MCIS 2017 International Translation Day Event – the Future of Work 101.2


As conflicted as we may be about technological disruption in the translation industry, technology is here to stay. So in the second part of our International Translation Day Event, I really wanted to give an opportunity to all translators who had joined us to really voice their concerns and challenges, but also think about ways in which they can embrace technology to make their own work better, more efficient and productive. This had to be done in a way that would acknowledge that this is not an easy conversation with straightforward answers. That is the reason I opted for two activities that are part of the Liberating Structures framework, which is, in the words of its authors, meant to “enhance relational coordination and trust” fostering participation in groups of any size and making it possible to truly “include and unleash” everyone. Liberating Structures are themselves a form of “disruptive innovation” engaging members of a group in new ways that are less constraining than traditional approaches, focusing on including and engaging everyone.

In the first activity, called Wicked Questions, participants were invited to work individually and then in groups, trying to formulate questions using a specific format to capture the paradoxical challenges that translators today have to overcome in the face of technological disruption. By intentionally trying to formulate paradoxical challenges, participants were encouraged to look for possibilities that might not be intuitively obvious, moving from a “yes, but” and “either/or” type of mindset to a more solution-oriented approach.

A lot of great questions were generated in the group conversations, but the audience agreed that the most thought-provoking one, that would turn into the starting point of the next activity, was: “How can I embrace translation technology fully and market myself as a human translator at the same time?”

With this question, that emerged through the active dialogue that was at this point happening in the room, we started our second activity, called 15% Solutions, where our focus was on discovering what each person has the freedom and resources to do now. It is an activity meant to “demonstrate that in most challenging situations there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless or fearful”, as we might do when faced with technological disruption in our work. So participants spent the following 20 minutes creating lists of things they could personally do in order to start addressing the challenge of marketing yourself as a human translator while embracing technology fully. The conversations around the room became even livelier and I believe many people left with a pretty good list of things they would be undertaking to embrace technology in their work.

Then, we shifted our focus completely, and turned instead to the toll that our work, especially in our super fast-paced world, is taking on us and to the issue of self-care. While we may often get a great sense of satisfaction in our work, our jobs as language professionals also come with a downside. We often work alone and in isolation. Our work is intellectually demanding, as it requires constant focus, but not always emotionally rewarding, as we often do not have contact with the end users of our work. And, of course, the unprecedented number of disruptions we are faced with in our contemporary lives can make us feel like our work is never finished, so that our sense of accomplishment is often delayed.

So in the final part of our event we invited participants to join us in turning our attention to ourselves, so that we can be mentally prepared to welcome the opportunities that technological disruption is bringing into our lives, both professional and personal, without being overwhelmed, facing the challenges of incessant change and constant disruption with awareness and intentionality.

Andy Puddicombe’s TED Talk on the benefits of mindfulness was followed by 6 personal stories from the newly released documentary, On Mediation, where experienced meditators using different types of meditation practices, share the different ways in which they have made meditation a part of their lives, and how this has transformed them.

It was definitely a great pleasure to host this event in celebration of International Translation Day, and I can only hope that those who have taken time out of their busy schedules to celebrate with us have also found it a great opportunity to network with colleagues and engage in the conversations that we need to have in order to be prepared for what the future might hold in store for us, translators, our profession and our industry.

By Veronica Costea

Andie Puddicombe