Icebreaker 11, May 2013

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Welcome to the eleventh issue of Icebreaker, the STP newsletter.

And welcome back to your desks and daily routines to those of you who have been attending industry events this month. It has been a busy period with the EUATC Conference, ELIA Networking Days, memoQfest, the Ukrainian Translation Industry Conference and the ALC Annual Conference all taking place within weeks of each other.

Company news

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Minding the Gap

STP has a keen interest in promoting cooperation between the translation industry and the academic world. Apart from attending open days at universities, giving talks on the expectations of the employer and providing guidance on how to prepare graduates for commercial realities, we have now held our first credit-awarding university course on the topic of translation project management.

The course took place at the University of Helsinki last week in the form of an interactive three-day workshop, and was deemed a great success by all parties involved. The idea of such a course was so enthusiastically received by the students that the numbers had to be limited. STP has had the pleasure of working with the teaching staff from the university’s translation unit in the Department of Modern Languages before, and it was easy to trust them to make the practical arrangements, select the students and carry out an evaluation of the course afterwards. Apart from this, they sat in only occasionally, turned up to escort us to lunch and participated in the debrief session at the end of the last day. The course content, materials and exercises were planned and provided by STP. They consisted of lectures on the job description and performance assessment of a project manager and an introduction to translation management systems and to CAT tools, as well as a two-day simulation of life at a translation company with clients sending a never-ending stream of jobs, competitors vying for the same jobs and translators’ mistakes leading to client complaints and claims for compensation.

The teaching staff shared with us this hugely encouraging student feedback after the course: “What I liked was that the university had clearly given Anu and Raisa a free reign with the content. The course was down-to-earth, real, skilfully planned and well implemented, so much so that university staff rarely manage to put together anything so closely resembling real life. The lecturers only checked up on us occasionally, which forced us to operate directly under Anu’s and Raisa’s supervision, ask them questions and work more independently than we usually do on our courses. No-one was trying to skive off their duties on this intensive course. The days were long and there was a massive overload of information, but the time passed really quickly and not once did I look at the clock wondering how much time there was left before going home. On the contrary, I could have listened to Anu and Raisa talk even more about their company and ask them lots of silly questions. The schedule held up well, apart from the last day when some of the students in the project manager role were too engrossed in their tasks to take their lunch break. The situation felt very real and we were all extremely keen to do well. The whole course should have been longer, lasting at least a week. I think I learned more about Trados in those three days than I have in the past three years. The course also offered more information about the everyday work of a translator than all the rest of my studies put together. It answered a whole host of questions I have wanted to ask about moving into the real world after university, which I haven’t been able to find answers to elsewhere.”

Interestingly from an LSP’s point of view, this feedback was also welcomed by the lecturers, who were emphatic about the fact that universities do not listen to such comments when they come from teaching staff, but that the words of students carry more weight and are more likely to help steer things in the right direction in the future. This is a useful tip for all of us hoping to better align academic translation studies with the needs of the translation industry.

Staff News

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Behind the Scenes

Jennie Bentley returned from maternity leave in January to take on the role of the first ever dedicated Vendor Manager at STP. Having worked at the company as a PM since 2008, she already knew many of STP’s regular freelancers personally, but her new challenge was to create documented workflows for vendor management, meet cost targets together with the project management team and grow partnerships by finding new suppliers, testing and grading them as well as supporting them and communicating with them.

Originally from a small village called Karlholmsbruk on the Swedish east coast between Uppsala and Gävle, Jennie left her homeland and headed for the northern English city of Leeds in 2001. There she first worked at a hotel for a year before starting her language studies at Leeds Metropolitan University, and then went on to complete an MA in Public Relations. In her spare time, she enjoyed taking pictures and a course in photography and she also learned to play the guitar. Already a keen pianist, she decided after a while that the piano was less painful for her fingers, and these days she mainly sticks to the latter

In 2008, Jennie moved to Southampton with her husband-to-be and joined STP, having worked at another translation company in Leeds for a few years. The following year she got married and bought a house, and she is now kept busy outside of her working hours by her 16-month-old son Jonas. One day, we may see Jonas working in STP’s IT department as he is already extremely keen on technology and very good at computers, smartphones and generally pressing buttons.

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Chris Tyler studied Computer Science at the University of Portsmouth and spent a year in industry as a developer at an adhesives company in Germany. During this year, Chris worked on projects involving prediction of chemistry experiment results, integration with testing machines and programming of production robots. While living in Kaiserslautern and near Ludwigshafen in Germany, Chris began to study the language and generally enjoyed the experience of living abroad. Since returning to England, he has continued to learn German and hopes to begin with a new language challenge in the not too distant future.

Much of Chris’ time at university was spent on assignments involving artificial intelligence and, as his final year project, he created a rule-based word processing tool to allow more flexibility in document writing. Since leaving university, Chris has worked on projects varying from the creation of management software and mobile app development to creating software for the emergency services.

