Live and Learn: Post-Mortem of #ATA57

San Francisco Skyline seen from Dolores Park // Image by Maria Guzenko

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.

Division Activities

“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.

Newcomers Lunch

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.

Branching Out

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.

Meeting Colleagues

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.

Planned Meetings

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.

Virtual Colleagues

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.

Chance Encounters

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.


Ice rink by the Ferry Terminal Building // Image by Maria Guzenko

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.

External Events

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.

Impromptu Networking

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?

Published by Maria

Russian health and human services translator based in Rochester, New York

3 thoughts on “Live and Learn: Post-Mortem of #ATA57

  1. I completely agree that some of the best conversations came from impromptu networking opportunities, especially meals and wandering around with fellow language industry people.

    For me, my goal going in was also to get involved in the division (Slavic only for me, not ready to branch out yet), primarily oriented toward getting myself visible by meeting other translators and making person-to-person connections. What I wasn’t expecting was ending up volunteering my time to actually support division activities throughout the year. But that’s alright! I’m looking forward to helping out.

    Speaking of helping out, looking back I’m somewhat surprised how much time I ended up spending helping and mentoring younger Kent State students and first-timers. This is, after all, my third conference, and apparently I’m rather strongly drawn to sharing my knowledge and nudging people along toward networking and business opportunities. Maybe I’ll make that a more intentional goal for next time! (while not forgetting to do some networking of my own, of course)

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective, Eugenia. Networking and increasing my name recognition among colleagues are definitely two big goals for me, as well.

      This was my third conference, as well, but I still felt as a novice to the organization that could use some advice. Perhaps in the coming years, I will venture out to take on more of a mentoring role — it looks like they desperately needed “buddies” at the Buddies Welcome Newbies session this year!

      In any case, I’m excited to be involved with SLD activities for the coming year, and I’m sure we’ll be in touch in the course of these activities.

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