Executive Q&A: Georgia Roeming’s Geo Group translates for some of Wisconsin’s biggest companies

Probably the most high-stakes, with a hint of cloak-and-dagger, interpreting assignment that Georgia Roeming’s Madison-based translation services company ever received took place a year ago in March, when Roeming took a call one Friday from an executive at BP Amoco.

BP, one of the world’s biggest international oil and gas companies, wanted to bring Roeming and some of her simultaneous interpretation equipment to its U.S. headquarters in Houston, for a series of meetings with Russian business people who spoke no English.

“They said, ‘Could we make arrangements for you to fly out on Sunday, because we have a Monday and Tuesday meeting with the Russians,” Roeming recalled. “It’s highly confidential, and we can’t tell you anything more.”

So Roeming, 58, grabbed some headsets and got on a plane, not entirely sure what awaited her. In Houston, she scouted the locations where group members were going to be walking and talking, and then helped handle the audio equipment needed for the back-and-forth, UN-style interpreting services needed for the joint meetings.

Eventually Roeming — who founded The Geo Group in 1991 and runs it with her husband, Scott, but speaks no foreign languages herself — learned what the unusually rushed translating job in Houston was all about.

“By the time we were done, BP Amoco had signed a couple-billion-dollar deal to supply equipment to help the Russians get the oil out of their country,” she said.

While the BP project might represent the recent height of the Geo Group’s work with business clients, its every-day assignments are no less satisfying to do or important. That work includes translating documents such as instruction manuals and shipping labels, providing foreign-language subtitles and voice-overs for marketing or training videos, and using custom software to translate entire websites for typically local or regional companies with foreign branches or export markets.

“I’m very happy the majority of our work comes from Wisconsin-based companies, and a little bit of Illinois and Minnesota,” Roeming said. “To work with people that you can sit down with and create processes that work for them — it’s so satisfying to have those relationships.”

Using a contractor network of some 600 native-speaker translators and interpreters encompassing more than 60 countries and 100 languages, the Geo Group offers translation services for industry sectors including medical, technical, video, education, marketing and legal. It employs 30 people full-time in Madison.

Read more about her Q/A at Wisconsin State Journal

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