From the President
I managed to squeeze in an afternoon on a friend’s sailboat on a rare, non-working weekend a few weeks ago. As we passed over the open waters, I noticed that the key to smooth sailing is a really good crew. And the key to a really good crew is to have a really inclusive team with different people with different skills. You need someone with strong arms to keep the sail in hand, another person with nerves of steel to hang over the side of the boat to keep it from tipping, another person up front with sharp eyes to watch for rocks, and another person to make sure everyone is playing their part and keeping us moving forward, headed in the right direction.
It’s the same at ATA. One of the key strengths that has kept the Association stable has been in its diversity and inclusiveness. Any newcomer to ATA is greeted to a staggeringly wide variety of linguistic and domain specialties among our members. What few people notice is the wide variety of stakeholders at ATA, including translators, interpreters, terminologists, academics, students, language company owners, software developers, educators, and government officials. That is why we often refer to ATA as an “umbrella organization.” This inclusive approach brings the Association great strength and lots of unique opportunities.
The clearest benefit of this inclusiveness can be found at ATA’s Annual Conference. Since the conference relies largely on the skills and expertise of our fellow members, we are able to offer over 25 different tracks that span a wide variety of languages and domains. Veteran attendees always recommend that new attendees visit sessions that may be outside of their regular domains, or even their usual languages, so that they can learn new skills and discover new aspects of the industry from those in the know.
This is particularly true for newcomers entering the industry. Visiting with the variety of industry stakeholders provides people, particularly students, with a better view of the various careers available in the language industry. This is something that few students learn in a university. Over the course of their careers, many people may find themselves working on multiple jobs in the industry. It’s not unusual to find an ATA member who may have started as a project manager or educator, became a freelance interpreter or translator, and then branched out to start their own company, or another career combination.
Hosting several types of members provides us the opportunity to talk and learn from each other in the same room. In contrast to other associations, which may only include company owners, government workers, or freelancers, ATA is able to host events that bring all types of stakeholders into the same room. That might be a virtual room, such as one of ATA’s listserves, where a variety of members can debate common issues in the industry. It might also be a physical room, such as the Brainstorm Networking event at ATA’s Annual Conference, where members get to network with each other while discussing challenging working scenarios with viewpoints from freelancers, agency owners, project managers, end clients, etc.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of ATA’s culture of inclusiveness is that it helps increase our strength, impact, and clout in the face of the public. Educating the public on the existence of the translation and interpreting professions has been part of ATA’s core mission since its inception. With such a wide variety of stakeholders, we can help reach a wider slice of the public and demonstrate many facets of the industry. With over 10,000 members, when ATA writes to the media or the government addressing language issues, people listen.
Lastly, as the umbrella organization for the language services industry, ATA’s sheer size continues to attract new members from all types of positions and backgrounds. This not only benefits the depth of experience and knowledge at the Association, but it has been the key to the Association’s staying power over the past 50 years. While other associations may come and go, ATA’s culture of inclusiveness is the key to providing a skilled crew to keep the Association sailing forward.