ON ETHICS AND THE GENERAL MEETING
A first time attendee reflects on our collective, the assimilation of knowledge, and the benefits thereof. BY NOEMI GONZALEZ
On December 10, 2011, I attended my first General Meeting of NCTA. I left the conference a few hours and several discussions later with two lingering thoughts: First, the General Meeting is the perfect forum for the NCTA to reiterate the reason for its existence, la razón de su existencia, le raison d’être. The other was that the activities the organization undertakes to optimize its knowledge base, how it gathers and disseminates information, form a perfect blend of the Borg (of Star Trek—The Next Generation fame) and TQM (Total Quality Management) philosophies.
Toward their goal to achieve perfection, both philosophies seek to eliminate mistakes using processes that evaluate information obtained from individual parts of the system. That knowledge then becomes available to “the collective.” I am neither an expert on Star Trek nor on TQM. I watched the first sporadically and only took a required class on the latter, but when a concept makes sense, it becomes part of how a person evaluates the world.
To approach how NCTA fulfills its role in our professional lives, let’s first identify that role in broad strokes. NCTA’s role, like that of any other professional organization, is to focus on two main directives: to foster an atmosphere through which its membership can thrive in its field and to protect the general public from intentional or inadvertent unprofessional practices. To achieve the first goal, an organization must continuously evaluate and assimilate information, as well as study and incorporate new relevant technologies. It then must find effective ways to share that knowledge with its members, thus optimizing the collective knowledge base. To achieve the second goal, the organization must foster an atmosphere that generates good practices. The General Meeting showcased how NCTA puts into practice its Code of Professional Ethics, making it truly a “living document,” and how it fosters knowledge sharing.
The meeting began with a very informative New Member orientation led by Kåre Lindahl—thanks Kåre! The opening of the General Meeting included a review of upcoming workshops and renewal reminders by our Director of Continuing Education, Sarah Llewellyn. Sarah read an excerpt from Even Silence Has an End by Ingrid Betancourt, a book Sarah worked on as second translator. Then NCTA volunteers Sharlee Bradley, Connie Archea, and Rita McGaughy were given recognition, and Tuomas Kostiainen, Yves Avérous, and Raffaella Buschiazzo were presented the Lifetime Membership Award. The guest speaker, David Lakritz of Language Automation, Inc., analyzed Quandaries and Dilemmas: Everyday Ethics for the Linguist at Work. During the discussion, I began to realize the value of NCTA to my professional development—and why I am glad I joined. The discussion of professional ethics in the open forum of a General Meeting gave rise to an exchange of ideas about the quandaries we face in our profession, elevating the NCTA/ATA’s Code of Professional Ethics from a mere document to a “living document.”
David Lakritz’s presentation opened the door to discourse that curiously morphed from a mere abstract discussion about ethics to a more pragmatic discussion about ethical behavior in the real world. Some of the areas more thoroughly discussed in the realm of applied ethics included client relationships, legal obligations, representation, professionalism and general principles. Within those topics, he covered a myriad of situations that we are likely to face and invited us to view those situations through an ethical lens.
As a neophyte freelancer, my initial motives for joining a professional organization like the NCTA were superficial: they were urgent but not necessarily transcendental. I hoped to answer a few questions, for instance, how do I find my target market? What is the best way to market my services? What about certification—do I need it, how do I get it, when do I get it? How much should I charge for my services? How do I get paid? What is ___ (fill in the gap for the translation software of your choice) and why does everyone ask if I use it? But if the organization is excelling at its mission, like NCTA is, it will transform and raise its members’ perspectives from seeing the organization as a mere source of business know-how to seeing it as a tool to achieve excellence.
During the General Meeting I learned other important things: NCTA brings together linguists who are proud and passionate about their work, who seek to pursue their profession in a decent and professional manner. These professionals are eager to share their expertise with others who have similar goals, thus doing their part in transforming individual knowledge into collective knowledge. This knowledge is used to optimize the individual experience of each linguist, avoiding duplication of work, minimize mistakes, and maximize individual and collective output. In other words, working pretty much like the Borg and many companies who have successfully implemented TQM practices to improve their performance. NG