#GALAChampion: Anu Carnegie-Brown

In this series of interviews, GALA members share their insights on the pursuit of globalization & localization brilliance.

Anu Carnegie-Brown, Managing Director of Sandberg Translation Partners Ltd

[this transcript has been slightly edited]

What’s in a job title

I am the managing director of Sandberg. And I have been in that role for the past six years. Sandberg is a full-service language services provider, but we have an area of expertise in the Nordic markets. So that means the Scandinavian region and Finland, and then also in English, because the company is actually headquartered in the UK. So that's what we do. And my particular role.... I mean, I obviously do the normal things that any CEO would do, I have the full P&L responsibility for the company. And I am responsible for its strategic direction as well. But in addition to that sort of normal things, I'm very keen on developing our services, and building our brand. And I'm heading our content creation team. I'm very interested in those areas.

Starting out in localization

My story is that of "a girl meets a boy". I met a British boy when I was backpacking in Europe in the 80s. And I married him. And then I first qualified as a TEFL teacher. So that was my first language-related job. But then I was getting better at English, you know, by being with him and all that. And that basically led me to doing a translation degree at the University of Helsinki. And then we got our first jobs together in this industry. And we started by helping a small Finnish startup LSP to grow and expand. And ultimately, that journey brought us to the UK. We started in Finland, and then we moved to the UK to set up a company here.

What would you recommend to companies that want to enter the Nordic markets?

The Nordic countries are a fantastic region. They score very highly in all sorts of quality-of-life surveys, and also human rights surveys. And I think they're characterized by high levels of equality and consensus. That reflects in the business culture as well. There is a lot of openness, there is directness, and a very flat hierarchy, I would say.

And then one area where businesses might be able to find an angle in is the environment. We have a very long tradition of looking after the environment. But actually, despite of that, our region is very vulnerable now to the impact of climate change. And it could change things for us quite dramatically.

Another thing that might be good to bear in mind is our digital infrastructure, again very highly developed in the Nordic region. And that means that all the customers are very tech savvy. I would say that a digital first approach would be quite vital in this market for any business.

People think that English is almost a second language in the Nordic region...

That's a perception and there is some truth in it. But like any other human being, we prefer to be comfortable when we do business or when we make buying decisions. And we are more comfortable in our own language than we are in English.

It also varies across the region, linguistically Swedish and Norwegian and Danish are much closer as languages to English, whereas Finnish is very different. That might also make a difference to the speaker, Fins might be a bit more reluctant to operate in English than our Scandinavian friends.

Where GALA fits in

I joined GALA because I wanted to meet peers and compare my experiences with them. I believe in innovating new ways for this industry to work together. As a result, I have contributed to a few GALA initiatives: as a speaker and moderator at the annual conferences, as a member of the selection committee for GALA’s annual Rising Star contest, by authoring content for the ‘If I knew then…’ series, by participating as a guest speaker at a recent Global Talent SIG event and by doing a little video for the #AskTheExpert series. I really enjoy this kind of sharing, I think it's got value, and I think an industry association is a very good platform to do it.

How important are initiatives like Rising Star and the Global Talent SIG when organized by an association like GALA?

I think what industry associations like GALA do is they can bring us together. Because otherwise, a lot of people think about these things, and a lot of people want to make a difference and contribute. But if we don't have a platform like GALA, it's not very likely to happen. So, I think that is the main task: to raise the awareness of these issues, to highlight the people who are keen to come and do something about them, and then facilitate that coming together.

Your advice for members who are still thinking whether they should volunteer for GALA

I can say something that I learned earlier this year: I was part of the committee for the annual conference (the program committee), and it was really interesting, because you're part of a global group of people. It's a global committee of very experienced stakeholders who represent very different parts of our industry. Some of them work for LSPs, some of them work for tech companies, and then there might be somebody from the academia as well.

You come together and you look at an issue. In our case, we were looking at all of the proposals for the event. You talk with people, you compare ideas, and you realize how differently people see things. All these stakeholders, they value certain things. It really opens up your horizons to see what other people value, and also where they think the gaps are in our collective knowledge, and also what a good contribution looks like. I think you get to hear more honest views than you would ever see on social media, for example.


If we talk about the language industry accomplishments, I guess mine are mainly in the area of collaborating with academia, that's always been one of my interests. I have worked with maybe a dozen universities in the countries where Sandberg is represented, so mainly the Nordic countries and in the UK. And I've also initiated and supported several industry initiatives that try to sort of enhance that collaboration between us, and then the people who train our future colleagues, I've written the course for the University of Helsinki.

Here in the UK, I've had a different kind of initiative with one of universities. I've worked with the University of Surrey in Guilford for many years. For them, I designed a series of workshops. We called it "The business of translation" and it's for the master’s student's course. It's part of their program, because it was about the business angles of translation, we actually managed to engage the university's Business Studies departments as well. So, it wasn't just the translation department that I've worked with, but also other departments of the university, which I thought was very helpful.

This is an annual workshop that we do now every year. Basically, the master students get to tackle real life business challenges that an LSP faces today. what I do is I go to them, and I say, "You guys have to sort of form a consultancy company for me. I will be your client, and you will be my consultant, and I will bring to you my business problems. And you will need to sort of research them and then come up with some solutions for me." That's how we work.

