09 Mar 2023
by Pavitra Baxi MITI, Fiona Whiteside MITI

MITI matters

Pavitra Baxi and Fiona Whiteside explain why they made the move to MITI status. In fact the only thing that they’re wondering is why it took them so long…

Pavitra Baxi.jpg

I did my first paid translation assignment 14 years  back; it seemed like a natural progression to switch to translation after working with a German construction firm as a software applications developer for four years. Translation projects were  easy  to come by, thanks to my industry experience, and I never gave translation certification a serious thought; though  insecurities would occasionally bob their head when a potential client  questioned my ‘native  English speaker’ skills, since I am an Indian and have lived all my life in India.


Becoming part of a translation community

It was the desire to connect with fellow translators that made me consider memberships and qualifications seriously. I sent emails to a few translators specialising in technical translation and received some enthusiastic responses. Cate Avery in particular got me interested in becoming an Associate member of ITI, and she even encouraged me to give the MITI  assessment a shot.

After registering as an Associate member of ITI, I took an active part in discussion forums on translation in various language and subject-matter groups. It helped me understand the nuances of translation and the need to legitimise my career as a translator. I realised that in order to make it clear that I take my translation seriously, I needed to gain  certification and recognition…and I got in touch with ITI’s membership department.

Once I’d registered for the assessment, I received the MITI assessment package, which had all the information and assistance I required to sit for it. I was impressed by the effort that had gone into this. Typically, any certification body will make you feel less than adequate about appearing for their certification. The list of don’ts is usually much longer than the list of dos. This wasn’t the case with the MITI assessment. The format of the assessment (four days to translate a 1,000-word text and a translator’s summary) and the prepare-for-success package catered towards helping you pass.

Getting it all done within the set four days

The week I took the assessment was hectic. Time management is crucial and the four-day time limit for submission might give you a false sense of security that there will be more than enough time to complete the translation and the commentary. You need to get going from the first hour of receiving the assessment text. It also helped that I did the document formatting beforehand.

The 1,000-word article was fairly technical and I spent considerable time researching the terminology. Writing the commentary took as much time as the actual translation; I was glad that I had worked on this alongside the translation and did not leave it for the end.

When I heard I’d passed, I let all my clients know about my MITI status. I updated both my own website and my directory entry on the ITI one and posted the news on LinkedIn. The upgrade to certified translator status not only changed the nature of work coming from existing clients – more long-term, meatier projects involving a fair bit of research – but also meant that potential clients sent me fewer questions or requests for test translations before taking me on. I feel a sense of camaraderie with fellow MITIs now, knowing that they too have cleared a tough assessment with flying colours.

What seemed like a natural progression 14 years ago has now changed my outlook towards languages and their importance as a means of communication. I was naive to think that just knowing more than one language qualified me as a translator. Over the years, challenging projects, helpful colleagues, supportive clients and abundant online resources have shattered this myth. It is this knowledge that helped me crack the MITI assessment. I would advise those who wish to take up translation as a career not to wait for 14 years to get certified.

Pavitra  Baxi


Making the upgrade from AITI at last


I always wanted to go into translation as a career, and I was fortunate enough to be given some very good advice when I was selecting my A levels from a friend of the family who was a translator – pick a speciality!

With that in mind, I chose chemistry and went on to graduate with an MChem with first-class honours in 1997. At that time I was not eligible to join ITI, so I put my ambition of becoming a translator on the back burner for a while and worked as a research scientist initially for Polycell and then for ICI Paints.

However, I never gave up hope of becoming a translator, so when I was on maternity leave with my second child, I did some research, applied and was accepted onto the MSc in scientific and medical translation at Imperial College. I studied for this full-time, successfully completing the course in 2007. 

I joined ITI as an Associate (AITI) and immediately embarked on ITI's Setting Up as a Freelance Translator course, aimed at freelancers new to the profession. My business grew, and before long I was busy with regular work and well on my way to getting the word count and experience that I needed in order to upgrade my membership.

Although gaining MITI status was always something I wanted to do, as time went on, I found it more and more difficult to send that email to apply. Despite getting regular repeat work, I still doubted my ability, especially as I had taken a more alternative route to becoming a translator. Each time I got a quiet period, I thought I would use that time to apply, but then more work came in and it got pushed to the side again.

Embracing change…and emerging stronger

As the years went on, so the fears increased – what would happen if I applied and failed? What would my peers and clients think if I didn’t pass? Would I stop getting work? Would I have the confidence to take on work again if I failed the assessment? My business was doing well, so what was the point?

So, after nearly 15 years as an AITI, what made me change my mind? The pandemic was certainly a contributing factor, but I also won tickets to the 2022 ITI Conference, the theme of which was embracing change and emerging stronger. This gave me a perfect reason to analyse how I could invest in and adapt my business, and there seemed no better way to do this than becoming an MITI.

Despite the concerns still in the back of my mind, I made the decision that upgrading my ITI membership would be my goal for 2022. In a nervous panic, I also announced to everyone on  the Zoom call that I’d be an MITI by the conference, so I couldn’t really back out now, could I?

The New Year came, and I nervously hit ‘send’ on my email to the ITI office requesting my upgrade pack; I had plenty of time to make good on my promise of being an MITI by May…or so I thought. For those of you who aren’t aware of this, there are two stages to upgrading membership from AITI to MITI: obtaining professional references and the assessment.

I sent requests out to my biggest clients and waited. And waited. I then got my first response, and my second, both apologising that they couldn’t provide a reference as it was against their company policy. It was just as I thought that being an MITI was not meant to be that I finally got my first reference. After several reminders, I finally got my second reference, sent everything back and chose my assessment date. Unfortunately, this wasn’t in time for me to take it before the conference, but at least I could now say I had actually applied.

The support and information provided by the ITI office was great, although it didn’t stop the last-minute nerves and doubts creeping in giving me second thoughts: ‘What will happen if I get a text that’s not in my specialist area? What do I write in my commentary? Will I run out of time?’

I needn’t have worried, though, because although the text was obviously challenging, it certainly wasn’t as hard as I had convinced myself it was going to be. In fact, it was really no different from the texts I had been accepting, working on, and delivering over the past 15 years. Even with the commentary to write, the submission deadline  was also not an issue, and far more generous than I usually get.

Results can take six to eight weeks to come back, but after sitting the assessment on the first ‘hottest days of the year’, it seemed only fitting that I got notification that I had passed the assessment when the temperatures soared further in July, just four weeks later.

It has only been a few months, but I can already see the benefits of being an MITI. Upgrading my membership status has given me the perfect opportunity to reconnect with current clients to tell them of my achievements, and in additionI have the new-found confidence to approach clients I might once have shied away from.

Fiona Whiteside




This article first appeared in the January-February edition of ITI Bulletin.