The ATA Mentoring Program through the eyes of a mentor-mentee pair

With the deadline to apply for the ATA Mentoring Program for 2015 fast approaching this week—March 7, to be more precise—we thought this would be a great opportunity to showcase this hidden gem available to ATA members. But instead of providing a scholarly piece singing the wonders of this program, we found a mentor-mentee pair who was willing to share their experience.  Is this program right for you? Have you always been curious about it? Interested in taking your career to the next level? Looking for ways to give back to the profession? Read on!

Table+ChairsMeet our mentee, Lea Rennert, an ATA-certified English to German and German to English translator specialized in corporate communications and PR as well as creative translations, primarily in the entertainment and film sectors. Lea grew up bilingually in Vienna, Austria, and moved to the U.S. in 2011. She holds an economics degree from the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Lea is active in the ATA and serves as a grader for the Eng>Ger and Ger>Eng ATA certification exams. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

When I first signed up for the mentoring program, I was already involved in the ATA (and had passed the certification exam) but had only been translating full time for a short period of time. The pressure of very quickly having to make a living wore on me, and I wasn’t sure if I was adequately prepared to both support my family and find the clients I wanted. I felt that I needed to upgrade all of my business practices as well as become clearer about where I was going professionally.

Almost a year into the mentoring program, I have launched a website (although this is most certainly a work in progress!) and found a good number of great clients I enjoy working for. Most importantly, my experiences during this year have also helped me to clarify for myself what kinds of translations I enjoy the most and where I can be most helpful to my clients. I continue to work primarily with direct clients (something I enjoy a lot), but going forward, I have a much better idea about what kinds of clients I want to attract and what I can offer them, and I am working on improving my skills every day. Rutie (my mentor) also helped me realize that I was already “specialized.” I just had to look at the translations I had done from a different perspective to see what tied them all together. For example, when I told her that I had done numerous translations for artists and musicians who needed promotional material, she said, “OK, this isn’t just about artists—this is about promotion, right?” It was this insight that eventually led me to see that there was actually a market for what I wanted to do most—I just had to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

During this last year, Rutie was a great sounding board for all of my ideas and for any challenges that came up. Rutie and I roomed together at the last ATA conference, and it was wonderful to finally meet her in person. It was also very interesting to hear about her work and her life—working primarily as an interpreter, her days look very different from mine, with a lot of travel and fascinating assignments that are completely different from anything I have ever done (or likely will ever do). It is fun to get a glimpse of the other side of the translator/interpreter equation, and it has opened my eyes to how varied and multifaceted our profession really is—where everyone truly has to carve out their own path and no two translators’ or interpreters’ work is the same. And last but not least, I am very happy to count Rutie among my friends, and I hope that we will continue to stay in touch even after the mentoring program has come to a close.

Rutie Eckdish is Lea’s mentor, who got into the translation and interpretation industry  by chance. She is a retired teacher who became a Hebrew-English translator and interpreter about 20 years ago. She lives in Rockville, MD, and, as a contract interpreter for the Department of State, she gets the opportunity to travel across the U.S. quite a bit.

This is my second year serving as mentor in the ATA mentoring program. When I got the call, I thought it would be presumptuous of me to offer MY guidance. Though I have been a professional linguist for over 2 decades, I only recently achieved my language degree. And as for my business practices, until a few years ago, I had others jobs to support my favorite vocation. Now I am a full-time freelance translator and interpreter, and all I know I had to learn on the run. Being with NCATA has shown me how many like me there are, so I might as well save someone else some of the trouble I endured. I can share some good practices, the ones that worked, the not-so-good ones, those I would never tell anyone about and anything in-between.

I am a full-time freelance translator and interpreter in a lesser used language (Hebrew) and business owner. The ATA Mentoring Committee wisely partners me with other individuals with lesser-used languages, and this is my second year as an ATA mentor. This year, Lea, my mentee, and I talked a lot about business practices and how she can best pursue contacts both here in the U.S. and in Europe. Also, I pay much attention to promises made by clients and agencies and how to ensure their fulfilment.   I see these bits of experience as sobering food for thought which I shared with my mentee and colleague. I was very happy to meet Lea in person, and rooming with her at ATA55 in Chicago was the highlight of this mentoring year. I enjoyed talking with her extensively and hearing of her successes. Lea was very open with her questions and, in addition to quickly becoming a wonderful friend, she was willing to listen and discuss my suggestions open-mindedly. That too, I believe, was beneficial for her and for me.

I am quick to compliment and careful to criticize. Mentoring is about sharing. I found that mentoring creates a small community of support, listening, learning and sharing. In these times of rapid technological changes, I listen to my mentees about the technology they harness in their work.  I can offer to review approaches and whether they are worth the time or not, how to cultivate contacts and give business-building advice, which I, as a sole proprietor, had to learn mostly the hard way. I am glad to share and save someone else time, money and mostly heartbreaks.

And best of all: Mentoring is an excellent way to review MY OWN experience and growth in the business. As I listen, tell, explain, describe, and convey information and experiences, I realized that I am reviewing my own progress. Once we reach a certain level of achievement, we tend to just stay there and just keep doing what we think does the trick. Unless we have to change routes drastically (and many of us do), we rarely need to review how we got to where we are. Being a mentor is my opportunity to review—as I go along—what I am doing. As I share with my mentee, I make notes to myself about what I can do differently next week, next time. It is a wonderful way to review my own practices and improve them too.

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