Small world, Far world

by Jen O Neill

Looking for work in another country isn’t an easy task and the recent economic downturn has only made it harder. Our digital world has made the world seem much smaller, but the reality of moving around it for work is often the opposite; the dream of working in another country can often seem far away.

I recently received a CV from a young Serbian woman seeking a position in marketing here in Brussels. Recently graduated and with a few years’ work experience in economics, she now wants to reach out and work in another country to get international experience. I’ve done such a move myself on a few occasions and highly recommend it.

Unfortunately she has several obstacles in her way. However, there are things we can all do to help increase our chances of finding work abroad.

Watch your language

Obviously it’s important that your CV doesn’t have any typos and grammatical errors. However, working in another country can often mean living with another language. If you’re writing your CV in a language other than your mother tongue, get the text checked by a native speaker. Don’t know any native speakers? Get to an online forum and ask for help to edit your text.

Do your homework on the country’s work environment

Someone apparently told the Serbian woman that it would be easier to get a marketing job in a multinational as the work would be in English. Her CV Profile states that she’s looking for an opening position in Marketing. Unfortunately she’s no experience in the domain, her written English isn’t good enough to do copywriting and she doesn’t know Adobe InDesign. If a potential employer had read past the quirky English in the CV, they’d have given up at this stage. Few companies will hire a beginner who needs work papers. They can hire locally.

It can be a risky decision to do a career change when looking for work in a country where you need work papers but don’t have any practical experience to offer in your new career direction. Get as much experience as you can before seeking work in another country. You need something to sell!

Research the job market and types of companies in the country that interest you. The Serb was fluent in several languages but only in one (English) of the three important languages for working in Brussels (French and Dutch also matter). Realistically she may have a better chance of finding work in Germany as companies there may be more commercially active in the Balkan region than companies based in Belgium. So her knowledge of that regional market could perhaps be a selling point to a German company. Understand what the market is looking for.

The challenge to get work papers

The unfortunate reality is that work papers can be hard to get. Few companies will hire you directly from another country without first meeting you. You will increase the chance of finding work by going to your desired country for a month or more (the longer the better) and making as many face-to-face contacts as possible to hunt down that opportunity made for you. It can take time to knock on all those doors and follow up leads. Simply mailing out CVs isn’t enough.

When a company wants to hire someone from outside the EU (which is 28 countries), they need to be able to show the authorities that they couldn’t find someone in the country suitable for the job on offer. Another condition prospective employers may need to meet could be the minimum salary level that they can offer. In Belgium, for example, it is currently nearly 40,000 euros ($54,000) a year for a skilled position (salary reference). In other words, you won’t get work papers to do a low paid job. You need skills and experience.

It’s hard looking for work in another country, particularly if you’re not based there and will need work papers. It takes determination and focus to chase a dream and make it happen.

Watercooler chat: Translation Quality: Pain or Pleasure? Tuesday, May 27

Our next Watercooler Chat is Tuesday, 27 May. It’s at 17:00-18:00 CET (GMT +0100) / 11.00am-12.00pm EST
(Daylight saving time is in effect for both times shown).

The topic for this month’s discussion is:

Translation Quality: Pain or Pleasure?

This discussion will focus on how we manage the quality of our translations.

Some questions to perhaps consider in our discussion: What is acceptable quality for your translated content? How do you measure translation quality? What issues impact translation quality in your company? What are your big pain points on achieving good translation quality? Do you do in-country reviews? If you don’t pay for 100% matches in your translation memory, does this have any impact on quality? Do you use a localisation style guide? If you do, how does it help the translation quality of your content? How do you manage translated terminology? Is it harder to achieve good translation quality for some languages compared to others? How do you handle resource restrictions that could impact translation quality (e.g., time, budget, access to in-country reviewers, inadequate term bases)? How much do issues in your source content impact quality of the translated content? Do you have a process to help ensure good quality translation?

Registration and phone-in details

Register at Eventbrite today.

The Watercooler Chat is informal. No speaker, no PowerPoints, no audio recording. It’s moderated. It’s free. Bring your experience, ideas and questions to share and discuss with fellow communicators located around the world.

The call-in details are sent out closer to the date to those who register. Telephone numbers for around the world are provided as well as a webinar link for VoIP.

