Melbourne meets Strasbourg, a visit from Myriam, a TCLoc alumni from 2018. Learn about her in this exclusive interview !


Hello Myriam, could you introduce yourself?

“Hi, my name is Myriam! I was a student of TCLoc in 2018 at this stage. I have a background in translation with a bachelor’s and a master’s in translation. My languages are Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. I enjoy everything about cultures and cross-cultural communication, which is why I enjoy working in this field. I live in Melbourne, Australia, which is known as a multicultural city.

Melbourne residents are from different backgrounds, so we see a need for linguistic assistance for different day to day situations such as government procedures, courts, clinics etc. The Australian government is very inclusive and makes sure all the communities have access to information in their language. I enjoy my current role where I manage a team of project coordinators, typesetters and linguists in addition to managing large scale digital projects to provide accessible multilingual information.”

What aspects do you love about cultures?

“It is very enriching to learn from different cultures, especially if you speak the language because it tells you a lot more about the culture, their humor, how they think, their cuisine. Many details about their culture are actually highlighted in their language. This is why I feel lucky being in Melbourne, a multicultural city, where you always have cultural events and film festivals in different languages.”

Why did you choose the TCLoc master?

“I chose it because I needed a refresher after two concentrated degrees in translation. In addition to being a refresher, it was also an introduction to new technologies in the field, where I learned more about the technical side of localization and digital aspects of language representation on websites, videos and mobile applications. It was definitely a personal goal for me because it was quite a while since my last studies, and I wanted a new challenge.”

Were there other programs that got your attention?

“I was looking at the University of Washington, they have this 6-month certificate and I compared the value of a 6 months course versus a year for a master. I felt the value is better in doing the TCLoc program.  The university is in France, a country dear to my heart, and the course selection was exactly what I needed. What was enjoyable in the course was meeting both colleagues and instructors from the industry which represented an amazing exchange and learning experience.”

How did you handle working and studying at the same time?

“So studying and working obviously is not easy as everyone would know. It definitely needs a lot of discipline; which I think I have. With discipline and a focus on the final goal, I was able to give the course the dedication it needed. My husband was very understanding and supportive, and pushed me to always dedicate the time needed to ensure I am on top of the assignments.”

Do you think that the fact that it was self-based helped?

“I enjoyed self-paced and online studies because I was in control of my time and saved a lot on commute and fixed-time courses. The flexibility we had, especially being in a different time zone, was key for me to be able to complete the course. The instructors were accommodating and organized live sessions at a suitable time to be able to join and interact with colleagues. We had other means of collaboration through forums and WhatsApp group that was good to stay engaged and connect.”

What did you like the most about TCLoc?

“I think what I liked the most is that it ticked a lot of the boxes that I needed at that stage in my life: Personal challenge, refresher, learning about new industry trends, connecting with like-minded people, and increasing my confidence in having technical conversations with clients about digital projects. I was able to advise on large projects for local government, multicultural initiatives, and digital projects, and I was promoted to be in charge of a team. The TCLoc helped me scale how I think and consult on multilingual projects and equipped me with a lot of knowledge that I can keep building upon.”

Were there some subjects that were harder than others for you?

“I think the ones that are a bit more technical like the localization one, but it is also why I enrolled in the course, to learn new skills and challenge myself. If you are not learning something new, then why do it anyway? If a course or anything you do to upskill doesn’t trigger you to think differently, if it doesn’t trigger you to do things differently then you are not learning anything new. I learned new ways to manage multilingual projects and give advice to clients on the best approaches to work on their projects in a tailored way.”

Do you have any advice for any students that would like to enroll or are thinking about it?

“I think if they are thinking about it, there is something that triggered it. So I would advise them to keep thinking about that as a motivation. There will never be a right time to do anything in this busy world. I think the program offers flexibility to be done in a year and a half, I chose to finish the program in a year because that was my personal goal.

I would advise anyone thinking of studying to look at their personal goals and assess them in addition to keeping in their mind that this is only temporary. Reminding myself of my goal pushed my resilience levels and now I can look back and think of all the interactions I had and things I learned and it was all worth it. I hope anyone wishing to study any discipline to be able to find the satisfaction they are looking for.”


If you’d like to know more about the TCLoc program and the opportunities it has to offer, click here. Don’t hesitate to join us on LinkedIn, Instagram, and read our other articles!

With some delay due to COVID, graduating TCLoc students from 2020 and 2021 were finally awarded their diplomas on April 9, 2022.

The TCLoc graduation ceremony took place in the elegant European Doctoral College in Strasbourg. The graduates have been welcomed by Valérie Ledermann, training coordinator for TCLoc master’s, and congratulated by Dr. Rénate De La Paix and Drew Eisenhauer, heads of the program. They delivered a co-written speech mixing French and English to greet the graduates and remind them of the opportunities that now await them.

2020 and 2021 TCLoc’s students’ graduation ceremony: their feedback on the TCLoc program

This ceremony was a perfect opportunity to gather feedback from these graduates, including those who graduated in 2020 and who therefore have all the necessary distance to give informed feedback.

Here are the 6 questions we asked to 6 of the attending graduates:

TCLoc graduation ceremony : 6 questions, 6 graduates’ feedback

Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you did before applying to TCLoc?

Maiken Blok: “Absolutely! My name is Maiken Blok and I am 32 and I come from Denmark, I live just outside of Copenhagen. Before TCLoc, I was a technical communicator. I studied languages and organizational communication.”

Marielle Muschko: “I am Marielle I am 26 years old. I am from Germany, I currently live in Dresden (eastern Germany). I have also worked in France. So I am a little bit all over the place. Before TCLoc, I worked as a translator and as an interpreter as well. That’s about it.”

Dorian Cumberbatch: “My name is Dorian Cumberbatch and I am 42 years old. I am Cuban and I live in the US. So yeah, I came all the way here from the US! I have a bachelor’s degree in economics and I worked in translation and interpretation. By and large, I worked as a translator and interpreter before this program and recently I have been managing some projects.”

Joop Bindels: “I am Joop Bindels and I am 40 years old. I am originally from the Netherlands but I live in Belgium now. As for my job before the master, it’s the job that I’m still doing right now. I am a lecturer in translation technology.”

Rita Pang: “My name is Rita, I am currently 37 years old. My family has been living in Canada for the last 25 years but I’m originally from Hong Kong. It’s not very typical to go directly into a Master degree in North America, at least right after your bachelor degree. I had a ten year gap in between but I was a history and French student.”

Hanna-Katharina Meyer: “I’m Hanna-Katharina Meyer and I am now 43 years old. I come from Germany and I live in Bremen (northern Germany). Before the master, I was a freelance translator for English and the Scandinavian languages, Swedish and Danish, mostly” 

What did you enjoy most about the program?

Maiken Blok: “The thing I enjoyed most about the program was probably the international aspects. We were so many different people actually gathering for the same interests, for the same learning purpose.”

Marielle Muschko: “I enjoyed the different insights on a lot of different fields. That had to do with technical communication, translation, localization, of course, and also project management.”

Dorian Cumberbatch: “That’s a hard one. I enjoyed a lot of things to be honest… I think the most important thing is that learning was fun. Because it’s one thing to feel like you’re learning something important, something that will have an impact on your life, but it’s much better when it’s in a really fun way. People share, they share their knowledge, or complaints. So it’s a lot of hard work but it’s a fun and useful experience”

Joop Bindels: “What I enjoyed most was the very detailed technical classes. Like, for instance, segmentation rules, stuff like that. That was new to me and quite interesting for me as a lecturer!”

Rita Pang: “I spent some time in Paris as an undergrad, so I always had this dream of coming back to a French academic space.”

Hanna-Katharina Meyer: “The program was extremely interesting and very challenging – I got so much out of it and I enjoyed the hard work because I learned so much. All of the students that I studied with, we were very, very close at the time and encouraged each other maybe on a daily basis even. That helped a lot.”

What do you plan to do now, or have already done with your degree?

Maiken Blok: “Well, actually, I graduated two years ago, and I have used my degree to get a promotion. So I  am now a team manager for a team of writers. And I also used it as a sort of steppingstone to take on a bigger role in the Tekom community.”

Marielle Muschko: “Well, I actually already did something with it because I got connected with Victoria Gorskaya, a fellow student, and she introduced me to my current position. So this peer support system already helped me get a new job position, which is great.”

Dorian Cumberbatch: “I mean, not only that you have the master on your resume but you also feel way more confident because of all you have learned. And since even the students are professionals, you are even learning from the students, not only from the professors! Therefore, once you feel more confident you can take on more responsibilities and make more money. It feels good to know that now I can contribute more to my team, to my company.”

