Icebreaker 18, September 2015

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

Have you heard of the 2015 LRC Best Thesis Award? Sponsored by Microsoft Ireland, the award is given annually to the author of the best research publication in global content development, internationalisation or localisation. Students who have completed a thesis on a relevant theme within the past two years are invited to submit their work for consideration and will be judged by a panel of academic and industry experts. For more information, visit http://www.localisation.ie/best-thesis or email LRC@ul.ie.

Company news

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STP appoints new Managing Director

Anu Carnegie-Brown, STP’s Operations Manager, has been promoted to Managing Director with effect from 1 September 2015. Jesper Sandberg becomes Executive Chairman and will move into his new role gradually. Jesper and Anu have already started the process of reorganising and handing over tasks, and the pair will continue to work together closely in running the business, especially in the first 12 months of transition.

Anu joined STP in 2002, having already gained solid industry experience in Finland and the UK. She has continued to grow and develop ever since, showing great initiative, people skills and operational management ability along the way. In her seven years as Operations Manager, Anu has been involved in almost every aspect of running the business. She has been pivotal in improving STP’s internal organisation and HR efforts, spearheading the company’s recent growth from a staff of 45 in 2012 to 100 in 2015, while also doubling revenue in the same period.

A respected figure in the wider translation industry, Anu has also earned a reputation as an insightful and engaging speaker through her work representing STP at industry events and in academia. Her promotion to Managing Director is the next logical step in STP’s evolution, and will see her contribute even more strongly to the company’s ongoing growth and success. It is also richly deserved, and we are sure you will join us in wishing Anu all the very best in her new role.

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Communication is key for STP

STP now employs 100 people in locations around the world. As the company has grown, its communication challenges have also increased; and the need to manage those challenges more effectively has never been more pressing.

One such challenge is internal communication. As a growing company, we must continue to inspire the best people to come and work for us. But once they’re here, how do we keep them feeling motivated and valued enough to want to stay? How do we keep the people at the top in touch with the needs and concerns of those further down the chain? How do we manage and communicate change in a positive way? And what can we do to help departments work together better and more productively?

Then there’s the challenge of external communication. Which methods can we use to win more business, and to get existing clients to buy from us more often? What is STP’s tone of voice, and how can we apply it consistently to everything we do? How can we use blogs, social media and other digital marketing techniques to get STP noticed by more of the right people?

Finding the right answers to these questions, among others, is important for STP’s future. And that is why we have created the new role of Content and Communications Manager, to be taken on by Joe Jeffries. A strong communicator, Joe is experienced in all areas of the translation industry, having been a freelance translator, run his own outsourcing business and, most recently, worked as a project manager for two of STP’s most demanding accounts. He also brings valuable knowledge of SEO, social media and content marketing, having worked as a content writer for a leading digital marketing agency.

Joe will start in earnest in late September, and we are confident you will all feel the positive effects of the new role over time. In the meantime, if you don’t do so already, please follow us on social media – and expect a lot more activity from us from now on!

Twitter: @STPconnect
Facebook: Sandberg Translation Partners
LinkedIn: Sandberg Translation Partners Ltd

Staff News

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Family fortunes

Kjellfrid and Jeremy Castle joined STP in April 2015, the former as a Senior Norwegian Translator and the latter as an IT Support Technician.

Kjellfrid started her university education in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Bergen, but soon switched to Psychology and then English, where she remained until she completed her MA. She has always had a broad range of academic interests and found it difficult to choose a specialisation. However, language was both a passion and an instinctive choice – she grew up as a Norwegian attending an American school in Japan – and she found it was something in which she could excel.

Kjellfrid has translated professionally since completing her MA in December 2006. For the first five years, she translated almost exclusively from Norwegian to English, and in 2013 she passed the Norwegian state translation exam to become a government-authorised translator for this language pair. From 2007 onwards, she worked as a freelancer, during which time she translated and taught English academic writing to MA and PhD students, as well as teaching Norwegian as a second language. She really enjoyed the balance between the solitary nature of translation work and the people-oriented teaching roles.

After Kjellfrid and Jeremy married in 2009, they lived in Nottingham for two years. In 2011, they decided to move to Norway, and from then until April this year Kjellfrid worked for a major oil service provider in Bergen as Lead Translator. She definitely benefited from her maths and science background in that role, as most of the work involved translating engineering instructions for offshore installations. She was also responsible for developing procedures, quality assurance and hiring new translators as needed.

In her spare time, Kjellfrid likes to keep fit by either hiking or running. She also loves travelling and seeing new places, trying new foods and being surrounded by beauty, whether in an art museum or out in a natural landscape. She loves creating beautiful things and has recently started teaching herself how to paint. She also loves Shakespeare. But free time is scarce with their toddler daughter Emily, so for now she has to savour every opportunity she has.

Jeremy grew up primarily in lively Southern California, but always enjoyed it when his family took trips in the desert or the lush forests and snow of Northern California. He spent his twenties working in various roles including administrator, computer support technician and English teacher for an international Christian charity, which involved travel to Brazil, Switzerland, Germany, India and Nepal. As a result, he made wonderful lifelong friends all over world and one of his fondest memories is taking an incredible 80-hour return train journey across India. After obtaining a TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate, Jeremy ran his own freelance business for a couple of years before obtaining a degree in International Relations as a mature student from Nottingham Trent University, where he studied German, the European Union and British/German politics.

