Apr 12, 2018
Beyond words: Meet Jennifer Popkey, Sign Language Interpreter
They work to meet the diverse and ever-changing needs of customers and employees. They adapt and innovate, expand their expertise to enrich the lives of those around them. They are passionate and driven.
In this four-part series, we introduce you to some of the unique roles and employees behind the scenes at TD helping to deliver for customers and communities.
Jennifer Popkey's love of languages and desire to ensure everyone is included and heard drove her to become a sign language interpreter.
"Everyone needs to feel welcome and comfortable so that they can really express themselves and shine," she says.
Popkey's role is unique – she is an American Sign Language (ASL) staff interpreter in a corporate world. For over 12 years, Popkey has been providing support to TD's Deaf employees and their teams by ensuring they have accessible ways to get and share the information they need to be successful in the workplace.
"Making the communication process as simple as possible means people can do their jobs and do them well," she says.
Her role primarily consists of interpreting at meetings and special events, as well as one-on-one coaching, training and support during job shadow sessions or external job interviews.
When it comes to interpreting conversations, Popkey says there is often a misconception that she is there to provide support to just one individual – the person who is Deaf or hard-of-hearing.
"In reality, I'm there to support two colleagues who use different languages, and spoken English is not accessible for people who are Deaf," she says. “I work to make the conversation easier for both parties."
While Popkey's role requires her to travel often, advances in webcam technology enable her to facilitate more conversations more easily.
"Now, I can do remote two-way interpretation within the bank so that both colleagues can ask questions and share their ideas sooner, without waiting for me to travel to each office."
Like any language, sign language users have different signing styles. There are four different variations of the word 'mortgage' alone. Interpreters also have to factor in variations in signing speeds, users’ familiarity with the content and room dynamics for clear sight lines. It is these aspects that interpreters, like Popkey, must consider when communicating person-to-person.
"These can make an already stressful situation like a job interview potentially even more nerve-wracking for a Deaf person," she says.
To overcome this, Popkey will often meet with a candidate before an interview to learn their signing style and ensure they are comfortable with her work.
"If people feel they can fully contribute and participate, I've done my job."