Cheers,

Jennifer O Neill

Manager, STC Europe SIG

Watercooler chat: Managing our source language terminology, Tuesday, April 22

Our next Watercooler Chat is Tuesday, 22 April. It’s at 17:00-18:00 CET (GMT +0100) / 11.00am-12.00pm EST
(Daylight saving time is in effect for both times shown).

The topic for this month’s discussion is:

Managing our source language terminology

This discussion will focus on how we manage the terminology of the source language we work in, which for most of us is probably English. Although terminology is often discussed in the context of localisation, many terminology problems start in the source content.

Some questions to perhaps consider in our discussion: How are you currently managing your English terminology? Who’s the audience for it? How do you distribute it? How do you select terms? How much information do you collect about terms? Is terminology shared across the company? How closely integrated are the terminology needs of documentation and the user interface being documented? What are the sources of terminology problems in your company (e.g., mergers & acquisitions, outsourcing, departmental silos, English as a second language, tools, …) How often is your glossary maintained and who’s in charge of maintaining it? How integrated are the terminology needs of the English and localised content?

Some useful links on the topic are:

The topic certainly has my attention as I’m giving a presentation on “Taming Terminology” at the TCeurope colloquium, 25 April, in Aix-en-Provence, France.

The Watercooler Chat is informal. No speaker, no PowerPoints, no audio recording. It’s moderated. It’s free. Bring your experience, ideas and questions to share and discuss with fellow communicators located around the world.

Registration and phone-in details

Register at Eventbrite today.

The call-in details are sent out closer to the date to those who register. Telephone numbers for around the world are provided as well as a webinar link for VoIP.

Cheers,

Jennifer O Neill

Manager, STC Europe SIG

March Watercooler Chat: Global Standards, Tuesday, 25 March

Our next Watercooler Chat is Tuesday, 25 March, at 17:00-18:00 CET (GMT +0100) / 12.00pm-1.00pm EST.
(Note: Summer time in operation for North America)

The topic for this month’s discussion is:

Are global standards worth the effort?

We’re increasingly working in flexible teams spread around the world, impacted by global and regional market needs, with demanding work environments impacted by mergers and acquisitions as well as limitations on available resources. Yet companies and communication teams still want consistency with content and branding. Consistent branding is probably easier to achieve but what has been our experience with achieving consistent and reusable content across teams and frontiers? What facilitates the implementation of consistent standards across multiple sites worldwide? What does it mean to be a truly “Global team” focused on achieving workable shared standards?

What has your experience been on introducing global documentation standards across multiple sites worldwide? What have been your successes and failures? How do style guides and content strategies cope? How easy has it been and how have such policies survived time? What have been the challenges breaking down silos scattered across countries and cultures?

Let’s share our stories and experiences and learn from each other.

Our Watercooler Chat is informal. No speaker, no PowerPoints, no audio recording. It’s moderated. No prior registration is required. It’s free. Bring your experience, ideas and questions to share and discuss with fellow communicators located around the world.

The call-in details are sent out in a separate email to discussion list members. Telephone numbers for around the world will be provided as well as a webinar link for VoIP.

Cheers,

Jennifer O Neill

Manager, STC Europe SIG

Let’s chat about… cultural differences at work

by Jen O Neill

In this month’s Watercooler Chat we discussed the cultural differences we can encounter when working in a global environment.

Coping with different Englishes

All of us taking part in the chat were Anglophone and worked in English. However, we all worked with colleagues and customers scattered around the world for whom English isn’t a first language.

Some of us worked in environments where there can be different versions of English in use across the company worldwide; US, UK, Indian, Australian. It’s not always possible for technical communication groups to expect that only one version of English can be used in documentation worldwide. Regional markets can have their own demands. We need to understand local as well as global situations. There was also the challenge of ensuring correctly written English from globally dispersed writers who used another version of English in their own country.

China and documentation standards

Chinese manuals. Infamous. Often incomprehensible. The “contaminated English” found in many Chinese manuals often seem to be covered in the fingerprints of Google Translate (or an equivalent tool). The English can be amusing but it’s also frustrating to understand and challenging to rewrite.

The reality is that most Chinese companies only sell within China. So when selling internationally, they write their English manuals using the same practices as when they write documents for their own local market. The content is often more descriptive than instructional.

Manuals are usually written by engineers (an increasing number of whom have been trained in the US) as well as translators, whose training may not always produce a good quality of English. The concept of technical communication is in its infancy in China. Few Chinese writers are familiar with the principles of information design.

Chinese companies still have a long way to go in appreciating the benefit quality documentation can have on their profits.