Joop Bindels: “Well, it allowed me to focus a bit more on research. I finished my thesis and that was a good starting point for doing more research in machine translation, for instance, and a lot of technical stuff that I use in my classes. Not copying it or anything, but I do use that knowledge that I learned here for my classes.”

Rita Pang: “I actually graduated about two years ago. I just came back for the graduation ceremony. I’m currently a technical writer for a healthcare company based in Canada.”

Hanna-Katharina Meyer: “First of all, I switched from being a freelance translator to working for a company. I was working as a freelancer for them before, but having a degree is probably one of the reasons why I also got hired. And I am sure that’s not the end of my journey. I would like to get back into digital accessibility more. I wrote my thesis about it. That is something I don’t work with at the moment and that is still at the back of my head. I could see myself developing into this kind of field more in the future.”

Can you describe your experience in one word or two?

Maken Blok: “Amazing”

Marielle Muschko: “Networking”

Dorian Cumberbatch: “Hard but fun learning”

Joop Bindels: “Very interesting”

Rita Pang: “Variety – in terms of managing your schedule, in terms of course, content, in terms of the people that you’re working with or learning from.”

Hanna-Katharina Meyer: “Outstanding”

What is the one thing you will remember most about the master?

Maiken Blok: “The one thing I will remember is the deep relations that I built with other people. Even though we were online, we actually managed to get a really good relationship with each other, and we helped each other out in every way possible.”

Marielle Muschko: “I think it’s Drew Eisenhower because he was the one that I had the most contact with. He is a very outgoing person, and he is really good at guiding you through your projects or through the program, I think. And another thing was that despite studying remotely, we had the WhatsApp group and opportunities to laugh with other people, which was great.”

Dorian Cumberbatch: “I would say the difference between the one I was when I started and the one I am now. Like, I could say: OK, it was worth the effort. It definitely feels good because you see the change.”

Joop Bindels: “I think I will remember Alex Zekakis’ classes. His classes were very inspiring, very interesting. So I will definitely remember those classes. Mark Nightingale’s classes too. He was very inspiring. Those two stand out for me, so I will definitely remember them.”

Rita Pang: “TCLoc is very much focused on trying to offer, you know, technical training for the world. For example, within the two year long program, I found the plain language and the technical English portion very, very helpful to get the job that I’m in right now.”

Hanna-Katharina Meyer: “One thing? The whole experience, including the students, the staff, Rénate, the encouragement, the lecturers. I can’t say it in one word. It’s the whole that has made most of the difference.”

What do you think TCLoc can provide in terms of expertise? Or in terms of opportunities?

Maiken Blok: “I definitely feel that the TCLoc program opens a lot of doors for people who are not necessarily part of the Tekom community or in the technical communication community already.”

Marielle Muschko: “It can provide you with a lot of different perspectives. I first started out as a translator, as I said before, and for example, I got into the IT department. That was so nice. It helped me understand how they work and what coding means. And this now helps me in my current position to really understand other departments.”

Dorian Cumberbatch: “Well, the easy one is as a project manager, that’s the first one that comes to mind. Now you can manage other people. You have more knowledge of the technical aspects, the management aspects. You have been learning with professors and students from all over the world so you feel more confident, more qualified to do this type of jobs and take a new step in your career”

Joop Bindels: “Well, for me personally, it hasn’t changed my work a lot. Well, it has opened up a few opportunities, but I think the program in itself can be very useful for a lot of students. The subject of technical communication and localization is not taught in a master program at that level. They sometimes are taught in small programs or in minors at universities, but not as a complete program in itself. I think that’s what is unique about it.” 

Rita Pang: “I think this is a really great place for people who are coming from a literary background, who are trying to get into the technical world. There’s a big talent gap happening right now where companies are looking for talent all across the world but don’t know where to find them, whereas people coming from, for example, translation are trying very hard to get a better and more profitable career but don’t know where to start. So this is one of those programs that really help bring the two together and could be an excellent steppingstone if you’re looking for that change in your professional life”

Hanna-Katharina Meyer: “There’s something in it for everyone who is working within the language field, which is a very, very broad field. The whole program combines so many different areas that many different people can take something out of it. For example, I have never been very knowledgeable in programming and now I can read code and I know what to do with it. That’s very helpful for me: when I localize software, for example! So I think most people can benefit from the program.”

Thank you to all of you for your presence at this graduation ceremony and for your feedback about your experience with TCLoc Master! 

Like them, take the plunge and apply for TCLoc now! We would love to hear about your experience with TCLoc one day! Next intake starts July 2022, more info right here: TCLoc Master’s Degree Online Application | TCLoc master’s (unistra.fr)

Meet Madison, a student from Louisiana Tech University who is doing an internship in the TCLOC program at Strasbourg University.

Elham Mehrzadkia: Hello Madison and welcome to Strasbourg. I know that it’s the first time that you travel to France and to this beautiful city.

Madison Brown: Hello, yes. It is my first visit, and I love it.

EM: Can you please introduce yourself?

MB:My name is Madison Brown. I’m an undergraduate student at Louisiana Tech University located in Louisiana, United States. I started as an intern with the TCLoc program in December of 2021. I was offered this opportunity through my Academic Advisor at Louisiana Tech, because of my education and experience in technical writing. As an intern, I help edit and review the content produced on the TCLoc website, and I produce content such as interviews and blog posts.

About her professional  background

EM:Can you tell us more about your professional background?

MB:As a technical writer, I have had the opportunity to intern with an IT company in the summer. The company is known as General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), and I’ve interned with them for the past two summers. During those internships, I mainly created process documents and instructional material on how to solve different IT related issues. Over the last academic year, I have worked at Louisiana Tech University’s Center for Health and Medical Communication (CHMC). Through the center I work closely with community organizations to fulfill documentation needs such as developing surveys, conducting usability tests, and creating terminology style guides. Aside from those positions, I’m also currently pursuing a master’s alongside my undergraduate degree as I’m in my final year at Louisiana Tech.

About Madison and her internship in Tcloc

EM:Was it difficult to find an internship in TCLoc? How did you find it?

MB:I was offered this opportunity, the internship with the University of Strasbourg and, more specifically, the TCLoc program, through Louisiana Tech. At the time, I was not actively seeking out an internship but my professor, Dr. Kirk St. Amant, presented this opportunity to me and asked my thoughts on it. And I said yes, because I have a philosophy that when an opportunity presents itself, you say yes. You never know where an opportunity, particularly an unexpected one, will lead you in life.

EM:Do you have any professional experience in translation and localization?

MB: My experience is primarily in technical writing as it is my concentration for my English degree, and the field that I’m pursuing for my master’s. While I don’t have formal training within translation and localization, I have worked on projects in which translation and localization were prioritized during the drafting and editing stages of various documents. Since my experience is primarily in drafting and formatting documents, I have used the help of audience members and translators to better localize and translate documents as needed. As a technical writer, my main focus is on the usability of a document or graphic and how I can improve the user’s experience. My priorities during the writing process include clarifying the purpose of the document, adjusting the language to best suit a specific audience, defining unfamiliar concepts or terms, answering questions that may arise from audience members, formatting the document for consistency, and editing the document for errors or to make the content more concise. However, when writing for new or unfamiliar audiences, I think it is crucial to seek feedback from individuals within the target audience and even translators if more than one language is involved.

About the benefit of doing an internship in Tcloc

EM:What do you expect to gain from this internship?

MB: I’m hoping to expand on my current knowledge. Most of my experience, as I mentioned, is in usability and user experience. So, I don’t really have that localization perspective, but it has been very interesting to learn more about the field. I enjoy exploring how one can better produce, translate, and adapt materials for audiences of different cultures, languages,  and expectations. I think that’s absolutely fascinating and very important. Gathering an understanding in that field has been very eye-opening. I also hope to continue exploring the area of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I’ve been offered the opportunity to take an online SEO course through TCLoc and the university.  The course covered how to improve a website’s organic traffic and ranking on search engines. Ranking refers to where one’s website would appear on a page after completing a search. For instance, would the website appear on the first or second page of a Google search and would the website be located (or ranked) at the top, middle, or bottom of the page. Learning about SEO has been very, very different from what I’m used to, but also very interesting.

EM: What do you plan on doing with your professional experience ?

MB:In the immediate future, I plan on working for GDIT full-time as a technical writer while pursuing my master’s. Within my personal interests, I would like to continue my understanding, research, and familiarization with SEO, localization, and translation. Academically speaking, I would also like to continue to stay connected with the university even after my internship ends this July. After completing my master’s, I’d like to pursue a course or program with the University of Strasbourg. 

EM:The TCLoc team hopes you enjoy your time in Strasbourg, and we greatly appreciate your time. 

MB: Thank you!

If you’d like to know more about the TCLoc program and the opportunities it has to offer, click here.

