My Mentoring Experience What I learned and what it did for me

  • Greater than 3 minutes, my friend!

    The concept of mentoring is not very popular in Portugal, and this is also true for the translation industry. That’s why I was both surprised and happy when I heard about APTRAD’s first Mentoring Programme starting in November in a Skype chat room near you. Although I already had some experience as an editor and in-house translator, I had just established myself as a freelance professional and had not been able to fully explore all my skills and reach the type of clients I was interested in. So I saw APTRAD’s Mentoring Programme as an opportunity to assess my current professional situation and make important changes. APTRAD’s initiative caught my eye for the following four main reasons:

    • Credibility – When an association of professional translators promotes a mentoring programme, you automatically believe their activities will be helpful and the mentors will be skilled, which immediately motivates you and raises your expectations.
    • Practice versus Theory – BAs and MAs are obviously the soundest foundation for any qualified professional. However, translation, like many other professional activities, takes places outside the university gates, where 80% of your daily experiences will never be studied in class. This is why making contact with professional translators experienced in the art of real life is essential to complement all those countless hours studying Schleiermacher and Nida.
    • Customised sessions – A fan of translation blogs, I had been following some of the main industry influencers for some time. Apart from articles and blog posts targeted at translators and linguists, I also read many others aimed at freelance professionals in general. On Facebook, I was already following such groups as “Tradutores com Vida” and “Standing Out”. Although these three sources provide useful, high-quality information, I believe it is paramount to absorb all of this critically and decide whether all the precious suggestions and advice are applicable to your particular case. There is never only one right answer. There is no doubt that having an experienced translator providing guidance specifically and only to you is more useful and productive at the end of the day.
    • Intensive regime – Some time ago, I took a deep breath and sent Tess Whitty one email asking for professional advice. She replied promptly in an extremely friendly and warm tone. If only I could have my own personal guru! Someone available to answer several emails and give me a lot of advice! Well, APTRAD’s Mentoring Programme was it: I would be supervised by a mentor and have regular work sessions with specific goals.

    These were my expectations when I applied for the programme, having chosen Teresa Sousa as my mentor.

    Today, after completing the programme, the final balance is extremely positive. If it were possible to summarise all the benefits I took from my sessions with Teresa, I would single out these four points:

    • Organisation – That’s right. You should never underestimate a basic skill. Teresa helped me discover that my organisational skills needed improvement. It was important to learn how to better organise all the information (contacts, tasks, clients, resources), as well as rewarding to later reap the benefits of that improvement.
    • Practical knowledge – Our sessions were always held in a very casual, familiar environment, which made room for spontaneous sharing of both successful and unsuccessful experiences. From suggestions on how to improve my CV to advice on effective work methods, our sessions covered a wide range of subject matters and touched on all key points of freelance translation.
    • Personal valorisation – On the other hand, there was also room for me to realise that many of my practices and work methods were correct. It was very important and motivating that an experienced professional approved of them. At the same time, my work with Teresa also focused on defining my professional identity, bearing in mind the need to stand out from other translators in some way. She provided me with guidance and suggestions on how to use other skills I had, fields of work I could explore, and CPD training I could consider doing.
    • Designing Translations – All these months of mentoring sessions with Teresa, along with countless hours of brainstorming and individual work have culminated in the creation of my new professional brand. Recently launched, Designing Translations offers translation and DTP services, as a way of combining my translation and graphic design skills. Teresa’s availability, commitment and generosity have definitely contributed to this important step in my professional career.

    After the end of APTRAD’s Mentoring Programme, Teresa still shows interest in my professional life and has accompanied the development of Designing Translations. While I enjoy the benefits of this programme, it remains only for me to give public thanks: first to APTRAD, who forged the path, and second to Teresa, who helped me invent the wheel to travel it. My last word goes to all those aspiring translators who are undecided or hesitant about applying to the next programme. There is only one right answer.

    Sara Reis

    About Sara Reis

    English to Portuguese translator specializing in marketing and the arts. Offers graphic design services to other translators. Amateur photographer. Book sniffer and tea addict.

    11 thoughts on “My Mentoring Experience

    1. Hi Sara, I’m happy to hear that your mentoring experience has been so positive. A you said, “… translation, like many other professional activities, takes places outside the university gates, where 80% of your daily experiences will never be studied in class.” This is absolutely true and for that reason mentoring is a great opportunity for young translators to grow and develop into self-confident protagonists of the translation world.

      1. Thank you for your comment, Silvia! I’ve been encouraging fellow colleagues to have this kind of experience as well. We are definitely entering the market more well prepared.

    2. Hi Sara, congratulations on publishing your first story! And thank you for sharing your experience. I think it will interest anyone new to this profession (or not so new but thinking they might need some guidance).
      I agree that mentoring is advantageous for young translators. I wish I had a mentor when I just got into freelancing.

    3. Hi Sara, very interesting and it makes me think a lot. I think I need a mentor but I am not an aspiring translator or a young person wishing to start a career as translator. I have been translating for long but there is a lot of disorganization in my working experience and although I enjoy and like translating I know my experience could be better. So hear I am thinking again on mentors.

      1. Hi Claudia! Thanks for commenting! Depending on the programme you participate in, there might be a place for translators who fit that profile, that is, not new to the profession but in need of a hand. For example, APTRAD’s programme also welcomed translators who already had a career but needed guidance in some aspects of the profession. Perhaps it is similiar in your country or the associations you are a member of. CPD in organizational skills/practical aspects of freelancing may also be helpful as a complement. 🙂

    4. Hi, Sara! It seems we’ve had very similar experiences, looking for mentoring and getting a lot out of it. I recently wrote a post about this. link to
      Hopefully, more colleagues will prefer mentoring over the now ubiquitous coaching options. There are some good colleagues providing good training for translators (e.g. Martha Stelmaszak), but many seem to be just trying to make a living out of their struggling peers. Newcomers, for obvious reasons, can’t usually tell the wheat from the chaff and end up getting ripped off without reaping the expected benefits.
      So I’m with you on this mentoring path. Boa sorte!

      PS: I’m not a friend of Marta’s, never met or spoke to her. I read some of her material, watched some of her videos, and came to the conclusion that she adds value.

      1. Hi, Ana! Couldn’t agree more. I’m also a fan of Marta’s. 😀 Thanks for sharing your post! I will gladly read it. 🙂

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