This year I went to my second American Translators Association (ATA) conference as a full-time independent translator (there was also that time in 2011). Since my conference review from last year mentioned some things I could improve, I would like to use this post as a follow-up to hold myself accountable for my progress in various areas of professional development.
“Home Base” Division
One of the goals I set for myself last year was participating in events hosted by the divisions of the ATA I am a member of. Since I attended the Slavic Languages Division (SLD) meeting last year, this year that division served as my “home base” — I recognized several people at division events and made sure I participated in at least some of their activities.
These activities included the division meeting, like last year, and the SLD newcomers lunch. I had not even realized the latter was in the works, but I am glad I participated. For the newcomers lunch, new translators and division veterans headed down to a restaurant in the vicinity of the conference venue for an informal meal and conversation. I have found it to be a viable and cost-effective alternative to the division dinner, which I did not attend due to cost and conflicts with other night-time networking opportunities.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the Medical Division meeting as I had hoped because it was scheduled at the time as the SLD meeting. However, I did attend the meeting of the Literary Division for the first time, which was very enlightening. Although I had not done fiction translations for publication to date, it was great to hear colleagues’ ideas on getting into the field.
Another goal I set last year was to arrange meetings with colleagues ahead of time. I can say that I made modest progress in that domain. Before arriving at the conference, I went through the list of attendees in the conference app and marked the names of the people I might be interested in meeting.
In the end, I only officially set up a meeting with Alaina Brantner, a project manager and translator whom I had met at last year’s conference. However, going through the list of names proved useful as I ended up spotting colleagues in the hallway whose name I had noticed on the list.
In addition, I mustered the courage to approach Marion Rhodes, whom I follow on social media and tell her I enjoyed her posts. My challenge for next year remains to introduce myself (in real life, as they say) to additional esteemed colleagues I follow on social media.
On the positive side, chance encounters in the exhibition hall proved surprisingly enlightening. For instance, I exchanged business cards with fellow translator Sarah Hotung and then noticed hers said she had attended a school I was curious about. So I set up another brief meeting with her to talk about her experience with that school.
I feel like this time I was not as involved with structured networking as last year, for instance at the welcome reception or job fair. Other activities, such as brainstorm networking and #TweetUP remain on my to-do list for the future.
At the same time, I am happy with the informal networking that happened outside the planned events. The annual Kent State University lunch gave me a chance to catch up with fellow alumni and meet recent graduates of my translation program. Moreover, I had a productive and enjoyable time at the networking dinners organized by external organizations — Transperfect and Wordfast. By now, I was more comfortable talking to other professionals in the industry and was genuinely interested to hear their insights and perspectives.
Some of the best conversations I had came about spontaneously. On the last night of the conference, two other translators from the Slavic division — Alyssa Yorgan-Nosova and Ekaterina Howard — and I were looking for a place to get dinner. We decided on a Chinese restaurant we looked up online, which ended up having amazing, reasonably priced food, and had a great time sharing stories about from our professional and personal lives.
I would love to hear from other attendees, especially ones who had set goals for themselves at previous conferences. What did you or did you not achieve? Were there any unexpected positive experiences?