Take Your Dreams to New Heights at the CTA Conference

By Marion Rhodes
English-German Translator

Every business starts with a dream. At the 5th Annual Conference of the Colorado Translators Association, language professionals will learn how to not only dream big but also how to turn those dreams into reality.

As social media coordinator for the Colorado Translators Association, I got to help organize my second professional conference this year. The event will be held May 1-3 in Boulder, Colo., and offers a lineup of speakers on all aspects of running a successful translation career, including some of our industry’s most respected experts (think Corinne McKay, Karyn Tkaczyk, Tuomas Kostiainen).

Organizing a conference is a lot of work, but seeing everything come together in the end is a wonderful feeling. One of the biggest challenges is keeping prices low while providing exciting sessions for attendees. CTA worked hard this year to secure sponsorships to help keep costs down. We were thrilled to get both the University of Denver and SDL on board!

Most of our attendees will come from Colorado, of course. But if you’re a translator living out of state, let me give you some good reasons to make a trip to the Rocky Mountains in May (not including the legal weed):

  • Our conference is a three-day event that includes a sitting of the ATA certification exam and a pre-conference social on Friday, a total of 12 break-out sessions on Saturday and two tools workshops on Sunday. Details on these events, as well as the rest of the conference, are available on the CTA website.
  • Colorado is always beautiful, but this time of the year, it is simply stunning. The trees are in bloom, the weather is gorgeous (unless of course you get a late snow storm, which is always a possibility), and the sunsets are amazing. Even though the days are mostly warm enough to wear t-shirts and even shorts, you can still go skiing in many resorts, which are only a short drive from the conference site. For out-of-town visitors, CTA has negotiated a special rate at a hotel in Boulder, the Millennium Harvest House.
  • The 2015 CTA Conference has been approved for 11 ATA credits (5 for Saturday and 6 for Sunday attendees) and 3 CCHI (Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters) credits for Saturday attendees.

Whether you are wondering about the right legal foundation for your business, want to improve your self-marketing skills or learn more about translation tools, CTA will have sessions to help you grow. So what are you waiting for? Early bird registration will end April 15, so sign up now by visiting http://cta-web.org/2015-annual-cta-conference/.

See you there!

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A week in the life of a busy translator

By Marion Rhodes

Oh, what a week it’s been! I had hoped to ease into the new year with a light work load, but alas, no such luck. Instead of leisurely updating my various Internet presences and catching up on my session recordings from the 2013 ATA Conference, I found myself conducting interviews, publishing blog posts, writing news briefs and working with new clients. First world problems, I know.

Don’t get me wrong, I like being busy. To the workaholic, there’s nothing worse than being idle. But after this past week, I must say even I am ready for a break, so I am going to enjoy some good old Colorado skiing with my family tomorrow (I know it’s blasphemy, with the Broncos playing in the Superbowl and all, but hey, I’m German and therefore allowed to not care about football). Anyway, here’s a look at what the last week looked like for me:

– CTA duties: As social media director for the Colorado Translators Association, it fell on me to announce the 2014 CTA Annual Conference, which will be held in Boulder, Colo., on April 26 & 27. I also got to announce this year’s election for the new board members of our local association, as well as the Call for Papers for conference presentations. And if that wasn’t enough, I also had to interview our board candidates for the CTA Blog. Oh, and promote all of that in our various social media channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Phew.

– Paid work: Since all that volunteering for CTA doesn’t pay the bills, I also had to do a bit of paid work these past few days. I’m happy to say that I have been contacted by several potential new clients since the beginning of this year, both translation agencies and private customers, some of which have already sent me work. Here’s a translation I completed this week, which was rather fun but also quite a challenge because I had to capture the author’s peculiar writing style: Here is the original English version and here the translated German version.

– More volunteer duties: Because my life isn’t busy enough (insert sarcasm here), I agreed at the beginning of the school year to volunteer at my daughter’s school two or three times a month. So the past two Fridays, I found myself giving spelling tests to first-graders during the morning hours. There’s something incredibly rewarding about helping to enhance the linguistic skills of the next generation!

As you can imagine, I haven’t had much free time in a while. So I am going to log off now and stay away from the computer for the rest of the weekend. Good night, world!

