Translation Studies trip to Codex Global

Written by current student Lizzie Harvey-Backhouse

Last week, a group of students from Exeter’s Translation Studies MA braved London’s heatwave for a workshop with the translation company Codex Global. As the name suggests, Codex is an international company that works with brands worldwide from Ralph Lauren to Visa and even the BBC. We met at the company’s office, based in the heart of London’s Oxford Street; their top-floor office space was a cool and inviting reprieve from the busy afternoon shoppers many floors below.

In the office, we met production manager Ksenia Ivanova who led our session. She went into detail about Codex, the different in-house roles and the services they offer to clients, while interspersing entertaining anecdotes from her time at Codex and how she got her start in the translation industry. In-house, Codex employs project managers, vendor managers and sales roles; the translating itself is outsourced to their large pool of freelancers, all of whom have their own specialism. One thing Ksenia emphasised is how important it is for freelance translators to specialise early – this way you can devote time to becoming as knowledgeable as possible about your specialism. This means that you (and your employer) know that you’re translating a text as accurately as possible for the client, using the correct jargon or genre conventions. It’s no good translating an important medical document if your specialism is marketing and you have no idea what ‘atherosclerosis’ means in English, let alone how to translate it from your source language!

We had some knowledge of the role that project managers play in the translation process from SMLM153 (The Translation Profession module on the MA), but not vendor managers and localisation engineers. Ksenia’s presentation covered these in detail and the kind of personalities that may be suited to them. Vendor management is the headhunting of freelancers and dealing with client feedback or performance monitoring, while localisation engineers ensure that all technology and IT systems are up to date. They are also responsible for the maintenance and development of CAT tools (Computer Assisted Translation software). These roles are pretty standard in most LSPs (language service providers), so Ksenia’s presentation gave us an insight into the industry itself, not just life at Codex.

Ksenia also gave us a taster of the project management role and the decisions that go into putting together a translation project. Project managers must be able to deal with last minute requests from clients and then work quickly to analyse the project and find translators with the right specialisms for the project. Ksenia gave us a scenario that project managers are frequently faced with: a company has contacted you on Friday afternoon with an urgent project that they need translated by Monday morning. How do you deal with this? She gave us basic information about the project and in pairs, we chose our hypothetical translators (Translation Studies director Professor Michelle Bolduc and I chose ‘Ironman’, a hypothetical marketing and transcreation specialist) and worked out quotes for the client and the profit margins. This was easier said than done, as Michelle and I had apparently temporarily lost our ability to calculate percentages!

Following the group feedback, we spoke to a recent graduate of the Exeter MA, who is currently an intern at Codex, about his experiences as a PM and the transition from the MA programme to his internship. Following this Q and A, we ventured back out into the sweltering heat of Oxford Street, our minds reeling with a whole realm of new career possibilities opened to us.

We would like to thank Michelle for organising such an insightful trip, and to Ksenia and everyone at Codex Global for the opportunity to gain such an invaluable look into the world of LSPs!

Visit our webpages to read more about the MA Translation Studies programme.