The Benefits of Mentoring

Photo Credit: Pexels

This post was originally published on the Ben Translates blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

This week, I was informed that I have been selected as one of 30 mentees for the 2017-2018 class of the American Translators Association mentoring program. I am delighted to have been chosen for this opportunity and look forward to the chance to learn from an industry veteran.

The ATA Mentoring Program has been around for nearly 20 years and was completely revamped in 2012. Each class starts at the beginning of April and runs through March 31st of the following year. Mentors assist mentees with topics ranging from business practices, rate negotiation, breaking into a certain area of the industry, and much more. They do not tutor mentees or help them to become better translators, often because they do not work in the same language pairs and are instead paired based on goals and personality. Another benefit of the program is that mentees and mentors all participate in a discussion group for sharing questions, best practices, and other advice across the 30 mentor-mentee pairs.

No matter the field, mentoring offers a unique opportunity for shared learning and growth. I have been running a successful translation business for nearly four years and have been working in the industry for six. That said, there is always more to learn and I am absolutely thrilled to be a mentee this year.

There are many benefits of mentoring for both the mentor and the mentee. Here are merely eight of them that apply across industries:

For the mentee:

1. Self-Reflection

It often takes someone asking you to think critically about what you do and why you do it to prompt you to have this conversation with yourself. Having a mentor encourages mentees to reflect on their practice and their goals and to intimate what it is that they want to accomplish.

2. Advice and Encouragement

Are you even doing this right? Could you be doing it better? Mentors can provide great advice about where improvements can be made and provide encouragement for things you already do well.

3. Support and Networking

It never hurts to expand your network. Having a mentor can give you privileged access to influential people in other networks, thereby increasing learning opportunities and support from others in your profession.

4. Professional Development

Experienced mentors can help mentees build better business practices, learn new skills, and become more effective.

For the mentor:

5. Giving Back

Many people were helped out or lifted up by an influential person sometime during their careers. Becoming a mentor means having the opportunity to do the same for someone else.

6. Increased Confidence

By sharing their expertise, mentors can experience increased confidence about their own work. By reminding mentees of what they are doing well, mentors have the same opportunity to reflect on what they do well, too.

7. Two-Way Learning

The cliché about the master learning from the student is true: collaborating with a mentee can teach mentors about new methods or practices that can re-energize their own work.

8. Fresh Perspective

There may not be a better way to gain fresh perspective about what you do than by helping another person through the challenges that you may have once experienced. Chances are that mentees are also experiencing a few things that mentors never dealt with, and working through them together can provide a fresh and meaningful perspective.

I am eager to share my mentoring experience over the coming year with you. For more information on the ATA mentoring program, click here. A free ATA webinar about the mentoring program may also be downloaded here (you will be prompted to save it to your computer).

Have you benefited from the guidance of a mentor? Please share your experience in the comments section.

Translation Commons: A Community for Language Professionals

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Translation Commons is a nonprofit, volunteer-based online community designed to facilitate collaboration among diverse sectors and stakeholders of the language industry and encourage transparency, trust, and free knowledge sharing. It was established with the idea that translated data and memories truly belong to the translators who create them and that they should be the ones to benefit from their work. By offering free access to open source tools and other resources, Translation Commons facilitates community-driven projects, aims to help empower linguists, and allows the sharing of educational and language assets.

A Brief History

Translation Commons didn’t happen in a vacuum. I first heard the catch phrase “collaborative commons” in 2014, and the concept of collaboration within the language community struck a very deep chord. How could that become a reality and how would everyone benefit? Would the platform for this collaboration offer collective translation memories and data, or perhaps merely serve as a means of talking to each other? Maybe it could serve both functions?

I discussed the idea at many conferences and networking events with language professionals, mostly in Silicon Valley, but I also had many online conversations through various LinkedIn groups. In December 2014, I created a LinkedIn group to determine the interest level for an online community serving all language professionals. I was very surprised by the positive response: just 20 days after starting the LinkedIn group, there were already 1,000 members. I felt that as far as feasibility studies go, this was a runaway success and demonstrated that there was a need for such a community waiting to be fulfilled.

