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Nahee Lee-Workman

July 18, 2016
Photograph of Nahee Lee-Workman
Nahee Lee-Workman

Graduation Year: May 2014

Why did you study Spanish & Portuguese studies?

My interest in foreign languages and cultures began during childhood. In high school I studied Spanish as a second language and realized that I really liked the idea of working abroad and speaking a foreign language. At the University I also studied Portuguese. I decided to study these languages for two reasons: first because I have a passion for Latin cultures, and secondly, there is a job market for speakers of Spanish and Portuguese in the United States. 

What is your current position and how did you get it?

I currently work as a channel analyst for the Korea, Japan and Indian region in Global Channel Services at 3M. I started as a contractor thanks to my previous manager who is from Venezuela. I used to work as a server at a hotel he happened to be staying in for business. We started chatting, and he found out that I speak Portuguese and Spanish. He was very impressed with my language skills and offered me a contract job. Two months later, I had the opportunity to interview for a permanent position at 3M. During the interview I spoke in three different languages: English, Portuguese and Spanish. I was hired as a customer account analyst. I was in charge of customers in Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia and could confidently speak, write and read in Portuguese and Spanish to communicate with them. After a year of working in this position, I had an opportunity to apply for my current position for APAC region. Even though I was the least experienced amongst the candidates, I was promoted to this position due to my performance as an analyst and the potential that I demonstrated at 3M.

What are your recommendations for best entry level positions for this career?

Careers in customer service would be ideal because so many people in the United States speak Spanish or Portuguese. Because 3M is a competitive workplace, I highly recommend starting as a contractor. I think there is a higher likelihood of being hired as a permanent 3M employee after completing work as a contractor. As an undergrad you could double major in business, management, or marketing and a language if you intend to pursue a different career that is not customer service related.

Have you used your language facility now or at any point in your career? How does it relate to your major(s) and/or professional life?

When I was a customer account analyst 60-70% of my daily work was in Spanish. A majority of my clients were from Latin America. I also worked with 3M Brazil regularly so I communicated with people there in Portuguese. U of M’s Spanish and Portuguese program prepared me to converse comfortably with native Spanish and Portuguese speakers on a regular basis. These conversations  created a friendly working relationship which I had learned at the U was very important to Latin American cultures.

What skills did you learn in your major courses that have transferred to your professional career?

The Spanish and Portuguese program at U of M taught me how to understand linguistic and cultural differences among Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries. At my work, I get to talk to people from various countries, and each country has a different accent and work style. Even though I am not used to every single accent or work style, I was prepared to accept and adapt to this kind of differences with an open mind through my work.

Did you study abroad?  If so, where did you study abroad and what were some of your highlights (academic)?

Yes. I studied Portuguese in Brazil. I earned a scholarship from the Korean government and was also awarded a FLAS Fellowship from the US Department of Education. I was recognized by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies and Professor Ana Paula Ferreira for my outstanding work as a Spanish and Portuguese Studies Major during the 2013–2014 academic year. I graduated with high distinction as well.

What advice do you have for current Spanish or Spanish/Portuguese Studies majors?

Knowing different languages and cultures is highly valued in many global companies. In the case of 3M, the company really values people who are from different cultures and speak foreign languages. However, unless one wants to be a language teacher or professor, majoring in a different field will drastically increase a chance to be hired in the corporate world. Even though I didn’t get to have a chance to do it, understanding and having knowledge of international business and economy is also a beneficial asset in this field.

How does networking (alumni, students, professional groups, etc.) figure into your professional career?

I think it is important to connect with different kinds of people because you never know who you will meet. In my example, I was waitressing at a hotel and this provided me the opportunity to interact with many 3M employees and make connections within the company. It doesn’t matter where you work, connections can be made anywhere.