2. New Developments, Tools and Training with Drew MacFadyen

Paul talks with Drew MacFadyen about ProZ.com tools, training developments and more!


Here is the full transcript:

Paul Urwin 0:00
New development tools and training with Drew McFadden. Hi there. I'm Paul Urwin, and welcome to that proz.com Podcast, where we discuss all of the relevant issues to help you succeed as a freelance translator, or interpreter. We cover sales and marketing, networking capsules, and much, much more. Find out more at podcast.proz.com. Hey there, Paul here and welcome to episode two of the old New Proz.com podcast, I have a very special guest today, Drew McFadden from proz.com. He has been working with pros for many, many years now very, very experienced, very knowledgeable about the industry. And as you will hear from the interview, very, very interested, very, very dedicated to helping you succeed as a freelance translator, or interpreter. So great interview coming up in just a second. First of all, a quick reminder of the of the URL. If you want to find out more, if you want to check out the show notes, then head on over to podcast.proz.com. And also, during the interview, we mentioned a few sessions from the International translation day that's coming up on the first, second and third of October 2019. If you happen to be listening to this episode after that date, then don't worry, those sessions are still available to proz.com Plus members. So head on over to proz.com. And you can find out how to access those sessions. So without further ado, let's get cracking with today's interview. Drew, welcome to the show.

Drew MacFadyen 1:56
Hey, thanks for having me, Paul. I appreciate it.

Paul Urwin 1:58
Well, it's great, great to Great to have you here, Drew and great to sort of get a bit of inside information from one of the main people at proz.com. So lots to talk about today. I thought I thought I'd start off by just getting a bit of background I know about you. I know lots of people sort of connected with you on LinkedIn. And a lot of people have sort of heard your name. But let's, let's find out a bit more about you tell us tell us a bit bit about yourself, please.

Drew MacFadyen 2:27
Sure. Oh, thanks, Paul. I appreciate that a bit more behind the, I guess the name of the face that folks see on international translation day. And I suppose lots of folks that pose maybe do know me, but don't know me. So I've been in the translation industry for about, oh gosh, almost 20 years. I started at a publishers representative firm and one of their clients was the American Translators Association. So I worked for the ATA sort of through a vendor for about five or six years. And one of the clients I had through the HA was proz.com that's how I kind of met Henry and moved over to pros, and have been here since I guess 2006 And in that time, I've been nomadic. The wife and I like to move around a bit. But we've been in oh gosh, New Orleans, Chicago, the Philadelphia area. We moved to Argentina for about two years and I'll just say todavia no habla come un experto pero entiendo mucho my Spanish is I have a horrible Spanish accent. Very good. Very good. It's an Americanized Spanish accent that learned Castellano, you know, Argentinian Spanish. So llo instead of yo and pollo instead of pollo. And that confuses the heck out of people. So it's an odd mismatch. And then did Michigan for a bit and now we're in Charlotte, North Carolina, mostly for the weather and some family that's nearby. But yeah, I'm not a translator by trade. But I I've been in the industry long enough that I can speak the language and nothing's to sound dangerous and, and make it know what I'm talking about. But yeah, I love it. I love translators and the industries it's big enough to be exciting, but still small enough to kind of know and see some of the same faces at various events. And yeah, yeah, I never would have guessed. My My degree is in psychology and I went into sales. And if you told me and 20 years ago, you're going to be working at proz.com and the translation industry, I would have said how or why that's bizarre but a backwards way but I've really enjoyed the the industry a whole time.

Paul Urwin 4:43
Amazing, amazing. So that must have been a brilliant experience down in Argentina then and moving around different locations.

Drew MacFadyen 4:50
If you know and I think there's a session I recorded for the upcoming virtual event that'll be October 1 The third our is our 10th anniversary of international trade. But there was a session I'm doing or someone recorded for someone, I think it was John. And he was talking about longevity and the freelance career and ergonomics. And one of the things he talked about was, and I'd never heard this term, geo arbitrage. And it's, like it sounds, earning one currency and living in a different one. And so, living in Argentina while earning US dollars, it was, I can't lie, it was like being a king. It was, you know, the cost of living in Argentina is sufficiently lower. But if you're taller, it was nice. It was, it was a great experience that I loved. I find again, freelance translators like to kind of move and travel and be places. And I find that they're always you know, it's a it's always but generally, freelance translator moved around and visit and other places, other cultures tend to be a little bit more open. And I just really enjoyed the folks in and live in Argentina was a tremendous experience. It was great,

Paul Urwin 6:01
Awesome, awesome stuff. Something else I'd like to ask you drew now that we've got this special inside access. I mean, obviously, everyone who's listening is pretty familiar to some degree or other with the proz.com brand. But, but I think a lot of us don't really, or haven't historically understood how it works. So just tell us a little bit about the company, you know, where is it based? Where do you have offices? How many how many people are involved, and just just give us a little bit of background on the company, please?

