Photo credit: DVTA
On September 14 I gave up my Saturday to network and learn at a one-day conference organized by my local ATA chapter, the Delaware Valley Translators Association (DVTA). The event, formally the 4th Annual East Coast Interpreters and Translators Summit, was hosted at Widener University Delaware Law School, which is a convenient 25-minute drive for me. This was a lovely, local, bite-size chunk of professional development that left me energized, inspired, and excited to keep working on my skills and my business.
For the two two-hour slots where there were several talks to choose from, I chose the translation-related sessions. Reflecting the DVTA’s membership, most of the sessions focused on interpreting, so there was one translation session for each slot. The first session, led by DVTA President Dorothy Evans, was titled “What Does It Mean to Be a Successful Translator?” and was the most inspiring session for me. While the context and the examples all referred back to our shared experience as freelance translators, the themes of determining your own definition of success, setting reasonable goals, and making incremental changes apply broadly to self-employment and life in general. Plus, it was encouraging to hear a more established translator talk with candor and humor about the same struggles I’ve been running into.
The second session was one on diplomatic translation by Joe Mazza, the head of the translation division at the U.S. State Department’s Office of Language Services. His presence speaks to the fact that attendees at the summit hailed from up and down the Northeast Corridor, offering more networking opportunities than other DVTA events. While I’ve seen Joe speak at other events and chatted with him multiple times at ATA conferences, this time around he had a longer session (two hours instead of his usual one) and there were contractors that work with his office in the audience, in a relatively informal setting where they were able to share their experiences to complement his presentation. This time something clicked—maybe the fact that I finally have the five years’ experience Joe had stipulated the very first time I talked to him—and, with the encouragement of one of the contractors, I got the ball rolling on applying to work for the State Department.
Two other sessions were held for all attendees at once: the keynote and a closing session by a local accountant. The keynote speaker, Holly Mikkelson, gave a somewhat lyrical meditation on considering the human side of interpreting, keeping in mind the ways in which real lives are affected, and remaining compassionate rather than clinical. (Of course, much the same can be said of translation, even if we don’t see the humans affected face to face.) The closing session was a demo of QuickBooks that unfortunately ran into some technical difficulties (when each keypress registers twice, $120 very quickly becomes $112,200), but still sparked useful conversations and convinced me to take the plunge after doing my accounting by hand and Excel for over three years.
All in all, this summit had the energizing effect of an ATA conference on a smaller scale. I came away with workable steps to take moving forward, not to mention 5 CEUs. I would encourage everyone to check if they have an ATA chapter nearby and see if they organize a local conference or summit. It’s well worth a Saturday!
Eugenia Tietz-Sokolskaya is a Russian>English (ATA-certified) and French>English legal and financial translator based in the Philadelphia area. She holds a Master’s in Translation from Kent State University.