Our Featured Translator this week is Veronika Demichelis, President-Elect of the American Translators Association (ATA). Veronika is an accomplished freelance translator specializing in various fields such as localization, marketing, communication, human resources, education, and e-learning. Her passion for education is evident through her role as an adjunct professor in the Translation and Interpretation Program at Houston Community College, where she has developed a curriculum for a localization certificate program.
In this Q&A, Veronika answers questions about her journey as an interpreter and translator, her first translation job experience, her approach to tackling challenging projects, and the inspiration behind her popular podcast. Additionally, as the President-Elect of ATA, she provides valuable insights into the association’s goals and priorities for the future.
Q: How long have you been working as an interpreter and translator? What inspired you to pursue this profession?
A: I have always been interested in languages and pursued a Master’s in Linguistics and Intercultural Communication when I went to college. After that, I worked for an international oil and gas company for many years as a human resources, communications, and corporate social responsibility professional, and I always enjoyed using my language skills. However, it wasn’t until my husband and I moved to Houston, Texas in 2012 that I decided to switch careers and become a full-time translator. I saw how vibrant and culturally diverse Houston is and realized that I could put my languages skills to good use.
Q: What was your first translation job like? How did that experience shape your career?
A: I was very lucky—my first translation job allowed me to draw on my previous work experience. It was a series of documents on environmental and social impacts of overfishing, and I thoroughly enjoyed working on that translation. That’s when I realized that I could (and should!) specialize in the subject areas that I was an expert in thanks to my previous career: sustainability, human resources, corporate communication, and marketing. I also really enjoyed getting feedback from the editor, and that experience reinforced my commitment to always work with an editor and use feedback as a learning opportunity.
Colleagues are important
Q: Can you tell us about a particularly challenging project you worked on as a translator, and how you overcame any difficulties that arose?
A: A few years ago, I worked on a large project that involved localization and linguistic quality assurance of a court self-help website. There were lots of pages with text, graphics, links, embedded videos, forms, etc. I worked on this project with a couple of fantastic colleagues, and also acted as a project manager and linguistic tester. It was a challenge to localize a complex website, make sure that all the localized content is accurate and clear, and ensure that the register, tone of voice, and terminology are consistent across multiple web pages. The last piece of the puzzle was combing through the localized version of the website to check that everything looked great and communicating with the client to fix any remaining issues or bugs. Overcoming these challenges was a team effort, and it helped that we already had tools and systems in place that could support project management and open communication. I think it’s really important to find colleagues that you’re comfortable working with—you’ll be able to take on larger projects and serve as back-up for each other when needed.
Smart habits of translators
Q: How do you choose topics and guests for your podcast, Smart Habits for Translators, and what do you hope listeners take away from it?
A: I’ve been co-hosting Smart Habits for Translators together with my colleague and friend, Madalena Sanchez Zampaulo, since 2019. We work really well together and enjoy this creative outlet. We started this podcast to share our approach to running a translation or interpreting business and enjoying life outside work. We’re both mothers, freelance translators, and active volunteers in our profession, and we wanted to share some tips and smart habits that other translators and interpreters might find useful, and also highlight some scenarios that we all can relate to. We don’t subscribe to being able to achieve a perfect “balance” between work and personal life, especially when you run your own business. So instead, we often talk about creating boundaries and maintaining them—and this can apply to interaction with clients, your approach to networking and marketing, delineating your workday, and more. We also hope that our listeners will relate to the importance of looking at their businesses in a holistic way, setting smart goals, and doing a regular self-audit of various areas of their businesses.
We keep a long list of ideas for future topics and regularly poll our listeners and our Smart Habits for Translators Insiders community to see what people are interested in hearing about. When we plan our episodes, we decide whether we’d like to bring a guest to join us, and it’s almost always someone we know well or whose smart habits we find inspiring in one way or another.
Q: As the President-Elect of the American Translators Association, can you share any insights into the goals and priorities for the ATA in the coming years?
A: ATA’s goal is to support our members and advocate on their behalf, facilitate professional development opportunities, and offer resources and programs that will help them build and grow sustainable businesses. One of our priorities is to offer a professional home where all translators and interpreters feel welcome, and where they can join a community of like-minded colleagues and find the resources they need to take their businesses to the next level. Another priority is to offer more training and resources to our members on topics that will be crucial to future-proofing of their careers, such as business skills and tools and technology. And of course, we are committed to advocating on behalf of professional translators and interpreters and promoting the value of our work.
Growth doesn’t happen in an echo chamber
Q: You will be a part of the “What the Future Holds” panel at LEO’s 7th International Virtual Conference. What do you see as the most pressing challenges facing the translation and interpreting industry in the coming years, and how do you think language professionals can prepare for these challenges?
A: The world around us is changing, and the translation and interpreting profession is changing as well. We all need to be curious and well-informed about the evolving technology, including AI, so that we can consider the pros and cons of its use and explain to our clients how we, as human translators and interpreters, add value.
I think that learning is key—just like we always hone our language skills, we need to continuously work on our subject matter expertise, cultural sensitivity, and ability to use relevant tools and technology.
We should also pay attention to what our clients are saying about changes and trends in their industries and markets so that we can consider how we, as language professionals, can support them better and make a difference. Growth doesn’t happen in an echo chamber, and future-proofing our careers means that we need to get comfortable with self-development, cultivate expertise, and be attuned to the world around us.