I’ve always been in the language business with my husband, so after just a brief discussion we were both committed to take Translation Commons to the next level. We started a corporation and applied for nonprofit status. A few months later, to our surprise, the IRS not only granted us nonprofit status, but also determined that we could be categorized as a public charity benefiting the larger community, not just our linguistic members.

After many discussions, we managed to pin down and crystalize our objectives. In a nutshell, Translation Commons is concerned with helping all language professionals achieve due recognition for their work. More specifically, Translation Commons’ vision is to help the language industry by building an infrastructure to:

  • Help our language students by bridging the gap between academia and industry.
  • Facilitate collaboration and mentoring.
  • Organize language resources from around the world.
  • Grow the visibility and importance of our community and gain recognition.

Designing the Platform

Our first task was to create an advisory board consisting of high-profile professionals from many diverse sectors who could represent their interests and guide the community. We’ve been able to assemble an amazing group that’s still growing.

The next step was to move on from LinkedIn and start building our own online platform. Thankfully, we teamed up with Prompsit, an amazing engineering company in Spain that understood and shared our vision. We’ve been working with them for nearly two years now and have managed to expand the offerings on the website.

I would like to clarify that building such a platform is a vast undertaking. Although we now have a fully functional website, there’s still a lot to do. So far, the site architecture consists of Linux and Windows servers, 10 language applications (both proprietary and open source), docker containers (allowing applications to run virtually anywhere), MySQL, wikis, application programming interfaces, G Suite apps, and single sign-on integration.

To address all the issues in our mission, we’ve divided the Translation Commons online platform into three modules: Translate, Share, and Learn.

Translate: The Translate module offers translation tools and applications, both open source and proprietary, most of them on our servers with a few cloud applications integrated with our single sign-on integration. The goal is to create a seamless platform with all available applications. This is an extremely important endeavor as it helps students and those beginning their professional careers familiarize themselves with tools that they might not normally be able to access. We’ve found that quite a few of our members who are recent graduates are unfamiliar with the variety of tools available to help them work more effectively. By offering open source tools and free trials to proprietary applications, we hope to increase their skill set and knowledge of technology.

Share: The Share module is the main portal for all community sharing activities, including think tanks, language industry initiatives, group discussions, and working groups. This is also where any member of the community can start a new project or group and ask people to join. Because we know how difficult it is for small project groups to develop an online platform for collaboration, we offer them the tools to do exactly that: a website, mailing list, calendar, task page, and a drive and document uploader to gather their volunteers and work effectively. We also offer members the entire Google G Suite, which was donated to Translation Commons due to its nonprofit status. Currently, there are around 60 apps available to all members.

Learn: The Learn module offers a Learning Center, tutorials, skill development programs, online courses, and group webinars. Links to our free resources (both online and offline) are available in the Translation Hub. These resources include terminology databases and glossaries. Of course, this is a work in progress and we ask for everybody’s help to upload links to any free online resources to which they have access (e.g., tips, insights, and guides). We’re also talking with proprietary automation toolmakers that offer free trials and asking them to add their links in the Translation Hub. Finally, we’ve inherited and are hosting the eCoLo Project (electronic content localization), which provides useful training materials for both students and teachers to help improve skills in different areas of computer-assisted translation (e.g., translation memory, software localization, project management, and terminology). You’ll also find multilingual material, training kits, training scenarios, and full courses on various translation and localization techniques.

Working Groups

The working groups have been created from within the community. We call our groups Think Tanks because their mission is to identify areas that need improvement and the gaps that need to be filled.