In this week’s interview, we talk to PhD holder Darya Kaysina, a TCLoc student who hails from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Her background as an Associate Professor of Translation and Interpreting and a personal project in board game localization are what sparked her interest in TCLoc’s wide-ranging, career-oriented master’s in localization. Let’s hear some more from Darya in her own words!

Darya’s Experiences of TCLoc, a Career-Oriented Master’s in Localization

Please could you introduce yourself?

My name is Darya Kaysina and I’m from Kharkiv, Ukraine. I’m an Associate Professor at Karazin University, where I teach translation and interpreting, which is what I got my first master’s degree in. And that’s what led me to the world of localization. Outside of work, in my free time, I love traveling—at least, as much as is possible right now with the pandemic. And I love board games. That’s how I spend a lot of my time when I can’t travel. 

Why TCLoc?

Could you tell us about your decision to apply to TCLoc?

By the age of 24, I had two master degrees and I had just got my PhD in philology. And for some people, that might seem like: okay, so now you get to enjoy all the fruit from your tree that has blossomed so well. But personally, I started to get curious about what exactly was beyond the horizon of translation. I began to ask myself: how can I use these skills, these techniques, and how can I expand on the processes involved?

And that’s how I got interested in localization in general, and in technical communication as well. The first aspect of localization that interested me was related to board games, which I’m a big fan of. I even embarked on a personal project to localize a board game just for myself and my family. From doing that, I understood just how many technical issues are involved beyond just translation.

This mystique is what I believe brought me to this program. I started to look for some courses or masters in localization. However, in Ukraine, in Russia, and in Belarus, this field is not really developed yet. It’s just at the beginning of its path and there is still some way to go. So, after not being able to find any related courses or programs in Ukraine, I had to search in the Western world. And TCLoc was the program that I found and fell in love with.

How TCLoc Stacks Up Against The Competition

Before applying to TCLoc, what other programs or universities did you consider?

I must say that, yes, there was one other option. It was the University of Washington. However, their curriculum was just about localization and internationalization. It didn’t deal with technical communication at all. And another downside to that degree was its price. It was $50,000 per year. But then I found the University of Strasbourg and TCLoc—a career-oriented master’s in localization, which has a much wider curriculum, with all the topics I had always wanted to discover, such as programming languages, project management, localization, and machine translation. And that’s why I didn’t consider any other options after I found TCLoc.

TCLoc: It’s Not Just The Foundations of Your Career: It’s The Whole Building!

What would you say the main benefits of TCLoc are?

The first advantage would be the curriculum, as I have mentioned, because it’s just perfect. I think that it gives you fully comprehensive knowledge in this field. So you don’t need to look any further—I believe this program gives you not just the foundation, but also the walls and even the roof to this building that is your professional career. And you can even create your own interior design! (laughs) I also loved that the program was online, but at the same time, it was not 100% online, as we had the opportunity to attend on-campus meetings. That was very important for me.  It was so good to have this breath of fresh air that is real life communication.

During your studies, how helpful and accessible were the instructors?

They were very accessible and very helpful. Whatever you needed, they would assist you in all possible ways. I received both academic and personal support from the staff, both during and after our live session. So any questions that you might ask, they would be answered instantly. And there’s a great policy, which is that there are no stupid questions, so even if you feel a bit confused, just a bit unsure about something, you feel free to ask. And personally, I knew that if I had any doubts relating to absolutely anything, I would get the answer.

TCLoc: An Online, Career-Oriented Master’s in Localization That Fits Around Your Life

Was it hard to manage your time? How did you balance your studies with your personal and professional life?

I believe that in this case, it’s not so much about the program being online—actually, the fact that the program is online is a huge advantage because it allows you to watch the lectures in the evenings, for example. It is very demanding in terms of the number of hours, as whatever you do, online or offline, there are only 24 hours in a day, and it can be hard to balance everything, so you should be ready to make some sacrifices. Hopefully, you won’t need to, but you should at least be mentally prepared, and you should clearly understand your priorities and what comes first, what you cannot say no to and what you can put off until later.

Do you have any advice for future students?

Definitely apply to TCLoc. Absolutely everything is included and provided. You can choose to do it in either 12 or 17 months, starting in January or in June, or you can even choose a 24-month option. It’s very flexible. If you want to learn localization and technical communication, I would definitely recommend TCLoc.

Want to Find Out More?

We hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as we enjoyed talking to Darya. If you’d like to read more about the curriculum and what TCLoc has to offer, including localization, technical communication, programming and more, check out the course syllabus.

This week, we met Manuela Noske, a community manager volunteering for a non-profit organization: Translators without Borders. Discover more about her career, her experience, and how it feels to work for a non-profit organization.

→ Discover our previous interview! 

Working for a Non-Profit Organization: Meet Manuela Noske, Community Manager for Translators without Borders

Can you introduce yourself: who are you, what do you do today, and what is your background? 

My name is Manuela Noske, I am Community Manager for Translators without Borders (TWB). I have a master’s in African Languages and a doctorate in Theoretical Linguistics. 

My career got started when I joined the Natural Language Group (NLG) at Microsoft Corporation in 2000 to work on some of the proofing tools in the Office suite. I left NLG after 5 years to work for Windows International as a Project Manager where I eventually became a Program Manager, managing the internationalization and localization of the Windows operating system for emerging markets. 

Combining a background in African languages with my experience as a Project Manager, I made a name for myself within the company as the “African language specialist” by managing all of the African languages. I eventually moved into a different role as a Business Manager, working closely with our suppliers on optimizing our supply chain and supplier model. 

I left Microsoft 5 years ago to continue my career in the non-profit sector.

How did you come across Translators without Borders and start working with them?

I started working at Translators without Borders (TWB) a year and a half ago. I had been aware of the organization for years, learning about their work through various events and publications, and I was drawn to their mission and vision.  An opportunity arose and as I felt I was well suited for the job, so I applied. 

You have been working with nonprofit organizations for 16 years now and you have volunteered for 8 different organizations. What motivated you? What do you feel it has brought you?

I have always been motivated by the wish to have a positive impact on this world and contribute to greater social justice. The challenge is figuring out how you can have an impact if you are a language geek or linguist.  For me, finding ways to volunteer with nonprofits that champion language revitalization and greater inclusion of populations that speak marginalized languages became an outlet; that volunteer work convinced me, in the end, to leave my job in the private sector and work in the nonprofit sector. It has brought me that rare privilege of doing a job that I feel 100% aligned with and not having to split my workdays between the things that I do for money and the things that I do to be fulfilled. 

Working for a Non-profit as a Community Manager or as a Volunteer: What Does It Look Like?

Can you tell us more about Translators without Borders? What is  its main mission? In which countries does it operate?

First of all, we outgrew our name.  Translators without Borders is now called CLEAR Global. We’ve grown fast over the last five years, and the name Translators without Borders no longer reflects all we do—but it still exists as our largest division and the core of our operation. CLEAR Global’s mission is to help people get vital information, and be heard, whatever language they speak. Translators without Borders delivers on that mission by working with community volunteers to get humanitarian and development content translated into the languages of affected people.  We are a global organization that maintains country offices in Nigeria and Bangladesh where our primary purpose is to assist in the humanitarian interventions that are underway in those countries. However, we work in all countries where there is a need for our services.  

What does a community manager do exactly at TWB?

The TWB Community is central to TWB’s mission. My primary responsibility is to help the organization think through its future needs vis-a-vis the community, how the community can expand and grow to help the organization deliver on its mission.  There are largely three areas that I oversee: 

  1. Community management which is the day-to-day management of our community members, 
  2. Community engagement which means making sure our community understands the impact of their contributions by organizing events, publishing blogs, sharing stories on social media, etc. and 
  3. Community building which means reaching out to universities, associations, local organizations, and individuals to ensure our community stays healthy and any attrition is balanced by solid growth. 

I do most of this through an amazing team of Community Officers who oversee the various aspects of this work. My primary role is to set the direction, make sure we stay on track, and deliver in all of these areas, but otherwise stay out of the way. 

Do TWB translators work directly in the field? 

Our volunteer translators do not typically work in the field because of the security risks. We have on occasion needed interpreters to help in the field, but those instances have been rare.  However, we have staff in our country offices who work directly with affected communities offering community-based interpreter training, or doing assessments that inform the direction and strategies of humanitarian organizations.  

Have you ever worked in the field yourself? If yes, how does it feel?

I am currently on a second assignment in Maiduguri, Northeast Nigeria where I coordinate the language services work with the local staff. Maiduguri is a high-risk area and there are tight restrictions on my ability to move in town. One of the benefits of being on the ground, however, is the opportunity to observe a humanitarian intervention take place and being able to meet the beneficiaries of the intervention. It makes the work we collectively do more immediate and tangible and has left me with a better sense of the impact of TWB’s efforts. 

