Study Day: Looking at the Big Picture

From the President-Elect

Corinne McKay
Twitter handle: @corinnemckay

In addition to serving as the conference organizer, ATA’s president-elect traditionally organizes the Board’s annual Study Day. Each year, we add an additional day to our January Board meeting to step back from nuts-and-bolts topics and look at bigger-picture issues affecting ATA and the language industry as a whole. We then use those discussions to guide ATA’s priorities throughout the coming year.

As a Board, our role is to guide ATA’s strategy. That’s an important distinction, because the Board doesn’t handle implementation of that strategy: we create it, and our Headquarters staff, supervised by our Executive Director Walter (Mooch) Bacak, then implements it.

Ahead of our 2017 Study Day, all Board members completed an online survey to get a general overview of the Board’s assessment of the Association and the industry. We looked at questions such as:

  • What are ATA’s most and least successful programs, services, or roles?
  • What makes those programs, services, or roles so successful, or less successful?
  • In 2016, what was ATA’s biggest accomplishment? What was our biggest missed opportunity or failure? How can we build on that accomplishment or prevent that missed opportunity in the future?
  • What should ATA’s top priority for 2017 be, and why?

During Study Day, we broke into small groups and talked about some of the pressing issues facing ATA. Specifically, we talked about the roles and responsibilities of various components of ATA’s membership: corporate members, life/longtime members, and international members. We discussed what these constituencies contribute to ATA, what benefits ATA can offer them, and what benefit they bring to ATA. We also looked at voting rights within ATA: should they be tied to certification? Years of membership? Open to all members?

Finally, we looked at two issues that affect the language industry as a whole: what is the role of machine translation in our industry, and how will it affect ATA’s members in the coming years? And, what is, or should be, ATA’s advocacy role within the language industry. How much time, money, and energy should ATA allocate to advocacy efforts? How can we sustainably engage our members on this? Should we collaborate with other groups in doing this?

Following these roundtable discussions, we did a strategic planning exercise called “Start, Stop, Continue.” Each Board member made a list of programs, services, or roles that ATA should start to work on. Then, because we can’t just keep adding things to our plate—we have to take some away to make room for the new—everyone made a corresponding list of programs, services, or roles that ATA should stop working on. Finally, we made a “keep doing what we’re doing” list, of programs, services, and roles that ATA should continue working on. To conclude the exercise, every Board member wrote their top pick for each category (stop, start, continue) on a flip chart, and we all “up-voted” our favorite items. This exercise generated a list of the most pressing items that participants suggested we should stop, start, or continue doing.

To round out the day, Treasurer Ted Wozniak gave a very helpful presentation on reading our financial statements and related documents that are included in every Board meeting book. We then closed by looking at the full spreadsheet of feedback from our members that we received in 2016. You’ve probably been asked—on our ataTalk forum or through a division or chapter listserv—for your feedback ahead of a Board meeting. Not only do we set aside time during each meeting to post this feedback for all Board members to see, but we look at the bigger picture and trends in feedback during Study Day.

I left Study Day feeling energized and excited about the possibilities that lie ahead, for ATA and for the language industry in general. As a Board, we are 13 people from different backgrounds, with different perspectives and priorities. We are translators, interpreters, language company owners, and translation educators. Some of us are freelancers and some of us work for employers in the courts and in academia. During Study Day, we bring this diversity of perspectives to the table to do the best possible job for you. Thank you for placing your trust in us. We are listening.

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