Drew MacFadyen 6:28
Sure, no problem. And that's a, again, probably behind the the curtain a little bit sometimes. So it's good to let folks know, pros, this is our 20th anniversary. It was started in August of 1999. by Henry data, I think the official launch date was August 26. We're just at 20 years. And this has been discussed by Henry other places, but I'll just give some background. He was a freelance translator working in Japan in the automotive industry. And he started proz.com I think, as a generalist, almost a like an Upwork freelance type site, but because his background was translation, and most of the people that got invited, in the beginning, were translators, the development the site very quickly went in, in a translation direction. And so we've been, I guess that here for 20 years, we've got, I want to say five different offices, we've got a lot of remote staff telecommute like myself, I'm in Charlotte. But the main headquarters is in Syracuse. And that's where Henry and a few other staff that work for the company are, that's where the sort of the accounting and the money stuff happens. And then we've got developers as a remotely, we've got an office in Kharkiv, Ukraine, we've got some training and some support staff, there's a developer there as well. And that our other big office, I think the biggest office is in La Plata, La Plata, Argentina. That's where I live. And we've got, oh, gosh, I have to go back and look, but maybe eight or nine folks working in La Plata. And again, that's some support. There's a community manager that names folks would know, I'm Lucia, Jared, both work out of Argentina. Now we've got new support staff and some more developers out of Argentina as well. And then we've got an individual in the Philippines. And that's that we can have support available on a 24 hour basis. But yeah, I think we're upwards is a terrible, I don't know the answer. But I think we're over 20 staff now. So it's a pretty reasonably sized company.

Paul Urwin 8:22
Impressive, impressive. And truly, truly global completely aligned, of course, with the the global translation industry. So very good, brilliant. Yeah, Drew? Well, I think I think most people will have realized, or a lot of people will have realized that there's been quite a few changes going oh, going on over at proz.com This year, really, especially this year. So I can think of, for example, Andrew Morris is now really facilitating or helping a lot with the with the Facebook group, the proz.com Facebook group that certainly grown in not only in numbers, but it also has a lot more relevant content being published there on a, on a on a daily basis. So that's, that's been that's been a big change. There have also been quite a few changes in in, in content in training. Tell us a little bit about about what's going on what's what's, what's behind all the all of these fantastic changes.

Drew MacFadyen 9:20
Yeah, I'm thank you for noticing. I'm glad that folks have been aware and seeing what we've been trying to do. And just to be frank, a website like proz.com, we're talking millions of lines of code, five or 6 million indexed pages in the world of internet websites. It's a supertanker, it's really large, and it doesn't turn very easily. So sometimes people might say, Oh, how come the site hasn't done this or hasn't changed that and I wish that I could do this or that. It I won't bore anybody with the technical reasons behind it, but it's a very large entity and making moves is not it's not always easy. It's got I take a lot of conservative coordinator and usually time, but so the I'll start with what really changed. And I maybe shame on us at pros for not having made a bigger splash or bigger announced about this, but the mission statement, and I'm a huge, huge believer behind mission statements, I will have a mini mission statement or an objective or goal for almost everything I do. And that that informs when I come to a point where like, oh, what should I do go back to that mission go back to sort of what's the core objective. So IT pros our mission statement, I forgive me, I can't quite remember how it used to be. But it was something like prose provides tools and opportunities for freelance translators and those in the language industry to network collaborate, find added endeavors in their work. So the the mission was quite specifically written in a way that was we proz.com are not involved. It was, I'm trying to think a good example. But like, like other large and I'm not saying we're like Google or Apple, but But thinking of large business entities, you really can't pick up the phone and call someone at Google, you can't really you and holding support from Google, their approach is, here's our content, here's the things, make a decision, figure it out on your own. And that works for Google because you can't really live without, if you're an online business, you're if you don't understand Google, you're not an online business. It's like it's a must have. But so IT pros, the mission was sort of similar, we give you the tools, here's the stuff, kind of do it on your own. And so I'm going to read the new mission. And this was done around I think, March of this year in advance of our 20th anniversary. And it was, we discussed it greatly internally. Um, this is formed by Henry. So Henry is the CEO owner and sort of the visionary approach. And it's a shift that we wanted to shift from, here's just the the site and the service do with what you can to more, you know, more modern approach, more hand holding more involvement. And we started by changing the mission, and I think I'll read the new missions, then that sort of critical to what you're seeing and some of these changes. So ProZ dot coms mission is to empower language industry professionals to achieve their business objectives, and realize their full potential. proz.com does this by being committed to member success, providing access to state of the art tools, educating and inspiring, fostering collaboration among positive like minded professionals. So the, the framing of that mission statement used to be very, you know, go out, do it on your own these we give you the tools, you got to figure it out. And now, we're quite honestly saying, we're our mission is to empower your success. And we're going to do this in a variety of ways. And so that first bullet point, being committed to member success. And that's not just one person, that's the entire staff, the entire team, the entire site. And that that takes a lot of different shapes. So what does empowering success, you know, mean, it's different to every individual, one freelance translator might want to get paid faster. Another one might want to get more clients and other one might want to learn certain skills and tools. And we've got folks that work or that use prose that aren't just freelance translators. So we've got, you know, our mission has to address business entities, maybe an LSP wants to streamline their, their business, maybe they want to onboard more people, maybe they want to fill out an RFQ. And they need to get a list of available linguists, maybe they want to sell their agency or do a merger, acquisition, whatever it is that they want. We want to help empower that success. So it looks a little bit differently in action. And that meant we've got more support staff, we've hired more folks, we've modernized the support entirely. If you've engaged with support at all, you'll see an entirely new look and interface, we're building a knowledge base to make it easier. We've got you and I are doing two times a month a Success Series where it's totally free. It's a one hour session, just we want you to have success. So the the, you know, the mission is where it starts. And the changes you're seeing are, I would say pros taking a little bit more of an active role in ensuring that linguists have success, and we see that as a win for everybody.

