What did you study and where?
Eline: I did a master’s in translation at Ghent University. Then I took a postgraduate diploma in Computer-Assisted Language Mediation (CALM). As part of that postgraduate diploma, I did a work placement in Project Management at Blue Lines.
Marion: I studied translation, bien sûr! I started with a bachelor’s at Marie Haps and then a master’s at the University of Louvain (UCLouvain).
How did you end up doing your placement at Blue Lines?
Eline: Stef and I had been following each other for a while on Twitter. In the year that I was doing my master’s, I set up my own translation agency with a few other students as a placement project. At that point I contacted Stef to do a test translation and later I also talked to him about CALM. He said to me then that I was always welcome to contact him for a placement as a project manager, and that is how it all started.
Marion: Each year my university provides a list of the different places that accept students on placements. Because Virginie also studied at Marie Haps and did her placement at Blue Lines, I found out about the company simply by looking at the list. However Blue Lines was a company that immediately attracted my attention. Firstly, I liked the website as soon as I saw it, and secondly the values it conveyed appealed to me: quality and professionalism expressed through dynamic, humorous and very youthful communication! Serious work in a fun environment: that was exactly what I was looking for.
What expectations did you have of a placement?
Eline: I really wanted to find out about the ‘other side’ of the world of translation. At university, the main focus was on the work a translator does, but I also wanted to know what goes on at a translation agency.
Marion: I hoped to discover the professional world of translation. I wanted to know what working as a translator was like and to find out what my work was worth in real-life conditions rather than just in the classroom. I was also interested to learn about project management and to see how a translation agency worked. And I wasn’t disappointed!
What did you think of our translation test?
Eline: Difficult! I remember that there was a block of text about perfumes that really had me racking my brains. There were also a few sneaky pitfalls to test the translators. You realise right away that Blue Lines sets the bar high, so of course that makes it particularly good news if you pass the test!
Marion: I found it really tricky but fairly comprehensive: I got the opportunity to show what I could do. It covered various types of texts, standard errors and a range of pitfalls. But I’m not going to say any more… I don’t want to give the whole game away!
What was your first impression of Blue Lines?
Eline: Twitter and the contact I’d had with Stef already gave me a sense of Blue Lines as a young, modern company. When I came for my interview, that impression was definitely confirmed: Blue Lines is a trendy company with a youthful mindset, and everyone who works there has a good sense of humour! To top that off, it is housed in an attractive, pleasant (and very green!) office in a lively complex. So my first impression was very positive.
Marion: I clicked with the Blue Lines team and philosophy right from the start: serious, high-quality work in a friendly, relaxed environment. I felt at home really quickly and people put their trust in me. It’s the kind of setting where you feel motivated to give the best of yourself. What’s more, I’ve hardly ever seen such a pleasant, trendy office! The jungle is a workspace with a good feel to it.
What did you learn?
Eline: I learned all sorts of very different things: how you can behave in a professional but friendly way towards customers and translators, how to estimate the time a translation or project will take, how to ensure a project goes well from start to finish. I really brushed up my French in the three months I was there as well, and I even spent a week doing copywriting, which is something I had never done before! As a translator, I also found it really interesting to work at a translation agency and learn what the PMs and customers expect from you and your translation.
Marion: I learned a lot about project management for sure, and I think I can say that my translation skills improved as the weeks went by. But I’d say I learned most at a personal level: I learned to work in a team and, above all, to be confident in myself and my abilities.
Did you have the feeling you were getting enough coaching during your placement?
Eline: Absolutely. It was mainly Sofie who showed me the ropes in the first few days, but the other project managers were always there to help if I had any questions. There was less coaching once I had “got the hang of it” and could work independently, but I didn’t see that as a negative thing: it was nice to find I was being given responsibility and that I was getting space to get on with things. After a few weeks, I had my first evaluation talk with Sofie and Stef. It was really useful to get some feedback that early on.
Marion: Absolutely! Virginie, my placement mentor, patiently showed me the basics of a project manager’s job and explained everything to me. But she wasn’t the only one who helped: the whole team contributed to my learning process! No one escaped my “Excuse me, could I just ask a question?”, but everyone was always prepared to help me out with a smile. They even encouraged me to ask as many questions as necessary and, above all, they coached me without standing over me. That is what makes all the difference.
Do you think there were things that Blue Lines could have dealt with better?
Eline: No, not really. In my opinion, every aspect of the placement went really well.
Marion: Honestly I can’t think of anything at all. Except maybe for Stef and his obsession with trying to get me to drink coffee! (She laughs)
What would you like to do in the future in terms of your career?
Eline: After my placement, I started work as a self-employed translator. I also still work at Blue Lines as a project manager now and then during busy periods.
Marion: I’ve translated a lot of very dynamic and creative texts for Blue Lines, and I’ve really found my footing! Ideally, I’d like to move progressively in the direction of content creation and writing texts, doing copywriting for example. I have also realised that working in a team is something that I enjoy and that motivates me. Group dynamics have a good effect on me. And since I’ll be graduating soon, I’m on the lookout for a team who are prepared to work with me!
What qualities do you think a good translator needs?
Eline: Accuracy, the ability to work in a structured and well-organised manner, the ability to handle strict deadlines and cope with a fair amount of stress, extensive general knowledge and of course a really good command of your own language and foreign languages. Besides that, I also think that clear communication with customers and translation agencies is very important so that both parties know what they can expect.
Marion: I’d say a translator needs to be rigorous and precise, but above all they need to love their native language. Juggling with words, looking for the right expression and trying to convey the same tone as the source text… Google Translate isn’t ready to replace us all just yet!
What qualities do you think a good project manager needs?
Eline: Like a translator, you need to be able to work in a structured and well-organised manner and to have good communication skills. You also need to be able to deal with different kinds of people and switch quickly between different projects and tasks. Last but not least, I think time management is also a very important skill for a project manager.
Marion: In my opinion, the most important qualities of a project manager are anticipation, flexibility and common sense. Being able to anticipate any problems linked to a project saves you precious time. You also need to show flexibility when things don’t go as planned or when a customer has specific requests. But being flexible also means being capable of managing stressful situations… and they do crop up in project management from time to time! Lastly, you need common sense, because there is no magic spell for solving a problem. You need to make decisions and hope they are the right ones!
Do you have any other reflections, conclusions, tips or anything like that?
Eline: I am really glad I ended up at Blue Lines: I learned such a lot during my placement, got to know lovely people and I also picked up a good customer with interesting assignments for my own translation business while I was there.
Marion: I really loved my placement! It was an extremely enriching professional experience that taught me a lot, as I have said, both in professional and personal terms. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better placement!
Are you a translation student looking for an enjoyable work placement? Are you a good writer who likes to set the bar at dizzy heights? Have you got what it takes to pass our terrifyingly tricky translation test? E-mail us now at firstname.lastname@example.org!