Happy Birthday to The Savvy Newcomer!

birthday-303583_640This Friday, August 15, marks the first anniversary of The Savvy Newcomer blog – still very young, but, boy has its presence been felt!  Now that you have come to know The Savvy Newcomer, we thought it would be nice to hear the experience of all involved in this project, because, in a way, we were all newcomers (again), and this fits perfectly with the spirit of our blog: No matter how seasoned you might be in your area of specialization, as soon as you step out of your comfort zone, you become a newcomer.

So this anniversary post is a celebration to all of you who – like us – have been brave enough to venture into a completely new field. Cheers!

A few words from ATA President, Ms. Caitilin Walsh

Just a year ago, this blog, brainchild of Helen Eby and Dorothee Racette, then-ATA President, and others hoping to create a virtual gathering place for students and newcomers to professional translating and interpreting, was launched. Since then, we’ve had visits from hundreds of students, educators and trainers, as well as the curious. And the numbers are growing exponentially—clearly it’s meeting a need.

Back when I was just starting out, (when the internet was nascent and dinosaurs roamed the planet), it was the efforts of various individuals imparting tidbits of knowledge and encouragement on an individual basis that made the difference for me. But without a central repository or gathering place, my professional formation was scattershot at best. I am thrilled that this platform is here to provide a comprehensive overview for those interested in knowing more; and offering pointers to those wanting to dig deeper and make those individual connections that make all the difference, even in these thoroughly modern times.

After just one year, we have assembled a collection of useful posts on a number of subjects. Not content to rest on our laurels, there’s a new series of posts about various T&I programs in this country (and further afield), with perspectives on the programs from both students and teachers. I’m delighted to be able to offer a post of my own to the collection in a future post —I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with a party attended by newcomers and those who welcome them!

Helen’s perspective: a year of learning.

At first sight, The Savvy Newcomer was “just a blog.” It was just an undeveloped idea, a place where we could provide information for newcomers to the profession. “Sure, we’ll do it!” we said. Then we learned what was involved. Many people provided support, advice, and encouragement. I’ve learned that amazing things can be done with a team where members have total trust in each other, when nobody cares who gets the credit. We’ve filled in for each other at times and had fun at our meetings. We’ve become friends.

As we have done our best to help others, we have learned a lot from the posts others have written! There have been good reminders, new ideas, and fresh perspectives every week.

My dreams for the future? Connecting students from translation and interpreting programs all over the world, so they can talk to each other. Schools would have an ATA/The Savvy Newcomer rep, and the reps would meet by GoTo Meeting to talk, brainstorm, be encouraged, every month or so. We’d learn what they need right away, and be able to offer support that fits the needs of the moment. That would be matched with a team of generous “old-timers” who are happy to write articles to answer the questions that come our way.

When we started, I remember Dorothee asking, “OK, Helen, are you going to do this for just a year, or are you going to stick with it? We like this, but it really needs someone to have a long term commitment.” I told her I’d stick around. Hey, this team is too much fun to walk away from it!

Jamie’s story

I became involved with The Savvy Newcomer team when I met Helen Eby at the ATA conference in San Diego. After we introduced ourselves and she found out that I was a student, Helen immediately told me about a vision she had. Her dream was of a student involvement effort within the ATA that would start with just a few volunteers and would grow to become an organization-wide effort to support newcomers to the profession and the conference. Since beginning to work with Helen on this initiative in 2012, I have grown personally and professionally from learning to work as part of this team, increasing my knowledge of the ATA as an organization through close contact with so many of its members and leaders, and also simply through reading and implementing the wonderful advice from articles that have been contributed to The Savvy Newcomer.

Along came Daniela

I could have never imagined the incredible experience that awaited me when the President of ATIF, my local chapter, suggested my name to become a part of ATA’s Leadership Council. Much like when one arrives at a meeting not knowing anybody, I was guided by kind colleagues to my final destination: The Student Involvement Committee. I remember receiving a phone call from Helen to talk about my interests, strengths, and sharing her ideas, and her vision. She is so passionate and energetic about what she does that it is contagious and one cannot help but get in the same wave and ride along! I immediately said “Yes! I want to be a part of this.” So I officially took over the practical and technical side of creating the blog. Jamie, Helen and I would meet on a regular basis until all the details of the blog were finalized… and then, before our very eyes, The Savvy Newcomer was alive! This blog has taken a life of its own and it is the result of the sunny disposition of all of those involved with it. We have had so much encouragement from different sources, but especially from Mary David, who believed in us from the beginning, and has continued to support our efforts.