Paul Urwin 14:17
Yeah, I mean, it's a it's a it's quite a change. It's a it's a really a really significant change. And like you said, Drew, when you mentioned the the supertanker, not everyone is going to ,not, you know, not all of these changes are going to come through straight away or people aren't going to realize necessarily that these changes are happening straightaway take takes a little while for for the message to get out there. But certainly from everything I've seen on online has been hugely, hugely, positively very positively received and people are really enjoying the content and people are really I think appreciating a lot what what you guys are what you guys are doing in terms of actually saying look, we are a big organization. We do have A long and established history. But hey, we're we're willing to listen to what people need, we're willing to really find out what is going to help people and really provide those those resources for them.

Drew MacFadyen 15:14
Yeah, and to the supertanker analogy, you were seeing maybe some of the the waves some of the wake as it's shifting and moving. But it's taken us a long time to even the internal management infrastructure, the organization, code base management, there's been a lot of things that we've had to do in order to shift things just inside, you know, I'm glad that you and others are seeing the external improvements. But we've been working really hard for a long time on the internal stuff to be able to start making some of these changes. And there's a bunch of I've left out, we've got a new, I said, new support, we're doing the Success Series with you. We got that Plus membership, which is hugely beneficial to new linguists, we're being engaging the mentorship program, just you know, lots of things to help empower individuals to have success. So if you're listening to the podcast, and your your pros user, come back, let us know and even hit support, and let us know tell us what your needs are. We're open, willing and wanting to help you succeed.

Paul Urwin 16:20
Brilliant, brilliant. Yeah. Okay.

Drew MacFadyen 16:23
Or us and Facebook. That's another great addition. So we've just been adding little pieces. And hopefully, people have noticed, and it's enjoyed and proven valuable for folks.

Paul Urwin 16:34
Well, I think the channels are there as well. And it's quite clear that you're very receptive to feedback, you're very receptive to questions. So that's something that I think I would certainly encourage people to, to to get in touch to get in touch via the, the proz.com Facebook group might be perhaps one of the one of the best places Yeah, yeah. Okay, excellent. Well, one area that I would like to focus on, because it's one of the areas that that I'm very interested in, and what and I know that you are spending a lot of time on this as well. And that is in the development of the new proz.com training program. So that's something that you're obviously leading. So tell us a little bit about that. What's what's going on there? What What plans do you have? What have you already done? Where where are you in terms of this new this new training solution?

