So, graduation! Translator? And, then what? Danielle’s Story!

Learning how Konstantina found her way and niche in the translation profession, made me realise how different our stories are.

Many moons ago, while still at school, I clearly recall doing some German  translation homework, pouring over a dictionary, thinking to myself: “I could imagine doing this in my life…”

Both my mother and father, as well as my grandparents, ran their own businesses. So, you could say that having your own business runs in the family. I also recall having an awareness from a fairly young age how have a “business head”. It was as if my mother were grooming me. For a long time, I have wanted to be my own boss, name my own fee and hours. I was after flexibility and mobility, portability: work from anywhere, anytime.

Straight out of university, I wanted to walk into a job at the Subtitling Department at the Special Broadcasting Service, otherwise known as SBS.

By the third year of university, I was laying the groundwork for my future profession. Work experience is unpaid work that someone, usually a student, might do for a set period of time in order to gain some knowledge about a particular profession that interests you. The thing wasthat SBS did not – nor do they now – offer a work experience program; however, I was fortunate enough to have a contact there and got to spend one day with Subtitling. I was in my element!

One day, browsing the University of Sydney’s Careers Centre page, I came across a job for“Italian translation”. An historian was compiling a book on the history of Italian in the Leichhardt area of Sydney. I translated articles from the Italian newspaper La Fiamma; this gig gave me my first experience in journalistic translation. Journalism has always held an interest for me anyway.

As mentioned above, I had my heart and mind set on that ‘first job’ at SBS Subtitling. Around the time of finishing my degree, there were not any jobsadvertised; and their website clearly states they do not accept unsolicited resumés. It was time to change the game plan. While looking into getting other translation work, I tutored for an English Department linguistics course at the University of Sydney and did some Italian and English transcription work for a company based in Sydney. I kept my hand my hand in both language and tutoring, which I also enjoy, while drumming up more translation work.

That is probably around the time I joined twitter. I started to read widely about the industry – from technology to marketing yourself – and to follow other translators. In my opinion, Twitter is the platform for networking in our profession!

Even though I was armed with an honours degree in Italian studies and completed part of my degree in Italy, many agencies I found were also looking for years of experience. A good lawyer friend then suggested volunteer work. The first place I emailed was Cancer Council New South Wales (NSW), in Sydney. I was pleasantly surprised with an immediate and positive response. They were looking for someone to translate part of their website and various questionnaires for a study they were conducting into the causes of cancer. It was exciting to have a golden opportunity placed right in my lap.

While gaining valuable experience doing the voluntary role, I managed to get signed up with some agencies, mainly in Italy and Switzerland – my main target markets. I am currently considering a sabbatical in Italy – to re-immerse myself in my source language and culture, attend conferences in Europe and meet other translators and clients in person. I came across some invaluable information about sabbaticals at: with Corinne McKay (@corinnemckay) and Eve Bodeux (@ebodeux).

When it comes to working for yourself, perseverance and not taking “no” for an answer are imperative qualities. I say: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” I have learnt to be flexible and keep an open mind – prepare to check in with yourself and make career adjustments accordingly.

I am about to impart my knowledge and experiences to a newbie Danish translator who has just arrived in Sydney. I wonder which translator archetype I will fit into? Refer @VitekSteve , the Patenttranslator’s Blog to find out!

Danielle Gehrmann has been an Italian to English translator since 2005. She specialises in journalism; healthcare; academic – mainly in the field of linguistics; pharmaceutical; and automotive and mechanical texts. She has a special interest in the translation process per se and tweets about marketing and running a business, technology and various language-related topics at @danielletrans

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Danielle,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us! I am sure people will find it of interest! Thanks again!

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