Alumni Profile: Jacob Van Patten

CATEGORIES: February 2015

 What was your course of study at ISU and when did you graduate?

I received a Bachelor’s of Science in Horticulture and a Bachelor’s of Arts in French, as well as a Russian Studies minor in May of 2014. I basically lived in either Pearson or Horticulture halls throughout my college experience.

 Tell us what you do now in your current position:

I currently work for EnSoft Corp., a software engineering company in Ames, Iowa that has 250 customers worldwide in automotive, aerospace, and defense companies. As the Business Operations Coordinator, I take care of website management, video editing, business development and sales leads, event planning, office design, office administrative work, and coordination of our translators and translations (our company offers support in 9 languages), as well as the other dozens of other odd and end jobs.

 How have you incorporated what you learned at ISU into your current career path?

Using the skills and knowledge that I improved upon at ISU gives me great success daily. I’ve been able to practice my presentation skills in front of French clients as well as research their companies and employees in order to find the right people to speak with. In learning how to acquire and perfect my language learning, I am able to move on to other languages like Italian and Portuguese with the hopes of being fluent enough to give presentations to clients in those languages eventually in the future.  Teamwork and being able to work with clients and colleagues is also very important in my line of work and ISU constantly gave me the opportunity to work with others, both formally and informally.

 How has your major in French (and minor in Russian) benefited your work experience?

I use French almost daily. I’m either translating documents or emails for coworkers, writing emails in French to potential French clients in Québec or France, or creating content in French for our website. I also travel to France for work. Every few months my company flies me there to give presentations, in French, to potential clients about our various products and services. I serve as the French liaison and interpreter for my colleagues while traveling as well. Being able to travel for work and still be able to see sites and monuments on days we don’t have meetings has been one of the best parts of my life. There is a drive for me now to find more and more clients just so I can have an excuse to go back to France again and again!

As for Russian, aside from speaking with a colleague who knows Russian, I have not used it much. We don’t have a very large Russian client base and do not support the language for our products.  In our office, you can hear five languages spoken throughout the day, so it’s always fun to practice my German and Russian with colleagues, as well as hear Chinese and Spanish from time to time.

[metaslider id=935]

 In what ways do you keep up with your language learning?

In order to keep up with my language learning, I do several different things throughout the week. I’ve subscribed to several French magazines (those aligned with my interests) and read those periodically when they come in the mail. I listen to a lot of French pop music, news, and podcasts while working or driving and I read French novels when I’m bored or want to relax. These are sometimes classics like Camus’ “La peste” or more mainstream like “Harry Potter” or “Game of Thrones” translated into French. I also meet with one of my friends each week to have lunch and practice our French. Sometimes we play the French card game “Mille bornes” as well. The days I am not using French at work, I make a conscious effort to use French every day, no matter the method; even if it is just talking at my cats and roommates in French.

 If you could share one piece of advice with current WLC students, what would it be?

The best way I’ve found to improving fluency and vocabulary is to use and speak the language you’re learning daily. If it is just for five minutes, that’s still enough to keep your brain working. Also change up how you use the language! Don’t just rely on textbooks or in-class discussions. There are so many more cool things like music, art, movies, and magazines that you can be using that align with your interests. In the beginning, I know I just relied mainly on learning the language in class. The world is a small place and there are a ton of cool people to talk to, even on campus, if you’re willing to look.

 Also, you never know what kind of position will require your skills in knowing a foreign language. I never dreamt I’d be using French daily, especially while working in Ames, Iowa. Don’t be discouraged when looking for jobs. You might be using your foreign language(s) after all!

 Lastly, the World Language Department and the wonderful staff and faculty are a priceless asset that you as a student or as an alumnus should take advantage of. Dr. Deininger and Dr. Looft have been a great source of tremendous knowledge when I have questions about traveling, culture, language, posting language jobs for my company, and just general great conversation in passing. The rest of the department is just as friendly and as knowledgeable. 

I miss the third floor of Pearson often. I couldn’t be where I am today without the WLC! Merci infiniment !