Women in localisation: professional development event

IMG_20151105_195002012Women in Localisation is an international non-profit organisation that meets once a quarter to brainstorm and present best practices and learn new innovative ways to improve localisation processes. The group has worldwide chapters and was founded in 2009 by Silvia Avary-Silveira, Eva Klaudinyova and Anna N Schlegel with the goals to drive the localisation industry and help Women advance in their careers.

Very recently the Catalan chapter opened here in Barcelona. Last Thursday Nov 5th, the first formal event took place at the Vistaprint offices in Poble Nou.

I was invited as a panelist together with Patricia Gómez (Head of Content at eDreams Odigeo) and Veronica Carioni (Senior Localization Specialist at Vistaprint). Maria Kania-Tasak (Strategic Account Manager at Sajan) was hosting the event as Head of the Catalan chapter and Muntsa Robinson (Sales Director at CPSL) was acting as presenter.

The event followed a questions and answers format around the concept of professional development. We, the panelists, gave answers based on our experience as translators that had moved on to different roles in the localisation industry. Then, there was time for the attendees —women and men from the industry but also translation students— to ask questions. Afterwards, we had the traditional «pica-pica» to get to know each other. I was pleased to see that we all found the event interesting, fun and, above all, necessary.

There will be more planned events about technology, professional development, sales, project management. But if you could not attend, I leave you here the set of questions asked and my answers to those questions.

By the way, pencil in Dec 9th as Women in Localisation will host a Xmas event in collaboration with GALA. The LinkedIn space will show more information. So, sign up to our LinkedIn Group and promote the organization among your translation industry friends. This is a non-for-profit organization so free space and sponsors are needed!

Question 1. If you are a translator/PM currently but want to move into different roles within the localization industry? How do to this? How easy/or hard is it? 

Answer:  One way is through formal training and the other one is through practice. For example, you can take a PM training course like PMP if you want do become a localisation project manager, or you might start by working as a project manager assistant or language coordinator or a related task, and then progress to project management. In the same way, you can do an MBA or an MA in Human Resources, if you want to work in these areas, or you can progress from a middle management position into higher positions through time, and in-house training.

There are also different types of approaches to a career. Some people decide what they want to do, or what they are good at doing, and they work towards these objectives. While others work in a position and they are then promoted to other positions than entail more responsibility.

It is good to know the options available in a career before making a decision. The more information we have on the options and on our own characteristics/personality, the better it will be to find a suitable position.

Question 2. What were the things/steps that you have taken in your careers to be where you are right now? What was the challenges? What did you find easy in this transitions?

Answer: My personal career path was ideal. I had the opportunity to work in an LSP (Language Service Provider) in Dublin with a group of international colleagues where I learnt a lot. I was reviewed, I was supervised so I improved exponentially from university. Then I went freelancing when the prices were high and work abundant, so I had the freedom to choose interesting projects, and learn a lot about technical translation. And then I went back to a large multinational to lead a group of Spanish translators, which was also an excellent experience. From then on, I progressed onto other management positions.

We could think that this is the natural progression, to train in an LSP and then move from there to a freelance position or to work at the customer side. But there isn’t really a cut out path that cannot be changed.

As I described earlier, in my case I was doing a job and I was promoted to other positions because my managers thought I could do the new job so I was not aware exactly of the steps that I was taking. In that sense, it was relatively easy for me, I progressed as I learnt more, and I kept on going.

However, and in retrospective, it was difficult to stop being directly involved with the translation aspect of localisation (as a translator and as head of the Spanish department in Dublin) and to become a resource and operations manager, where you are not actually producing something, a good, a translation. In other words, something that I perceived as a real thing, but to help to produce this and to lead people into achieving this.

Since this is a talk about women in localisation, I think being a woman and managing operations was an added difficulty. Sometimes, a woman with opinions and self confident in the job is perceived by many as bossy or authoritarian. Very quickly a woman is labelled. But these same characteristics are regarded in men as something positive, that people can rely on, a sign of intelligence, and therefore unproblematic.