Phone etiquette

We all regularly teleconferenced with colleagues located worldwide. Although great for work and for developing working relationships, a common problem encountered was poor sound quality. This could be due, for example, to people phoning in from their desks or cars, or using mobile phones.

Distracting background noise makes it difficult to clearly hear what’s being said. Native speakers can also speak too quickly. Unfortunately people may not speak up to say that they can’t follow the conversation, either through shyness or for fear that their English could be considered too poor. In a successful teleconference, everyone needs to understand phone etiquette.

Accents can cause problems. Unfamiliar ones can be difficult to understand over a phone line, particularly if there are no visual cues to help. Video conferencing is great but not everyone has access to it.

We all agreed that it’s important to write up the meeting so that everyone is clear on what was discussed and agreed upon, particularly if some may have had problems hearing or understanding what was said.

It takes practice and patience to get used to working with different accents as well as the English spoken by those who don’t have English as their first language.

Great chat

We had a great informative chat with everyone participating and sharing their experiences. Yet cultural differences don’t just cover language and national issues. Unfortunately we ran out of time to discuss the other hot cultural issue, corporate culture, and how it differs around the world.

February Watercooler Chat: Cultural Stories, Tuesday, 25 February

Our next Watercooler Chat is this Tuesday, 25 February, at 17:00-18:00 CET (GMT +0100) / 11.00am-12.00pm ET.

The topic for this month’s discussion is:

Cultural Stories

Many of us work on international projects and may have also lived and worked in different countries. What have been our experiences working and living with different cultural norms? What unintentional cultural faux pas have we or colleagues done that caused awkwardness or problems at work? What knowledge can we share with fellow professionals to avoid potential issues and develop better working relationships across cultures?

Let’s share our stories and experiences and learn from each other.

Our Watercooler Chat is informal. No speaker, no PowerPoints, no audio recording. It’s moderated. No prior registration is required. It’s free. Bring your experience, ideas and questions to share and discuss with fellow communicators located around the world.

The call-in details are sent out in a separate email to discussion list members. Telephone numbers for around the world are provided as well as a webinar link for VoIP.

Cheers,

Jennifer O Neill

Manager, STC Europe SIG

STC members – share your thoughts with STC

The STC office sent out a survey a few days ago inviting all STC members to participate in an in-depth survey about your membership experiences. In case you missed that mail, we are sharing the link and request here on our blog.

There was a general membership survey earlier in the year, and this survey expands on some of that feedback. You do not need to have participated in that survey to complete this one.

The in-depth survey takes about 15-20 minutes. STC appreciates your responses, which will be kept confidential.

The STC in-depth membership survey

The survey is open through 10 January 2014.

STC thanks you for your time and thoughtful assistance!

Happy holidays and a happy 2014 to all!

PS Have you renewed your membership for 2014, or are you thinking about joining STC? Renew or join today at stc.org.

November SIG Watercooler Chat: Working successfully with language service providers

Our next SIG Watercooler chat is on Tuesday, 12 November.

Many of us these days probably produce product content that is distributed worldwide and so needs to be translated and localised for our global customers. This is where the language service provider (LSP) comes in as they will help us get our content into all the required languages for the local markets in which our companies operate.

This month’s Watercooler Chat is all about learning how to develop a successful working relationship with our localisation service providers.

To ensure that our product content is localized and translated to meet our need for quality, speed of turnaround, and cost efficiency, we need to have a successful partnership between us (the client) and the LSP.

So what do we need to know, as clients, to achieve this?

Proposed questions for discussion in our chat are:

  • Why use an LSP?
  • What are the best practices when working with an LSP?
  • What can we expect from LSP project managers and what information should they provide us with?
  • What are frequently encountered problems when working with LSPs?
  • What’s included in the price and what information should be included in a quotation?
  • How can we avoid being hit by “extra charges”?
  • How proactive should an LSP be to help us improve our localization process and quality?

How to register for the Europe SIG Watercooler Chat

Our Watercooler Chat is informal. No PowerPoints, no audio recording. It’s moderated. It’s free.

David Sommer of Net-Translators (sponsor at the STC Summit conference) will be attending our chat.

Bring your experience, ideas, and questions to share and discuss with fellow communicators located around the world.

Registration is required. Go to http://bit.ly/HrQPmp

The time of the event is 17:00-18:00 CET / 11:00 am-12:00 pm ET

A maximum of 20 people can register for this chat.