Working for a Non-profit in a World of Crisis: An Ever Increasing Necessity to Write, Translate and Localize Vital Information

What about Ukraine? How do Translators without Borders help in this kind of situation?

As an organization, we are very experienced at responding to crisis situations. In the case of Ukraine specifically, we quickly deployed a team to Poland to assess communications and information needs on the ground, and we started advocating for aid agencies and governments to listen to people in their language and ensure that they have the information they want and need. We also disseminated key information to affected communities including information on how to prevent trafficking and we translated over 100,000 words into 10 languages in the first 2 weeks of the crisis. We also support translators and interpreters with online training courses and tip sheets.

Which languages are currently in-demand? What kind of profiles do you need most?

Wherever there is a crisis there is typically a demand for linguists. At the moment, we need to urgently build more capacity for the languages in our Ukraine response, notably Ukrainian, Russian, and Romani. We also have needs for translators in the languages that are spoken in Ethiopia, especially Tigrinya and Oromo. And finally, we are always looking to grow our pool of translators for the Indic languages.  We are always happy when translators with experience join our community, but we do offer training for translators who are new to this task as well. 

Is TWB still looking for translators to translate things into French, German, Spanish, etc? If not: what else can someone who only has these languages do?

We encourage all translators to join our community and pick up tasks as they become available.  There is typically a steady flow of translations into Spanish and French and in due time, translators will be able to pick up tasks for their language pairs. For certified translators there are always review tasks available, so anybody with proof of existing experience and a certificate will find something to do and quickly be able to have an impact. 

Insights and Advice: Writing, Translating and Localizing Content for a Nonprofit

In your opinion, which qualities and qualifications should a modern translator have?

This is not an easy question. There are qualities that all individuals should have to thrive in the fast-moving world of work: critical thinking, flexibility, drive and self-leadership, curiosity and humility are among the top skills and abilities that I would name that are needed to succeed. As for qualifications, I am afraid I am not the best person to ask. We work with a lot of people with very diverse skills and our role is to make sure they become qualified.  

Do you think a degree in a foreign language is enough to support humanitarian actions? How did your own studies help you with the job you are doing now?

Translation in the humanitarian sector requires specialization. To work successfully as a translator in this field you need to understand how the sector actually works, be familiar with the concepts, know how to access key glossaries, and translate to reach the audience.  A secondary degree can supply that knowledge, but so can exposure and on-the-job learning which is one of the opportunities Translators without Borders provides its community of translators with. We are completely transparent about the organizations which will benefit from our translations and what the project is all about; translators who join our community can learn more about the work these organizations do through their translation work. 

I have a long history of studying and working with speakers of marginalized languages and managing localization projects into some of these languages. It has helped me understand the issues (lack of standards, lack of approved terminology, etc), the challenge of enforcing standards, and has taught me empathy with people who work in these languages under often very challenging circumstances. I would say that experience is what helps me to do the job I am currently doing, more than formal studies.

Do you think training programs offered to translators should sensitize them more to humanitarian issues and fieldwork?

It would be amazing if translators were sensitized to the needs of people in crisis.  We typically associate humanitarian interventions with regions in the Global South, but the crisis in Ukraine shows that a humanitarian response can become necessary in any part of the world.  And the needs of Ukrainian refugees are very much like the needs of the Rohingya refugees who had to flee Myanmar: shelter, medical attention, food, and protection from trafficking, sexual exploitation, and abuse. The fact that we are currently translating the same materials into Ukrainian that we have previously translated in Hausa and Kanuri has given me pause. We should all know what humanitarianism is, how it works, and what we can do when a humanitarian crisis unfolds. 

Conclusion

We are very grateful to Manuela Noske and believe that her desire to use languages for humanitarian purposes will inspire many TCLoc students.

For more information on TWB, you can follow their news on Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or visit the TWB website as well as the Clear Globalwebsite

TCLoc students and graduates build skills in localization and technical communication, among others, and develop a real expertise that can serve nonprofits such as Translators without Borders. The fields where TCLoc graduates can work are broad and diverse, so get in touch today to find out more about how you can build an impactful career!

Interview performed and edited by Céline Sellier

Knowledge management is the process of creating, sharing, updating, and storing knowledge or information within an organization. This process requires the use of several methods, tools, and workers to ensure knowledge is being used and recorded effectively. In this interview, Isis Arce-Melton provides an overview of knowledge management, the skills technical writers need to work within this field, and how an individual can become a technical writer within an Information Technology (IT) company.

About Isis Arce-Melton

Isis Arce-Melton is a knowledge manager who works with General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) customers to provide them with a customized knowledge management approach to produce a robust and sustainable solution. Isis has more than 20 years of experience in the government sector with a focus on training, project management, and knowledge management. She is a certified knowledge manager and a knowledge-centered service practitioner and trainer. She is managing over 15 different programs and most recently acted as a knowledge management consultant for NASA and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Madison Brown

To begin, can you please introduce yourself and your current role at General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT)?

Isis Arce-Melton

Sure. So, my name is Isis Arce-Melton. I am a Senior Project Task Manager at GDIT. I’ve been here since 2017 in that role, and I lead a cadre of knowledge analysts, knowledge engineers, and knowledge managers to fulfill our services as knowledge management as a service.

Learning About Knowledge Management

Madison Brown

In your opinion, how does knowledge management, and the teams within knowledge management, support and contribute to the goals and overall objectives of an IT company such as GDIT?

Isis Arce-Melton

Well, absolutely. So, I think everybody has heard the phrase “Knowledge is king,” which is absolutely right. But here is the problem, knowledge is only powerful to the collective if documented. If it lives in only one person’s brain and he/she regurgitates that information repeatedly, then it is not helpful for the entire company. So, being able to actually document the different processes and tasks allows everyone to use them. Documentation is critical in making sure that your IT company is agile when they need to bring somebody in or just share knowledge with everybody else in a not very expensive way for the company. It must be repeatable, and then not only that, but it has to be updated from time to time. So, it is absolutely imperative for an IT company to have those things documented. That way, we can make sure that we are following those processes. And then, not only that, but we must be able to share those processes with others who may actually need them.

I have been asked many times, “Hey, can you share your processes with us about knowledge management? I heard you talk at a symposium about it.” Because our processes are documented, I can say, “Yeah. Here you go. Here are all of our processes documented. Take what you need and leave what you don’t.” So, it is imperative to be able to share this knowledge. It also shows what we have learned when we have, as my director says, “skinned our knees and bruised our elbows from time to time.” It shows that we are refining our processes with those documents. It is not typically one lesson learned from this one program, let’s say, for example, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) group that I worked for on another project. Some things that worked for a project, such as the Veterans Affairs (VA), could not be replicated in this NASA environment. Learning from those documents is helpful for everybody within the company itself.

Madison Brown

I couldn’t agree more, and I think that is a wonderful perspective on knowledge management. For large companies, process documentation offers important learning opportunities as these companies can identify areas in need of improvement.  

As GDIT continues to grow, how do the technical writers help support the knowledge management process to ensure that knowledge is being created, stored, updated, and retired efficiently?

Isis Arce-Melton

Indeed, my technical writers are my frontline writers. They are the ones who are diving into the knowledge bases and ensuring that the knowledge is updated periodically, whether it be semiannually or annually. They ensure that those documents are usable by everyone and that everybody can get to them. Not only that, but they are also responsible for understanding the process of identifying knowledge gaps and then implementing the strategy on how to get new knowledge created or updated. So, the knowledge analysts or technical writers are the workhorses, if you will, of the knowledge management team. They are also responsible for maintaining relationships with the subject matter experts (SMEs) who provide us with the information we may identify as a gap. We must have a well-written, well-documented knowledge base.

Then, the knowledge engineers are in charge of making sure that the tools are available to the analysts and that we do any innovation, such as an annual update within the tool itself. A knowledge engineer ensures that the knowledge analysts are not the ones who have to innovate or have to identify those knowledge gaps. The knowledge engineer’s role is really about the innovation of that process and mainly supports the knowledge analysts. Finally, of course, the knowledge manager oversees the entire process, from the tools to the people in the process. So, knowledge managers are responsible for the people, processes, and technology. If we are talking about Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) terms for an IT company, we ensure that this is happening regularly.

Skills and Certifications

Madison Brown

That is very helpful and informative for individuals who are unaware of the knowledge management hierarchy and the knowledge management in IT settings.

So, as a hiring manager for the knowledge management team at GDIT, what skills, certifications, or job experience do you look for in a strong candidate? Must candidates have a background in specific tools or in technical writing in general?