Unfortunately, in localisation there are too many women doing different tasks, and looking towards men for approval or solutions, when some of the men making decisions have less knowledge or background information than the women in question. Maybe we, as women, have traditionally (and for centuries) waited to be invited to dance, rather than being the ones taking the initiative and leading the dance. But now, we are free to dance whenever we feel like it. We might overdo it  in the beginning, but it doesn’t matter. One thing I have learnt with age is that, at the end of the day, people care much less about what we do than we think, and that we are, on occasions, our worst enemies.

Question 3. What are the most useful skills you get from being a translator that you can apply to other jobs in the translation industry? What skills do you feel might be lacking or are not emphasized in translation education when entering the corporate world?

Answer: In my opinion, one of the most useful soft skills for all jobs is curiosity and interest. Translators have or should have these skills because they are an intrinsic part of the craft. These two skills will drive all the others, to learn new tools, to understand how workflows functions, to apply new knowledge to existing processes, to change things that do not work, to negotiate. In other words, you need to have a passion for what you are doing, otherwise, it will be difficult to be curious and acquire more knowledge.

Of course, if you have a translation background it is easier to talk to customers about localisation. I have done a lot of this, and I particularly like this aspect of the job.

I think as a manager you need an array of skills that, in general, nobody has taught you, and that you learn after making a lot of mistakes. The ability to analyse a problem fast, the ability to remain calm and transmit security (maybe without feeling secure), the ability to see the global picture and not to get sidetracked by small details or small talk, the ability to negotiate for the team, for the company, for the customer, the ability to empathise with people that might be very different from you, the ability to understand complex information from different sides, the ability to be friendly but not complacent, the ability to be logical but human at the same time.

Some of the skills that need development are financial skills. It is important to manage a project (time, cost and quality) but also to present your financial achievements and needs to higher management, and, without numbers, it is difficult to win arguments in the localisation industry.

Also, to develop an assertive communication, not just communicate but to do it well: when, how and where is needed. Communication can be very aggressive when you hide behind the email, Skype or any other digital medium. By being assertive, I mean discussing any topic with the facts and the emotions, but without an underlying message or attitude to win an argument and feed our own egos.

Question 4. Do you feel that women need different skills/abilities in the translation industry as opposed to men?

Answer: Certainly, if you are a woman you will also need endurance and assertiveness. As I mentioned before, maybe a woman will be criticised for who she is and not for what she does, and she will need to remain calm, be respectful and carry on. This does not mean not to listen to others, but to take all in, and then put together a strategy.

There are many things that are odd in Translation and in Localisation. For example, if you go to a translation event, 70% of attendees are women, but only 30% of the speakers are women. In Localisation this is even more pronounced. People making decisions in this industry are men, in general, but there are a lot of women doing the background work. We have become sophisticated secretaries, and this is something that we all need to change. We need to aspire to higher positions, because they are challenging, they are fun, and they can be done by women.

We need to believe that women have the same authority. We should find the male chauvinistic person that we all have inside and that we have acquired through our own exposure to society in general, and have a very serious talk with this person, and tell them: “You know what, I think I’m judging this person because of their gender, and not because of what she or he is doing and saying”

Question 5. What would you encourage and discourage the audience from doing as you are trying to grow and develop in the translation industry? Can you speak from your personal experience of examples?

Answer: I would avoid clichés, believing in them and perpetuating them. Always think outside the box, again listen to others but identify if this is only a cliché without any solid base. Just because everyone says something, it does not mean it is true. For example, women are good project managers because they are good at multitasking. It takes away the value of someone, a woman or a man, that are good at a job because they put the effort not because of their gender. Women are not good in Sales or in higher Management because they have children and they won’t dedicate this time to the company. Women are more emotional. These ideas are not helpful and we should be critical when confronted with them.

Another thing I would discourage from doing is to concentrate on the global aspects of this industry, rather on the task at hand. For example, sometimes it can be very frustrating to work in an industry so price driven, ruthless in some cases, but if you focus on this aspect (which is real, I’m not denying that) then it becomes difficult to focus on the project you are working on or on the positive side of the work you are doing. Endurance is very important here, too, but also to keep the perspective of the job in hand.

I have fought many pointless battles that only wore me down, and I achieved little. It is better to choose the battles carefully and try to achieve something, maybe a stepping stone to something bigger.

