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Case Study: Siobhan

Personal details
Degree:MA (Hons) Modern Languages (French German) Profile picture
School(s): School of Modern Languages
Year of Graduation:Jun-2005
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: Louise Killeen Translations Ltd
Job title: Translator
Occupational Sector: Interpreting/Translation
What has been your route to getting your current position?
The company came to give a talk to my class when I was doing my postgraduate degree in Translating. They mentioned that they’d be willing for those working with German and possibly French to do a placement with them, which may lead to the opportunity of employment.

Application Process
After the talk I approached them to find out more about the possibility. Later, I was sent an e-mail containing two short test texts which I had to translate and send back, along with information on the references I had chosen to use, and my CV.

Selection Process
The team members assessed my test translations in-house, and I was then invited for interview by the two senior translators. The interview turned out to be quite lengthy and to prepare for it, it had been useful to consider that particular company’s outlook on the translation profession, since, being a business, they had a more practical slant on things whereas my course was also teaching a lot of translation theory. In cases such as mine involving a specialist area linked to a degree course, I would definitely advise applying the knowledge you have gained of that field to the approach taken by or concept which drives those interviewing you.
What does your job involve ?
The learning curve was extraordinarily sharp and meant getting to grips with not only specialist terminology, but aspects like refining writing style, dealing with customers and making sure my approach to everything was consistent. The jobs have been extremely varied over the time I have been working there and are exclusively written – we don’t do any interpretation. They involve translation, revision of other translators’ work and proofreading – both of our own in-house work and of work we are occasionally sent by external translators. We often have to deal with electronic glossaries and clients’ queries regarding the terminology in these – there is a lot of communication with clients in both English and German. The day is always busy and can be quite long if problems come up with jobs, as we work on the basis of words per hour – and I have learned that virtually every job will present some new issues. It’s a great job, though, and we are a really small company so know each other and get on well; there are occasionally team lunches and nights out.

Day in the Life
  • 6:30 Get up
  • 8:15 Go to office, set up programs etc. needed for that day’s jobs, deal with any e-mails, etc.
  • 8:30 Begin tasks for that day. Subjects range from technical (e.g. semiconductors) to leisure (e.g. hotel brochures) and everything in between. Also deal with any queries arising during the day – terminology queries, for example, or questions about the formats of jobs.
  • 12:30 Break for lunch
  • 1:00 Resume tasks. Job times can range from as little as 10 minutes to any number of hours, spread over various days. They involve not just the actual work itself, but also setting up the files correctly and filling in checklists – we have various in-house procedures that have to be followed.
What are the best bits of your job ?
Why were you successful?
I think my interest in languages was made clear by my CV, and the fact that I was choosing to pursue a postgraduate MA was beneficial as it showed I could be committed to the post. Although my St Andrews degree was purely languages-based, I also expressed an interest in other fields (I had done projects involving environmental and technological themes, for example), which can be important as a translator as the texts you receive can cover a wide number of subjects: despite the fact that most companies/freelancers do specialise – in technical or legal fields, for instance – this still leaves scope for a number of different subjects. After I had completed the two-week placement in the summer, I was invited to take up employment on a permanent basis starting from the September following that time. The placement really showed that it wasn’t simply performance that was under assessment, but also things like willingness to ask questions and even ability to be punctual!
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?