The Five Traits I Most Admire In a Colleague

I have been working as an interpreter and the owner of an LSP for over thirty years so one would imagine that I have been around the block and back in terms of working with a large number of interpreters, both in court interpreting and conference interpreting scenarios.  Whereas that is correct, I have been fortunate to interact for the most part with very professional individuals.

The following is an ad-hoc compilation of several intertwined qualities in the interpreters I work with that I have come to look for and appreciate during all these years:

  • Respect.  An interpreter has to have consideration for the person she is interpreting for, the one she is interpreting with and the ancillary cast of characters.  This means being true to the message the speaker or witness in attempting to convey without paraphrasing, modifying, or editing speech.  In terms of the other interpreter, she must be mindful of fulfilling her part without taking advantage of the other, both in terms of actual interpreting time and support when teams switch off.  As to the rest, it is important to meet the needs of the court reporters, for example, by controlling the dynamics of the participants in a proceeding so that you are not doing simultaneous over the witness’s voice, confusing the reporter, when you should be doing consecutive.  Delivery must be smooth, audible and convey the tone of the witnesses as well as the attorneys.
  • Discretion.  “ Whatever happens in the booth stays in the booth…”  I truly value a professional who deals with issues in our working environment without informing the client or bystanders of difficulties when there are other avenues to solve the situation.  I am referring to anything ranging from audio problems on the part of a technician, to slips on the part of your fellow interpreter, to personality judgments.  There is a place and a time to criticize without endangering an account for the agency that hired you, or the reputation of a colleague.
  • Honesty.  Being true to the code of ethics of the profession without over-representing your credentials and capabilities. Pulling your fair share of whatever work is involved without overcharging. Having unsolicited respect for the clients of third parties, not trying to influence them to change their allegiances.
  • Responsibility. It will always be doubly appreciated when you take on more than your share if a situation warrants it and you can help your partner. Always make sure that you are prepared for the work you have been hired to do.  Leave no stone unturned in asking for and studying any available materials to do the job as seamlessly and proficiently as possible.  Another very important aspect of responsibility has to do with timeliness.  We must entertain the possibility that Murphy’s Law may strike and arrive at venues with a minimum half an hour lead time. That little extra time will give you, your partner, the agency that hired you and the end client valuable peace of mind. It is well worth the effort.
  • Sense of humor.  This quality goes hand-in-hand with the others.  While it does not replace them and you can get along with and work with colleagues that do not have it, it makes life so much easier and fun.  It takes the edge off stressful work and allows you to laugh at what might otherwise be embarrassing and scary, letting you form healthy bonds and a camaraderie with the people you work with.

Strive to nurture these and other positive traits throughout your career and you will note how they enhance both your personal and professional life. Be genuine in your effort and realistic, knowing that practice makes perfect and that although Rome was not built in a day, whatever you put off for another day will delay in coming to fruition.

2 thoughts on “The Five Traits I Most Admire In a Colleague”

  1. Jennifer De La Cruz says:

    Maria Cristina, I echo your thoughts on these traits! There are so many times when this is all we’ve got to go on when we have to make decisions that aren’t so clear-cut. All in all, as I talked about in my previous posting, I think you’re discussing the traits that all of us would like to see in the professionals around us no matter what profession we’re in. In many of the arenas where we provide our services, things are, as my Dad says it, “serious as a heart attack”, leaving little or no room for us to have such simple things as a sense of humor. What’s more, since we’re reflecting the stream of thought and meaning of somebody else, our individuality doesn’t shine through, necessarily, and we are smart to remember the traits you mention when we snap back into being ourselves again. Well put, colega!

    1. I have found that it is not only important to have these personality traits in “top of mind” but that we make a conscious effort whenever the occasion arises to act upon them. That is what automatically turns them into a habit and then you don’t even have to think about engaging in them, you just do it.

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