GALA Champion Luis Miguel (AvantPage)

GALA Champion Luis Miguel is the CEO at Avantpage, Inc. He is responsible for Avantpage's mission to provide immigrants with the opportunity to reach their American dream. Luis is passionate about helping clients communicate effectively with immigrants in language they can both understand. With over 20 years of leadership experience in the translation industry, Luis works to the benefit of clients and the immigrant community.

Watch this interview in which Luis discusses his career in localization, his company's values and the importance of volunteering.



00:24 Starting out in localization

Let me give you a short story about where that passion comes from because my entry into this field of localization comes from the heart. That's really my why. When I was a young father, I met a number of parents at my kids school and I became good friends with Raul from Peru, who also happened to be a soccer coach and I was very passionate about soccer at the time. One day he asked me to help him go to a clinic. Normally his daughter, Lucia, interpreted for him, but this time he had a cyst that he was a little worried about. He thought it might be something serious and didn't want to alarm little Lucia. So he asked me to do so. I was very glad to go and interpret for him. Luckily, it was not a cancerous growth. It was a benign cyst, and they took it out with a simple in office procedure that day. That incident showed me the importance of having qualified professionals, even though at that time I was not a professional in the field.

Similarly to that, when I was a student at the university here in Davis, I enrolled in a course of international agricultural development. Part of the course was to go around a lot of farms in California and I was the only person in the class that spoke Spanish. I'm originally from Mexico, and a lot of the migrant workforces that we encountered were from Central America, Mexico, South America, and they speak Spanish. I was interpreting between my group and the workforces that we saw. Talking to some of those workers, wonderful people, I realized that a lot of them were not really able to understand their employers circumstances. Their kids were not getting good quality education because they weren't able to really participate fully in the society where they were, precisely because of the language barrier that we're experiencing. So these two incidents are illustrative of why I would run into the localization translation industry a few years later.

04:52 Joining GALA

We've been members of GALA for over 10 years. We've been a member of several of the other associations for a number of years. There are other wonderful associations in the industry, but I found that I really enjoyed the international aspects of GALA, the fact that it brings academia, it brings the client side of things, it brings the language service provider side of things. It’s a global agglomeration of people, and it has a very professional and dedicated administrative staff. At the same time, it is volunteer driven, and I find it to be very, very neutral in terms of how fair it is in how it chooses its members. Some of the other associations I found to be a little parochial, clustered around a smaller number of individuals.

07:01 The importance of volunteering

At the very beginning, I was mostly just a consumer of information. Over time, as I became a bit more confident talking in public and my company grew a bit more, I decided to volunteer, and that volunteerism is a very powerful word. I think that it really encapsulates the essence of what I really enjoy about GALA, because you can tailor how much time you dedicate to it: You can choose not to participate at all and just go to the annual conference, for example; or you can choose to just give a webinar every once in a while, or to be part of one of the special interest groups, write an article… we've done a number of those things and sometimes we're busier, sometimes we're a little bit less so.

08:24 Professional accomplishment you're most proud of

AvantPage is a company that I poured my soul into for the last 25 plus years. And we're very proud to have created a company that has a very positive and nurturing culture and also that is purpose driven.

09:28 Enabling immigrants to reach their American dream through language access

We have essentially created a place where we have very well defined values and a very well defined mission. The story that I told you at the beginning encapsulates our mission: to enable immigrants to reach their American dream. Very simple, yet I believe it's very powerful.

09:43 AvantPage's values: empathy, opportunity, and rigor

We're also rooted in three simple values. Empathy: we like to listen to everybody. That is important. Opportunity: We provide opportunities for people and our clients, for example, to succeed for immigrants to move forward. Rigor: rigor, of course, is very important.

That's another one of the things I really like about GALA. You always have a very high level of professionalism in everybody that participates: the staff, the members, the volunteers, the conference and so on.

12:26 AvantPage's company culture and values impact growth 

I would like to have an entity that endures beyond my state and continues to be purpose and value driven. We continuously receive offers from multiple sources to acquire or merge or become part of a larger entity. We have very deliberately decided that it is better for us to be able to keep and develop this entity in a way that we can shape the good we bring.

As a personal matter, I've always told my kids, my employees, my peers that I'd like to leave the world just a little bit better than I found it. And if we can do that with AvantPage, it would be a great accomplishment. And I believe we are, we're taking steps in that direction. GALA is an organization that encourages that and, looks at contributions, not just by how much money you make, but actually by the impact that you have in the wider world.

6:36 LSP's offerings that are most undervalued but have they highest impact on services and quality

This is something that we are confronted with on a regular basis because if you look at the way many of the competitors and other industries, they place those values based mostly on business efficiency or delivering great technology. I believe that to be super important and we place a lot of importance on that. We have great technology here and we are working actively in developing that.

But we sort of identified a number of pillars that are important for us: The providers that we work with, the customers that are the end recipients of our services, the employees that work with us, and ultimately the immigrants or the limited English proficient people, the actual consumers of the language services.

21:37 Best value and not the lower cost

I actually love the competition because I think it helps us to be better. We are considered to be a mid-tier provider in terms of our sales volume and we're competing against companies that are 1-2-3 orders of magnitude larger than us.

We are very careful with what areas we invest in. We tend to look at what's going to bring the most value to our customers. You have to be able to provide. Some really customer centered technology so that your customers continue to move and evolve and you're competitive when you're going against clients that are much, much larger than us.

26:16 Best career advice

I wouldn't say there's any one particular thing. There's a number of really important things that I've gone through that I can actually give to other people. And I would say that when you start doing something that's important to you--whether it is starting your own company or a job--make sure that you take care of the basics, you know, the rigor that I talked about, because that I think is the fundamental upon which the rest of things are going to be able to be built.

Make sure that you have a sound grounding that undergirds what you're doing.



Isabella Massardo

Content strategist at GALA. A linguist and technologist who has lived in Italy, Russia and the Netherlands. Through GALA, Isabella offers the translation community content that’s relevant, reliable, and timely. She is always on the lookout for thought-provoking globalization and localization topics.