Isis Arce-Melton

That is a great question, Madison. So, for the Technical Writer I position, which is entry-level, ITIL foundations are most certainly a great addition to a candidate’s certifications. Also, a Knowledge Centered-Service (KCS) practices certification offers another knowledge management methodology. That is a terrific one. Madison, you already have the KCS certification, which is fabulous. Having some experience using the ServiceNow and BMC Remedy knowledge management modules would also be beneficial because both applications are frequently used in projects. However, if you are coming in at an entry-level, then I am really looking for solid technical writing skills. That is what I’m looking for, most certainly a bachelor’s degree in English, maybe even a minor in technical writing. Not only that, but also understanding accessibility and inclusivity (i.e., 508 compliance) and perhaps even experience with video recording applications. Another skill that would be good or helpful is knowing how to use HTML. But the only skill that I am looking for from an entry-level position is somebody who is undoubtedly a strong technical writer and has strong verbal skills.

Candidates must be very communicative. That is a substantial soft skill that is often overlooked, but a lot of our job is communicating with the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to get them to provide us information that they do not have the time to document themselves. We are writing for them, so those verbal and relationship-building skills are just as important as understanding how to use ServiceNow. And here is the thing. I really believe that anybody could be taught how to use a tool. Those soft skills really are the ones that have to be developed and take longer to evolve.

Final Thoughts

Madison Brown

I think it is fair to say that there are a lot more training modules and videos on technical skills than there are on soft skills.

Continuing onto our final question, what advice would you give to a technical writer or technical communicator who is interested in working for a technology company?

Isis Arce-Melton

Well, first of all, if they are in college, please apply for any internships, whether they are in a company that has a presence in your area or if they are around your college, apply for those internships. That experience will show you whether or not this is something you really want to get into at low risk to you and the company. It also establishes a relationship with that company going forward and allows you to identify if that part of technical writing did not really fit. You can then ask, “Are there any other opportunities within this company for me to be able to explore technical writing?” Those are tremendous opportunities. Again, very low risk to the company and low risk to the individual to go ahead and do some type of internship work. For example, Madison, when you were an intern with me the first year, I had you look at other jobs out there on a job finding website that lists the different types of technical writing. Technical writing for an IT company is not for everyone. There are different types of technical writing that can be done. It could be for the medical field. There are just a vast number of various areas that you can go ahead and dive into. Seeing what is out there and what companies are looking for, as far as requirements, will help you get ahead.

I think that young folks coming out of college who want to get into the technical field often ask themselves, “Well, how do I get there? How do I get in?”. Look at the jobs out there and what they are requiring you to have. Again, you can do some internships to get experience because everybody is asking for experience, even for very entry-level positions. I find that very funny, but I would look at job recruiting websites. It can give you a feel for what certifications the industry is looking for and the type of experience they want you to have, and with what applications. It will also give you an idea of what jobs are there for you. There are other fields that you most certainly can be a technical writer in.

Madison Brown

Thank you so much for your insight and for joining me today. Are there any last comments you would like to share before we end the interview?

Isis Arce-Melton

Definitely, so I just want to say, from a person who has hired folks from college, who have just graduated, and from having interns come into GDIT, internships and university relationships have been such an excellent way for GDIT to start streamlining our hiring. So, professors, do not be afraid to reach out to these companies and ask them if they are willing to create a pipeline with your college. They can also provide insights into what we are looking for, not only as a company but also as an industry. I believe that has been really successful for GDIT. We have been able to do that with Louisiana Tech University, and now we are actually spreading that across other colleges within the local area to find local talent. So, definitely reach out to those companies. There is absolutely somebody interested in investing in future talent, and there is such a bonus, not only for the colleges but also for the company itself.

Madison Brown

Thank you for those wonderful final thoughts and, once again, thank you so much for joining me today.

Isis Arce-Melton

Absolutely, thank you so much.

Interviewer: Madison Brown has interned as a technical writer with GDIT during the summers of 2020 and 2021. She has accepted a full-time position with the company following her graduation from Louisiana Tech University in May 2022. Currently, Madison is interning with the University of Strasbourg, and she is completing her undergraduate degree.

Technical comunication and localization at the service of teaching: Ashley is an experienced English teacher who decided to complement her skills with the TCLOC master’s degree. Read this interview to know more.

First things first: Meet Ashley Miller, an English teacher andTCLoc student from the US

Hi Ashley! Can you tell us a little about yourself, please?

My name is Ashley Miller. I am old (laugh). I am a student a second time around. I have a degree in Educational Science, and also a BA in English. I am American, but I’m also French. I spent all of my childhood and a lot of my adult life in the U.S. but I live in France now. I moved here about ten years ago.

How did you come up with the idea of going back to university while living in France?  

You know, working in France can be difficult. So despite being an English teacher and for the first six years of my life here, I was actually not allowed to work due to labor laws. That is why I decided it was time for me to find something to add to my resume.

I also needed something to challenge me because technical communication, I think, is a new field for a lot of people and something that is very unknown. So I thought it would really be a learning opportunity for me and would also help introduce me to a lot of things that I don’t currently know about, which would be technology, basically. So that was a really interesting foray into different types of technological software and platforms.

It was quite a good reminder that in order to really learn things, you sort of have to be willing to feel uncomfortable because it’s new material. And especially these days, as things move really quickly. So that is sort of how I decided to search for a training program.

Do you remember how you discovered the TCLoc master’s program? 

I wanted something not too far from Metz (northwest of Strasbourg, in the Moselle departement that borders Luxembourg and Germany) because we had moved there. I found the TCLoc master’s online and it happened to be in Strasbourg, so it just matched. Besides, with the pandemic, it felt like the biggest blessing to be able to have something to do on a daily basis when everything else was sort of falling apart.

The added value of TCLoc

English is your native language and also the language you teach. Was it relevant for you to study localization?

Localization is… Well, I’m an English major – or was an English major – and I’m a teacher but I’m not a translator. Also, I now live in a country where I have to speak another language. My son is bilingual… It’s fascinating to me this idea of knowing one language and thinking in another language and writing in another language.

I’m like two different people, one in English and one in French. And so this idea of localization and making sure that you’re not only translating something, but you’re doing it so that it’s really applicable and relevant to the right culture. I thought “That’s me!” 

It’s not on my resume but as a human and as a person I think it’s important to understand these things when you live in another culture. I definitely feel like it was relevant to me. 

How do you think the TCLoc Master’s program can be useful to an English teacher?

Perhaps the immediate connection is not there, but it’s actually a very relevant program because you learn a lot of things that are good for the classroom, even if you’re not going to become a technical communicator. And it’s also really good for somebody like me who is a professor and may be asked to teach things that are not already part of what I’m used to teaching.

For example, there’s a lot of engineering schools here in France, right? What I mean here is that the skills I have now would certainly put me at a level above perhaps other English teachers, because I can teach courses that are also very relevant to engineers. I mean, the technology that I’ve now learned about and even things like plain language: that’s so applicable to engineers and technical communication, all these fields that engineers will have to be in!

I feel that I now have areas of expertise that I can add to my repertoire. It has been a very useful course for me and I am sure it would be a very useful program for other teachers. I don’t think it’s specifically for people who are translators. I think it’s important to see how it can connect to other professions, how it can really boost many different professions in the path they then decide to take afterwards.

Do you believe this program could be positive for teachers of other languages and subjects working in France?

I’m saying this from the perspective of somebody who has worked in higher education in France and who knows the system at this point: I think, in France, in the education system, people go through the CAPES (State diploma of teaching in colleges and high schools in France) and then they think they’re just a teacher.

On the contrary, in the US, you can do so many different things! If you’re a teacher in the US, they see you as somebody who can do a wonderful amount of things because you’re managing a classroom, you’re teaching things, you have specific information: you’re an expert. And I feel like in France, it’s not always seen the same way.

I am convinced it’s a program that would really benefit a lot of teachers who sort of don’t know what they want to do next and especially language teachers in France.They’re experts in whatever language they teach. And so getting this degree would help them sort of go off on another tangent that they didn’t know about before, instead of doing another M2 in MEEF (Master’s degree in teaching, education and training), for example.

A Master’s for multi-faceted profiles: how to balance work, life and more.

You teach, you do volunteering and you are also a mom: how did you manage to reconcile all these aspects of your life with university work? 

You know, usually, I think when people are going to get a master’s, it’s because they’re sort of overachievers. Some people want to keep learning and they want to keep doing well. If you’re somebody who wants to go back to school then, usually, you’re somebody who also is concerned about how well you do and the grades you get. 

So I set up a very specific schedule. What helped was the pandemic. I did not have any issue with doing anything else. I would go and volunteer three times a week at the Fondation Caritas with my mask on, and then I would come home and get my son from school. So there was no social pressure.

