10 Apr NAJIT 44th Annual Conference (2023)
Coming Full Circle
This is one of the last blogs I will write while serving as NAJIT’s Vice-Chair, so I want to write about something that I am passionate about and that is extremely relevant at a time when we are working towards better compensation and work conditions: the NAJIT Annual Conference.
From my first NAJIT conference, the 35th conference in Las Vegas in 2014 , to the 44th Annual Conference, coming up in Las Vegas on June 2-4, 2023, I have come full circle.
My First NAJIT Conference
I enjoyed my first Las Vegas conference enormously. The hotel was beautiful, the weather was fantastic, and I went to the conference with a small group from New Jersey including Margarida Paz, Athena Matilsky and Gerda Pratto, so I felt at home from the minute I arrived. I was also fortunate in that I stayed at the hosting hotel, so that gave me the opportunity to experience the event more than colleagues who stayed off-site.
I was terribly excited about everything I learned. I attended presentations by Alfonso Villaseñor, Agustín de la Mora, Tony Rosado, Francesca Samuels, and Thelma Gomez-Ferry – all firsts of many I have enjoyed since. Those are the ones I remember most, but there were many others that I remember just by subject matter.
I enjoyed the opportunity to share experiences and compare notes with many colleagues with various areas of expertise, from different geographical areas in the United States and abroad. It was humbling to witness colleagues with a great deal of experience and outstanding credentials sit there with their notebooks listening in at workshops and presentations. Many were there to share their knowledge through presentations, panels, and sessions, but they were also attending to learn! That was an amazing thing and a lesson I will never forget. If these luminaries wanted to attend training programs, then so should we all. What a wonderful discovery. And presenters were open and generous with their time. They shared their contact information toward the end of each session, and all of them answered questions and helped with issues when I approached them after the conference.
During the conference, I got to crash the Board’s private party, where I met Rob Cruz for the first time. I never imagined that this really cool guy that was preparing drinks for guests was our distinguished outgoing chair! I was extremely happy to be in the company of “the cream of the crop” of interpretation and translation circles and see how friendly and welcoming everyone was.
A Domino Effect
The most powerful part was the networking that the conference provides. You get many opportunities to meet people and chat away, sometimes making fast friends. You have all the coffee breaks, when people gather around the snacks, cookies, muffins, granola bars, or donuts provided by one of our well-known sponsors, many times one of our own colleagues, as has been the case with Beatriz Craney from Craney Interpreting, or Agustín de la Mora, and other regular exhibitors. You meet at sessions, workshops, and panels (no talking during class, please!) and afterwards, within minutes, you are swept away into a cluster of longtime friends, often not your own but soon to be, on their way to lunch.
Attending that first conference changed my life. My networking circle grew exponentially. For every colleague I met, that person introduced me to someone else, so that new contact became two, two became four, and those four gave way to sixteen. By the time I left my third conference, the 37th Annual Conference in San Antonio in 2016, I had met at least a third of the colleagues with whom I would work for the next seven years. Additionally, I got to see friends from my neck of the woods and strengthen relationships with people like Clariselle Ocasio, Geri Zorn, Liz Torres, Citlaly Alvarado, Karola Rangel, Andrea Lockman, Robert Joe Lee, Bethany Korp, Cosmelina Cammarata, Dahyana Grullon, Beatriz, Athena, Gerda, and too many others to provide a complete list.
Some of these new friends I met at conferences also include Cristina Sánchez, Ernest Niño Murcia, Roxane King, Agustín de la Mora, Esther Hermida, Hebba Abulsaad, Judy Jenner, Sandro Tomasi, Gladys Matthews, Tony Rosado, María Ceballos, Alfonso Villaseñor, Francesca Samuels, Mylene Green, Helen Eby, Liz Essary, and many others that I have recruited over time to be members of the Conference Committee, co-chair, give a presentation, or chair the Advocacy Committee, run for the NAJIT Board, be mentors to the scholarship recipients, present a webinar, give a Zumba class, volunteer for the conference meet-and-greet, donate a book or a voucher for their training programs, lead the courthouse tour, be our keynote speaker, and more. And these are just a few of the people I have met at NAJIT conferences!
The theme of our event this year is “Double Down on Yourself. Get What You are Worth.” This concept has been in the news this whole last year and has been the subject of some of my and my colleagues’ blogs. We have heard of the efforts in many states such as California, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, as well as from federal interpreters, to receive fair compensation and to demand conditions that are consistent with our code of professional practice and ethics. I do not think the individuals responsible for the purse strings in municipal, state, and federal courts realize the importance of the work we do and the disparity between the skills we bring to the table and the current remuneration in most U.S. courts.
“Double Down on Yourself. Get What You are Worth”
Knowing what we are worth encompasses much more than just financial compensation; it is also a responsibility to hone our skills and dedicate the time to master terminology, techniques, invest in the best equipment, be insured, get incorporated if that is best for us, have a professional accountant, a banker, a retirement-plan specialist advising us about our future. This brings us back to the NAJIT Annual Conference, where you can get up-to-date information on all these topics, the current trends, the latest translation software, what the market’s supply and demand look like right now, how to run a successful business, ways to negotiate contracts, and follow-up concepts to improve your performance and sell your services.
So here I am, all these years later, a board member in my last and final term and as excited to attend an annual conference as I was that very first time in Vegas. At every one of them I make new and valuable friends, colleagues, and partners; I acquire knowledge and skills, learn tricks and techniques, and I get to spend quality time with my friends. There are people that I may only see once a year, so I treasure our time together.
Now that I am stepping down from the Board, attending the conference will be more important than ever because I will no longer be part of the Board’s video conferences, part of all those internal e-mail distribution lists (tons of them!), but I still want and need to keep nurturing all the friendships I have made at NAJIT over the years. I will miss all my current board colleagues as I miss former ones, but I will always have the annual conference to catch up with all my treasured friends. I will also get the chance to see someone who has become one of my closest friends: Susan Cruz, NAJIT Administrator and Friend Extraordinaire. That is priceless, and it is the most important thing NAJIT brought to my life during these nearly six years on the Board.
As you can see, the NAJIT Annual Conference has so much to offer that you just can’t afford to miss it!
Take advantage of the EARLY-BIRD special rates before the April 17, 2023, deadline.
Hilda Zavala-Shymanik is a state certified/approved Spanish court interpreter and translator with more than fifteen years of experience in legal, medical, corporate, and non-profit settings in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Wisconsin. She is a board member, treasurer, Conference Committee chair, member of the Training and Education Committee and blog team of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators as well as former president of the New York Circle of Translators. She is an active and voting member of NAJIT, ATA, and other professional groups. Hilda has two certificates in Legal Interpreting in Spanish and English, the latest one from NYU. Hilda is a former a Staff Interpreter at Essex County Superior Court in New Jersey, where she worked for six years. She now lives and works as a freelance interpreter in the Chicagoland area. Born in Chicago, Hilda lived for twenty years in Mexico and loves traveling. She continuously looks for opportunities to promote and advance the interpreting profession. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Main photo (cropped) “Las Vegas 89” by user Lasvegaslover from Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Body photo “La Journée internationale de l’amitié célébrée le 30 juillet de chaque année, a été proclamée en 2011 par l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU avec l’idée que l’amitié entre les peuples, les pays, les cultures et les individus peut inspirer les efforts de paix” by MONUSCO Photos at flickr, under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.