"I Started in an Office Above a Shoe Market", an Interview With e-Arabization Founder, Dareen Mukhaimer

28 February 2022

Arabizing your business is the future, and at e-Arabization, our vision is to connect Arabic speaking nations with the rest of the world. 

Founded in 2007, e-Arabization is a language solution provider that’s loud and proud about its methods and motivations. A distant cry from traditional translation houses and their shady practices, there’s none of that hush-hush attitude here. No secret network of underpaid translators, no secretly secured wordsmithing, no secrets at all. 

We sat down for a chat with our founder and CEO, Dareen Mukhaimer, and she gave us a no holds barred interview about her 6-figure success story. 


What’s your background/education?

I hold an undergraduate degree in English and Arabic translation and English Language from the Applied Science University in Jordan. In 2001, I went to the University of Leeds and got an MSc in English and Arabic Translation.


What made you start a language service company? 

My dad had a vision for me and thought I’d make a great translator. It wasn’t necessarily my dream, but I went to university in 1996 and excelled at my course, finishing my degree in three years instead of four. 

Out of my family, I was the only sibling that studied in Jordan; my brothers and sisters all got to go to the UK, so to make up for it, my dad very kindly sent me to the UK for my post-grad degree. I think that was the turning point for me, and that’s when I started really enjoying translation and realising there’s this ocean of opportunity and room for creativity.

I started professionally translating and decided I was going to make the best out of it. 

I went back to Amman and got a job with a Qatari company. They had a department for translation software programs, the second biggest globally (SAP). I had no idea what software translation was, I was a junior translator, and they packed me off to Germany to train and learn more. I topped my class and came back to Amman, feeling confident and excited about my skill. And, at the ripe old age of 22, I was promoted to project coordinator.

During this period, I met my mentor, a manager in his 70s who was still up to date with all the business technology. I admired that quality in him, and in the year 2000, he introduced me to CAT tools and machine translation. 

The fire had been lit under my passion, and I wanted to learn more and began reading more.

I was travelling through my job and going to conferences and gatherings around the world; I was finding out lots about the tech used by other global translation agencies. 

I wanted to bring that back to Jordan, so when I was promoted to translation manager and endeavoured to bring what I’d learnt into our work. 

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, but destiny being what it is, perhaps that was the push I needed to take the boldest step in my career so far. 

I quit my job and decided to pursue my own business, incorporating tech and translation.


How did you start? 

From nothing. I resigned and spent days and nights emailing companies and trying to get them to try my service.

Some people might say I got lucky, but I worked hard to close customers. My first project was with an oil and gas company; they had a scientific project and wanted to create websites for kids, and it was a grand success, that was my first client, and that’s how I started.

I started in a one-room office above a shoe market, and that’s it, that’s everything I had. 

I had a basic internet connection and not much else! Of course, at the time, I gave my client the impression that I was a team, but it was only me. I was the CEO, the translator, the reviewer, and the office boy.

After that first project finished, I used the money to do business development and travel around looking for more clients. 


Where did the name e-Arabization come from? 

The proper word for localization into Arabic is Arabization, but it’s not a term that’s commonly used. I wanted a strong word that reflects the work that we do and gets people interested in our work. The ‘e’ stands for electronic because we’re all about the provision of online services. 


How many people work at e-Arabization? 

I started as one person, and now we’re up to 41 full-time employees!


What motivates you to work? 

Firstly, I want to be the best in my domain. I want e-Arabization to be the best localisation company in the region. Secondly, Between full and part-time staff, there are 46 young people working with us and looking up to us with high hopes and an image, and we’ve sold them that we’re the best. 

I want to be an excellent example to them. 

We want to be the best in the Middle East. 


Why do your customers select you over your competition? 

Quality is the only thing that sells us.

There’s a lot of fish in the sea and a lot of agencies in Dubai and Egypt.

Our difference? We can give you good quality at a reasonable price using technology to up the ante and get you what you need in good time. We don’t outsource our work, we’re a tight-knit team, and they’re my second family. 