Good Food and Good Company at CTA Dinner

I just got home from our annual holiday dinner of the Colorado Translators Association. At the beginning of each year, the members of our local association get together for a night of good food and good company. This was the second year I attended, and I can honestly say I had a great time with my fellow language enthusiasts! Last year, I didn’t know anyone and felt a bit insecure, but this year, I was comfortably mingling with familiar and new faces alike. It’s true: Practice makes perfect, and showing up is half the battle.

For freelancers like me, meeting like-minded people is crucial, not just for networking purposes but also for keeping our sanity. It’s one thing to converse about translation matters on email lists and professional forums, but we translators also enjoy discussing more personal topics, the stuff people share around the water cooler in traditional office settings. For this chance to get to know my colleagues on a more personal level, I don’t even mind the hour-long drive from Colorado Springs to Denver. Today, I was rewarded with friendly chit-chat about everything from recent travels to gluten-free diets to raising bilingual kids. (The latter is an interesting topic, one I plan to address in a separate post in the near future.)

Tonight’s event also included a few representatives from the Colorado office of the language services company SDL. It was great to hear some inside information about the workings of this translation giant. As luck would have it, they were there to recruit native speakers of languages other than English. See? Attending social events in your industry is always a good idea, because you never know whom you might meet. 😉

Me (left) with two fellow CTA members: Our Vice President Thais Lips (right), and fellow translator Eliza Graham (middle)

Me (left) with two fellow CTA members: our Vice President Thais Lipps (right), and fellow translator Eliza Graham (middle) Photo by Thais Lipps

What I Gained From Volunteering for the Colorado Translators Association

I usually try not to recycle blog posts I write for the Colorado Translators Association, but I am going to make an exception this time. My latest entry in the CTA blog is somewhat of a personal account of my experience as social media director for the association, so I figured it has a place on my own blog. Feel free to visit the CTA Blog and check out all of the articles I have written for the Colorado Translators Association – they tend to be less personal, but maybe a bit more informative in a general sense.

Benefits of Volunteering for Your Association

By Marion Rhodes
CTA Social Media Director

It has been almost a year since I took up my position as social media director for the Colorado Translators Association. This has been my first experience with an ongoing volunteer job, and I can tell you that it has been rewarding in so many ways.

I had been a member of CTA for a few years before I became its social media director, but I hadn’t really experienced the full benefits of my membership. Sure, I had enjoyed the professional exchanges on our email list, but I had felt no particular connection to the other translators in our association. When I became social media director, I was anxious about attending my first CTA social get-together (our annual holiday party at the beginning of the year). I had only attended one or two CTA events in the past – workshops that were subject-focused and during which I barely engaged with my fellow CTA members, arriving just in time and leaving as soon as the workshop was over. So yes, I was nervous.

Socializing as a job

I’m an introverted extrovert, so I don’t enjoy networking, small-talk or events that drop me into a room full of strangers or near-strangers. However, if socializing is part of a role I have to play, I’m on it. That’s why I had no problems in my previous job as a newspaper reporter approaching a CEO in a room full of executives. In my private life, I’d hang out at the perimeter and wait to be spoken to.

I credit our Vice President Thais Lips with helping me through my first official CTA function. She assigned me a very specific task: hand out bead necklaces to arriving members and tell them about a social game we were playing that evening. This forced me to approach each and every one of our guests, gave me a starting line for a conversation, and therefore put me at ease. I had a job to do. I had a right to be there.

After that, I felt much more connected to our association. I now knew many of the faces behind the names on our email list and had actually talked to most of them. If I hadn’t become social media director, I likely wouldn’t even have attended this dinner (I live too far away! I can’t leave my kids for that long! The roads are too icy to drive!), let alone talked to as many of my colleagues as I did that night. It was a turning point in my CTA membership.

The moral of the story is this: If you are not comfortable among people you don’t know, becoming a volunteer will give you a sense of purpose that can help you overcome that anxiety.

Building colleague-like connections

There are other benefits to volunteering, especially if you are a board member. We all know working as a freelance translator can be rather lonely. We don’t have in-house colleagues, and we don’t develop in-depth connections with many of our fellow translators. Serving as social media director has filled much of that void. The CTA Board doesn’t meet all that often (once every few months), but we do have very frequent interactions via email or Skype, which makes it feel like having colleagues on the job.

Being informed and having a say

Maybe it’s the journalist in me, but I like being informed about things that are happening in our association before everyone else. I get to participate in the planning and decision-making processes, which means I have a say in the development of CTA. I am also always informed about everything that’s going on in our association, even many things that I might have missed in the past because I didn’t read every email that was sent out on our mailing list. By knowing everything CTA does and offers, I have learned the true value of our association, both for our members and for our profession.