Something that I have learnt recently (apart from breathing correctly in moments of crisis) is to try and wear somebody else’s shoes. Try and understand where this person is coming from, what their fears are, why they talk to others in that way. By understanding them, it is easier to establish a dialogue.

Question 6. What was the biggest challenge for you in your translation career growth? Working for a certain company size? Being placed in a certain geography? Working with certain teams (technical, vs PM, and worldwide, remotely?)

Answer: As I mentioned earlier, the transition from translation to management was very hard for me. Also, I was not trained to be a manager in localisation, I learnt on the job by doing it. It took me a long time to take this step, I was offered managerial positions earlier on in my career and I always declined, and when I finally took this step I kind of regretted it immediately but then I felt I had to accomplish something.

Also, I should mention that working for multinationals and dealing with different cultures can be very challenging, but I always found this challenge as a enriching aspect although sometimes frustrating of the job.

It was also hard to be a woman, as I mentioned earlier, in middle management without the possibility of going that step further, the famous glass ceiling.

Question 7. Is there space to grow professionally in this industry here locally in Spain/Catalunya or do you have to go abroad?

Answer: It depends on the definition that we have of to grow professionally. It is clear that you can learn everywhere, in Barcelona, in Madrid, in Granada. Another thing is the desire to have an international experience. I personally think it is useful as a person, and professionally it allows you to see other work practices and to work with people all over the world.

But this depends very much on each individual. I would advise translators to travel but because this is what we do, we like cultures, we like to speak other languages, we are curious…or we should be in any case.

It is difficult for me to even begin to imagine my life without the years that I have spent in Ireland or in Barcelona. But I found that in my time you had to travel to go to international companies or to gain experience on site, but now you can do that here in Barcelona where there are quite a lot of international companies.

However, I still think that the international experience is just so valuable personally and professionally.

Question 8. Do you have any mentors or people in the translation industry or outside the industry that you look up to? Is it worth to have a mentor who can help you develop your career? How can you find one?

Answer: I don’t have one mentor, but I have always copied things that I liked from others. Observation is important to copy aspects that you like and to avoid those that you don’t like. I do think it is a nice thing to have a mentor, someone to talk to and that knows your talents and where you need to improve, but unfortunately this is not always possible.

I often ask my friends for opinion on my strengths or weaknesses so I can make better decisions or improve at work or in life.

I certainly think that people and mentors can help you develop your career and also that networking is a crucial aspect of any job. You can find a mentor at University, at the workplace,  a friend or even in this type of events.

Question 9: Where can you get more professional training to help you in career development? Translation conferences? Online workshops? Which ones? What has worked for you?

Answer: The practice itself has been very useful to me, learning from others and in the job.

The second easiest thing to do is to read a little bit what has been published not only in translation/localisation but in psychology or management, depending on the job at hand.

My doctorate was very useful to me, it taught me how to think better and how to express myself better. I did it at a time in my life where I needed new input from outside the industry because this industry is very focused on productivity and money. I wanted to think freely about something different and to do it in depth. It taught me a lot.

I have also done online workshops and conferences, both attending and giving talks, and I find all of these activities very useful because they help you structure your thoughts and reflect on what you actually do or think about the job. But also you share experiences with others, with people from very different backgrounds and they motivate you to go on.

Question 10: As a way to wrap-up and summarize, can you share top 2-3 takeaways for translation industry career development that you feel are important to the growth of women in the translation industry/here in Spain/Catalunya?


  • More women in higher management positions
  • Be empathic!
  • Women networking (like in these events) to feel empowered
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Last December I published a post about Hernán Casciari and Orsai. Today I wanted to share with you a translation I did of one of Casciari’s most popular short-stories: Finlandia (Finland). The story was first published in his blog in 2005 and then, in 2011, it was republished in the magazine Orsai (Orsai 02) with drawings by Javier Olivares. Below, you can see a sample of one of the drawings that illustrates Finlandia.

