06 Nov/18

Lesson 1: How far does a Cambridge degree really get you?

Lesson 1: How far does a Cambridge degree really get you?
Lesson 1: How far does a Cambridge degree really get you?

20 lessons learned in 20 years of business

As EVS Translations UK approaches the celebration of its 20th anniversary in February, its founder and CEO, Edward Vick, joins us on the blog each week to speak about the business and life lessons learned from the UK chapter of his international business.

Edward Vick, CEO of EVS Translations, left the University of Cambridge in 1981 armed with a prestigious education and a potentially powerful network of friends. Those outside such an elite circle might imagine this to be the golden ticket.

Knowing people in the right places, the network, a foot up the ladder – it’s only up from there, surely?

“It isn’t that clear cut, although it certainly gave me some initial confidence. There’s no denying it opened a few doors in the beginning but it also has to come down to WHAT as much as WHERE you study and HOW you then leverage that knowledge and experience. I came from an English literature degree which encourages a type of critical thinking and creativity that can’t be matched by machines, something we see in quality translations.

Looking back, I would study the same subject again. Being able to communicate is one of the most important things in the current world. In an international situation, speaking great English is really a door-opener which is what led to creation of EVS Translations.”

Learning to say ‘Yes, I can’

I was passionate about the power of words, of language, of communication. I knew that I wanted to to build a business but for that, I needed clients. Better still, I needed clients who KNEW they needed my services.

Where was English at a premium? The answer was clear: Germany. There I set up a business in English language training. I was in Frankfurt surrounded by the major banks and the orders flowed in – the bankers needed English.

Then a key question came: Can you also translate into English? The answer was something I learned at Cambridge and that was to say ‘Yes, I can’.

Things progressed quite quickly but in much the same way as any start-up, albeit without any great vision of running an international SME – which is what I do today. However, the turning point for me was the question: Can you also translate into German?

Again, my experience from Cambridge gave me the confidence to simply say ‘Yes’ and was the catalyst for my growing ambition to grow the business and take it as far as I could, even in those early days.

Decisions like that have consequences, though. Establishing teams, learning to manage those teams, and making all sorts of mistakes. It was a lot of work.

Being educated at Cambridge was an invaluable experience. It gave me a kind of confidence that is impossible to take away. Being the owner of a company means you represent your team and you have to decide which ideas are implemented. You are responsible for your staff, and their families. Cambridge is an institution with responsibility and history and, for me, EVS Translations is a desire to create an institution with history.

Lesson learned:

There is no magic formula but here’s some of the key ingredients…

Cambridge gives confidence and confidence breeds more confidence. That confidence wins customers.

If you can add to that confidence a set of skills that the market needs, then you have a start.

However, never neglect the key ingredient – hard work. Knowledge, skills, contacts, confidence, even Cambridge, they are not worth anything unless they are applied with intelligence, diligence and passion.