Chris’ main task as a software engineer at STP is to enhance the company’s processes by coming up with new solutions and improving the old ones. STP’s comprehensive project management system is currently undergoing huge improvements in the hands of our IT department who are adding new features and finding ways to allow our suppliers and customers to engage with us even more effortlessly and efficiently. Chris is also looking forward to facing the technical and commercial challenges in the wider translation industry, particularly those involving machine translation where he believes great benefits can be reaped very soon.

Industry issues

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The World Wide Web of Industry Conferences

This month of all months, it would not feel right to write about industry issues without writing about industry conferences. Most company owners and managers attended at least one and many literally toured from one to the next. Thanks to the professional tweeters in our community, it is now possible to follow such things from the comfort of your own office and feel you have virtually attended (pun intended), but we at STP have certainly done our fair share of real-life globe-trotting too.

Our personal highlights from the past month revolve around meeting fabulous people. At the EUATC, Jesper was asked to step onto a panel discussing MT as a replacement for someone who couldn’t make it at the last minute. It turned out that someone else had also been asked, so instead of the panel dropping from three to two, it actually grew to four knowledgeable participants. The ELIA ND in Munich proved to Anu that it was not called networking days for nothing, and STP’s contribution to the organisation’s latest initiative was well received. At memoQfest in Budapest, Raisa, Simon and Adam enjoyed the experience of meeting people who do the same things we do, use the same tools, experience the same problems, and can share their experiences with us. It gave them the profound sense of having chosen the right tool for STP and of being on the right track when it comes to technology. At the ALC Annual Conference in Boston, those who had attended the UNConference in Florida in February were invited for drinks in the presidential suite, but word quickly spread and many others, including Jesper and Rachel, tagged along. Rumour has it that the gathering ended up in great merriment all round.

For a company like STP, the most encouraging conference moments consist of us hearing other well-respected people say how valuable the SLV/RLV model is and how important it is in the industry. It is also reassuring to hear them reiterate that implementing technology and streamlining processes and communication are key to competitive business. And it helps us at STP stand firm with our vision when they state that having a niche or a couple of USPs is of great significance when establishing a competitive edge.

Next month, Localization World will bring many of you to London and we look forward to meeting you there. In September, our own UK Association of Translation Companies’ annual conference “Translation Industry – evolution not revolution” will take place at the ground of cup-winning team Chelsea Football Club on 26-27 September and Jesper is helping to organise the event this year. There will be a networking dinner at the Chelsea FC Conference Venue on Thursday and an informal gathering organised on Friday evening for delegates staying in London that evening. Accommodation is recommended at the Millenium & Copthorne Hotels At Chelsea Football Club at a preferential room rate.

The organising committee is seeking papers on all aspects of the translation and interpreting sector and how it should evolve in an increasingly challenging business environment.

Nordic focus

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The Eurovision Song Context

Sweden had the honour of hosting two world-class events on Saturday 18 May 2013: the Ice-hockey World Championship semi-finals in Stockholm and the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö. Finland lost 0-3 to Sweden in the semi-finals and, as a Finn, it hurts me to admit that not only did they beat us, but they were actually better. Whereas in the song contest, all the Nordic countries were in the final this year and a few even had a chance of doing well. Excluding Finland, of course – despite the media hype in the weeks leading up to the event, the only ambition most Finns ever entertain is not to end up with nil points.

Four of the Nordic countries sang in English this year – only Iceland trusted their native tongue with Eyþór’s simple ballad. The Legolas-lookalike was as beautiful as his song, with the language somewhat resembling Elvish too, but it was too predictable, topped with the clichéd Eurovision modulation at the end. Denmark of course won with their impressive pipe and drums combined with Emmelie’s sweet innocence. Sweden’s song was not that great, but their excellent organisation of the event and Petra Mede’s performance as the master of ceremonies scored them all the points they could have wished for. The show was stylish and to the point, peppered with self-irony and a sense of humour that, judging by the comments from the other countries, seemed to cross cultural barriers very successfully.

As for scoring, there were no surprises at all, as all countries kept to the tradition of voting for their neighbours. In today’s global context, it’s hard to believe that this is merely due to close cultural ties or the appreciation of similar music genres. Perhaps there are darker forces at play backstage. How different would the result be if people voted blind, as in the Voice? Honestly, Finland gave their 12 points to Norway, Iceland gave theirs to Denmark, and Denmark gave theirs to Norway, while Norway and Sweden gave each other top points. And only Denmark gave any points to Finland at all…

The best Nordic song of the evening was host Petra Mede’s “Swedish smörgåsbord”, see lyrics. It contains one line I am still hoping my Swedish colleagues will explain to me: “Our people are cold but our elks are hot, a horny horde in every fjord”, but even despite my failure to understand why the elks should deserve such specific mention, I give it douze points. In other words – Sweden won, again.

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