The story needs no further introduction, so I hope you enjoy this version as much as I enjoyed translating it! And if you have any suggestions or comments about the translation, feel free to make them in the Reply section.finland


On December 14th 1995 I killed my sister’s eldest daughter while reversing my car. During the blunt impact, my family’s howling and the actual realization that I had run into a trunk, I lived the most intense ten seconds of my life. For those ten seconds, I hung onto time and I realized that any possible future would be an endless hell.

I was living in Buenos Aires and I had travelled to Mercedes to celebrate my grandmother’s eightieth birthday (that’s why I remember the exact date because she will be ninety in a few days; because in a few days it will be the tenth-year anniversary of something, not good or bad, that has defined my life unlike any other event).

We celebrated my grandmother’s birthday with a barbecue in our country house; we were having a nice conversation after the meal. At three o’clock I borrowed the car from Roberto to go to the newspaper and hand in an interview. I got into the car, I looked at the rear mirror to check there were no children playing around and I reversed the car to align it with the gate and gain access to the street. It was then that I felt the impact, a sharp blow against the car’s rear, and the world stopped forever.

Forty meters from me, at the table where everyone is talking, my sister, terrified, stands up and screams her daughter’s name. My mother, or perhaps my grandmother, or somebody also screams:

—He ran her over!

At that moment, I realized that my life, as I knew it, had come to an end. My life was no longer my life. I realized it immediately. I realized that my three-year-old niece was behind the car; I realized that because of her height I couldn’t have seen her through the mirror before reversing; I realized, finally, that I had just killed her.

Ten seconds is the time my family takes to run from the table to my car. I see them stand up, their faces distorted. I see an endless glass of wine falling to the floor. I see them all coming straight towards me. I don’t do anything; I don’t get out of the car; I don’t look at anybody: my eyes can’t be entertained with the real world because I have begun to travel in time, a very long and awful trip that would take ten seconds in reality but that, internally, it would take a viscous eternity.

At that moment (I don’t know why I’m so certain) I have no doubts about what I’ve just done. I don’t think about the possibility of having run into a trunk. I don’t even think that my niece is taking a nap inside the house. I see everything so clearly, so truly, that the only thing left to do is to think of me for the last time before letting myself be killed.

«I wish Negro would kill me» —I think—, «I hope he gets so mad, so enraged that he beats me up like an unmerciful father until I’m dead. I hope that he doesn’t give me the option of having to kill myself, tonight, because I’m a coward and I couldn’t do it; because I would do the most despicable act: I would go to Finland”. I spend the last ten seconds, the last peaceful seconds I will spend in my entire life, thinking about the person I will no longer be.

I was almost twenty-five years old. I was writing a very long and pleasant novel. I lived in a beautiful house in Villa Urquiza, with a Ping-Pong table in the terrace. I had my whole life ahead of me. I worked in a magazine that paid well. I had an intense social life. I was happy. And then, I kill my three-year-old goddaughter and all the lights go off in all the rooms in all the houses where I could have lived happily ever after. I reflect about all of this dispassionately because I no longer own a body to tremble.

During those ten seconds, when real time has literally ceased, when my brain works for hours to fit into a ten-second box, I see clearly that I have only two options –if my brother-in-law doesn’t do me the favour of killing me—running away (immediately, bribe somebody and flee the country) or killing myself. As things stand, my biggest regrets are not to be able to write or laugh ever again.

For a long time, years, I was surprised at how coldly I faced disaster in those ten seconds when I thought that I had killed my niece. It wasn’t exactly coldness, but something worse: a split soul, an inhumane objectivity. It bothered me that I wouldn’t be able to write anymore, that in my suicide or escape –I hadn’t decided which one yet—I would have to give up one option: pleasure.

I could go to Finland, yes, to any cold and remote country. I wouldn’t be able to phone my family and friends anymore. I could become a butcher in a supermarket in Hämeenlina, but I wouldn’t be able to write, love a woman or fish anymore. I would be ashamed of happiness. I would be ashamed of forgetting, of distractions. An involuntary guilt would always be there and when I had a false sense of calm or I forgot for a moment what had happened, guilt would return to prolong my suffering. Life had ended. I had to disappear.

