Interview with cSeeker co-founder and DBA member, Guy Orlov
Published: Feb 14th, 2017
Russia-born Guy Orlov is a degree-educated, deaf entrepreneur who is best known for co-founding the hugely successful cSeeker with his brother Alex in 2013. In 2016 he joined the directors board of the Deaf Business Academy.
In this exclusive interview, we chat to Guy about his successes and what he’s learned on his journey so far, and how he hopes to make a greater difference to d/Deaf professionals wanting to set up their own businesses and enjoy successful careers.
Hi Guy, congratulations on your appointment to the directors board of the Deaf Business Academy. Please can you tell us what the DBA is, and what your new position on the board means.
The DBA is a collaborative group of entrepreneurs who use their knowledge and skills to benefit the Deaf business community. This includes access high quality training in BSL and subtitles as well as knowledge sharing through our monthly blog.
DBA is growing all the time, and our aim is to involve the Deaf community fully in its development. Its real value lies in the fact that all Deaf professionals can access and use it to improve their skills and knowledge as well as network (online) with other professionals. As I am now a member of this board, I can bring my experience as a business professional, and use my background as a Deaf individual who has sometimes struggled to get the right training in the past.
What will your role at the DBA involve? How did you come to be a part of the DBA and what do you hope to achieve?
Dionne Thomas, the Director, approached me to join the team because of my business experience. We met up to establish the role of DBA and to think about what it could do. So far, my role has involved being part of the team and sharing the message about DBA to the Deaf community, as well as generating new ideas to help us grow. For example, I was instrumental in developing the new DBA Business Directory which is now one of our main features to support Deaf people in business.
In the future, I would like to see the DBA grow and become well-known across the UK, with an outstanding reputation as an organisation that helps develop business skills within the Deaf community.
How has your background and life experiences helped you to get where you are now?
I was born in Russia, but aged about six, I moved to Israel with my family, and that’s where I was brought up. I’ve lived in the UK since 2001. I love culture and have a real passion for history. I am also interested in politics and mathematics.
Over the years, I have achieved various things, including a degree in Computing Visualisation. But the one that really stands out for me is being a part owner and director of my company, cSeeker, along with my brother Alex Orlov. This fills me with great pride.
Being born in Russia and growing up in Israel before moving to the UK has given me many varied experiences and challenges, which I believe have helped me to be more accepting of others, and their cultures and backgrounds.
Do you think being Deaf has helped shaped your ambitions and your work?
I was born Deaf and my Deafness is hereditary. I was raised in an oral environment but now use British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate. Although my deafness has presented challenges in terms of communication, I have been able to overcome these barriers through my love for learning.
I am now fluent in a range of sign languages as well as BSL, which I learned on a college course when I moved to the UK in 2001. Because I grew up in Israel and went to school there, I was educated in Israeli Sign Language, so I have knowledge of this too. When it comes to written languages, I am fluent in English and Hebrew.
Over the years I’ve been involved in the Deaf community, and for a period of time I worked for the National Deaf Children’s Society. However running cSeeker now takes priority so I don’t do as much as I used to.
So how did cSeeker come about and what support does it offer d/Deaf people?
cSeeker came about because both my brother Alex and I decided that we wanted to make a difference to the education of young Deaf people. We also wanted to be our own bosses and take our company in the direction that we felt most appropriate.
cSeeker aims to raise the bar in supporting Deaf people, and to provide them with high quality Communication Professionals (CPs), so that they get the best access to their education. I co-founded cSeeker with my brother Alex, and this was because we both had the same views and vision for the future of Deaf people here in the UK.
What are your views and visions for the future of d/Deaf learners and graduates when it comes to their careers? What improvements would you like to see?
I feel that D/deaf people need business tools so that they can aspire to become more independent in both work and education. D/deaf people need the right package for them, and need to focus on getting it. I would like to see all Deaf businesses and organisations pull together to focus on D/deaf people and their well-being and not just be focused on profit. For me, it is about bringing all these businesses together, and that is part of what we are doing and will continue to do at the DBA and cSeeker.
Do you believe technology can be useful for helping to change the future of Deaf people, particularly when it comes to careers and education?
I genuinely believe technology has a massive role in helping d/Deaf people. For example, we only have to compare the mobile phone from 15 years ago to today’s devices to see a huge difference and improvement for d/Deaf people. Now, thanks to modern technology, we are able to communicate via video calls and sign to each other which we were not able to do before. So, already, that’s made a difference to the community.
In terms of education, I feel that technology has its place and will really enhance the lives of d/Deaf people. Imagine college and courses where the information is presented in BSL, or made accessible in BSL via apps or online – the future is looking positive if it is taken in the right direction.
It’s so important for d/Deaf people to have the right tools, which should also be made available to d/Deaf children. This encourages them to rely on themselves rather than on other people. I feel we are helping in this by providing the right Communication Support as they go through their educational journey.
What advice do you have for d/Deaf learners and job seekers when it comes to setting up their own businesses?
When setting up a business, it is important to analyse what makes you different to everyone else – what are you offering that they are not? You should use this as your inspiration and sell this to people. Make sure that you have your action plan and set-up costings. Get a business mentor and join a start-up programme since this will really help you along the way. Initially, start small and build your business gradually, even if that means starting from home or a cafe. Develop your business, get out and network to make contacts.
I would also advise you to be looking actively for a job while also trying to set up a business. We live in a world now where jobs are global and opportunities are vast. So you should think about what individual jobs you would like to be doing and help this drive you forwards.
It’s also important to remember that mistakes will be made, but these can be learned from and will help you to grow and develop. You may face problems, but to succeed it’s important to follow the two great fundamental principles of Attitude and Work Ethics.
Top tip: Deaf Business Academy provides training videos to help people with some of the basic’s of setting up a business. These are available free from our website under “BSL For Business”.
What do you wish you’d known 10 years ago that you know now? What would you tell your younger self?
I wished I had enjoyed myself a little bit more and listened to myself more while I was at university. However, I am very proud of what I have achieved in my life so far. I’ve lived in three different countries and gained lots of experience and knowledge. I have co-founded a company and I am involved in different projects, such as DBA, which I am very proud to be a part of.
cSeeker is the the first choice for communication support for Deaf and Hard of Hearing learners, wherever and whatever you are studying. Find out more.
Previous article/interview: Debunked: Top 8 myths about deafness you need to know
Next article/interview: 10 Top Tips to Help You Succeed as a Deaf Entrepreneur