12th CTS Professionalisation Talk 2019/20

On 12 March 2020, Pippa Dearns delivered a talk to CTS students on starting a career in the translation industry and setting up a partnership.

Pippa discovered a love of translation while working as a teacher in Italy. She started small at first, undertaking informal, ad hoc translations alongside her full-time job. She then officially moved into the translation industry by taking on the role of project manager for the small, specialist translation agency Parallel Translations.

Pippa’s work was split between linguistic tasks, including proofreading, revising and some in-house translation, and tasks more specifically related to project management, such as recruiting, negotiating with clients, and delivering training. In addition, the company heavily supported Pippa in her continuing personal development (CPD) by, for example, sponsoring her to complete management training and to learn a language of her choice. Finally, the company’s focus on clinical trials gave Pippa the exposure to the medical and pharmaceutical fields that would later turn into her specialism.

This practical experience confirmed Pippa’s desire to work as a translator, but she found she was missing the theoretical knowledge. For this reason, she undertook the MAATS programme at the University of Leeds. This gave her the ability not just to make good translation decisions, but to explain them with the help of sound translation theory.

As for life outside of university, Pippa strongly recommends gaining professional accreditation to boost your reputation in the industry. Not only can being a member of associations like the CIOL and ITI act as an endorsement of quality – thereby helping you to gain more work – they also have excellent CPD resources such as webinars and mentoring programmes. CPD is also a good way to keep up to date with changes in the industry and can be done formally (conferences, Massive Open Online Courses, etc.) and informally (online journals, language classes, etc.).

Pippa then talked about Dearns and Browne Translations, a partnership that she established with Annabel Browne, a friend and fellow translator, in 2011. They specialise in clinical trial documentation, as well as pharmaceutical and medical translation, and work predominantly with clients based in the UK and Italy. Pippa pointed out that there are many advantages to working in a partnership, such as:

  • Combined knowledge, perspectives and skills, particularly when dealing with difficult texts. This includes being able to offer a wider range of languages and services.
  • Shared costs, responsibility and availability, which can help with making difficult business decisions and handling other commitments more flexibly.
  • A credible appearance as an established company, which allows them to market themselves as more than sole traders.

While a partnership clearly has many advantages, Pippa also mentioned things that need to be taken into consideration before starting out. It is important to have a Partnership Agreement in place, and to find a balance between your personal and professional relationship, and, lastly, to consider the impact a partnership may have on the decision-making process. Most importantly, having a specialisation has allowed Pippa and Annabel to build up a wealth of reference materials and increase their productivity levels as well as their rates.

Finally, Pippa emphasised the importance of being able to adapt to new Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools, rather than learning to use one specific tool. She explained that many clients now rely on cloud-based tools that do not require the purchase of a licence.

Text authored by the following CTS students: Helen Long and Claudia Wiesinger