Mentoring: This was the first Think Tank to emerge from the original LinkedIn group. There are some very good mentoring programs available through associations and other organizations in the U.S. and Europe (including ATA’s program) that have managed to capture the essence of mentoring and have a great group of people managing them. However, our mentoring group conducted a global survey and found that many of the freelance translators who responded were unaware of existing mentoring programs or didn’t have a clear understanding of how to get involved. Respondents also stated that expectations and responsibilities are issues of concern when agreeing on mentoring on a one-on-one basis. After analyzing the survey results, the mentoring group decided to create guidelines for freelance mentors who wish to take on freelance mentees. Under the guidance of Nancy Matis, an experienced project manager and teacher, we now have a thriving group that has written an extensive document, “Mentoring Guidelines for Freelancers,” which is currently available for download from the Translation Commons website. The group is also creating a list of mentoring programs so that graduates have somewhere to start their search for mentors.

Technology: The Technology Think Tank is an integral part of Translation Commons. Our commitment to open source resources allows us to make language and the work of translators a priority. Led by Mikel Forcada, a professor of computer science in Alicante, Spain, and with representatives from other translation platforms that include Apertium, Moses, Omega T, Mojito, Okapi, and Translate5, the goal is to catalogue all language-related open source applications and facilitate their adoption.

Interpreting: The Interpreting Think Tank is led by Barbara Werderitsch and ATA Member Arturo Bobea, who have created a very active LinkedIn group. They conducted a survey on interpreters’ knowledge and use of technology and are currently preparing the results. Their reports on various technology providers and new interpreting delivery platforms are also available on the Translation Commons website.

In addition to the working groups, we also host and facilitate volunteer groups that any member can create. Under the expert guidance of Gabriella Laszlo, who worked on Google’s Localization Operations and who now designs backend workflows for Translation Commons, we’re able to offer collaborative volunteer initiatives related to language.

Volunteers

Our volunteers are the heart and soul of the Translation Commons community. Their passion for language and expertise in technology are the cornerstones of our initiatives. Their commitment and clear vision of the roadmap that our industry needs to follow are a testament to the merit of a united global language community.

We invite everyone to join and register at http://www.translationcommons.org and to participate in the LinkedIn groups. Do you have an idea that would benefit the community? Do you want to become a mentor to the next generation of language professionals? Do you want to share your expertise, links, material, tutorials, or articles? Are you part of a small initiative and need more exposure? Then please share your knowledge with all of us!

Remember, if you have any ideas and/or suggestions regarding helpful resources or tools you would like to see featured, please e-mail Jost Zetzsche at jzetzsche@internationalwriters.com.


Jeannette Stewart is a co-founder of Translation Commons. She has a BS in business administration and her early career was in advertising and marketing. She is the founder and former chief executive officer of CommuniCare, a translation company specializing in life sciences. She created a series of workshops on language specialization and participates in industry associations and at conferences as a speaker and advocate for the language industry. She writes articles on language community initiatives for Multilingual Magazine. Contact: jeannette@translationcommons.org.

Tapping into the Expertise I needed: My Experience as an ATA Mentee

Have you ever wondered what the ATA Mentoring Program entails, who joins, and what they get out of the experience? With the application deadline for this year’s program approaching, I’d like to share my experience in the hopes that it may help shed some light on the questions that people interested in the program might have.

Why I joined the ATA Mentoring Program

My full-time, in-house translation experiences in Luxembourg and Houston were wonderful opportunities for me to hone my French and Spanish translation skills and work alongside very detailed and incredibly knowledgeable colleagues. As I recently made the switch to working for myself, I felt a bit like a fish out of water. I was confident the ATA Mentoring Program would be a wonderful opportunity for me to learn from a generous member’s experience and wisdom. I needed a trusted resource to bounce ideas off of, and I was really looking forward to receiving solid, personal advice from someone who had been in my shoes before, building her own T&I business.

There was so much to learn about expanding my horizons beyond Houston, working with clients around the world, juggling a larger number of clients with very different work procedures and expectations, attracting and satisfying private clients, and getting my foot in the door at agencies far, far away.

My mentor

I was so thankful and humbled when the committee wrote to introduce me to my mentor, past ATA President Dorothee Racette. From our first conversation, it was clear (and no surprise considering her accomplishments) that when Dorothee signs up for something, she delivers. We got started immediately and there has been no lull from her since.

