Newbies and Buddies Survey: The Results Are In

checklist-154274_1280By Helen EbyJamie Hartz

Last year’s American Translators Association annual conference in San Antonio was the first to host two new sessions called “Buddies Welcome Newbies”. The Buddies and Newbies sessions were the brainchild of a few volunteers and some very eager supporters, and the events made such a successful debut last year that they will be taking place again at this year’s conference.

In this program, newcomers (both to the translation/interpreting professions and to the conference) are paired up with experienced translators, or “buddies”, at an opening session on the first day of the conference. The suggested commitment is simple: meet your partner at the opening session, have a meal with your partner (continental breakfast works), go to one session together (there are about 150 sessions to choose from), and come to the “where do we go from here?” presentation on the last day. We accommodate special requests when possible.

Newbies are able to ask questions and ease their minds early on, while buddies have the opportunity to meet someone new and contribute to the future of the profession. At the “where do we go from here?” session, we have a set of guest speakers from different divisions and chapters, talk about how to follow up on contacts, and give people the opportunity to ask any other pending questions. At this session, one of the “buddies” said, “Hey, this helps us oldsters too!”

As a matter of fact, some Newbies said that having this session helped them decide to come to San Antonio! The concept of meeting 1,500 people at once had been feeling overwhelming. In practice, we saw newbies and buddies going out for lunch together, people who wanted a buddy but couldn’t get to the opening session stopped us in the hallways, newbies wanting a buddy stopped us asking for green ribbons and a buddy, and some experienced attendees told us they really wished this had been available for them.

However, we wanted to make sure what the results really were. In March, the leaders of the Newbies and Buddies sessions at the ATA Conference conducted an online survey to poll registered attendees about the events. The goal was to hear from newbies and buddies themselves what their experiences had been and what, in their opinions, the positives and negatives were. In the interest of preparing for the upcoming 55th annual ATA conference in Chicago, and specifically the Newbies and Buddies sessions that will take place once again this year, the highlights of the survey results are compiled below.


59 of the participants responded.  33 were experienced, or “buddies”, and 25 were “newbies”. Of these responses, there were only 10 respondents who had worked in the translation and/or interpreting industry for fewer than 4 years (most, in fact, had 10+ years of experience). 78% of respondents were translators, 10% were interpreters, and 2 of them were students. We had noticed that our “newbies” were new to the Conference, but not to the field, and this confirmed it.


Newbies: 88% of newbies in the survey felt that having a buddy helped them at least somewhat. Responses from newbies to the question “How did having a buddy at the conference help you?” included comments on how their buddy introduced them to new people, made them feel welcome, answered their many questions, gave them someone to eat a meal with or call if they had questions, and gave them insights into the industry. Unfortunately, 41% of newbies reported that they did not stay in touch with their buddy at all after the Conference. 61% reported staying in touch for one week to 2 months, and 18% are still in touch with their buddy. Hopefully these numbers will improve next year!

Buddies: 84% of buddies felt that having a newbie enriched their experience at the conference. Buddies expressed that having a newbie helped them to see the conference from a different perspective, gave them a chance to meet someone new, reminded them of their own first conference or getting started in the industry, and generally gave them a good feeling about helping someone else. 40% of buddies reported still being in touch with their newbie.

In general, both newbies and buddies appreciated having someone to talk to. It helped to break the ice early on, and many felt that the benefit in this event was not just for the newbies, but that buddies could find value in having a newbie as well.

Points for improvement

The chaotic nature of the first Buddies Welcome Newbies session was one of the main criticisms of last year’s event. Having never done this sort of thing at the conference, handling the unexpected massive response was a challenge! There was no standing room in the room. People were sitting on the floor!  Next year, plans will be in place to make the opening session less stressful and a more satisfactory experience all-around—including the spatial requirements, number of ribbons available, and manner in which buddies and newbies are paired up.

This year’s Newbies and Buddies event is bound to be a success, as we know that newbies will continue to arrive looking for someone to turn to, and buddies, we trust, will be more than willing to lend a helping hand.

Both Newbies and Buddies are necessary for this event to continue to be a success! To register for this year’s Buddies Welcome Newbies event (registration is optional but recommended), click here. Last year we had about 1.5 newbies per buddy registered for the event, and we suspect that at the event it became even more lopsided… We look forward to helping again this year!

About heleneby

Helen Eby grew up in Argentina, the land of the gauchos. She is certified as an English Spanish translator by ATA and as a Spanish interpreter by the Oregon Judicial Department and by the Oregon Health Authority. She co-founded The Savvy Newcomer and the ¡Al rescate del español! blogs, both of which are team efforts to provide resources for other language professionals. She is also a founding board member of the Spanish Editors Association.

2 thoughts on “Newbies and Buddies Survey: The Results Are In

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