Meet the masters of effective communication Riley & Cherry — Interpreters at Coupang
Hi Cherry & Riley, nice to meet you. Would you please introduce yourself?
Cherry: Hello, my name is Cherry, and I am an interpreter on a team called ‘EIT (Engineering Interpreters and Translators).’ We provide interpretation and translation support to Coupang's engineering organization. After graduating from the Graduate School of Interpretation and Translation, I first started out as an in-house interpreter at a financial regulatory institute. After that, while working as a freelancer, I moved to the US and was offered a position as an in-house interpreter at the Coupang Mountain View office. I have been continuing my journey with Coupang after moving back to Korea and am currently working at the Seoul office.
Riley: Hello, my name is Riley. I’m one of the Finance Interpreters under CITE (Center of Interpretation and Translation Excellence) organization. I went to a Graduate School of Interpretation and Translation right after college. I applied to Coupang during my last semester and started my first professional career here at Coupang. I’m enjoying Coupang as there are many new things to learn every day because my team covers a variety of domains including finance, accounting, procurement, and IT.
What’s a typical day for a Coupang interpreter?
Riley: I check my schedule for the day as soon as I turn on my laptop. Meeting assignments are completed every day before the following day, but I re-check my assignments and get ready for the day as there might have been some changes overnight. Prior to the meetings, I study relevant materials for my calls and meetings. After a call ends, I review the discussion and take notes while my memory is still fresh. When I’m not interpreting, I take a quick break, work on e-mail and document translations, or other projects and operation-related tasks. Every Monday morning, my team has a team sync-up meeting. We also take turns as schedulers and take responsibility for coordinating and allocating resources for the week.
Cherry: Every day, every week goes by in the blink of an eye. To add to what Riley mentioned, during hiring seasons, we also interview and evaluate candidates. As a manager, I try to hold 1:1’s with the team members on a regular basis. If I have any time left, I translate any unhandled requests.
What percentage of your work involves interpretation and translation, respectively?
Riley: For our team, the average interpretation-to-translation ratio is about 8:2 as our translators cover most of the translation requests. I spend most of my day interpreting in meetings and translating between meeting schedules. However, when the demand for translation is high, interpreters may put in a little more effort to support translation as well.
Can you work from home?
Cherry: Currently, most of our team is working from home, though it differs by organization and by team. During the pandemic, virtual calls had become the norm, and we still support most meetings online. But now that more people are returning to the office, interpreters are also asked to support more face-to-face meetings. But Coupang has a flexible work culture, and we keep in mind that working conditions may change with new organizational changes.
I heard there is a systematic training system in place for interpreters. Could you share with us?
Riley: There are two parts to the onboarding program. One is led by each and every team for its new joiner, and the other one is the company-wide interpreter and translator onboarding.
If you are new and suddenly have to support meetings of an unfamiliar field, you may not know where to start. To prevent this, my team has an onboarding program that enables our new members to learn about the various domains supported by the team step by step. For each domain, an interpreter and a translator will team up as a group of mentors for that particular domain. They will provide basic information, backgrounds, and tips needed for the domain, and help our new members become more familiar with the domain by going into meetings together for backup support, interpreting as a partner, reviewing translations, and answering their questions. In June, there is a company-wide onboarding session for all the interpretation and translation team in Coupang. We get to learn the domain each team supports and enhance our understanding of the overall business through these sessions.
What is great about working as an interpreter at Coupang?
Cherry: The biggest advantage I think is that interpretation and translation teams are acknowledged as an essential part of the business. There are many other companies where interpreters and translators are merely considered as supporting roles, but at Coupang, interpreters and translators are truly valued as a critical element to business. Compensation is fairly good, and we also have an internal career development path like other positions in the company.
Riley: Coupang is home to talents from all over the world. Therefore, you will naturally be exposed to and become familiar with many different forms of English. You will have the opportunity to interpret in diverse environments, such as remote meetings via Zoom, on-site meetings with a transceiver, and large-scale meetings in an interpretation booth.
Coupang is a company that has been working with interpreters for a long time, so the company recognizes and respects our in-house interpreters. When you need help and input from the business about a specific field or an ongoing project, they will gladly take the time to explain it and even hold separate knowledge sharing sessions for the interpretation and translation team. This mutual respect and understanding enables active cooperation between the interpretation/translation team and the business.
What are some good qualities of your team?
Cherry: My team, EIT, supports engineering organizations. Even when your objective at work is not so much about making friends, the people that you work with do matter considering the amount of time you spend with them and the nature of our work that requires collaboration. In that sense, our team is a healthy team with a desirable culture that is founded on caring and enthusiastic team members with a steadfast and wise leader. We also have a well-established system in place that provides a trusting work environment which I am grateful for.
