WOMEN IN POWER
When I started my company in Argentina, 20 years ago, I needed to recruit twenty professionals to work on translating an 11-million word documentation project for a combined-cycle gas and steam turbine installation in South America. The deadline was crazy, the terminology complex. I looked for engineers and other experts to do it, but they either lacked the language skills or domain expertise.
Women to the rescue
The city of Rosario, Argentina, had one accredited translation school. 95% of the students were women, and even though they didn’t have the technical background needed to participate in such a challenge, they were all eager to learn.
We started a selection process, which included a technical translation test, a Spanish usage test, and a group-dynamics interview since this was going to be mostly a team project. We interviewed 145 translators. Based on a combination of test results and personal rapport, we selected a group of 18; all but two were female, with ages ranging from 22 years old, fresh out of translation school, to 39 years old, with comprehensive experience in other technical fields. To help us with the specific terminology and technical subtleties, we hired a lead reviewer, an electrical engineer with extensive knowledge in the power generation field.
For almost a year, we conducted weekly meetings, each focused on one particular aspect of the power generation process. Our office turned into something different, as to the usual presence of dictionaries and reference materials, we had to add countless blueprints, binders, brochures, and photocopies, as 80% of the source text was still a hardcopy. We even needed to hire four graphic designers to recreate each drawing and layout.
Ten months later, we finished our primary assignment, including blueprints and CAD files, installation, operation and maintenance manuals, and an incredibly long 7,650-entry glossary. By then, we had acquired the knowledge required to build, operate, and service a steam and gas power plant. Well, at least on paper. Our technical consultant insisted on explaining each term and its context to our linguists, whether they wanted to learn it or not.
When given a chance, women will rise to the occasion, from working at home as individual freelancers to finishing a very technical and detailed project in collaboration with 20 other professionals they’ve just met, leveraging experiences and work methodologies; finishing all assignments on time and within budget despite not only having to agree on terminology and writing styles, so the final text would flow seamlessly, but also having to learn about a totally new domain area, and using brand-new translation tools.
It is not about being on top or about exerting your power over others. Through all these challenges, we learned to collaborate, compromise, respect other's opinions, and delegate responsibly. We improved our listening and negotiation skills. We also learned that each of us had a role to play in the big picture and that when we work together, we can conquer the biggest challenges.
After all, how hard can it be?