Look around with “hungry eyes”, make mistakes and learn from them - Interview with Valentina Ambrogio
Welcome to a new entry of our series of interviews with translators from all over the globe. Translation is a very diverse industry – we want to introduce some of the people behind making the world a more multilingual place. This episode is an interview with Valentina Ambrogio from Italy.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
First of all, I would like to thank you very much for including me in this wonderful series. My name is Valentina, I am 26, and I live in Rome, but I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Reggio Calabria, southern Italy. Professionally speaking, I am an English to Italian Translator, Localiser and Subtitler. In 2013, I decided to trade under the name Rockstar Translations.
How did you decide to become a translator?
Well, I have always been passionate about the English language. I started studying it at school when I was 7 and... it was love at first sight! Growing up this passion became stronger and stronger, so I decided to attend a language high school and later a Translation and Interpreting Studies degree course. Truth be told, my plan was to become an interpreter. Then years passed by and I realised that translating gave me great satisfaction. So I changed my plans and went on specializing in Audiovisual Translation, which in fact combined my personal interests in TV programs and translation.
What are good or bad things about freelancing?
In my humble opinion, the best thing is that you are your own boss. You play by your own rules, and if you know how to do it and what you want to achieve, I believe it may lead you where employed jobs cannot: personal and professional fulfilment. I am not talking about sleepless nights and alarm clocks set at 11 am. It is a matter of having absolute control over your life. Of course, there are also some downsides: the infamous feast and famine cycles, an unsteady income and sometimes being unable to take well-deserved breaks when strict deadlines approach. But all in all the good sides are more than the bad ones.
In self-marketing, which factors have helped out the most so far?
Mostly word of mouth. Only recently I started marketing my services through a more elaborate marketing and branding strategy, precisely last October when I founded Rockstar Translation (you can have a look at my newly launched website here: www.rockstartranslations.com) - let’s just say that, for now, it’s a work in progress!
Which of the social networks do you use most successfully for customer acquisition, which ones more for interaction with others in your industry?
As I said before, I am a bit of a rookie on this subject. I have received a couple of job offers via LinkedIn, which unfortunately were not right for me, so I had to decline. I use Twitter (@RockstarTrad) and Facebook (Rockstar Translations) to find and “study” potential direct clients or agencies, catch up with the ever-changing translation universe, but also to network or just have a nice chat with colleagues. I have “met” wonderful people and professionals thanks to social networks. What you can learn from other people’s experience in this field should not be underestimated.
In your work with clients and partners, what are you doing differently today in comparison to the early phase of your career?
When I started out, I had a kind of passive approach to everything in general. I waited for clients to contact me, I did not dare disturbing them with my (in my opinion) silly questions about the source text, if something went wrong I thought it was obviously my fault. Oh, silly me! I am not saying that everything I do now is perfect. The only difference is that now I know that oftentimes clients and even PMs are not fully aware of what translating actually means. I feel a bit more confident, I do not take the blame for circumstances I cannot control, I politely remind late payers that they “missed” my payment, I say no to impossible deadlines or try to negotiate better terms – they need my services after all and this should count for something, don’t you think?
Which online and offline resources do you read on a regular basis?
I like to read translation blogs, know my colleagues’ take on different topics and maybe start a discussion about them. I follow a lot of interesting Facebook pages and Twitter profiles - that means that I don’t even have to look for contents, contents come to me. Other resources I enjoy reading are Business Insider, The Guardian, local and international news websites, and on a lighter note Radio Times and MuggleNet.com – yes, I’m a Potterhead!
How does your average working day look like?
I currently work as in-house translator at a translation agency in Rome, so I wake up at 7 am, check my inbox, go to work, translate-translate-translate, go home and work on translation projects for my own clients. I try to finish all my daily work and go to bed at a reasonable hour (all work and no sleep makes Valentina a cranky and unproductive translator.) I prefer to wake up very early rather than go to bed at 2
If you could change something in your work environment, what would it be?
I am more productive when I work in my home office. Sometimes I need a change of location, but my desk is my personal small corner where I can sit and do my job with my own stuff. Working at my office desk isn’t just the same, as I don’t feel it mine.
Are you a desk person or more of a mobile worker?
A desk person. But as I said, sometimes I just need a temporary change of location, a sort of inspiration boost, which sometimes just means working in the kitchen!
What are CAT tools missing today, how would you envision the CAT tool of your dreams?
Unfortunately, I do not work with CAT tools as much as I would like. I use the most basic functions. As far as I’m concerned, the CAT tools I use serve their purpose.
What would you pass on as personal advice to translators new to the industry?
Get in touch with experienced translators. Choose a specialisation and familiarise with the practical aspects of this job such as invoicing and self-marketing as soon as possible. University books are not enough. Starting out in this business can be very tough, but also very rewarding. Look around with “hungry eyes”, make mistakes and learn from them.