Icebreaker 14, May 2014

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

It’s late in the season for the first newsletter, but the launch of STP’s new website at the beginning of April absorbed most of our creative resources in Q1. The content in those pages is the work of a fantastic team pooling their insight, passion and linguistic talent for the benefit of our clients and suppliers. The same goes for this issue of Icebreaker.

Company news

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Taking a hike

Walk it, jog it or run it – tackling the 106 km route along the coastal paths of England’s largest island is a real test of stamina. Eight brave souls at STP have committed themselves to the epic Isle of Wight challenge this year, looking forward to raising money for charity as well as embarking on a spectacular adventure. It will make the 2014 Summer Bank Holiday a special one for Anna, Anna-Leena, Anu, Jørn, Linda, Majken, Melissa and Susie who are joining other teams of hardened veterans of long distance trails early on a Saturday morning, determined to keep going until reaching the finish line some 24 hours later.
STP’s team captain, project manager Anna Lenartowska, came across the challenge online and posted it on Facebook, where her PM team colleagues Anna-Leena and Majken volunteered to join her. Majken, who lives on the island, proposed fundraising for Caring Cancer Trust, a small local charity that sponsors non-animal tested cancer research and helps children recovering from cancer. It was only after the team had decided on the charity that Anna-Leena disclosed her story which can now be read on our fundraising page.

We will start our walk in West Cowes on the morning of Saturday 23rd August and hopefully finish in the same spot the next morning, on Sunday 24th August. The plan is to plod on non-stop all day and all night, with only occasional stops for food at checkpoints. Though the team members live across a large geographical area (Linda will be joining us from Stockholm), the training is well under way and we have been walking out most weekends since registering in January, either solo or in groups. Adding distance each week means we are no strangers to injury; we are currently dealing with one problematic Achilles tendon and some acute shin splints.

100 days to go – 100 days left to train. It’s just walking, people say, meaning that we should not stress about it. But even for the ultra-keen runners in the team, the training is important. In addition to team building, it is about damage control. In maximising our speed and stamina, we hope to minimise the time and pain on the road. After all, we aim to make this a memorable experience, in a positive sense, for ourselves as well as those supporting us.

Staff News

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Project Management Prowess

Anna-Leena Hilli joined STP as an intern in June 2013 and was offered a full-time position as a project coordinator shortly afterwards. She decided to apply to STP after Raisa and Anu visited the University of Helsinki to give a talk about project management and she realised that the skills they were listing for a PM described her own skills, and that the examples they were giving of typical working days and projects sounded like her dream job. Anna-Leena loves being part of the project management team because it incorporates everything she enjoys doing and allows her to play to her strengths – managing people and projects as well as engaging in linguistic and technical tasks. She enjoys the challenge of taking all those things into consideration and deciding the best way to handle a project from the point of view of both the translators and the client.

Originally from the very small town of Alahärmä in Southern Ostrobothnia, Anna-Leena studied English translation at the University of Helsinki, where she also minored in Finnish and Dutch, the latter of which she considers to be one of the most random – and best – decisions she has ever made. She was awarded her MA in December 2013 after completing her thesis while working full-time – a feat which represents a good example of Finnish sisu, a word which is difficult to translate but generally encompasses the virtues of determination, bravery and resilience.

Recently Anna-Leena has become more and more interested in the IT side of translation. She enjoys learning new things, and was therefore excited to notice that she has started picking up Norwegian and Danish and understanding them better thanks to her second strongest foreign language after English being Swedish.

In her spare time, Anna-Leena enjoys playing video games, reading both fiction and non-fiction and keeping fit, with her next big goal being the Isle of Wight Challenge. She also has a complicated love-hate relationship with her guitar, which she has been playing since she was 10 years old.

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Sanne Andersen joined STP in March 2014 after applying for a position as a Danish translator. She then ultimately ended up joining the project management team as a project coordinator – a position she is thankfully really enjoying. Despite not having been with the company long she thinks there is a great atmosphere at the office and is pleased to have found a sort of Scandinavian home away from home.

Originally from Århus in Denmark, Sanne moved to Copenhagen in 2008 to study German and International Business Communication at Copenhagen Business School. She was awarded her BA in 2012, at which point she decided to spend a year skiing in Austria and Australia, the latter of which she informs us does in fact have snow. She then moved to the UK, a choice facilitated by a British boyfriend, to study for an MA in Translation Studies at the University of Portsmouth. It was here that she first became aware of STP. After graduating in September 2013 she was awarded a five-month translation traineeship at the European Commission in Brussels, a city she is very glad to have had the chance to live in, if only briefly.