What was getting your first customer like? 

Oof, the best feeling!

Maybe because I was young and didn’t have a care in the world, I believed I would get good clients, and I would succeed, so I did! I didn’t want to work locally; I didn’t want to work small, I set the bar high, and when Schlumberger (my first client) accepted to work with me, it felt so good to know all my effort wasn’t going to waste. 


What advice do you give people looking to start their own business? 

Persistence. You have to be persistent. Never give up. Work hard. It’s natural to face difficulties. Working hard for something makes you cherish it more, so don’t give up. Set a goal for yourself and be focused on achieving it. 


How does your ethical framework influence how you run your business? 

From day one, how I select my employees and run my business is the way I feel is the proper way.

Even when we expand and grow more prominent, I never want e-Arabization to be that faceless corporate that hires people to work like machines. Attitude comes before skills, you can always develop skills, but attitude comes first. 

Each and every client we have, we’ve earned with hard work. 

“Even though I live in a third-world, Middle Eastern country, we never depend on nepotism, and I argue with people who think you need nepotism to succeed.” 


What are your relationships with your customers like? 

All our customers are our friends, and I’m proud to say that whoever works with us doesn’t leave us. We’ve had clients working with us since 2007. Work is work, but I always try to build strong relationships to keep our connection strong outside of work. 


As a business owner, what are you really good at, but never want to do anymore? 

I’m very good at translation, but I’ve been translating since forever (1996). It’s a skill and art, but I don’t want to do translation anymore. I want to manage the process and technology. 

I also hate invoices and talking finance!


What is one important skill that you think everyone should have? 

Patience and persistence in what they want. 


What is the future of the language industry? 

The language industry is just like any other sector, and we’re heading towards automation. 

AI is part of our lives, whether we like it or not, and we have to embrace that change. 

While technology will be more involved in translation, human involvement won’t be set aside, but it will be minimized. We have to embrace the change and accept that technology, automation and machine translation are going to develop more and more. We’re noticing this transition year on year. 

I don’t think it will eliminate the role of a human translator though.


What are the biggest challenges of running your business? 

Competition from other companies that undercut us by selling at a lower cost. The issue here isn’t the price as much as it’s about quality. This type of business doesn’t care about quality, and they rely on the naivety of non-Arabic speakers to sell their work because sometimes customers who don’t speak Arabic don’t understand why there’s a difference in cost. 

AI being a part of our day to day is another challenge; we have to embrace it and adapt to it and see how we can make use of it. 


What’s your management style/business culture? 

At a basic level, I advocate and support group decisions within the business. As a manager, I like to encourage responsibility and mutual trust, and sometimes I’ll delegate big assignments to less senior staff to encourage their professional development. 

Maybe in 20 years, I’ll step back and only head up e-Arabization for big decisions, but for now, I like to see my employees managing the business as if it’s their own company. 

To encourage the mindset that people have a real stake in the business, we’ve adopted a shareholder environment, and some of our project managers get a cut of the profits of the department that they run. 

I want employees to be invested and involved and care about e-Arabization more than I care about it. This is why we have brainstorming sessions once a week. We’re a very new company in terms of the age range that work with me, and I love to hear their opinions. 


Can you share an example of when you made a major error in your business journey? What did you learn from your failure?

At the start of e-Arabization, I made errors in judgement because I was confident in what I provided. My confidence tripped me up, though! I used to think that having a call was enough to explain what we provide and how we work, but pretty early on I realised that everything needs to be written. 

I’ve worked with so many people over the years and sometimes people let you down, but with every learning, comes a moment of revelation and an opportunity to grow. Hiring a translator that didn’t deliver to the e-Arabization standard made me develop independent quality assurance and copywriting departments. 

Love our founder? You can follow Dareen on LinkedIn by clicking here, or explore e-arabization.com to see how Dareen’s tiny business dream turned into the business globalizing machine that we run today!