What the Business Practices Education Committee is Doing for ATA Members
An earlier version of this article appeared in The ATA Chronicle.
Have you ever asked yourself: What’s the Business Practices Education Committee up to these days? Probably not. In fact, you are more likely wondering: What is the Business Practices Education Committee? For the uninitiated: The Business Practices Education Committee was established in 2005 to provide ATA members with information about sound business practices for the translation and interpreting industry. Fine, you say, but what has it done for me lately? That’s a good question, so let’s elaborate.
Business Practices Community
To begin with, the committee’s core project remains the Business Practices Community. At the end of 2020, the group had just under 900 members, who typically submit anywhere from several dozen to several hundred posts per month. Discussions are moderated with a light touch by Paul Merriam. The archives contain nearly 3,400 topics dating back to 2005 with the very first post by Dorothee Racette welcoming subscribers to a group intended for the discussion of topics related to conducting business in the T&I industry. Not surprisingly, California Assembly Bill 5 and “Sons of AB 5” provided a seemingly endless source of discussion in 2020 along with a wide variety of other topics ranging from LSPs and machine translation to non-disclosure agreements, client/project management software, unpaid translations tests and much, much more. To join the group, visit the Business Practices Community.
In addition, the Business Practices Committee has hosted a one-hour Brainstorm Networking event at every ATA Conference since the 2014 conference held in Chicago. David Rumsey, who was ATA President-Elect at the time, first came up with the idea to replace the former speed networking event. Participants in the brainstorming event join a group of, typically, between four and six people around a table and have a few minutes to introduce themselves, after which they discuss a pre-written scenario involving an ethical issue or other business-related problem. When time is called, everyone moves to a different table and starts over with a new group and a new scenario. Over 300 people attended the virtual event held during the ATA 61st Annual Conference, so the groups were larger than in previous years, but the concept remained the same.
The Mentoring Program was originally conceived by former ATA Board member (and Secretary) Courtney Searls-Ridge, who administered the program alone for roughly ten years before Susanne van Eyl took charge in 2011 and tweaked the format to boost participation. This ATA member benefit was recently brought under the umbrella of the Business Practices Education Committee, where it was once again revamped. The mentoring program pairs translators and interpreters seeking to learn a new skill with ATA members possessing more experience in the relevant area. Mentees are typically industry newcomers—although students and linguists with less than one year of experience are directed to The Savvy Newcomers blog—but even long-time ATA members can benefit from the mentee experience if they would like to learn something new; for example, adding a new area of specialty, marketing to direct clients, becoming a better proofreader, fine-tuning their business skills, etc. Key to the mentee’s success over the course of the program is the articulation of clear and actionable goals at the outset. Learn more about the Mentoring Program.
The program begins each year on April 1 with an application deadline in early March. It previously ran for twelve months, but for the first time in 2020 it ran for six months and the mentor-mentee pair had the option of extending for an additional six months. The application process is more streamlined if you have paired up with a mentor and agreed on your objectives, but if you haven’t already found one, the Mentoring Committee can pair you with a suitable mentor. Mentees and mentors generally meet about once per month, typically via Skype or Zoom, for Q&A or other discussion. It’s also worth noting that certified translators earn continuing education (CE) points for participating in the program. If this sounds intriguing and you think you’d like to be a mentor or a mentee, please contact the Mentoring Committee at email@example.com and mark your calendar for the 2022 program year!
The Business Practices Committee has also set up a Masterminds Program. The idea is to bring together independent groups of around a half-dozen self-guided professional peers of approximately the same level of experience to discuss opportunities and things they have struggled with in their business. These peer groups will meet initially for six months in a venue of their choosing in order to brainstorm solutions and set goals as well as to encourage and hold each other accountable for attaining their goals. This is conceived as a supplement to the mentoring program and other ATA continuing education offerings. Tess Whitty and Dorothee Racette gave a presentation during the ATA 61st Annual Conference to explain the program; their presentation is also offered as a free webinar. Watch this free webinar.
ATA members can express their interest in the program and volunteer as facilitators each January. The first round of groups runs from February to July 2021. Participants will be eligible to earn CE points. More details about these groups can be found in the Mastermind Program blog post.
The Savvy Newcomer
Then there is The Savvy Newcomer, a popular blog that aims to provide high-quality, peer-reviewed content directed at newcomers to the T&I industry, although the information is often also relevant for more experienced practitioners. The blog began as an independent activity, yet always cooperated informally with the Business Practices Committee and looked to the BP listserv as a source of inspiration for blog topics. So it seemed a natural fit for Business Practices when the ATA decided a few years ago that it was time to bring it under the umbrella of a committee; nevertheless, it remains essentially an autonomous operation. The Savvy Newcomer was founded by Spanish Language Division members Helen Eby, Jamie Hartz, and Daniela Guanipa in 2013, but was ultimately the product of a broader effort by the ATA to assist students and newcomers to the profession that went through several stages of development before taking on its current form. Meanwhile, the founding members are part of a whole team of volunteers working to provide both fresh and reposted content on a weekly basis. Topics range from “So you want to be a Freelance Translator (or Interpreter): Starting from Scratch” and “Questions to Ask Before You Accept a Translation Project” to “Attending Your Clients’ Conferences” and “Translating for Pharma.” Of course, this barely scratches the surface of what the blog has to offer, so if you haven’t visited lately, check out The Savvy Newcomer.
And then there is the blog you’re reading now! Next Level: The ATA Business Practices Blog is geared toward more experienced translators and interpreters. If you have expertise that you would like to share with your fellow translators and interpreters, writing an article for Next Level would be a great way to elevate your professional profile. For more information, contact the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Media Presence
Finally, the Business Practices Education Committee has a growing social media presence. Kelly Burt, a California-based Swedish and German-to-English translator who also specializes in localizing English-language content from other variants into Australian English, has joined the committee as its Social Media Manager. She manages the Committee’s new Twitter account (@ATABizPractices) and will also promote content from the committee and ATA on LinkedIn.
Now You Know!
As you can see, the ATA Business Practices Education Committee provides numerous ways for ATA members to improve their business practices and hone their professional skills regardless of their level of experience, as well as the opportunity to give back to the T&I community by contributing blog articles or serving as a mentor. And now that you know what the Business Practices Education Committee is doing for you, please consider taking advantage of these great ATA member benefits and/or volunteering with one of our initiatives.
About the Author
Michael Engley is the owner of Bullish Translations based in Port Charlotte, Florida, and has been translating full-time since 2006. He previously served as administrator and assistant administrator of the German Language Division as well as the Dictionary Review Coordinator for the GLD’s newsletter interaktiv. He is an ATA-certified German to English translator specializing in corporate communications and financial translation. Contact: email@example.com
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