Riley: My team, Finance Interpreters team doesn’t support just finance and accounting. But we also cover procurement and IT domains. This helps you go through the end-to-end process of a business or a project, from its inception, implementation, and subsequent accounting treatments. As the results of all businesses are ultimately reported with numbers from finance and accounting, you can develop a broader view of the entire company's activities rather than being limited to just one.
My team is also under the umbrella of a bigger group of interpreters and translators called CITE (Center of Interpretation and Translation Excellence), which enables us to frequently interact with different teams within the organization.
Cherry, you joined Coupang as a senior interpreter. What was the biggest difference compared to your previous workplace?
Cherry: I joined the Mountain View office in the US while working as a freelancer, so it is difficult to compare apples –to apples. However, as a senior interpreter, I remember I was encouraged to contribute more based on my experience and years. I could step out of my comfort zone to take on new challenges. What shocked me the most was when I came to Korea from Mountain View Is that I felt like I was joining a completely new company. Not necessarily because the company culture between Coupang Korea and US was different, but I was exposed to the new types of meetings and domains that my team had been supporting for the first time.
Riley, you started your professional career with Coupang. How much have you grown since joining?
Riley: I have developed the courage to interpret calmly under any circumstance and the endurance to support long meetings since joining the company. My team’s onboarding program allowed me to start from the simplest meetings and gradually expand the area of support. That made me think, “Oh, I can do this, this is something I can definitely cover,” and even when I was assigned to more complex meetings, I was able to interpret calmly without panicking.
It is challenging indeed to provide simultaneous interpretation for multiple meetings every day. However, the more meetings there are, the more opportunities you have. Therefore, by adopting various strategies and learning what the most efficient approach is for various types of meeting and speakers, I’m developing the endurance and stamina for interpretation. I believe this experience will be a great asset regardless of where I end up later in my career path.
How is the workload? Tell us a bit more about the environment at Coupang as an interpreter.
Cherry: One of the biggest perks of working at Coupang as an interpreter is that it provides an environment where you can constantly learn. The mission of creating a world that wonders, “How did we ever live without Coupang?” remains the same. But how we “Wow the Customers” may change as the business grows. In order to facilitate communication even under new directions and priorities, interpreters must also keep up with the latest topics and technologies. Being able to study and grow continuously is always challenging yet fascinating.
Riley: You are not alone at Coupang. There is a ‘team’ of interpreters and translators that understand and share similar thoughts and difficulties. When you have concerns about interpretation or translation, when you want to know more about a topic, when you have questions about handling a situation that occurs in a meeting, or when problems arise, you have a team. I feel assured because I have reliable colleagues and senior interpreters/translators I can turn to for advice and help.
We see job postings for interpreters at Coupang quite often. What is the reason for frequent hiring?
Riley: Coupang aims to create an environment where everyone can work seamlessly without language barriers. Coupang continues to grow rapidly, and many talented people join Coupang from all over the world. This naturally leads to an increased demand for interpretation and translation support. That is why we are continuously looking for new interpreters and translators.
Coupang is a global business with offices in the US, China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Korea. And we're still expanding. So Coupang is the perfect place to build your career with diverse talents from all around the world.
What is the career path like after joining the company?
Cherry: As an interpreter at Coupang, it is being able to be excited for “What’s next.” The interpreters who have been with Coupang for a long time have established an intricate system for interpreters which serves as a guide with detailed expectations from an interpreter at each level. If you provide interpretation/translation support and engage in team projects accordingly, you will naturally have more opportunities to grow and be promoted as an interpreter, and also contribute as a member of a wider organization. If you are open to new challenges, you can transfer to other interpretation teams or serve as a manager. Although it is rare, I have also seen cases where people change roles within Coupang after becoming interested in a different position.
If you want to take on a new challenge, the opportunity to transfer to another interpretation team is also open.
Lastly, do you have anything else you want to share with aspiring interpreters who are interested in Coupang?
Riley: For me, having as many simultaneous interpretation opportunities as possible was important. Therefore, Coupang was the perfect place because it requires simultaneous interpretation in most cases. In fact, many of my graduate school classmates say that they do not have the opportunity to interpret, especially simultaneously, I have never had such regret while working at Coupang as I go into multiple meetings with simultaneous interpretation every day, and I get to try different approaches to hone my interpretation skills. In addition to interpreting, I can work happily and keep up the good work because I have my team members that help and encourage each other.
Cherry: There are people who have had longer experiences than I have, but as a person who has experienced both the pros and cons of working as a freelance interpreter and in-house interpreter, Coupang is a great company for in-house interpreters. It's not a slow and easy work life. If you want to join our mission to wow the customers and witness the changes we can bring while growing professionally, Coupang is the place.
If you are interested in joining our team of interpretation and translation, apply now.