It is doable but it is a lot of work. I think it’s also important to be realistic about that. But a lot of the courses are “work at your own pace”, which is great if you want to do it all on the weekends for example. In that way, you don’t have to think about it during the week. 

I have a friend in the program who has two young kids who did all of her work at night. She knew during the day she wasn’t going to be available, so then at night, she did all of her work.

There are several schedule options in TCLoc: accelerated (12 months), semi-accelerated (17 months) and extended (24 months). Which option did you choose ? 

I wanted to do it in 12 months but it turned into 17 months. At first, I assumed it would not be much work. Although there is the tekom certification. If you choose to do it alongside the rest of the master, you should know that it’s super intensive. So I did the tekom program first, then I did the Strasbourg classes and finally, the thesis. 

What was your experience with other students and staff?

I loved meeting other students. With some students from the Tekom portion we ended up forming our own little group. We still talk and meet every week, even if it was over a year ago. And from that little group two of them were also in the Master’s. And with those two ladies we’ve befriended one another, we will be good friends for a very long time.

One is German and the other one is French but living in the Netherlands. I’m very grateful because we don’t just talk about school. We talk about traditions and our thoughts on what’s going on in the world and other things like that. I’m very grateful for that opportunity. You’re not going to get on this sort of intimate level in a lot of ways. And so for that, I’m very, very grateful. 

You got to meet people, both instructors and students, coming from all over the world. What was that like?

We had a WhatsApp group that was very active. I feel like it’s really a shame that we never, ever got to meet each other because of COVID. You quickly feel connected to the group when you do things together. 

Well, to be more precise, and this is good news, you can choose. With an online program, you can either be really active or choose not to participate. We had one person in our group who told in advance he had social anxiety and that was great to know. And then we worked around it and we were able to make sure we gave him tasks that were comfortable for him. So I know that for some people, probably distance learning is a much better platform. And that’s great too.

Do you think it is easier for teachers to go back to school, compared to people who work in other roles and fields?

Learning is my jam. I love being a student. So, for me, it was something I was very excited about. I could even say that I’ve been learning since I moved to France. Having to learn different things to become a citizen and to study, doing intensive French for two years: I have been propelled into this student role in a way that would not have been necessary in the United States.

And it is humbling, right? But it is the same for a lot of people who, perhaps, are project managers, or the person in charge and all of a sudden they are students again. There is probably some sort of lesson to be learned from them having to switch roles.

I also took it as an opportunity to be like “that is a great way to do it” or  “nope, never doing that”. It was also like a sort of personal growth as a teacher, it was very helpful.

Life after the TCLoc master for an English teacher

What are your key takeaways from TCLoc? What did you learn, what skills did it help you build?

I know I still want to teach, that’s for sure. And I think it will be very helpful in helping boost my resume and my CV.

There are certainly parts of the program that I could have done without (laugh) that did not suit me so well, like coding. But I’m glad I can now look at something and be like “Ah! It’s coding” whereas before I didn’t even know what it meant (laugh). 

One of the things that actually I think I’m going to continue learning more about is plain language. I was going to do my thesis on user experience but the whole plain language thing in France and everything that is coming out right now about the pandemic made me change my mind. I think that there’s a lot to be said here but to make it short, I would like to focus on plain language and how it’s necessary in France. Plain language relates directly to what I find interesting, which is empathy, human kindness, helping others, but it is also intertwined with something academic.

I think that it is allowing me to feel much more confident in teaching subjects that I didn’t know about before. I feel like I’m really ahead of the curve now in France. I feel like what I could teach now will be taught here 40 years from now. So it’s going to be interesting for me to see how I can take this and really present it in a way that’s going to make me marketable at the moment in France.

Do you have any advice for future students?

People need to know that the program involves a fair amount of coding. It may be surprising for a localization master, but it’s an important part of the training. If, like me at the time, you don’t know a thing about it: you have to be curious and practice on top of the classes, find tutorials online and work on them.

When you go back to teaching, where would you like to teach?

I really think that with what I’ve learned, I feel like I’m super marketable for an engineering school but it requires these schools to realize that the skills I can help them with are important for their students. So it’s going to be more of a process for me. I’m sure, plain language isn’t on their syllabus which means: I will now have to prove to them they need this.

Thank you, Ashley, for your enlightening perspective!

The TCLoc master’s degree is accessible and valuable to all kinds of professionals, including language teachers. To learn more, just visit the TCLoc website.

This article is written by Céline Sellier and Lisa Krill

We talk to Corinna Jungkind about going back to school to study technical communication.

Reading time: 13 minutes

Let’s Meet Corinna

Hi Corinna! Can you start by introducing yourself?

Of course. My name is Corinna, I’m 32 years old, and I’m from Germany. I’ve always lived here, except for a couple of months during my studies. After finishing high school, I did an apprenticeship as an IT management assistant – it’s like a clerk who works in the office, but also has a little bit of an IT background. I also learned some programming skills and things like how to set up a network. That was from 2009 to 2012. After that, the company I did the apprenticeship with couldn’t offer jobs. So I decided that I was going back to school to continue studying.

I did my bachelor’s degree in international business administration and foreign trade because I have always liked managing and organizing things in the office. But I also love the international part of it, working alongside colleagues from subsidiaries all over the world. So I decided to do international studies. It was an international bachelor’s degree, based in Germany but including one semester abroad. I spent that semester in London doing an internship. I’d already done another month abroad in Plymouth, England for a separate internship during my apprenticeship. 

I really liked working with people from across the world, especially in London, where I had colleagues from countries like China and Spain. 

Did you apply for a master’s immediately after your bachelor’s?

After my bachelor’s degree I thought about going back to school to do a master’s straight away, but then I decided I wanted to work and earn money. So I looked for a job. The first one I found was a clerk’s job, and I didn’t enjoy it much, so I changed after a year. I moved to another company and started working in technical communication. Before that, I had no idea what technical communication was about. 

Going Back to School to Study Technical Communication: Discovering TCLoc

How did you find out about TCLoc?

Shortly after I started as a team assistant, I was really enjoying working in the technical communication field and my boss asked me if I was interested in doing an extra training program on weekends, alongside my job. It took half a year, and after that I became a technical writer so I could create documentation. I enjoyed that a lot. It was during this training that I discovered the TCLoc program. 

During this particular training, some other students talked about a master’s degree that you could also do alongside your work, which belonged to the technical communication field. So, once I became a technical writer, I remembered what they told me and thought: yes, maybe I could do go back to school and do my master’s degree alongside my job, which would allow me to work, earn money, and still get my degree. Two years ago, I decided to apply for TCLoc and it has all been worth it. It has been a wonderful experience.

When it came to choosing TCLoc, did you manage to get all of the information you needed?

Yes. I think the TCLoc website is very good, I found a lot of information there. I also wrote an e-mail to the TCLoc team to ask a few questions about what the degree involved and what the program was like. They answered immediately and were very helpful. For the registration fee, I asked my employer. They paid half and I paid the other half. That was fine as I had some money saved up. I did find another master’s in technical communication based in Austria that I could do alongside my job, but it was more expensive. I feel like the fees for TCLoc are really fair. 

Are there any particularities about studying in France as an international student?

Something that worried me a bit was that the website says that you need 240 credits from your bachelor’s degree to apply for TCLoc, but I only received 210 from my bachelor’s degree. This meant that I had to apply for something called a VAP (validation des acquis professionnels) to have my professional experience validated. I was a bit worried about this process, but Renate De La Paix, the program director, helped me a lot.

Then, I had some concerns about the university being French-speaking. I learned French at school, but I’m not very good at it. It sounds beautiful, but I think it’s such a difficult language. In the end, everything was in English, so it all went perfectly well.

Going Back to School: Striking a Balance between Work and Study

How did you manage to reconcile your studies with your private and professional life after making the decision to go back to school?

What helped to be honest was the pandemic (laughs). There wasn’t much to do in my personal time, no parties to go to or anything like that. And I just said to myself: well I have the time, let’s just do it and be done with it. But it was still a lot of work. Before starting the program, I was working full time.

The working week in Germany is 37 hours, right?

Yes. So, in Germany you usually work 35 to 40 hours for a full time job. I was working 37, but I reduced this after a while because I felt like it was a bit overwhelming. Now, I work 32 hours per week and it helps a lot. I always try to start working early in the morning, and then I can stop at around 2 pm. What I always like to do between finishing work and doing some studying is going to the gym or for a run to clear my head. That was a schedule that worked for me: working, then having a little break with sports or something, getting a walk or some fresh air, and then studying. I could have done more on the weekends, but I often met my friends and my family on Saturdays and Sundays.