During this year, not only have I learned through the awesome collection of posts, but also about the ATA itself, its structure, and all the effort that goes on behind the scenes to keep it as the vibrant organization we all know.

I feel honored to be a part of this team of great professionals who, although I have never met in person, I now consider my friends and I look forward to many more years to come!

Samantha, our current editor

Though I don’t remember exactly how I first stumbled upon The Savvy Newcomer—I suspect it was through a translation-related rabbit trail—I do remember being very excited when I did find it. I had recently begun a very similar blog directed at students for my local ATA chapter, the Carolina Association of Translators and Interpreters (CATI), and as a student myself at the time I thought that the Newcomer would be a great way to connect with students on a broader national and even international level. I was right. I have learned a great deal about the T&I professions from the articles posted on the Newcomer, but of just as great an impact has been the opportunity to meet and get to know my colleagues. I’ve learned just as much from discussions with them as from the blog posts, and I look forward to continuing to do so in the future.

From our back-up editor, Lisa

It was a year ago when Daniela Guanipa asked if I would be interested in editing posts for a new blog to be called The Savvy Newcomer. Sure! I said. I love editing. I love helping the ATA. And I love learning. Now, I’m no newcomer to the field of translation, but absolutely every article contained information or a perspective I hadn’t necessarily considered before. Each reminded me what talented members ATA has and how, by giving to our professional associations, we often get just as much—or more—in return. This was true, too, of the relationships I’ve formed with the rest of the team. I’ve met almost everyone in person, corresponded with each of them about more than just translation, formed personal and professional connections I know will last. Though I’ve slipped into the role as back-up editor for now, I’m still so pleased to be a part of this team and this project. Happy first anniversary to The Savvy Newcomer! Here’s to many more.

We would like to open the floor to you, dear readers, to tell us about your own experience during the first year of life of The Savvy Newcomer, or just to say “Happy Birthday!”

The story behind the blog

This blog was born on a brainstormy day, drawing on suggestions from the ATA Newcomers listserv and the recently created Student Involvement Committee. But to understand the true nature of The Savvy Newcomer, we need to take a look at the role played by both groups and the people who have made this blog possible.

When Helen Eby became Assistant Administrator for the ATA Spanish Division, the Division was set on having a Student Involvement Committee. Helen’s passion for helping people succeed is what drove her to approach campus administrators, who welcomed the idea with open arms.

“I am an experimenter, so this seemed to fit my sense of adventure.” – Helen Eby

However, it soon became apparent that such a Committee should benefit students of all languages, not only in the English/Spanish combination, so although born bilingual, this child of the Spanish Division quickly grew into a mature, independent polyglot.

During the 2012 ATA Conference in San Diego, Jamie approached Helen and through a brief conversation Helen quickly realized Jamie was the perfect candidate to chair the new Student Involvement Committee. And so, with all the contagious enthusiasm that Helen is capable of instilling, Jamie became the very first student to ever chair a committee within the ATA, and has done a marvelous job.

“Being part of this effort gives me the chance to think back and ask myself, ‘What would have helped me to get acclimated to this when I was getting started, and how can I help other newbies who are in the same boat as I was?’” – Jamie Hartz

In addition, the Newcomers listserv is a forum for, well, newcomers, but not necessarily restricted to students only. It is open to anyone interested in switching careers and becoming a professional translator. Think about it as an informal coaching forum.

It seemed a natural fit to combine topics from the listserv with the spirit of the Student Involvement Committee, but we still needed somebody to bring it all together and turn it into an actual blog.

That is when Daniela came into the picture as a new volunteer on the Spanish Division Leadership Council. She was quickly moved to the forefront of the operation, joining Helen and Jamie, and assumed responsibility for the technical aspects of setting up and managing the blog, as well as organizing a rough outline of posts.

“For the longest time I had wanted to contribute to the ATA in a meaningful way, and I believe this has been the perfect opportunity for me, combining my passion for translation, writing, and tech stuff.” – Daniela Guanipa

This blog draws on ideas gathered from the Newcomers listserv, from the experience of its contributors and moderators, and from the involvement of our readers.

We believe you will find our blog fresh, practical, and inviting. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoy writing the posts, finding interesting content for you, and responding to your feedback.

What do you hope to read about on The Savvy Newcomer? Ideas welcome!