Drew MacFadyen 17:24
Yeah, thank you for that, Paul. So training, and I've been having lots of conversations with our training our trainers, suppose that comes trainers, and just try to form the basis of what we're going to do. So I don't know if I've got a complete picture yet. But I'll tell you a little bit of what we're trying to do. So in about 2006, I think we start 2007, maybe we started our training initiatives. And at that point, it was all in person, and mostly CAT tool training. And it was okay for 2007 and eight, but conducting an in person trainings, it's like hosting a conference, you've got to find a venue, you've got to get coffee catering, you've got to get people to the location. So it wasn't scalable in the way that we thought training should be. And really, the vision has always been, there are people that come to proz.com. And they're in a variety of locations in the journey. And that that might be I'm not a translator, I'm merely bilingual. And it might be a very experienced 20 year high end professional translator. But for either of those individuals, it would make sense for ProZ dot coms training to have content and opportunities for anyone on that journey from sort of the very beginning to the to the very end. So we're looking to enhance training, make it a little bit more of a complete curriculum offering, and webinars and videos probably aren't the way to do that. That's not. So we went from 2006 to 2009. We shifted to webinars that was great and exciting in 2009. We used to get hundreds and hundreds of people on our free webinars. Fast forward it doesn't it webinars are market saturated, a little bit passe. They're not you know, not as exciting as they used to be people aren't attending them they used to, and we've now got sophisticated elearning. So we're investing in a an LMS or learning management system called Moodle, and we're creating some elearning content, we released our first one which is HIPAA compliance for remote interpreters. So if you're a remote interpreter, if you're working with pros in the interpreter pool or our partner boost lingo, do check out that that HIPAA compliance training, it's that certificate will allow you to get more work from US based hospitals that require HIPAA compliance. So we're trying to make elearning training and I haven't quite figured out exactly how we're going to do it. But I think there's, again, those two ends of the spectrum, sort of how to get started as a freelance translator. Yeah. And then now that I'm an experienced translator, and then there's a whole lot in the middle, but I think we'll end up with with those two sort of extremes. For the new folks, obviously pros has tons of legacy content we've got, I think, 1000s of hours of video, I'll still be able to make a lot of content for folks that are just getting started. And then on the higher end, we're going to focus on some of the more professional certifications. So how to prepare and get ready for, say, the ATA or the CIO exams, the DPSI. So we're going to try to create some some more online training, that's a little bit more engaging, a little bit more modern, it's going to be mobile friendly. So you can engage with it on a laptop, your iPad phone, and then it'll be a little bit different instruction, instruction involvement. We're not sure if it'll be the, and I might use this word wrong, asynchronous cohort, where you've got groups of people that start a class on October 5, and they take weekly meetings at the same time, versus self paced with instructor led triggers. So I've turned in homework, I turn the exam and then instructor grades it. So I'm not sure where we're gonna end up. This is still kind of figuring things out. But in short, we want to have a more modern and better training product. And that goes beyond the webinars because they're

Paul Urwin 21:10
with us. That's really interesting. So starting off with the, you know, the the in person events, I can totally understand the the logistical requirements of organizing those kind of things on a on a on a regular basis, and then the transition to webinars. So I think I mean, I think webinars still have their place. If you look at a webinar platform, you can often have sort of interaction in terms of polls, and in terms of questions, but I guess, the reason that you're looking for the next level is that that's kind of the limit, you get to a point with a webinar where there's not the same level of interaction. So what I'm understanding here Drew is that when you go on to elearning, you're you're talking about a platform that is much more interactive, that has a lot more opportunity for people to be involved in in questions and feedback and submitting assignments. And that kind of thing. Is that, is that right?

Drew MacFadyen 22:04
That's correct. And so we've spoke with a dozen or so of our trainers, and I've been doing some market research and just sort of my own experience. If it's CPD and you're trying to get a certificate for a webinar, there's really no way to ensure that knowledge has been adequately transferred. All I know is that you sat on a computer and watched and maybe you didn't even watch attentively. So when you get to the learning side, there's a little bit more means to confirm that knowledge has been adequately transferred, you can test quiz, you can have homework, and addition beyond simply watching a screen, the act of clicking and enter interacting with content. So they you know, things like order these, you know, items in importance or put, you know, rank or move these pieces of this puzzle around. So it forces a little bit different engagement. And then even further, again, this is just what other people are telling me, I'm learning that if the course is entirely self paced, even if it's more engaging, it's more modern, there's a drop off, and I've done this, I've signed up for Udemy course on HTML. And then over the years, I got bored and stop taking it. Now there's WYSIWYG editors, I don't even need to know HTML. So I stopped taking the class. So the the type of class where there's a specific date and a time and you join it, and there's deadlines and assignments, even if it's a pre recorded webinar, and you say, it's only going to be shown at four o'clock on Tuesday, this sort of deadline and task driven people are more they adhere to that better than than self paced. So again, I'm not sure where we'll end up. But yeah, the goal is more modern, more flexible, more engaging, more interaction, and then the opportunity to have instructor led training that that includes something closer to a classroom type setting.

