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Success Story: Scandinavian languages paved the way to an international career

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August 15, 2017

Lelde Zemite has already called Spain her temporary home for two years; coming to the country while following her career path in the company Runway Latvia. But she is sure that she will definitely return to her native land in the future, enriched with abundant experience. In the past she has worked in Norway for two years, also learning the language. Lelde is convinced that a knowledge of foreign languages – not only English – is one of the cornerstones of building a career in any field.

Higher and higher

Lelde first came to Runway Latvia (a provider of outsourcing of business processes) 12 years ago when she heard about the company from a friend who already worked there. “At that time, the company was looking for people who speak Scandinavian languages. As I had recently returned from Norway, having learned Norwegian, I wanted to maintain and strengthen my language skills. Thus, this work opportunity seemed very exciting for me,” says Lelde.

Before that she already had some work experience in other fields: for example, she had worked as a shop assistant, in Norway – as a babysitter, and worked at the company Rīgas jūras līnijas where she improved her Swedish language skills.

At Runway she started as a call centre agent, answering clients’ questions. However, as Lelde is a fast learner, other call centre agents often asked her for advice. This resulted in a promotion and her becoming a team leader. After a while she was entrusted with being in charge of all the team leaders in the Baltic states. As the company developed, it opened a new office in Kiev, and Lelde was also leading the team in Ukraine, in addition to the Baltic teams.

Enjoying a multicultural environment

Two years ago she was given a new challenge – an offer to relocate to the company’s branch in Spain. The time for deciding was about two weeks, after which Lelde accepted the offer. “Yes, it would mean new work colleagues, a new environment, but I knew that at the same time it would be a unique experience, and I really enjoy working in a multicultural environment. Besides, there are many Scandinavian language speakers in Spain.“ At the moment she is in charge of a team of agents who are introducing new employees to the working environment.

The team is a mixture of many nationalities – Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, Spaniards, and French nationals. “On one hand, I like the variety, but on the other hand – it is not easy to find the right approach for everybody, because one approach does not fit everyone. Different characters, different mentalities.”

She notes that, unlike in Latvia, in the new team in Spain a lot more explanatory work has to be done before implementing any change, or making any decision. Why something is done or changed, what is the expected result. The question ‘’why?’’ is asked much more frequently by employees. “The explanatory work is important, because in this way the employees feel more involved,“ says Lelde.

English – a basis for everything

When asked about the main reasons why she has stayed in the same company for 12 years, Lelde says: “I admit, when I first started at Runway I just saw it as an opportunity to do something else – I just wanted a change. But after getting to know the company and the colleagues, I understood that I wanted to stay here longer. We spend eight hours at work every day, and thus the working environment, colleagues, and the general atmosphere at work are really important to me. These aspects are just as important as the pay.”

She has noticed that young people find working in an international company exciting, because they can improve their language skills. “Knowledge of English is nothing very special anymore, but knowledge of any foreign language is a big advantage. I see that Scandinavian languages are in demand on the job market.” explains Lelde.

Missing four seasons

At this time it is hard to say when she will return to Latvia, but the final goodbye to her own country has definitely not been said. “It is nice that there is a possibility to work in other Runway offices, thus around Christmas time I spent around one month in Latvia, both working and relaxing.” She admits that she misses the Latvian four seasons; in Spain there are only two – spring and summer. “In Spain I am still getting used to the chirping birds everywhere around Christmas time, it feels like spring,” says Lelde.

In her time off work she enjoys traveling, but at the moment she has taken a break from it – it is very hot now, it feels like breathing hot air from the hairdryer.

Lelde’s career path at Runway:

  • 2005-2006 - Call centre agent
  • 2006-2007 - Team leader in Riga
  • 2007-2013 - Team leader in the Baltic states
  • 2013-2015 - Team leader in the Baltic states and Ukraine
  • 2015-2016 - Team leader in Spain
  • 2016- present - Coordinator of product specialists

Interviewed by: Līga Nestere, Independent Morning Newspaper of Latvia, 15.08.2017

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