Worldwide phone numbers and VoIP link will be provided to those who register.

The next Watercooler Chat is September 18

Our September Watercooler Chat is on Wednesday, 18 September. It’s at 17:00 CET / 11.00pm EST

The topic for this month’s phone/VoIP discussion is:

Minimising “Us vs Them” in multicultural/multinational work environments

Some questions to perhaps consider in our discussion:

  • What type of problems do we face when working with multicultural/multinational groups?
  • What are the most frequently encountered problems?
  • What are good communication skills in such an environment?
  • How do you “fix” broken communications?
  • Do some cultural or national groups find it harder to work together?
  • What impact does working in a foreign language have?

Thanks to Kathy Moore for suggesting the chat topic.

Our Watercooler Chat is informal. No speaker, no PowerPoints, no audio recording. We simply talk on the phone. It’s moderated. It’s free. Bring your experience, ideas and questions to share and discuss with fellow communicators located around the world.

Registration

Registration is required on our Eventbrite page.

A maximum of 20 people can register for this chat.

Worldwide phone numbers and VoIP link will be provided to those who register.

Mobile Mozambique

by Jen O Neill

I recently returned from holiday in Mozambique. It was my first holiday in Africa and I had a fantastic time. I’d love to return to the country.

The country left many impressions on me. Amazing sand dunes, stunning beaches, extraordinary trees, friendly people, good food, night skies full of stars due to no light pollution. And the mobile phone.

The communication challenge

Mozambique is a poor country, although it now has one of the world’s fastest growing economies thanks to its natural resources. The average monthly income is only around 3000 meticais, about $100 dollars (source: CIA World Factbook). It came out of a brutal civil war 20 years ago with much of its infrastructure badly damaged.

Prior to the arrival of the mobile phone in the country, getting in touch with anyone was often time consuming as both the postal and landline phone services in the country are poor and unreliable. Today, almost twice as many people have access to a mobile phone than have access to the national electrical grid.

The big advantage of the mobile phone is that it makes you easily reachable. It has thrown open the communication doors!

The pre-paid mobile phone is the biggest social revolution to have hit Africa

The mobile phone was visible everywhere on my trip. Women selling vegetables or fish in the local markets had them, city workers walked around with them in their hand at all times. There were many shops selling cheap simple phones as well as second hand ones. I didn’t see many smart phones during my trip but it’s possible that those with smart phones are driving around everywhere rather than walking.

Array of mobile phones on sale in Maputo, Mozambique

It’s incredibly easy to buy credit for pre-paid phones as young boys are always walking around the streets wearing the brightly coloured vests of the two major mobile providers, selling the credit. I bought mine while sitting in a café. I spent 50 meticais (1.30 euros) on credit for my phone. But it cost me 350 meticais (9 euros) to buy five postcards. Obviously Mozambicans don’t use postcards to communicate with each other!

Business is so much easier now with mobile connections. I met a tour guide in Velankulos (1000 km north of Maputo) who ran his one-man business with just a simple Nokia feature phone. No office, no web site, just a phone number. Everything done in the street. Yet his tour business is listed in the main travel books on the country. He’s just one of thousands who have benefited from the digital era.

The future is mobile

Although both 2G and 3G mobile networks are available in Mozambique, the vast majority of customers still use 2G. The main reason is cost. 2G is much cheaper to use and currently more reliable. Few people, particularly outside of large towns, have personal computers. Computers are expensive, they require electricity and you need to know how to use them. Many people don’t have access to electricity at home and pay local shops/kiosks to charge their phones. To access the internet, they often use public access points such as internet cafés.

As G3 becomes more reliable and cheaper outside of the capital city, Maputo, it is obvious that the future of communications in the country is mobile. When compared to a computer, the mobile phone is cheaper, flexible, portable, easier to use, task specific and less reliant on the state of the country’s infrastructure.

The digital divide is shrinking

Other African countries are much further along the digital route than Mozambique. Kenya is often cited as a country that is making rapid progress in the digital era. An interesting report on what’s happening there is Why Kenya is the next tech capital: 2013 Sector Trends Online Social Mobile.

I live in a world of high tech, high-speed internet, data overload, where the latest smart phones can cost the equivalent of eight months of income in Mozambique. Visiting Mozambique made me see another side of our digital era. Nascent and rapidly evolving, adapting to local communication needs. The digital divide is rapidly closing.