Foreign languages have been part of Gaby Vasallo’s everyday life since she was young – the Guatemala native started attending bilingual classes in preschool to learn English.
The entrepreneur, who also studied French in college, became more interested in translation about a decade ago when she decided to make a career shift from working for large public relations and advertising firms to launching her own communications business. It was then that she created her own multilingual translation and communications firm, Lexico. Shortly after, she enrolled in UC San Diego’s Translation & Interpretation Certificate program to sharpen her Spanish language skills.
“It gave me the additional confidence that I needed and many more tools to run my business. It also provided some excellent contacts, which have served me well in order to collaborate in translation projects,” said Vasallo, who graduated from the program in 2008.
“I knew I had the skills to be a translator, but had no idea where to begin or how to become a translator,” she added. “Going through the UC San Diego Extension program saved me a lot of trial and error that I would have gone through on my own. Most importantly, it gave me a lot of tools, knowledge, and the confidence to say, ‘Yes, I can do this!’ The professors are very dedicated, and I enjoyed all of my classes very much, even Spanish grammar.”
She said the program also gave her the confidence boost she needed to manage a wide-range of clients, which now include an impressive list of large companies and brands, such as Petco, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Kitchen Aid, Smart & Final, Best Western, and the San Diego Water Authority to name a few. Lexico currently has clients in various fields, from marketing/advertising to financial services, nonprofits, medical/healthcare, telecommunications, legal, and consumer goods. Besides translation, Vasallo has expanded her company offerings to other communications services such as copywriting, design, and website localization.
“There are a lot of freelancers who are happy just focusing on their languages and they do very well. In my case, I wanted to build a network and offer many languages, not just what I could translate myself. Now I have an excellent team and for our clients it’s important that they don’t have to go looking somewhere else for another language. They know Lexico is a one-stop shop, and that we are still small enough to provide excellent quality and personal service.
“When you start a business you invest a lot of time in it,” she added. “You are a translator, administrator, secretary, accountant, website designer, sales team, and human resources all in one. Eventually, I did reach what I think is an ideal balance for me.”
That balance now includes running her business from various parts of the globe.
“The entire company can be run from a laptop with an Internet connection,” Vasallo said. “Therefore, my husband and I have traveled to over 50 countries and I have been able to continue working wherever we may be at the time. We would have missed out on a lot of experiences if I had not been able to ‘pick up and go.’ We spent some extended periods in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ecuador, Argentina, and Spain just because we were enjoying the culture and lifestyles of those countries.”
Vasallo is currently based in Barcelona, Spain, where she plans to live for the next three years, while spending the summers in either San Diego or Miami, where Lexico is headquartered.
“I love the great flexibility of being independent while collaborating virtually with many talented people around the world,” she said. “I’d like to thank my UCSD professors for teaching me very valuable information and techniques to jumpstart a successful translation career. I am very grateful to be where I’m at.”