And what if I disappeared? What if my family could no longer see the killer? What kind of peace was I offering them? My family, the ones that were now running slowly from the table to my car to kill me or to see a child’s corpse, could think that I was in exile, hurt and afraid, fearful and mean, or agoraphobic. They could suspect that I was mad, like those people that wonder aimlessly after an earthquake; numb, sick, a bum. They could even forgive me because they would see me incapable of happiness, dejected. They would kill those that cursed me saying that they had seen me laughing in a Finnish town, drinking in a brothel, writing a story, making money, seducing a woman, petting a cat, fishing a boga or giving out money to a Moroccan in the subway. They wouldn’t believe that someone (not I in particular but someone) could be capable of such weakness, of such sad forgetfulness, of killing and not crying, of escaping and forgetting a summer’s afternoon when a child, your own blood, lied dead under a car tyre.

Ten endless seconds until someone sees the trunk and everyone forgets the situation.

Nobody, none of the people that were having lunch that day ten years ago in Mercedes, remembers this story now. Nobody has had nightmares; only I have woken up in a sweat for years, when those ten seconds come back at night without the happy ending. For them it is only a dent in my bumper at the end of spring.

Nothing bad happened that afternoon, and nothing bad happened, before or afterwards, in my life. Ten years have passed and since then everything has been peaceful; an oasis where nothing inevitable has interfered in my life. Why then, these days, do I feel like I have turned ten and not thirty-five? Why do I give more importance to this date when I didn’t kill anybody than to that previous one when I was born screaming, crazy with life? Why some nights do I wake up and I’m short of breath and I feel the real cold of a Finnish cabin? And why do I find the odds and ends of anguish and exile, and I suffocate because I didn’t have the guts to kill myself?

It is the frailty of peace that provokes shivers and uncertainty. It is the dreadful speed of misfortune that stalks like an eagle at night and waits hidden to steal everything and leave us grasping the steering wheel and thinking that the only option is to die alone in Finland, with dried eyes from not weeping.

Luckily, there is usually a trunk and we live in peace. But we all know, beneath laughter, love and sex, and the nights spent with friends, books and records, that there isn’t always a trunk. Sometimes there is Finland.

Orsai: The true age of countries

IMG_0668I’ve been following Hernán Casciari’s blog, Orsai, on and off for almost 10 years. Hernán is an Argentinian writer and journalist that lives in Barcelona, well, really Sant Celoni. He created an award-winning blog novel (or is it a novel blog?) that even got staged in Buenos Aires. In 2010, he kissed goodbye to all the newspapers and publishing houses he was working for and created his own «publishing house» by a sort of crowd-funding method (you can watch him explaining this himself in a TED talk here, with English subtitles).

But, in this post, I don’t want to discuss why I follow Hernán’s blog, why I find what he does interesting and fun, or to do an analysis, description or critique of his work. I want to share with my English-speaking friends a translation into English of the first post I read in his blog, «La verdadera edad de los países», and the one that converted me to casciarism.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and if you have corrections feel free to share them so we can improve the translation.

The true age of countries

By Hernán Casciari

A clever reader commented on my article España, decí alpiste [Spain, you snooze you lose], that Argentina is not better or worse than Spain, only younger. I liked that theory so I made up a game to discover the age of countries based on the dog system. We were told when we were children that to know a dog’s real age we only had to multiply its biological age times 7. Then, with countries, I thought, we only had to divide its age by 14 to find out the human age equivalent.

Confusing? Not to worry, in this article I give some revealing examples.

Argentina was born in 1816. It is one hundred and eighty-nine years old. If we divide this by 14, Argentina is thirteen years and four months old. In other words, Argentina is at an awkward age: a forgetful, rebellious wanker that answers without thinking and has balls. That’s why it is renowned for having one of the best football teams in the world.

Almost all the countries in Latin America have the same age, and as it happens often in these cases, they get into gangs. The Mercosur gang is formed by four adolescents that have a rock band. They rehearse in a garage making a lot of noise but having never released an album. Venezuela, with her incipient breasts, is about to join the band to do vocals when in fact, she wants to have sex with Brazil, a guy of fourteen with a big cock. Oh, dear, so young. One day they’ll grow up.

Mexico is also a teenager but with Indian heritage. That’s the reason why he seldom smiles and only smokes peyote, and not a harmless joint like the rest of his pals. He hangs out with the United States, a seventeen-year-old retarded boy who spends his time killing hungry six-year-olds from other continents.

