The seven-year itch…

by Julia Harwardt, translated by Colin Rae

The countdown has started: in just a few hours I will bring my career at Burton, Van Iersel & Whitney to a close and leave my desk here for the last time to go off and conquer new frontiers. And just so no one can accuse me of copping out, I’ve decided to write about the past seven years in this, my first – and final – blog post for BVIW.

Julia Harwardt

(Not) all beginnings hold their own magic

I have to admit that my start at BVIW wasn’t the culmination of a meticulously crafted career strategy. It was much more a case of chance turning into a stroke of luck. I had my state certification as a translator, but no money: I needed and wanted to work. Nothing came of my first round of applications, so in the end I grabbed the Yellow Pages and began to go through the entries for “translation companies in Munich”. Starting at A, I got as far as B and bingo! – Burton, Van Iersel & Whitney GmbH. I applied for the post of project manager, but again without success. That’s when I hit upon the idea of applying again and getting my foot in the door as an intern. BVIW hadn’t had an intern before, but quickly embraced the idea and invited me for an interview. A few days later I showed up at the small office in the centre of Munich – blatantly overdressed and rather nervous – and had a relatively short conversation with Anton Van Iersel, the managing director, and Ronald Erlandsson-Klein, the project manager. I left the office brimming with confidence and sure enough, the following day I was offered a six-month internship. Just a week later I began a journey that would last the best part of seven years. It’s had its share of lows, but these have been far outweighed by the highs.

From intern to team leader

I like telling this story because it shows how even a somewhat unplanned manoeuvre can lead to a long “relationship” with many twists and turns, peaks and troughs. I was merely curious, looking for work, money (fame, I had already realised while still a student, was a lost cause), experience and above all good people to work with. In this last respect, as I would discover later, I had hit the jackpot.

Before I was appointed to the position of Team Leader German, I did lots of different things at BVIW. In the beginning I was a guinea pig for TRARES, our in-house translation retrieval system. I folded paper airplanes for a marketing campaign, reorganised customer documentation, sorted out the archives and converted PDFs (sometimes hundreds of pages long) into editable Word documents for other translators. I can’t claim it was always fun, but of course that time is also when I learned the most important thing: how to translate. I started with a small text here and there, edited a lot of other people’s translations and picked up tips and tricks from my more experienced colleagues. My workload increased over time and eventually I was taken on as a translator, ready to produce texts of the required style and quality and in a reasonable timeframe. The groundwork had been done.

Further down the line, after a series of changes in personnel, I found myself the only full-time German translator employed at the company. Suddenly I was no longer filing papers – that fell to the next intern. And instead of converting interminable PDFs, I was now coordinating the allocation of jobs with our external translators and Ronald was revealing the mysteries of project management to me. The BVIW team continued to grow – we moved into a larger office, put together a professional website and even treated ourselves to a decent coffee machine. Over time, our little office had transformed into a large and very successful organisation, notable for its highly capable, but also colourful, creative and witty staff and its professional project management.

Seven year itch

Goodbyes: smiling through the tears …

At BVIW, I learned more than simply how to translate, edit, proofread and write good copy. I also learned the true meaning of customer focus, how to support and work with customers and external colleagues, and how to achieve results that everyone can be proud of. Even if things didn’t always work right off the bat, and making them work involved coordinating with a large number of players with different nationalities, backgrounds and temperaments, it was precisely this international and dynamic arena that I found most fulfilling.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my customers, who were always open, friendly and helpful. BVIW prizes its relationships with customers above all else, which in turn taught me a great deal about professionalism. The company applies the same level of professionalism within its own organisation, which means that each member of the team treats the others with a great deal of respect, courtesy and consideration. There’s plenty of laughter and messing around, but we also work hard and often very late – all for one and one for all.

I also want to say a big thank you to my wonderful colleagues; without them, my time at BVIW wouldn’t have been nearly as successful nor as much fun. Thank you to the management team – Anton, Ronald and Richard Peters – for always supporting me and helping me to improve myself; without you I would not be where I am today.

Before I dissolve into tears, let’s quickly turn to the future. I’m looking forward to leaving my comfort zone and applying everything I’ve learned at BVIW in the pursuit of new knowledge and experiences. I know that I couldn’t be better prepared.

So, my dear BVIW team, I will miss you – but I know that it won’t be long before we see each other again!

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