Q&A with Maria Daskalova, Project Manager
Which languages do you speak, Maria?
I speak Bulgarian, English, Spanish, Russian and a little bit of German.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was little and people asked me what I wanted to do, I would say I wanted to marry my dad! As a teenager, I decided to study English as I had a passion for foreign languages and I was never interested in science subjects, like maths and chemistry.
How did you end up working in the translation industry?
I graduated with a BA in English studies from the University of Plovdiv, then I did an MA in Translation and Intercultural Communication. Since I was passionate about languages, I studied something I liked and I was good at. After finishing university, I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher, but that I wanted to go into translation instead. I got a project management internship and after that I knew I had found my place in the universe! This was with the NGO Translators without Borders. I stayed on for a while after my internship and then became a Translation Liaison Consultant and also did some freelance work as a translator before applying for a PM position at STP. It was only after I had applied for the job that I saw that STP was a Translators without Borders sponsor, which made me even more interested in the job!
What does it mean to be a project manager (PM)?
First of all, I think it means having to be a superhero: you have to multitask, be devoted to your work, do the impossible to make a project succeed. You almost have to believe in magic, every day you have to try and do everything to keep both your clients and the freelance and in-house translators happy. You also have to be thick-skinned: each day, you need to be able to filter out things that are unhelpful or even negative, to extract the useful info from the information overload you deal with.
What is your favourite part of being a PM?
I think the fact that I get to “e-meet” new people every day, that I get to communicate with people from different cultures and countries. I find this aspect very motivating and stimulating.
As a Bulgarian working for a largely Nordic translation company, have you noticed any cultural differences between you and your colleagues?
At first, I thought that the Nordic people were a little cold! But then I discovered their humour and warmth and enjoy chatting to them if I get a chance.
If you could have a professional superpower, what would it be?
I would like to learn a skill by simply touching a piece of information about it. For example, you would open a course on project management, touch the screen and you would suddenly know all about it.
If you could do any other job for a week, what would it be?
I would like to fly an aeroplane! Though I think I would have to fly it by myself, because no one would take the risk of flying with a novice! It would be very different from who I am and what I do normally.
If you could wake up and be fluent in a new language, what would it be?
Maybe an Asian language, like Korean or Japanese. They are so different and spoken so far away. I know so little about them, and the writing system is different. Or Arabic!
Do you have any hidden talents?
I like to experiment with cooking different things. I also practise yoga; I have been doing yoga for seven years now. I am also a swing dancer, but there isn’t really any swing dancing in Varna unfortunately. I also recently became a volunteer for the René May foundation.
It’s fika time. Tea or coffee?
I actually prefer a drink called Inka, which is largely chicory and has no caffeine in it.
Who do you most admire, and why?
I admire people who do good for others and don’t expect anything in return.
Machine translation – friend or foe?
I think it’s both. Machine translation facilitates the work of human translators. But as the engines are getting better and better, the industry is going to change a lot!
Any advice for new PMs starting out in the industry?
I would say that they need to make sure that this is something that they want to do before getting into it. Once they’ve started, they should be patient and not be afraid to ask colleagues for help. You never stop learning as a PM.
How do you unwind at the end of a long day?
I pour myself a glass of wine, I make a nice salad for dinner and relax with a TV series.
Where is your favourite place to be?
I think it would be a faraway cottage in the mountains, near a forest. It would be on top of an immense rock at the edge of the world, far away from people and noise.
What would be your dream travel destination?
I would enjoy travelling anywhere if I had the people I love with me to share the experience with.
Describe STP in three words!
Devoted, serious, open (to change)!