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ITI Profile: Louise Killeen


When did you decide you wanted to be a translator?

Louise KilleenWhen I chose my A-level subjects (German, French and English Literature) I was pretty certain that I wanted languages to feature strongly in my career but I wasn’t exactly sure how – although I did know that teaching wasn’t for me. Towards the end of my first degree I decided to look at post-graduate degrees in translating and interpreting and it was then that I found the MA course at Salford University. The rest, as they say …

What was the most important thing you learned from your first job as a translator?

That I had a great deal still to learn! As an employer of new entrants to the profession today and a champion of young talent I always tell my new starters the same story: I distinctly remember a summer’s day just a week or so into my first job as an in-house translator when I found myself sitting in front of a German text in a state pretty close to that of sheer panic, thinking “I can’t do this! I’ve got a degree in Modern Languages, an MA in Translating, I’ve lived and worked in Germany but I can’t translate this text!” Making the transition from translating in an academic context to translating professionally – and understanding the commercial value and role of translation – is a huge challenge, and it’s one that we put at the heart of our induction programme, as well as our ongoing training provision, in our in-house translator academy. Be realistic: the learning curve is steep but if you’re prepared to work hard you can achieve a great deal.


You worked as a production director for a major supplier of technical and commercial translation – what did this job involve?

My responsibilities were firmly based in operational management. I headed up an internal team of translators and project managers which was supported by a large pool of freelancers based in various international locations. Quality and deadlines were key – much as they are in any translation setting.

Was setting up your own company daunting?

No, because it was more of a natural progression than a conscious decision. When I left my production director role it was to set up as an independent freelancer in a sole trader business. The company – and the translator academy model – was set up in response to demand driven by organic growth. I guess there was a period of time when the company ran me rather than me running it … a pretty common dilemma for many SME owners I meet. It’s now a very formal and structured organisation which I’m proud to say was one of the first and remains one of the few translation companies in the UK to be certified to ISO 17100:2015.


How important is training and CPD – to you and your company?

Training and CPD are very important. We hold quarterly team days addressing a variety of topics that are of relevance both specifically to the challenges we face in our business and generally across the industry. We also make sure that we attend relevant events both in and outside the translation sector. These activities are supplemented by external CPD provision and of course by the ITI pathway to qualified membership. We keep CPD logs and we also ask our freelancers to do the same.


How have you seen the translation sector change over the last 10 years?

Well we’ve not been replaced by MT engines yet, despite the scaremongering! Technology and digitisation have driven the changes we’ve seen, of that there’s no doubt. We’ve gone from dial-up internet connections to ultra-fast broadband, from hard copy dictionaries and glossaries to online terminology databases, and of course a great many of us now work almost exclusively with CAT tools. Pressure on prices and delivery times has also increased, although I don’t think that’s unique to the translation sector. What hasn’t changed, though, is the expectation from customers that translation services will be delivered in high quality, on time and on budget – the growth and development of my business from a home-based operation in a spare bedroom to large office premises (complete with mortgage …) testifies to our continued ability to deliver on all of those counts.


What makes for a great client/supplier relationship?

Openness, honesty, communication, mutual trust, transparency, accountability, adaptability, flexibility and – most importantly – clarity. Sounds straightforward but client/supplier relationships need to be nurtured and managed – and the very best ones can last entire careers.


Your company has achieved ISO 17100: 2015 – what do you see as the benefits?

For us, ISO certification really affirmed that we were getting things right. When we first considered ISO certification, we discovered that we met many of the requirements and had most of the necessary processes and procedures in place already, so it wasn’t as daunting a task as it might have been. ISO is an organisation that is recognised the world over. It’s not enough to tell potential clients that you’re the best choice for them – your competitors will all be saying the same thing – you have to have a means of demonstrating this, and our ISO certification helps to inform and reassure decision-makers. However, it’s not just about our relationships with existing and potential clients. ISO certification enables us to attract the very best freelance suppliers and in-house recruits too.


Do you have a favourite French author\German author?

French and German literature featured prominently in my first degree and I have to admit that I haven’t kept up my reading as much as maybe I ought to have done. I’m a big fan of the Norwegian author Jo Nesbo though – who I of course have to read in translation!


What would be your perfect holiday?

My husband, two children and I are big fans of Florida and its theme parks – those who know me won’t be surprised as I find it hard to sit still for long, even when on holiday!


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