Career Spotlight: Jill Kushner Bishop
Jill Kushner Bishop
Career Spotlight is a series of interviews with anthropologists who are members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to share insights, knowledge, and expertise about career opportunities, growth, and development.
Dr. Jill Kushner Bishop is the Founder & CEO of Multilingual Connections, which specializes in culturally nuanced translation, transcreation, research moderation, media localization and other services that help clients create connections across languages and cultures. Jill brought her PhD in linguistic anthropology to the corporate world, where she worked as a user researcher and then oversaw the implementation of language and culture programs for 130 Chipotle Mexican Grill locations. In 2005, she launched Multilingual Connections to help organizations understand, engage, and grow their multilingual audiences. When she’s not working, she’s spending time with her husband and teen son, renovating houses, and trying to make her garden grow.
1. What made you decide to choose anthropology as a career path, and specifically your specialty?
I was always interested in language, and I loved hearing the little bit of Yiddish that had trickled down from my grandparents and great-grandparents to my parents - and that my friends and I, in turn, adopted for ourselves. At the same time, we were learning Modern Hebrew at synagogue and summer camp. I was interested in the role these languages, and eventually, other Jewish languages, played in the lives and identities of speakers, and I realized that linguistic anthropology would provide me with a lens for researching and understanding this.
2. What does a typical workday look like for you in your chosen career?
I ended up getting a job as a corporate anthropologist - not something I was initially seeking out but was thrilled to find - and eventually made the decision to start my own company. In 2005 I founded Multilingual Connections, a Chicago agency that provides translation, transcription and multilingual research support in 75 languages. Fast-forward 17+ years, and we have 28 employees and thousands of language and culture experts across the globe - so there’s no such thing as a typical workday!
3. What is a piece of advice you would share with job seekers or offer a new anthropologist just beginning their career?
I never expected to work outside of academia, and I certainly never expected to run my own business. So, my advice to others is to stay open to opportunities you never imagined for yourself.
4. Is there a unique short story about how you landed in your current career or path?
The kick in the pants to start my business came from getting fired after being on the unpopular side of some office politics. A few days later, my husband and I went for dinner at a Cuban restaurant, and used my food-stained placemat to map out the possible next steps in my career: return to academia? go back to user experience research? work as an adjunct? By the end of the night, I had decided to give the business a try - and I still have that placemat!
5. What do you consider one of your career successes? How did you achieve it?
My most important success is having created an organization that has had such a positive impact: we’ve helped our clients understand, engage and connect with their multilingual audiences, wherever they are, and we’ve also created an environment where my talented employees and linguists have developed professional and personal relationships - and in a few cases, even love! - that will last a lifetime.
6. What do you consider a challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
I started a business having absolutely no idea how to run a business. I quickly realized that I needed to surround myself with people that were smarter than me, that had different experiences, and could help me see things that I couldn’t and help answer questions and develop solutions.
7. Where would you like to see your career path going next?
I love the path I’m on, but on the side, my husband and I renovate homes to create rentals - and I’d love to do more of that!
8. What impact has the American Anthropological Association had in shaping your career?
It was actually at a AAA conference back in 1999 that I saw a flyer for an open house for a company that was hiring anthropologists to work in the applied/corporate world - so it’s thanks to AAA that I landed where I did (and all that’s come after)!