Establishing professional credibility

This year, I went from being Marion Rhodes, freelance GermanEnglish translator, to Marion Rhodes, freelance GermanEnglish translator and Social Media Director for the Colorado Translators Association. I’ve added this title to my resume, my LinkedIn profile, my email signature and various other professional documents and profiles. Having this title adds to my credibility. My clients and prospective clients can see that I am professionally involved and that I take translation seriously. It is not just a hobby for me, it is a calling. A title from a volunteer position helps build your resume and adds to your marketability.

Expanding your horizon

Even though I was fairly familiar with social media and had studied Integrated Marketing Communication in college, I still had a lot to learn when I started as social media director. My new role made me get serious about Twitter and LinkedIn, for example, both channels where I had established profiles years ago, but which I had never really used. I also learned about Hootsuite as a way to combine social media accounts and make posting updates easier. And finally, it gave me the push I needed to start blogging regularly. I had started my own blogs a few times in the past but never got past the first one or two posts. As CTA social media director, writing regular blog posts is part of my job, and once I got into the routine, I finally had the discipline to keep up my own blog as well.

The dirty details

I won’t lie to you: taking on a regular volunteer position also comes with some drawbacks. You do have to make time for board meetings, which for me means driving from Colorado Springs all the way to Denver. But these meetings only happen once every few months, and can usually be combined with a trip to IKEA.

Depending on which position you hold, there’s also a time commitment that impacts your own schedule. In my job, I usually spend about 30 minutes a day on researching translation-related news and articles, updating social media channels and responding to inquiries. Writing blog posts takes quite a bit longer, but it’s something I enjoy doing so I don’t mind. If you are interested in any volunteer position, your best bet is to talk to someone who has held the position in the past or is currently serving in that capacity and ask about the work involved.

If you’re a CTA translator who isn’t ready for a long-term commitment, there are other ways to volunteer for CTA, such as helping with our annual conference or filling a time slot at the CTA desk during this year’s ATA Conference (you can sign up here). You’ll still reap many of the networking benefits, so this is another great way for more introverted members to get involved.

Personally, I find that the benefits of volunteering for CTA have been worth the effort I’ve put in. Over the past year, I have become a better translator, a better colleague, a better networker and a better social media user. If that’s not enough, consider this: Research suggests that people who volunteer are healthier and happier than those who don’t. So if you don’t do it for your association, then do it for yourself.

CTA Conference Takeaway – Part 1

This past weekend, I attended the 3rd Annual Conference of the Colorado Translators Association. As usual, I ended up leaving with a head full of ideas on how to improve my translation business, my productivity, and my work/life balance. In the past, that’s usually where it ended. But in the spirit of making 2013 a year of professional reinvention, I decided to actually implement some of my new-found knowledge. Here’s my progress report:

1. Decluttering my inbox

I have a Gmail account where my personal email, business email and “subscription email” (the address I use to subscribe to blogs, social networks, etc.) converge. On any given day, I receive countless emails from prospective and current clients, discussion lists, news alerts, my kids’ schools, friends and family… The email app on my iPhone is constantly going “Bing!” to remind me that yet another message calls for my attention. After listening to a presentation by Corinne McKay about time management skills for freelancers on the weekend, I decided to follow her advice and declutter my inbox by creating filters. I can’t believe I never took advantage of the filters option in Gmail before this week! I now have filters in place for messages from mailing lists, LinkedIn and other social media channels, and various other sources. These messages now bypass my inbox and go directly to their respective folders (or, in some cases, the trash bin). The result: My inbox is almost empty, and my phone doesn’t constantly bother me with new message alerts anymore.

2. Starting a structured note-taking system

During the CTA Conference, I attended a session on note-taking for translators by Riccardo Schiaffino. He recommended a program called CintaNotes for taking notes directly on the computer rather than on post-its – or the only slightly more high-tech version, “Sticky Notes,” which has been cluttering my laptop screen until now. With CintaNotes, I can turn any text on my computer screen into a searchable note simply by highlighting it and pressing Control + F12. That’s even less work than scribbling a note on a piece of paper! There are more advanced features that come with the program, of course, which I will have to explore in the future. But for now, I’m happy to clear my desk of all the random pieces of paper I’ve had lying around.

There you have it, two goals down, a bunch more to go. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.