Sosi Setian founded SOSi in 1989, initially establishing it as a premier provider of foreign language and cultural advisory services to the federal law enforcement community. Prior to founding SOSi, she was a language and literature professor at various universities in the U.S. and overseas. For four years, she taught at the Department of Middle East Studies at Columbia University, and served for eleven years as the Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Columbia College.
Ms. Setian also worked at the Institute of International Education in New York. She opened the first office in the Caucasus region of the former Soviet Republics for the International Research Exchange Board (IREX), a US-based nonprofit organization committed to international education in academic research, professional training and technical assistance. Ms. Setian was responsible for the selection of postgraduate students from Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan for study in the U.S in the fields of business administration, economics and public administration.
Ms. Setian earned bachelor’s degrees in French and Russian from the University of California, Los Angeles, a master’s degree in linguistics from the American University in Cairo, and a Master of Philosophy degree in the social sciences from Columbia University.
Read Sosi's profile in FORTUNE Magazine: How One Immigrant Made it Big in America.
Founded on technical expertise and a strong work ethic, SOSi's modest beginnings produced abundant success
In 1959, Sosi Setian arrived in America with little money and a modest knowledge of the English language. Her Armenian father was determined to give his two daughters a quality education and provide them with opportunities he never had. Determined to make her parents proud, Sosi committed to achieving high goals in education.
“I knew that no matter what, I would go to college and live my life in a manner justifying my parents’ sacrifice of seeking opportunities in the United States.”
A dream realized
Sosi did succeed, putting herself through college, while supporting her young family. Fulfilling her parents’ dream, she earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and master’s degrees from both the American University in Cairo and Columbia University.
While pursuing her PhD in cultural anthropology at Columbia University, Sosi worked as an interpreter in New York City’s federal and state courts. Her gift and passion for languages soon made her indispensable, and she frequently was summoned to perform translation services with little notice. Her willingness to respond to these last-minute requests earned her the nickname “S.O.S.” Her impressive skills soon led to opportunities to work for several government agencies, including the DEA, FBI, U.S. Customs Services and Office of the U.S. Attorney.
After just two years of working with some of the world’s top minds in national security, Sosi started her own company, providing around-the-clock translation and interpretation services to the federal, state and local law enforcement communities.
“If I dedicated all my energy to this one goal and made outstanding service
the focus of my efforts, I had a good chance of succeeding.
And I had to succeed. My family depended on me.”
The new company needed a name. Sosi, already known as “S.O.S.” to those who depended on her expertise, began printing business cards with the name “SOS Interpreting” and in 1989, SOSi, the company, was born.
Persistence fuels SOSi’s growth
Sosi started going door-to-door, approaching the U.S. law enforcement agencies and courtrooms one by one to offer her services. Her expertise became so sought-after that her staff increased from 6 to 52 employees in just a few months.
“I understood the commitment it takes to build a business. From the outset, I worked 24/ 7. I knew that, in order to provide the best services for clients, I needed to take care of my employees and put them first.”
With rapid growth continuing, Sosi committed to guaranteeing stability and reliability to both her clients and employees. She invested in her staff with a family mentality. Several of her very first employees remain with the company to this day – a true testament to her personal commitment to the people who make up her organization.
“SOSi went through many trying periods, but I never doubted that the dedication and loyalty of the employee family would carry us through. Every member of the team knew they were valued and their contribution was important.”
Sosi’s family-focused mindset, personal commitment and extraordinary passion have empowered SOSi and, we believe, is what has powered our evolution and growth as a globally-recognized company. The values, ethics and commitment to success that Sosi cultivated over the years have become the hallmarks of the company’s personality today. Sosi’s story embodies the true essence of Challenge Accepted.