Dorothee is an ATA-Certified Translator and productivity coach. She knows the industry inside and out and is warm, easy to talk to, and has a lot of insight to share. The experience of learning beside Dorothee has been far better than I could have imagined when I sent my application in last February.

How does it work?

Dorothee’s tested method, which originated from her training as a coach, is something I can hands down recommend to other mentor/mentee pairs in future years. From the get-go, Dorothee explained her expectations of me, inquired about my immediate and long-term goals for our time together, created a schedule we could follow, and started a file in Google Docs we could share. We talk on the phone every two weeks for about 30-45 minutes about a particular, pre-designated topic. Should something come up between sessions, I am free to e-mail her, but I find we are able to cover a lot in those structured calls. The shared Google Docs file is where we keep track of the topic for our next call and any assignments I am expected to do. It’s also where I list the questions I have for our next call. She is then able to use this document to prepare for our chat.

A few topics we have covered so far this year are: how I can follow in her footsteps in developing a medical specialization, what I can learn from her path to ATA leadership, how I can more effectively use the power of dictation software, my preparation for and debriefing of my first ATA Conference, as well as specific, detailed questions about working with agency and private clients, setting goals for the next year, and more. Whenever I think of a new topic, I can just open Google Drive and write it down, and then come back to it for future calls. It has been a great tool to keep us on task, and to make sure I don’t miss the opportunity to get Dorothee’s expert opinion on something I might otherwise forget.

Dorothee’s advice for new mentor/mentee pairs is to set a regular schedule and to confirm the next conversation at the end of each call. She has found that the “call me when you need me approach” can be ineffective because either the mentee may be too shy to intrude on the mentor’s time, or the mentee may call too often at inopportune times.

Results

Under Dorothee’s mentorship, I have better focused my marketing efforts and brought on a number of new clients who I truly enjoy working with and feel appreciate the value of my work. Dorothee has given me a judgement-free space to learn the ins and outs of working for myself, thinking long-term, and respecting myself and my skill set, all of which have helped me grow my business.

Applying

This year’s Mentoring Program will run from April 2019 through March 2020. Applications must be received by March 4th, and applicants will be notified of their results by April 15th. Any and all ATA members are welcome to apply. Whether you have a long-term goal you’d like guidance on, are trying to develop a new specialization, even after years in the industry, or you find yourself in a transitional phase of your career, there isn’t one mold you need to fit into. What you need for success is commitment, dedication, clear goals, and follow-through.

One handy tip from Mentoring Committee Chair, Kyle Vraa, is that it is more helpful if applicants talk more about what they want to accomplish in the future than what they have done in the past. He recommends keeping discussion of the past to 25% of the essay, while devoting the rest of the essay to future goals. The Mentoring Committee selects participants through a competitive application process. Most mentoring pairs work in different languages, although that is not always the case. Kyle explains that factors such as your field of specialization (or intended new field of specialization), professional goals, and interpersonal compatibility are taken into account when matching pairs.

The ATA Mentoring Program webpage has a lot of information that can help you decide if the program is right for you, along with detailed instructions on how to apply.

Thank you

An incredible thank you is in order for the ATA member mentors and the Mentoring Committee members who so graciously offer their time to volunteer and help other members. This program would not be possible without your dedication and willingness to speak openly about your experiences. Thank you to everyone who has made this program possible.

Author bio

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds an MA in Conference Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds and graduated Cum Laude with a BA from Rice University. Prior to working freelance, she held full-time, in-house translation positions at a marketing firm in Luxembourg and an oil and gas engineering company in Houston. Jessica specializes in legal, medical, asylum, and oil and gas translation and interpreting projects. She has been fortunate to have lived abroad in Spain, China, Japan, England, and Luxembourg. E-mail: jessica@jessicahartstein.com, Website: http://www.jessicahartstein.com/

The Mentor’s Bounty: How Mentoring Enriches both Mentor and Mentee

During the 59th ATA Conference in New Orleans, a colleague asked me, “What was the motivation that drove a group of translators to create an audiovisual division in the ATA?” I sat for a minute, pondering. “Many different factors motivated each of us,” I said. He then asked, “Well, what do you think was the single most important thing?”

