Dr. Jill Kushner Bishop is the Founder and CEO of Multilingual Connections. Throughout its evolution, the company has consistently concentrated on assisting clients in bridging language and cultural gaps. Jill is deeply committed to fostering an excellent workplace for her employees and takes pride in the global influence of their work.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. There wasn’t a lot of diversity there at the time, and as a Jewish girl with dark curly hair, I didn’t feel like I fit in. At age 16 I took my first international trip, and I haven’t stopped traveling since. I went on to study linguistic anthropology and started a company that celebrates the diversity of language and culture through translation and research services in 75 languages.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Back to my childhood – I wish I had realized that it was OK not to fit in. Whether it’s about looking like the rest or sharing the same interests as the rest, it truly is best to follow the beat of your own drummer.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I feel very fortunate to not be able to answer this question!
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
The most important thing I’ve learned from the darker, challenging times is that you’re not alone. People don’t walk around with their struggles printed across the front of their t-shirts, but so many people are going through similar struggles. Being open about yours opens the door to real and authentic conversations – and then to connections and support.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Being open to pivoting. The company I run now is a very different company from the one I started 18 years ago. I saw early on the need to be flexible and adaptable, both for the good of my business but also for myself. Saying goodbye to business ideas that don’t work or that take too much of you is important to do, even when it’s hard. I realized that I needed to do less and do it better, and while it was painful to make that choice and implement it, it made a tremendous impact on my business.
What is your morning routine?
I wish I could say that I wake up and meditate and set my intentions for the day and don’t look at my phone until later, but the reality is that I wake up around 6 am and immediately go for a massive cup of coffee with milk. I check my phone for any pressing or exciting emails from the night before, chat with my husband and son, and the three of us spend a few minutes together joking around before he leaves for school. I typically jump on the computer to clean out my inbox, think about my priorities for the day ahead, and then as often as possible I go for a walk or at the very least do some stretching. Most days I work from our office, but at least once a week I work from home so I can enjoy a slower, more casual pace.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Walking. I always enjoyed walking, but during the pandemic, I walked and walked and walked to keep myself physically and mentally healthy. I live in Chicago, so the weather isn’t always ideal for walking (to say the least!), but I do my best to bundle up and keep myself moving. With spring on the horizon, I’m excited to walk even more frequently. I also am intentional about leaving my earbuds at home periodically and not listening to a podcast or music or even catching up on phone calls – just walking and listening and engaging differently as I walk.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Honestly, it can be a struggle! As a business owner and mom, my attention is often in a hundred different places at a time, and I’m busy all the time. What’s been helpful for me is thinking about tasks in terms of urgency and importance. There are a variety of different matrices to help you think through what makes sense to do first, what to schedule for later, what to delegate, and what to say no to.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
I don’t have one book in particular that has influenced me the most, and as an entrepreneur and mom, reading has not always made it to the top of my list. I’m actually haunted by my bookshelves full of books I read for my doctorate, and I periodically think about going back and pulling some old ones off the shelf. That said, I’ve been working on creating space to read both novels and business books, and the most recent read that has influenced me is Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham. It reinforced the importance of staying true to our core values – in particular, that relationships are everything – of focusing on our mission of creating connections, on the impact we can have in the world, and on excellence over growth for growth’s sake.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Less about quotes than expressions. My grandparents spoke Yiddish, and I’ve always been fascinated by language: what people do with and through language, when people choose to pass them down to their children, and how different languages can create and enact different identities. Yiddish is full of colorful expressions, and they make me smile when I hear them. Understanding language and folklore-like expressions gives insights into people and their culture, and I find it fascinating.