Over the years, it has been really interesting. I'm interested to hear what they say even when it's not realistic at all, it still helps to sort of get your own brain going there. I've asked them to solve problems, like: How does an LSP expand its service offering from the traditional translation to other services? How does an LSP build a 24/7 availability for their clients? And then at the end of the course, they have to come to me and do a formal presentation as if they were proper consultants.

It really makes them think about translation as a business. Because obviously at university, you mainly think of translation as a skill or a very language-based activity, but to sort of step back from that and realize that you have to run it as a business...You have to think of it as a business and all these questions come into it.

Career-building tips

I'm going to give an advice that I won't necessarily follow myself or haven't... I think I'm quoting someone else if I say, "If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else."

Sometimes ending up somewhere else doesn’t matter, that happened to me as well. But if you have distinct desires or something that you want to try out, then I think it would be good to map out how to get there. I’m not really into sports, but I have dabbled in it, and I am really in awe of people who do things like the Ironman or triathlon or run marathons. I've seen how they train. It's applicable to any other area of life. You've got this huge goal which looks almost like impossible to attain, but you break it down into small, manageable objectives and work on honing those.

You can do the same with your career planning or building your career skills. It makes it less overwhelming to do it that way. So obviously, if you're very new, you might not have that bigger picture to think of how to plan it. But that's where you could ask somebody a bit more experienced to help you. I mean, when I did that, for the first time for a sport-related thing, I asked somebody who's run marathons, "Give me a basic training program". And they did.

Networking tips & techniques 

I'm not a great extrovert myself, and I'm not a networking expert by any means. Everything I've learned, I've learned just by doing, painfully sometimes. I think one way of I've seen people do very successfully recently is like, that. They go and interview people. I don't mean just at events, but I mean, you know, you can see it on social media, so many people have published podcasts. You know, some sort of interview series. And that's really smart. Because you don't actually have to know that much yourself. You just need to know the right questions to ask. And I think that works, face to face as well, you just need to be bold, to go and ask that first question and get people to talk about themselves, because everybody likes talking about themselves. And they don't usually have any problem with that. Just have the courage to take that very first step with the very first question, and then it usually flows from there.

What I learned during the last year...

Well, this is what the pandemic has done for us, I have learned to appear on videos. You know, it started almost two years ago now, when we first went completely remote as a company. And you know, you had all of those worries about the pandemic. And I tried to keep all sort of company morale and spirit up by doing weekly, regular video messages for our staff, which I've never done it weekly before. So, really pushing myself out of my comfort zone there.

Now almost two years later, I can look back, and I can see how it's become easier. And it's not such a high threshold anymore to create an interview like this, for example. I think that's what I've learned, I've learned to appear on camera, not worry about it so much, you know, not not being so precious about it, which I think is useful in this day and age and the way businesses have gone online.

Finding inspiration

People get so very deep about these things. My daughter gave me a diary for my birthday this year. And because she gave it to me, I sort of took it on as a challenge. I now have this daily reflection; I keep a daily journal. It's not naturally me, really, but it's good. In the morning, you write down goals for the day. And at the end of the day, you see what you achieved and what you could have done better and all that.

Ultimately, I don't actually believe that you will find all of those resources within yourself. I really do believe that you need to look outside of yourself as well. Like a true Fin, I like going out and spending time in nature. I like going for walks, either by the sea or in the forest as well. That's really good for the soul, I believe.

So there's kind of quiet times for reflection. And then another thing is to listen to other people. I mean, maybe listen to people who work in other fields, not within our own industry. But listen to people who love their work. I think that is inspiring when you see somebody who truly enjoys what they're doing, who truly believes in what they're doing.

My brilliant second career

When I was in my mid 30s. I spent around three years working on a career pivot, which didn't happen in the end. And that's why I'm here. But I went back to university, and I started a part time course in fine art. My plan was to do that bachelor's course, as a part time course for over five years, and it would have meant 20 hours of coursework in a week plus my full-time job. At the time, my children were quite young as well. So, it was ambitious. It didn't really work out in the end, so I had to leave it. But what it did for me, it was really good because I got to push my talent, I guess, a little bit. And I got to a point where I realized that I didn't want to do art as a hobby. I would either want to do it properly or not at all. So it brought me to a point where I'm not doing any art now. Until I one day might have time for it properly again.

Life beyond localization

I'm having my second wind in a way at this point in life, I'm not young anymore. And I always thought that, you know, when you're in your mid 50s, you will be very settled, you paid all of your mortgage, and you know, you're financially secure and your children have found their place in life, and everything is easy and settled. Well, that's not true at all.

I've had big upheavals in my personal life in the past couple of years. And actually, that's okay. I'm kind of embracing this second chance or the second start, if you like. And I've learned to live with insecurity. I think that's what age has given me. So even if everything is not sorted, and settled and fine, I can still enjoy life. We embarked on a big building project earlier this year, which has got a lot of unknowns, but I'm enjoying that I'm taking it on as a challenge that I'm embracing.