shaped who you are today?

Clysree Brown: Well I mean, one of the best pieces of advice one of my translation teachers gave me was to actually think about it or it might start sounding like translaterese where it's just like a person who's a native speaker will look at that and say, "That works but it's a little awkward." Versus something that sounds like it was actually written in that language. So, taking a moment and really thinking about it. And then with my translation technology course one thing that one of the professors said to me that stood out was, "Master technology before it masters you." So, that means make sure that you definitely say on top of new technology that's coming out and don't be afraid of technology. See technology as your friend because you will just have to either adapt or simply be replaced.

Adrian Cohn: Right. So I mean, the degree was Translation and Localization Project Management. Clearly you had classes in translation. You had, Let's make sure you are effective at translating content and you understand the differences between different content types. You had a technology class that presumably was giving you some insight and visibility into what the technologies are and how to use them. Tell us a little bit about the localization project management side. What did you learn about localization project management from this course, from this degree?

Clysree Brown: So there were two courses in localization that stood out to me, Localization Business Fundamentals and Localization Project Management. So, with the business fundamentals we were playing a game and we were pretending at certain points to be an SLV, an ROV, MLV, client side, buyer side. We were just trying it all and even coming up with budgets and assigning certain people in our team's roles such as the DTP specialists or the person who is the head of the company. And it was just fun to see all the different sides of this and how complex it all really is. Because first coming in especially because I didn't know much about localization or the translation industry before coming into this program I just thought that it was just interpreter, translator, simple, but I saw in the Localization Business Fundamentals Course that there was a lot more to it. And I felt like it was really in depth especially for it to just be fundamentals. But I think that it was very eyeopening and very amazing.

Adrian Cohn: So, what were some of the things that you learned about in the field of localization project management that stood out to you as being so in depth that surprised you?

Clysree Brown: Well, I found out because we got really deep into math and I didn't expect to really go into math again. Because admittedly math is not one of my favorite subjects even though I am striving to get better at it. But I was just really surprised at all the complicated formulas that we were getting. I was like, "Wow, this feels like we're living a real life algebra problem."

Adrian Cohn: So what was the math? What was the problem to solve?

Clysree Brown: Okay. So one day our professor pulled up a website and it was random. It was some website that sold mostly ties and handkerchiefs and he was just like, "So extrapolate how much you're going to charge to just localize all this content. And I was just like, "What?" I'm not just looking at it like this whole webpage and I'm just like, "Where do I even start? Am I doing word count? Am I counting images? I don't even know." But it was something where he was just like he wanted us to just really get creative and think out of the box.

Adrian Cohn: Yeah. That's a cool problems to solve. How did you solve it? What did you do?

Clysree Brown: It was like luckily we had a person on our team who was already in the translation and localization industry. So he came up with I can't remember in detail what he did but he came up with his own way of solving it. And then that's when he gave us the rest of the group members the equation that we were going to work on and then we solved it.

Adrian Cohn: Yeah. I love the problem because it's actually a real life problem it's not just a fake one and you've said a few times already that the program was meaningful, it had real world scenarios that you had to solve. And we get questions at Smartling every day of like, "What is it going to cost?" And then our response is, "Well, how much content do you have?" And they're like, "Well, we don't know." I mean sometimes that's what happens. Other times it's as simple as the customer providing us with a file and then we can immediately tell them how many words it is and what the fuzzy match will be and how they'll save money doing these five things. So, you can use technology to help solve that problem but I think it's cool that they gamed that out in your master's program.

Clysree Brown: That's definitely true and within the last year of the program I actually switched over from being a translation concentration or major to localization.

Adrian Cohn: Why'd you make the leap?

Clysree Brown: Well, because I had a feeling that localization would be another challenge for me because I did like translation a lot but I felt like I was having some sort of mastery over it. Because I don't really think that I could ever have full mastery over translation because a side note I am a creative story writer. So I do write short stories and stuff so I never believe that there's any such thing as a perfect story. So I always strive to write better stories and stuff. So I don't ever think I could fully master translation but I felt like I was having a level of mastery that I was comfortable with. So I decided to tackle localization because I decided why not. Because during this program I've done interpreting, conference interpreting, community interpreting when I was a medical interpreter for about seven months as my practicum. And then I did translation in this program so I decided why not branch out and do localization because it felt adventurous and I felt like I could do it.

Adrian Cohn: That's good reasons. I think it is an adventurous discipline. I certainly had the great pleasure of speaking to and working with many people who are in localization and the responsibility set varies so much from company to company. In large organizations with thousands and thousands of people there may be large teams of localization managers maybe that are dedicated to specific countries. And then in small companies or companies that are newer to translation maybe it's a person's halftime job. And I think that spectrum is really quite interesting and challenging for people to navigate whether they are on the client side or the customer side, sorry the vendor side. And I think you've pinpointed some interesting takeaways there.

Adrian Cohn: What are you hoping to do next? You've got your undergraduate degree in Spanish language and literature from Howard. You have a master's degree in Translation and Localization Project Management. Where do you see yourself next? What are you trying to achieve now?

Clysree Brown: Well, I would like to get a junior project manager position or a quality assurance position because I feel like I have an eye for attention to detail and I think that project management is something that is definitely very stable. And I am a well organized person so I think that global project manager would suit me.

Adrian Cohn: Well, you guys heard it here first, Clysree is ready and willing and able. And I think that if there's anything I've learned on today's call, Clysree, it's that you are one bright star, a rising star in the industry. You're super awesome to hop on the podcast with me. You've been following SmartLink for a number of months now. I've seen your name pop up in our events that we've had and you and I have had some dialogue on LinkedIn and in email. And you come across as someone who is incredibly intelligent and someone who's accomplished a lot in your short life.

Clysree Brown: Well, thank you so much and I hope that I'm going to accomplish a lot more because already I have as you said accomplished so much.

Adrian Cohn: Well, you've got plenty of time and use it wisely and use it in good health.

Clysree Brown: Thank you.

Adrian Cohn: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you Clysree Brown for being on The Loc Show. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. You are going places. Everybody take note. Find her on LinkedIn, make a connection with her. She is an awesome rising star. Thank you also for listening to The Loc Show. This show has been so much fun to produce and if you are learning from it, if you're enjoying it, do me one small favor, it would make my day, head on over to the podcast player and give this show a six star review. And if you're so inclined leave a comment. If you'd like to be featured on The Loc Show send me an email, See you next time.