Outside of work, skiing is one of Sanne’s greatest passions. After completing the Danish equivalent of A levels, she travelled to Austria to train as a ski instructor before staying on for the winter season and teaching children to ski. She also taught in Australia for a couple of summers – their winter – and found it to be quite a different experience due to differences in types of snow and landscape. She has not been able to ski as much recently, but hopes to be able to remedy this soon.

Industry issues

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The sausage and the sizzle

Anyone working in marketing knows they must sell the sizzle, not the sausage. Clients don’t buy features, they buy benefits. They don’t buy our product but what’s in it for them. So, an LSP should not promote their services as a feature, i.e. translation from Norwegian into English, but focus on the benefit the client will actually obtain through it, i.e. a target readership increase from 5 million to at least 500 million.

An individual translator or SLV may find it easy enough to list the main features of their sausage and then work on the sizzle, but as the picture gets bigger, it gets more blurred. In the translation community at large, a recurring topic in recent years has been: “Never mind the sizzle – what’s left of the sausage?” Conference themes like “Towards a Virtual Future”, “Evolution Not Revolution” and “Disruptive Innovation” reflect the fact that the industry is considering its relevance and possibly redefining its identity. What are the product and service offerings of localisation and globalisation these days? What are the features of the industry? These are big questions, and it is critical that with the threat of new entrants and substitute products to the translation market, LSPs do not lose sight of their raison d’être. We must make sure that the rivalry within the industry and the growing bargaining power of the buyers will not drive us into whittling down our product and service offering until there is nothing left of it at all.

Two years ago, in front of a conference audience, I was asked to describe – in one word – how I wanted clients to feel about working with STP. I replied: “Proud”. I would like to think that if it is possible for an LSP to create and maintain a brand so strong that it enables the company to obtain better prices, better terms, higher sales, more partners, excellent client retention and better qualified applicants, then it should be possible for the industry as a whole. After all, if we cannot brand our own industry and service well enough for our clients to understand the value and benefits, how can we expect them to trust us with their marketing messages?

The sizzle is all about branding. It goes without saying that a good brand without a good product is a waste of money and marketing effort. Our brand must always be about who we are and how we carry ourselves. Richard Brooks from K-International sums this up beautifully in his great presentation on the dynamics of running a growing company: “To improve the sizzle, you must improve the sausage.” This applies to our industry, too.

Nordic focus

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Spring is sprung

It’s party time in the Nordic countries, with two holidays at this time of the year that are celebrated much more thoroughly in Scandinavia than they are in the UK. The first is just behind us and the second is not far ahead.
Walpurgis Night is a traditional holiday celebrated on 30th April in the Nordic countries. While not celebrated as such in the UK, it falls at the same time and involves many of the same activities – singing traditional folk songs, lighting bonfires – as Beltane, which is still widely celebrated in Scotland and Ireland. It is a public rather than a family holiday and often involves entire communities coming together to celebrate. In the Middle Ages it marked the end of the administrative year and gave merchants a chance to relax and look forward to a new year. Now, students in particular latch on to it as a means of celebrating the end of their exams, coming together to sing, drink and make merry. More enterprising universities also arrange events such as river rafting, champagne fights – in Uppsala, where else? – and parades. In Finland, Walpurgis Night is one of the four biggest holidays, and most towns and cities have carnivals where the consumption of large volumes of sima, a kind of mead, and other alcoholic drinks is a prominent feature. Other activities include crowning statues across the country with student caps and lavish picnics the following day.

Midsummer is celebrated on or around 23 June in the Nordic countries. Conversely, this holiday is largely overlooked in the UK except among the Pagan community, although traditional Midsummer bonfires are still lit atop a number of hills throughout the country. In Scandinavia, Midsummer has been celebrated since the time of the Vikings, with popular activities including building bonfires close to bodies of water (since in the past people would traditionally visit healing water wells on this night), erecting and dancing around maypoles, singing and having picnics. This holiday is considered to be of particular importance in Sweden, where there have been discussions of making it the country’s new National Day. More country-specific methods of celebrating Midsummer include a Danish tradition of burning a witch made out of straw and cloth to commemorate witches burned in the Middle Ages – not unlike the British tradition of burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes on 5 November – and a Norwegian tradition of arranging mock weddings between both adults and children. The latter may be connected to the fact that this day was once considered an important night for fertility rituals across much of northern Europe, and indeed, the tradition of young women sleeping with flowers under their pillows at Midsummer to induce dreams of their future husbands is still prevalent across the entire Nordic region.

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