After studying translation, I first tried to gain initial professional experience by working on smaller translation projects on a freelance basis. But I actually wanted to work as a full-time translator, preferably at a larger law firm. When I earned my degree back in 2006, however, most companies outsourced translation work, and hardly any of them were willing to pay for the luxury of a full-time translator.
After a while, I started to put out my feelers in the industry and then ultimately took a job as a project manager at a small translation agency. Due to the size of the company, we handled a lot of proofreading work and even smaller translation jobs internally, so I wasn't too far removed from actually working as a translator and, at the same time, I was able to gain valuable insight into the administrative and organizational side of the translation business – acquiring clients and consulting on CAT tools and terminology work were also part of my day-to-day work, for example.
After two and a half years at that company, I switched to a different language service provider, also as a project manager for translation projects. Here my work was more limited to just project management, however – they didn't need me to do any linguistic or translation work. This is why, after two and a half years, I decided to work as a freelancer again. But I didn't limit myself to just translating, however, and instead also offered project management and localization consulting services. One of my largest clients at that time was Agilent. I was responsible for managing localization projects for the German-speaking region and, thanks to my professional experience, was also able to help with issues related to translation management systems and terminology management.
When Agilent made the decision to handle terminology management internally in 2016, I was offered the newly created position as a terminologist, which I can now perform entirely as I see fit.
In my current role, I am responsible for terminology management (with English as the source language and nine target languages), managing the terminology databases (TermWeb and Acrolinx), term extraction from existing publications, working with the various product lines to create and maintain the (new) product and part names and the corresponding technical terms, collaborating with the localization team on the localization of extracted terminology, Acrolinx and terminology training for internal and external staff, creating and maintaining style guides for localization, and continuously updating and documenting all of the processes related to terminology work.
I have always been interested in terminology – in fact, my undergraduate thesis was a terminology project. As a freelancer, my current employer Agilent was already one of my clients, and because of my professional experience and the fact that I had steadily completed further training in CAT tools and terminology over the years, I was often able to help out with issues related to these areas, especially if the consultant who was in charge of terminology management at the time was not available because they were in a different time zone.
It was only natural for me to study translation, as I always received very good grades in languages at school with very little effort. When I had the opportunity to attend a conference where interpreters were being used, I made my career choice. During the basic study period, students could take classes in both translation and interpreting, so that they could get a taste of both areas. This is when I realized that I actually enjoyed devoting much more time to written works in order to find the perfect wording than is possible with interpreting. So in the end, I ultimately decided to become a translator.
During my studies, I didn't realistically know what career options I would have. Towards the end of our degree program, they held an information evening on various professions. But the image of a translator's professional situation presented there wasn't realistic (or maybe not anymore by the time I earned my degree). Back then I thought that I could probably work as a court interpreter – in a full-time position, of course...
To be absolutely honest, I didn't really learn much during my studies that is still helpful to me today. In my current job, you need to have an excellent technical understanding of the various tools. Unfortunately, this was not taught at all at that time. There were maybe one or two CAT tool courses per semester, but they were always overcrowded. Terminology management wasn't really covered at all. The only thing we were advised to do was to create a glossary for the technical translation exercises.
The intercultural skills that were taught during the program are the main thing that really still benefits me now, because today I work with people from a wide variety of different cultural backgrounds.
I worked as a translator for about three years, but decided to switch careers, mainly because I don't like the uncertainty associated with working as a freelancer. And I also wasn't a big fan of chasing after unpaid invoices, which happens quite often. Unfortunately, full-time positions in this field are still extremely rare.
If I wasn't as happy in my current job as I am today, I might be able to imagine working as a translator again in the future. I simply enjoy working with languages and am happy if I succeed in bridging the gap between two languages and in doing so, making content accessible to more people.
My tips for aspiring translators: You should look through job listings in the field that you want to work in after graduation to see what skills are required. You can then do advanced training in these areas and simultaneously gain a good overview of the job market.
As a translator, there are many doors open to you – sometimes down unconventional career paths. And it often pays to think outside the box. For example, a former fellow student now works as a teacher and is extremely happy.