Oh, and I didn’t do many extracurricular courses, the ones that weren’t graded. There was one about video localization, for instance. I feel like I’d like to take them after my thesis defense. Check it out and try to get something out of that too, because TCLoc offers many opportunities. That’s part of what I appreciated about TCLoc: it is very hands-on. It’s not about learning things by heart, it’s about actually doing them. It’s really practical, and in my opinion, that’s the best way to learn.

Sounds like you did a great job of balancing everything! Any other tips?

If anyone out there is thinking of going back to school, I’d definitely recommend TCLoc. It’s a great experience and it’s hard, but it’s doable. So, if you really want to do it, you can do it.

An Online Program with an International Outlook

What was it like meeting teachers and students from all over the world? What was it like interacting with them and the faculty members?

I think meeting people from all over the world was the best thing. For project management, I did a project with one girl from Germany and one who was from the United States but lived in France. There was also a guy living in Brazil and another who was from Africa but lived in Dubai. So it was pretty cool to talk to all of them. Our main communication tool was WhatsApp, as we were in different time zones. It was really interesting to meet people from different cultures and see how different they are. We could also distribute work and balance things out according to our availability, personalities, interests and cultural background. I think companies should see international teams as an opportunity, and make it a strength.

What Can You Learn from the TCLoc Program?

Can you tell us what else this program brought you – new skills, opportunities?

Well, I’m still working the same job that I had when I started TCLoc, which is technical writing for a company in the drive engineering sector. I talked to my boss about it because I would like to take on more responsibility . We already started with changing my tasks a bit. Before TCLoc, I was doing technical writing only. My colleagues, who are engineers, were telling me what to write. Now I’ve become the contact person for some of our international subsidiaries when they have questions about technical communication, they come to me and I help them.

My boss really appreciates what I do with everything I’ve learned from TCLoc, and I hope that it continues that way. So, at the moment, I’m not thinking about looking for a new job. There’s something else that my employer is currently doing: they set up an app, not so long ago, where our customers can get the technical information they need to replace the usual printed book or manual. My boss told me that perhaps I could join the writing team for the app, which I think is a pretty amazing opportunity. 

That leads nicely into our next question: TCLoc has a course on app localization, doesn’t it?

Exactly, mobile app localization was something I learned during TCLoc. That was one of the courses that covered topics I’d never seen before. I learned a lot. We used a tool called Android Studio where Android apps are actually programmed. We really went into the code and analyzed it. At the end, we had to tell our instructor whether or not the code was good for localization.

It reminds me of other courses that also taught me a lot, such as the visual communication course where we learned Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. I use Illustrator in the office quite a bit, but not that much. So, I really learned a lot from the instructor, Boris Epp.

The content strategy course, where you learn how to organize content, was also pretty good in my opinion. I also enjoyed the user experience (UX) and usability design course, where we learned to look closely at how customers think so that your product adapts to them. Most of the courses on TCLoc were about subjects that were new to me, which I thought was great.

Did you notice any differences between France and Germany in terms of class content and how people approach their studies?

The most obvious thing was the difference between the French and German grading systems. In Germany, we have grades 1 to 6, with 1 being the best. In France, the best grade is 20, which is a bit confusing. Also, people have always told me that you cannot really get a 20 and that if you do, you are really, really good. Whereas in Germany, it is totally possible to get a 1. This is just something you have to get used to, but everything turned out well. Another difference is that the course was much more practically oriented than my bachelor’s degree in Germany. However, I don’t know if that’s because it’s a French program, or just the fact that it was designed to be done online and combined with work.

Is there any advice you would give to a potential candidate? For example, for someone going back to school after being immersed in the world of work, how do you get back into the habit of studying?

I think one really important thing is that you choose a program that you are interested in. When I decided to go back to school and apply to TCLoc, I had reached a point in my life where I knew I liked technical communication. At the beginning, it’s kind of weird to learn again and work at the same time. Before starting TCLoc, I would come back home from work and have nothing I had to do. I could do whatever I wanted. But now I’m wondering: what am I going to do on my weekends in March when TCLoc is over? (laughs).

What I always do to organize my days: I use the calendar, notes and reminders apps on my iPhone. I literally put everything in there, every meeting we had, every task I had to do. I think the most important thing is to be organized and find something interesting, something that you like.

Do you have any advice for people who fear they may not succeed? What happens when you get disappointing results, even after putting so much effort in?

I didn’t fail any of my courses. I also never failed any courses during my bachelor’s. But I think sometimes you just get a grade that’s not the best and you’re disappointed. Just try to make the best out of it. It happens, so just try to do a better job next time. I had this one task in project management where I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. So I emailed the professor and he gave me some advice on what I could have done better. It turned out I hadn’t read all the instructions. My advice would be to read things properly and then just follow the steps.

So you’d say the instructors are quite responsive?

Yes, the instructors are all great. You can ask them questions at any time and they will give you the answer.

Thank you very much Corinna! We wish you all the best, and we hope this will inspire future students as much as you’ve inspired us today.

That sums up our interview with Corinna. We’d like to leave you with a couple of her favorite quotes: “Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical” – very apt considering TCLoc’s highly international outlook. And “anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve” – for anyone thinking of going back to school and wondering whether it’s feasible to combine studying with full-time work. We hope you enjoyed Corinna’s insights as much as we did.

Interview performed by Céline Sellier and Olga Malosh

Transcribed and edited by Céline Sellier Lisa Krill and Matthew Dykes

Alex Zekakis teaches three courses as part of the TCLoc program, which are “Introduction to CAT Tools”, “Advanced Configuration for CAT Tools” and “Mobile App Localization”. He also works as European Solutions Architecture Manager at XTM International, where he runs a remote team that mainly focuses on supporting pre-sales activities.

Hello Alex, could you introduce yourself, describe your professional course and what you do today?

“Sure! My name is Alex Zekakis. I’ve been in the localization industry for around 13 years now. Throughout this time, I’ve worked in various different functions: I worked on the service provider side and currently I’m actually on the software side. I work for XTM International – a translation management system provider, and my role is Director of Support Services which, for us, means managing the entirety of all the customer facing and customer support functions within XTM. Let’s say that it’s a large group of people who all come together with different technical and customer-facing skills in order to provide the best possible experience for our customer base.”

How did you join TCLoc master’s and start teaching localization?

“If we go back a couple of years, I was at an event in London and I was talking to one of our speakers Chris Raulf, a very good friend of mine. He was at that time also an instructor for TCLoc, teaching SEO. I started discussing my personal interest in teaching and lecturing, and he offered to put me in touch with the people in Strasbourg. One thing lead to the other, and I ended up teaching three courses for the TCLoc master’s program: “Introduction to CAT Tools”, “Advanced Configuration for CAT Tools” and “Mobile App Localization”. I also run another couple of courses for the CAWEB master’s program.”

Can you give us a glimpse of what your “Introduction to CAT Tools” course is about?

– In the “Introduction to CAT Tools” course, we talk about the basic principles of computer-aided translation tools, or CAT tools, their core concepts and their evolution, which gives a holistic 360 view of how a translation tool actually functions.

“So, these courses that I’ve just mentioned start with the very basics – the introduction to CAT tools. We actually do not define one particular CAT tool, but we talk about the basic principles, the core concepts surrounding these tools – what they are actually meant to do, how they evolve over time, how they are being used by different people within the industry applying different functions, different principles. Effectively, one of the major objectives of this course is to have a holistic 360 view of how a translation tool actually functions, how to use it, and not focus on one tool per se.”

And what about your “Advanced Configuration” course?

“Advanced Configuration goes in a bit of a different direction, you could call it light engineering. So, there we start talking about all the cool things that people can do by using primarily regular expressions and XML Expat in order to be able to create their own parsers as well as segmentation rules for files. All translation tools require both of those, so you need to always have one way of parsing the given content, let’s say a word file, in order to be able to extract translatable text. The second part involves segmenting it, breaking it down to logical fragments of text, let’s say sentences or paragraphs. Both of those or either of those are essentially dictated by parsing and segmentation rules accordingly and we look at how we can start applying these very advanced and interesting logical operators. So, definitely a very interesting class and something that takes a lot of people outside their comfort zone and what they are used to doing. This course does not intend to create new engineers, but to help people acquire a broader perspective as to why these things are happening and how they are happening, so that people get a broader awareness.”

Last one, can you talk about your “Mobile App Localization” course ?

– In the “Mobile App Localization” course, we talk about understanding how a mobile app is structured, what its actual code is, how it’s being structured, what sort of principles are applied, what that means for localization and how this interacts with translation tools. So even those with no experience in mobile apps could understand the principles and apply them to software localization.