On the other side of things, there is ancient China, for example: if we divide its 1200 years by 14, we have and old woman of around eighty-five, conservative, that smells of cat pee and spends her days eating rice because she is too poor to buy false teeth. She divorced Japan ages ago but has an eight-year-old grandson, Taiwan, who renders her life impossible. Japan, a cantankerous old man who can still have a hard-on, is living with the Philippines, a young twat always willing to do any aberration for money.

Then there are those countries that have just come of age and they go round driving their fathers’ BMWs. Take for example, Australia and Canada. They are the typical countries that grow up protected by daddy England and mummy France, with a very posh and strict education, and now they behave like mad. Australia is an eighteen-year-old chick that does topless and has sex with South Africa; Canada is an emancipated gay man who will soon adopt little Greenland and form one of those alternative families that are so in vogue.

France is a separated thirty-six-year-old woman. She will fuck anything that moves but she is very much respected professionally. Germany, a rich lorry driver married to Austria, is her occasional lover. Although, Austria knows she is being cheated on she doesn’t care. France has a six-year-old son, Monaco, on his way to becoming gay or a dancer, or both.

Italy has been a widow for a long time. She spends her time minding San Marino and the Vatican, two catholic twins identical to the Flanders. Italy was married for the second time to Germany (a short-lived marriage: they had Switzerland) but now she couldn’t care less about men. Italy would like to be like Belgium, a lawyer, independent, that wears trousers and discusses politics with men as an equal. (Also sometimes Belgium has wild fantasies about cooking spaghetti).

Spain is the most beautiful woman in Europe (maybe France could compete, but loses on spontaneity, too much perfume). Spain walks around topless a lot and she is invariably drunk. Usually, she has sex with England but then she reports abuse. Spain has children everywhere (almost all of them are thirteen years old) living far away from home. She loves them dearly but she is annoyed when her children, sometimes hungry, spend time with her and open the fridge.

The other one that has children scattered everywhere is England. Great Britain sails at night, screws young women, and nine months later an island appears somewhere in the world. But England doesn’t wash his hands: the islands might live with their mothers, but England supports them. Scotland and Ireland, England’s brothers that live upstairs, are always drunk and they can hardly play football. They only bring shame to the family.

Sweden and Norway are two thirty-nine-year-old (almost forty) lesbians in great shape for their age but that wouldn’t give a toss about anybody. They have sex and work: with a degree in something or other. Sometimes they do a threesome with Holland (when in need of dope), and sometimes they flirt with Finland, a thirty-year-old guy, a bit of an androgen that lives in an attic without furniture and spends hours talking with Korea on the mobile.

Korea (the one in the South) constantly looks after her mad sister. They are twins, but the one in the North drank amniotic fluid at birth and is disabled. She spent her childhood playing with guns and now, living by herself, she can be unpredictable. United States, the seventeen-year-old retarded, keeps an eye on her, not because he is afraid but because he wants her guns.

Israel is a sixty-two-year-old intellectual with a shitty life. Many years ago, the lorry driver, Germany (that used to drive around roads while Austria was sucking him off) didn’t see Israel crossing and ran over him. From that day on, Israel became enraged and now, instead of reading books, he spends his time throwing stones at Palestine, a girl washing clothes in the house next door.

Iran and Iraq were sixteen-year-old cousins that stole motorbikes and sold their parts until one day they stole a replacement part from the United States and the business went bust. They are sitting around with their fingers up their asses.

The world was fine as it was. One day, however, Russia started living (out-of-wedlock) with Perestroika and they had a dozen and a half children. All strange, some morons, others just schizoids.

One week ago, and due to a mess that involved gunshots and dead citizens, we, the earnest people in the world, discover that there is a country called Kabardino-Balkaria. A country with a flag, president, national anthem, flora, fauna and even inhabitants!

To be honest, I’m a bit afraid that young countries spring out like that, so suddenly. We find out about their existence inadvertently and we are forced to pretend we know, not to look ignorant. I wonder why new countries are born if the ones already there aren’t behaving properly at all.