In his spare time, Jeremy loves to drive just about anywhere (driving across Europe and the US for fun is no big deal), as well as tennis, creative writing, board games and pretty much anything to do with UK politics.

Industry issues

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What makes a good LSP client great?

A good LSP is one that pays on time. End of story? For some, perhaps. But if that’s all it takes to be good, is good really enough? Shouldn’t all LSPs be striving to be great clients? And what separates the good from the great, anyhow?

For 20 years, STP has worked almost exclusively for other LSPs. Some of our regular freelance translators have stuck with us since the start, and many of them say very nice things about us. So we know what it’s like to work for great LSPs clients – as well as what it takes to be one.

We’ve distilled it into 10 essential traits. And it all starts with a little…

1) Respect

A great LSP client never forgets that without your suppliers, you have no product to sell. It pays, quite literally, to keep your vendors on your side – and it’s as simple as treating them as you would want to be treated.

2) Empathy

Translation vendors are people, with human feelings, flaws, needs and desires. They also have a life outside work, with all the ups and downs that go with it. A great LSP knows that a little understanding goes a long way.

3) Brilliant PMs

If an LSP were a sports car, then project managers would be its supercharged engine. No, not because they’re noisy, high-maintenance and prone to breakdowns. But because without them, the business would go nowhere fast. That’s why, for a great LSP, only the best PMs get hired.

4) Collaboration

To a great LSP, vendors aren’t just faceless drones who churn out work, get paid and slip back into the shadows. They are central to the business’ success. A great LSP client seeks ideas, builds relationships and gives vendors the chance to grow with them. Because to them, collaboration is progress.

5) Integrity

Do what you said you would. Do it on time and as agreed. And if you can’t do it, don’t promise it. A great LSP knows that without honesty, there is no trust – and without trust, there is no translation industry.

6) Expertise from the top down

Translation is big business and, like it or not, the people at the top aren’t always there because of a burning passion for languages. Even so, there are still agencies, like STP, with translation experts in every single department. And it’s little wonder that those LSPs tend to make the greatest clients.

7) Technologenius

A good LSP client embraces technology. A great LSP lives and breathes it, always seeking new ways to streamline the journey from project start to final delivery. And when things go wrong, their help and advice is always on tap.

8) Responsiveness

Payment issues. Project-critical queries. Technical meltdowns. Urgent job set-ups. Vendors need swift action on all of these. A great LSP client never keeps them waiting.

9) Communication

Nothing sinks a translation project faster than miscommunication. And in a profession conducted almost entirely by email, the threat of calamity is never far away. To a great LSP, clarity is always king.

10) Gratitude

Translation can feel like a thankless trade sometimes, but only if you work for the wrong people. Great LSP clients praise good work, keep mistakes in proportion and greet every delivery with gratitude. In return they get loyal, motivated vendors who will always go above and beyond.

Nordic focus

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The sound of silence

Silence. In Anglo-Saxon cultures, it is a negative thing. In a typical American conversation, you rarely find such a thing as a comfortable silence, a reflective silence or a natural silence. And when the Brits make conversation, there is only one type of silence – the awkward one. Nordic nationals, on the other hand, come from a conversational culture that loves and treasures silences. Facilitating comfortable, flowing, spoken communication between such different people in social situations, business meetings and even personal relationships can sometimes feel like a task equal to tackling global climate change or international organised crime.

US anthropologist Edward T. Hall first introduced the concept of high-context cultures and low-context cultures in his book ‘Beyond Culture’ in 1976. He explained that in a high-context culture, people share the same kind of experiences and background (and even genes) and thus need less verbal communication because they already know so much about each other and each other’s typical everyday situations. Due to the homogeneity and similarity of the people, surprises are rare. In a low-context culture, on the other hand, where hundreds of different races and religions are represented, fewer unspoken assumptions can be made and more gaps need to be filled in with words.

All Nordic countries can be described as high-context cultures, but it seems that the Finns are in a league of their own in this (too). Not only do they barely need to speak to each other, but they also distrust verbosity. Perhaps as a natural result of their historical and geographical influences, they belong to a reactive, listening culture that prefers to watch and wait and see how things pan out before contributing. They are notorious for the slow pace of their conversations and their extreme comfort with what anywhere else would be considered painfully uncomfortable periods of silence.

In a well-known illustration, conversation in the Anglo-Saxon world is described as following the rules of table tennis, whereas in Finland it resembles bowling – everyone patiently waits for their turn and interruptions are considered extremely impolite. Tarja Moles writes in ‘The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Finns’ that in Finland, small talk is not just an aversion, it’s a national handicap. Finns cannot do it to save their lives. When they go berry picking in the forest, they know that to deter the larger kind of wildlife (like bears) from coming close, you need to make a noise. While people from any other nationality would simply keep up a lively chat amongst themselves, the Finns wrap little bells around their wrists.

This general Nordic reticence to talk might also be interpreted as shyness. Interestingly, in this part of the world where modesty and equal opportunities are so highly valued, shyness is not perceived as a social handicap. In contrast to the English linguistic culture where ‘to be shy of something’ means ‘to lack something’, none of the Nordic words for ‘shy’ carry any negative connotations at all.

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