Speech and Language Processing masters graduate Milena Vegnaduzzo reflects on an enriching year in Edinburgh, starting a translation company during an economic crisis and fostering an intercultural mindset.
MSc Speech and Language Processing
|Year of graduation||2003|
At the moment
I am currently living in Pordenone in the northeast of Italy, a small sustainable town with high standard of living and plenty of green spaces.
Your time at the University
I ended up at the University of Edinburgh for one of those fortuitous coincidences that twists and changes your life. I was supposed to start a masters programme on computational linguistics at the University of Venice, but unfortunately the programme was cancelled and I was on the lookout for new opportunities.
I was offered a temporary job as Italian linguist at Rhetorical Systems, a start-up company in Edinburgh that was developing text to speech software. I took the plunge and seized the new challenge. I found an international environment and a welcoming, enchanting, unconventional, free-spirited city I fell in love with. I decided to stay longer and enrolling on the Speech and Language Processing masters was the perfect fit to explore my interests, being immersed in a different education system, and a way of testing my limits. It was the toughest and most intense year of my life. The programme was demanding, fast paced and very rich of stimuli and challenges.
Many hours per day were dedicated to study but there was also plenty of support and sharing of thoughts with my fellow classmates. We had this tradition of “Thursday lunch women club” to have a break, savour the tasty international cuisine and chat over our dreams, fears, progress, concerns.
It was a year of explorations and first time activities through the lively and rich student offerings: I learned to swim and beat my fear of water, I discovered the power of pilates, the lightheartedness of traditional dancing, and experienced some of the most amazing moonlights you can imagine.
In Edinburgh my mind, body and soul were in harmony.
Your experiences since leaving the University
After the masters I went back to my hometown in Italy and started a position in a local translation company to take care of the language technology department. A financial default of that company gave me the opportunity to take action and fund my own translation company with some former co-workers. We set it up in the middle of the economic crisis of the 2010s amid great uncertainties but with will and determination. I now manage a team of well-focused and motivated people providing language services to multinational companies in a highly variable and ever-changing sector with an international team of collaborators spanning from America to Japan.
It was in setting up my company and managing it that the experience in Edinburgh proved useful. I believe that the soft skills and behavioural attitudes I developed during the masters served me well: the sense of commitment to my tasks, the confidence in my own resources, the determination to carry on in front of difficulties, along with problem solving, analytical skills and seeing things from different perspectives.
Looking back, I think that the most important insight I gained from my year in Edinburgh was developing a mindset to face challenges and difficulties relying on my own resources and the support of my fellows.
More recently, building on my experience working with people from different countries I became Associate Partner of Hofstede Insights, an international consulting firm that supports companies becoming truly global, helping them to transform their intercultural and organizational challenges into business success stories. I facilitate workshops on intercultural differences to help teams communicate and collaborate effectively in multicultural environments.
Life during Covid-19
Lockdown was a suspended time to reflect on who and where I am, to draw a balance of achievements and future objectives. I am now resetting my activities to have more time to give my contribution to help people find purpose and motivation in their lives, facilitating change of perspective and intercultural communication.
Seize opportunities, experience it all, be curious, enrich your mind, body and soul.
Take the opportunity to develop your soft skills and to meet as many international students as you can to gain new perspectives, get insights on your own way to see the world and develop an intercultural mindset. Tomorrow’s leaders need to be able to truly communicate and collaborate across borders and cultures.
MSc Speech and Language Processing
LEXILAB (external link)
Hofstede Insights (external link)