Paul Urwin 23:59
Yeah, yeah. Well, you I mean, you do clearly know an awful lot about this Drew, but I love your attitude in the in the sense that you're, you're trying to find the best way forward, you're trying to find the best solution. And and I guess it goes back to that that mission statement that you mentioned a little while ago about about really helping people to succeed. That's what that's what this is all about.

Drew MacFadyen 24:19
I appreciate the accolades, but I'm only this way because I failed to do it. Right. 2009. So here we are at the drawing board again. I think failure is a pretty good tool for learning. Right?

Paul Urwin 24:32
Yeah, I think it's been a process. I think, you know, I think you have delivered amazing content right throughout that period, even if not all of it. It's been been perfect. You've kept you kept doing it. You've been you've been helping people right throughout that period, like say, going back many, many years now. So this is really just the next stage in that in that evolution. Fantastic. Fantastic. Okay, well, I'd like to ask you about a couple of other things. First of all, this is International translation day I can't talk to you drew without talking about international translation day, something that you've been doing for many years now. Man is a completely free event, amazing content. Tell us tell us more.

Drew MacFadyen 25:13
Yeah, thanks. It's probably the way that most folks know of me. They've heard you McFadden through the International translation event. This is our 10th year, we've been doing it for a decade, which is, I almost can't believe it. So it is sort of my baby, I've been doing it forever. And it's the thing I love most about my job, it's a huge event, it takes tons of work. I'm working weekends, but those those days of the virtual event, the feedback and just the, I just say the unmitigated joy that translators have with this event, that that feeds my soul for for the entire rest of the year. So I love doing it, I have no problem talking about it. I'm really excited about this year, we usually do two days. And we usually have, you know, maybe 12 to 13 sessions, there's some sponsored content. But it's usually a pretty full eight hour two days. So I put the call for presentations out this year, and I might have expanded it beyond the normal reach. And either it was a great email, or people are really familiar and excited about this event want to participate. But I got more submissions than I've ever had, I had more content submissions than I've ever had, and so many more really good quality that I just kept saying yes. And I kept saying that I ended up having to expand it to three days. So this year, it'll be October 1 through the third, we're adding a third day. But the end the contents, again, sort of the two ends of the spectrum, some stuff for for new and beginning translators, because we know those folks are here. And then some really great stuff for experienced folks. And I'll just I'm not going to read the entire program. But on sort of the beginning side, there's your session on your first three years, we've got something from Gigi Jenner on how to go from translator to interpreter. So a lot of folks, um, translate if you want to add interpretation to your skill set, and then we've got a few others beginner's luck. And then on the sort of advance side, we've got master your QA, we've got one on magic mistakes. And then these two sessions I'm really excited about, we've got two on neural machine translation, for languages of limited diffusion, one's going to be a little bit more general. And then one would be a little more specific, and even including, like coding in Python, a web scraper to build a corpus to build your own NMT engine. So again, I'm really excited about these sessions. And I didn't ask this but I'll evangelists eyes for a second, a bit of the industry long enough that I remember when when machine translation was like, Oh, my gosh, the sky is falling. This is the world humans are going to be put out of work. How dare you do anything with machine translation. And it's evolved to more, there was a period where it was like whoever had the biggest corpus had the best engine because it was mostly statistical based stuff. And then as we got into neural and different AI, we started seeing machine translation that was pretty good, and really good in French, Italian, German, Spanish, some of the major paleo and for me, the big Advent was the ability to use machine translation in line with translation memory. So your CAD tools, got your translation, memory, all your different stuff. And then here's a, you know, a penalized segment match that comes from machine translation, you can accept it or reject it. So making machine translation work in the way that translators are used to working rather than post editing gobbledygook. I know a lot of translators, that really, they won't tell they won't scream from the mountaintops that I love and use machine translation. But they've gone from, you know, a couple 1000 words to 4000 words a day. And so this downward pressure that everyone's experiencing on rate, one of the ways to increase your earnings is increase your volume and machine translation is a way to do that. And so it's it feels like machine translation and machine translation agents have been the providence of large entities, huge amounts of data and corpus, you know, the French, Italian, German, Spanish pears. And it really didn't do well in the sort of smaller or the languages of limited diffusion. And so neural machine translation, there are some profit companies that are building specified engines for domains and language specialties that are pretty good and they get improved with more and more content and throughput. So we've got now two sessions on how an individual freelance translator can do that on their own. So if you're sort of a skilled translator, but you're not working in French, Italian, German, Spanish or Japanese English patents, so there's certain domains where empty does great if you're in a domain where empty is not great, but you've got some data. You've got a lot of alignment texts. You've got a corpus of decades in your pair. Take a look at these two sessions. I think you'll find it beyond fascinating. Brilliance. I'm excited. Yeah,

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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