I replied without hesitation, “We want to help the next generation of audiovisual translators succeed.” And I think the most effective tool to achieve this goal is through mentoring. In this maiden edition of our newsletter, I wanted to briefly explore the meaning of the term “mentor,” as well as the benefits and responsibilities of being one.

Meaning

In the epic poem The Odyssey, by Homer, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who stayed in Ithaca in charge of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. Athena appears to Telemachus disguised as Mentor, and acts as his adviser. The common noun meaning “wise adviser” was first recorded in English in 1750, going back through Latin to the Greek character name¹.

Benefits

The benefits for the mentees are evident: It empowers them with essential information, feedback and support, and helps them build confidence and grow, both personally and professionally.

But are there any benefits for the mentor? Yes. There are benefits beyond “it looks really good in your résumé.” It improves your leadership and communication skills. You gain a renewed sense of pride in your profession. You get to share your experiences with a kindred spirit, somebody hungry to hear them, which is very satisfying. Most gratifying of all is to help a colleague succeed.

It will also teach you a few things. When your mentee says, “We do that differently now,” and shows you a more efficient route to doing the same task, you will be amazed. When you are explaining things to a novice, it makes you stop and take a look at how and why you do things, and helps you see everything through fresh eyes and revitalized interest. You will learn while you teach!

Responsibilities

While the mentee has responsibilities― to be open to constructive criticism, to learn and to do homework, to be willing to correct course, etc.― the mentor has greater responsibilities. Our mentee will adopt our way of doing things, both the good and the bad, so we have to be careful when we teach and never lose sight of ethics and values.

We must set a higher standard for ourselves, because we will be leading by example. We must remember our mentee looks up to us and our opinions and advice will carry a heavier weight than normal.

For me, as a mentor, the task is not to carry anyone up the mountain. It’s not even to hold their hand during the climb. For me, it’s preparing them for the climb: letting them know what kind of gear they will need, what kind of terrain lies ahead, if they will find inclement weather, what type of obstacles will be waiting for them, and teaching them how to sort them.

You can be a mentor

But who has time nowadays, with the pressures of work, family and daily life in general, you say? We all do. We all have to. In most cases, this commitment will only require a handful of hours a month from the mentor, but it will have a great impact in the mentee’s life.

All of us could spare that kind of time to give back, right? That’s why mentoring programs are so important. Nevertheless, the need for mentors is great. And the new generation needs you. Yes, you, the translator who is reading this post.

It so happens that the ATA has a mentoring program! You can look at the guidelines in the ATA website and watch the free webinar, here: https://www.atanet.org/careers/mentoring.php

References:

  1. “Etymology of ‘Mentor.’” English 591, Doctoral Colloquium, University of California, Santa Barbara. (October 8, 2004). http://oldsite.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/courses/english591/2004-2005/materials/mentor-etymology.html
  2. Hart, E. Wayne. “Seven Ways to Be an Effective Mentor.” Forbes (June 30, 2010). https://www.forbes.com/2010/06/30/mentor-coach-executivetraining-leadership-managing-ccl.html#174fa4603fd3
  3. Smith, Jacquelyn. “How to Become a Great Mentor.” Forbes (May 17, 2013). https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/05/17/how-tobecome-a-great-mentor/#7f4243694f59

Image source: Pexels

Reblogged from the ATA Audiovisual Division newsletter, 1st edition, with permission

Author bio

Deborah Wexler was born and raised in Mexico City and immigrated to the United States in 1999, where she settled in Los Angeles. She is an ATA-certified English-to-Spanish translator and editor with over 20 years of experience, specializing in audiovisual translation and Spanish orthography. She has translated over 6,000 program hours for television, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, streaming media, and the big screen. She works for a media processing company that provides translation services for Hollywood features and series, and independent and art-house films and documentaries. She is also a freelance audiovisual translator and quality control specialist. She is a frequent speaker at international conferences, and she is an educator that has mentored and trained many translators wanting to get into the subtitling field.

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! Continue reading