“This third course – in an orthodox, but very hands-on way –  goes into the world of localizing mobile apps. We don’t just take mobile apps like files and put them into a translation tool – that’s the easy part. Here, we’re talking about understanding how a mobile app is structured and look at its actual code. Of course, we’re not trying to create developers here, but we are looking into the broader code and understanding what text is, why it’s there, how it’s being structured, what sort of principles are applied, what that means for localization and how this interacts with translation tools. We then take that back to the mobile app, creating a huge and wider spectrum of understanding of the complexities involved and what things we should be looking up when working with mobile app localization. I think it’s the most interesting class among these three, because it takes people outside of their comfort zone, but in a very managed, structured way, so that people who haven’t any experience whatsoever with mobile apps can feel like they understand what’s going on and can understand global perspectives of mobile app and software localization.” 

What are the advantages of this program?

– Almost all of the instructors are actually industry-professionals in their individual domain, so the teachings have an immediate impact on one’s professional career.

“In terms of advantages of the program I would strongly suggest one thing – in the last two years events moved us into this online way of working, at least the great majority of employees out there. So people and companies have to adapt, as well as institutes, universities. This means that a new way of teaching emerged, which is not only ad-hoc but also self-driven. Sessions that were previously live moved online, etc. Yet, post-covid, and actually pre-covid or during covid, the TCLoc program actually remained intact in terms of how it was executed, because it was designed exactly in that way. So, I would say that one major advantage of the program is the fact that the courses, or rather the whole program itself, have been built to face what is happening today. It’s not just adjusted roughly and suddenly, from one day to another. On a second level, one of the true benefits of the program is the fact that many, if not all of the instructors are actually industry-professionals in their individual domain. I mentioned Chris Raulf before in the SEO domain, and me in the localization domain, but many others out there are professionals. There will always be a difference between academia and industry. You don’t always need an academic background, but you always need working experience. What I think is incredible here is that by introducing these professionals, what is achieved in the end is that people receive teachings that will actually help them in their professional career. They will truly be supported, they will go out to the world and they will be able to implement these things in real life scenarios. So, to me, this is probably the biggest benefit: teachings actually have an immediate impact on one’s professional career. I wouldn’t ask for anything more from a master’s program myself.”

One last question, Alex: would you have some advice to give to future students?

“If you are interested in the program, at least if I speak for my courses, there’s nothing to prepare for. It’s obviously always nice when people come with some knowledge of localization, but the whole idea here is that the foundation being set during these courses will help you to understand all the things that need to be understood, so you can get in right away. We will go through it step by step.”

Alright, perfect! I am sure that this insight will benefit many future students. Thank you for your time and we wish you all the best.

Interview & edit by Olga Malosh and Celine Sellier

Veronika is from Bulgaria and previously worked as an English teacher in China and Italy. Even though she’d never had the chance to study or work in the field of localization before, she took a leap and enrolled in the TCLoc master’s program to broaden her knowledge.

Read previous interview

Let’s find out a bit more about Veronika’s background before TCLoc

Hello Veronika, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Could you introduce yourself and tell us why you joined the TCLoc Master’s program?

-– I realized that there is more to translation, so I started focusing on localization and found TCLoc

“Hello, my name is Veronika and I come from Bulgaria. I’ve always enjoyed working or studying in an international environment, so I took every opportunity to travel and experience life abroad. I’ve spent the past few years working as an English teacher in China and Italy. Working in China was a fun and exciting adventure, as I had to adapt to a completely different lifestyle, education system and mentality. Viewing the world from my students’ perspective raised questions and inspired curiosity. I began looking for a master’s in translation, but I eventually realized that I am interested in more than pure translation. I then started focusing on localization and found TCLoc. The course description sounded very interesting, so despite my initial hesitation due to my lack of experience, I decided to go for it and give it a try.” 

It’s nice that you decided to enroll in this program despite not having studied this field before. It’s always good to discover new things. Was it easy for you to go back to university to study a new subject?

“Well, as I had no experience in technical communication or localization, I expected that the program would be demanding and time-consuming. Even during my application interview, the program director warned me that it would be intense and that I should plan accordingly.”

Time to ask her how she felt during TCLoc

Yes, it can be challenging to balance university life with work/family life. But you chose to do the program over two years, didn’t you? Would you recommend that?

–  My advice is not to rush it: you can take the two-year option and choose your own pace

“Exactly! One great thing about this program is that you can choose your own pace and do it in one or two years. If you are inexperienced like me, my advice is not to rush it. Unlike many other master’s programs, TCLoc includes a range of practical courses, like Web Tools and Languages, Visual Communication, and Mobile App Localization, to name just a few. This means that you need to dive in, complete the extra exercises and get lots of practice in order to get a good understanding of the subject. If you have a full-time job and children, you might find it challenging to complete the program within a year. In this kind of situation, yes, I would suggest taking the two-year option.”

Thank you for the advice, I’m sure a lot of students will be happy to know that. Talking about students, how was it to meet people from all over the world? How did the interactions with other students, the teachers and people involved in the master’s go?

“It has been a very pleasant experience because both the instructors and students are multicultural. Communicating with the instructors is easy. They are professional, yet very friendly. The same goes for the students. After the introduction week, we created a WhatsApp group where we could help each other, share knowledge and experience or just vent.”

It’s good you can use social networks in that way, since this master’s is a distance learning program. Did you ever find it hard to connect with people?

-– At first, I was afraid to never see my classmates’ faces but soon, I realized that you don’t feel alone in this program

“As it was my first time taking an online program, I was initially a bit concerned about communication. I was worried that it might not be as efficient and that I might never see my coursemates’ faces. In reality, this hasn’t stopped me from getting to know new people and building relationships. Apart from the live sessions, you can reach instructors or students directly regarding any concerns or advice. You never really feel alone in the program, you get a lot of support from everyone.”

Time for Veronika to give an overview of her TCLoc experience

It’s important to stay connected, especially in these times. Now, could you tell us what benefits TCLoc has brought you? Is a career change on the cards?

— The courses are strongly related to each other and give you all the basics, but you will also need self-motivation, self-discipline and to keep on learning

“ I have only just graduated, so it’s still too early to tell. A career change is not an easy challenge to overcome but I hope an opportunity will arise soon. I’ve learned a lot, though. The program offers courses that are strongly related to each other, so it gives you a clear perspective of the big picture: from learning how to build a simple website, to building a successful content strategy; from optimizing UX and SEO to creating graphics. All the information in the courses is current and allows you to pursue a career in some of the fields mentioned. It gives you the basics, but you will have to build on this and continue working even after the master’s is finished. Your success and opportunities will heavily rely on your self-motivation, self-discipline and continuous learning.”

Of course. Do you believe this program can benefit someone that has already worked in these fields (translation/localization)?

“For students who are already working in technical communication or localization, it can be an eye-opener and a refreshing experience, as you get to update your current skills and knowledge, work with different tools and learn about the latest content strategies and technical documentation requirements and policies.”

You will soon reach the end of this master’s degree. What plans do you have for the future?

— I learned so much from my teammates: I’d like to use what I’ve learned in projects that are just as rewarding

“As the end of my studies approaches, I feel like the real challenge is about to begin. Once I am finished with my thesis and the rest of my exams, I am going to continue building my portfolio and to self-study. Personally, I enjoyed the courses in Mobile App Localization and Web Tools and Languages so I am going to focus on these subjects and continue my job hunting. I am using every opportunity to learn from my fellow students. During our Project Management class, for example, I had the chance to manage a project and work together with other TCLoc students on localizing a little web app game. It was a fun and rewarding experience for me as I learned so much from my teammates. I hope I can continue working on similar projects and put all the knowledge I’ve gained from the program into practice.”

Let us all wish you the best then! Sadly, our interview comes to an end but before that: do you have any advice for future students? For example, tips or maybe software and tools that helped you?

— Build your own schedule and don’t forget to treat yourself!

“Well, I used the usual tools, like Google Calendar to remind me of upcoming exams, assignments or live sessions. The thing is that the university does this for you already. You get all the files containing the course program, including timetables, holidays, etc. As for time management, just try to build your own schedule and estimate the maximum hours you can dedicate per day for studying. Don’t forget to treat yourself, once your goal is achieved!”

You are totally right: after doing your best, time to rest! And what about going back to school and the habit of learning? Any other tips? It can be challenging when you study from home.

— I would lose focus every 30 minutes and stay close to the fridge for frequent snacks but it all worked out after just one week

“Going back to studying can be a little rough at the beginning. It’s different for everyone. My personal experience was a bit funny as I would lose focus every 30 minutes and stay within close proximity to the fridge for frequent snacks and shots of energy, but it all passed after a week. It’s a matter of training. My advice is to just take it slowly, expand the study hours bit by bit till they turn into a habit.”

Thank you very much Veronika, it was nice to meet you! We hope that everything turns out well with your thesis and future projects!

Interview – Céline Sellier | Editing – Lisa Krill