Reflections on ATA 2016

Hyatt Regency

It’s been over a week since the 57th ATA Conference wrapped up in San Francisco (at the futuristic-looking Hyatt Regency, on the right). After several days getting home and several more days wrapped up in work and follow-up emails, I am finally sitting down to think back on what I got out of the conference (with reference to my preview post from last week).

Meeting Clients

I sure did meet some clients! My final business card draw was 58, which included a few duplicates (two people from the same company, and a few from people I already had cards for). That still means that I gave out upwards of 50 cards, many of them to potential clients, or, at the very least, people who might know a potential client. As a fellow freelancer once put it, work tends to “appear as if by magic,” and I’m pretty sure that magic is networking.


Unfortunately, a few of the sessions I was looking forward to were cancelled: Comparing Civil Law and Common Law, Dumbing It Down, Reanimating Dead PDFs, and one or two others. But the sessions I did go to were, for the most part, engaging and informative. I was encouraged to stare down my business fears in “What About Blind Spots?”, got some excellent resources on accounting standards (session J-4) and capital markets (new session FIN-2), learned some new Polish legal terms (and, of course, their English counterparts; SL-5), played with visual metaphors in “Turning Abstract French into Hands-On English,” and found out that I wasn’t completely off course in “Transition from Student to Translator.” As you can see, the sessions I went to ran the gamut, as I’ve come to expect from these conferences.

One session I mentioned in my preview, “The Agency-Freelancer Dating Game,” deserves special mention. Going in, I had no idea that the presenters had conducted a survey within their network of agencies and freelancers, asking general questions about how the two sides conduct and view their relationship with each other. The presenters readily admitted that some questions came back with somewhat muddied data, but they are intending to revise their survey and try again. If you are interested in participating in their survey and growing their sample size, you can email them at (be sure to state whether you are an agency rep or a freelancer). I already did, and I’m looking forward to the next iteration of their presentation!

By the way, I will be writing up Thursday’s “Turn It Around: Improving Readability in Russian>English Translations” in the Slavic Language Division’s SlavFile, so if you didn’t get a chance to go and you’re in the division, look out for that!

Slavic Language Division and Networking

I went into this conference intending to make new connections among the members of SLD, and came out with some new responsibilities in helping make the division more useful for its members: helping out with the blog and website, participating in ATA exam preparation, writing that review for SlavFile. This year I feel myself coming into a new role: learning from my own difficulties and frustrations (like not knowing where the division website is and what I could find there) to inform efforts to improve the division and its outreach to new members and younger generations of translators. As comfortable as it would be to settle back and keep thinking of myself as a newbie, waiting for others to set up systems for me to use, I am starting to feel a drive to help out with those systems myself, as I acquire knowledge and experience that could be shared with others, such as what it’s like going through the ATA certification process.

Speaking of which, if anyone is interested in preparing for the ATA exam, either into or out of Russian, please let me know! Maria Guzenko and I are organizing a platform for practice and feedback, and you are invited!

Going Forward: Being a Business

Overall, the conference left me feeling inspired to treat myself and my business seriously. Looking around at people who were making investments in their skills and careers, taking in the advice and resources offered by speakers and acquaintances, I kept getting new ideas for how to grow and move forward and upward from where I am now as both translator and business owner. It was a welcome break from the anxiety of answering client emails and worrying about whether I’m good enough for the money they pay me; instead I got to see many paths toward improving and making myself good enough for not just the rates I charge now, but for the rates I want to charge someday. And that’s an encouraging thought.

San Francisco Ferry Building

Speaking of being inspired to grow my business, I’m now on Twitter! (This change brought to you by “Transitioning from Student to Translator,” which turned out to be the last straw in convincing me to take the plunge.) I’m still figuring out how it works and, more importantly, how it can work for me, but I hope it can be another place to connect with fellow translators and potential clients. Find me (and follow me!) at @eugeniasokol.

Thoughts? What was your experience at this year’s conference?

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