Getting to know us

Getting to know us – Peter Robbins

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Part of our “Getting to know us” blog series, which will focus on all the people that make AST great, is one of its longest-standing team members, Peter Robbins. After over ten years at AST, the Head of Translation Services shares some of his experiences and insights with us.


The interview

What’s your job title and what does that involve?

For some years now, I’ve had two, which I suppose is a reflection of the various hats I wear. As Senior Translator, I look after the training and development of more junior colleagues as well as fitting in my own translation and proofreading where I can. My other main hat, that of Translation Services Manager, covers things like our quality management system, quality assurance, pricing, resourcing and a bit more general strategy. These have recently been combined under the single title of Head of Translation Services.


What do you like best about working at AST in particular?

Probably the variety of work that we get in, and the fact that you get to work with a team of very intelligent people.


What’s your professional/academic background and how has it helped prepare you for your current job?

After I finished my German and French degree, I spent a bit more time teaching English abroad. I’d almost say that training to teach English was just as useful as learning foreign languages as far as being a translator is concerned as you need to develop a real understanding of your own language before you can translate into it.


Why did you decide to work in-house and not on a freelance basis?

Starting out as a freelancer with no in-house experience is very tough. And, once I’d got used to working in house, I saw no reason to change. I like the fact that you can see all the jobs that come in so can pick your favourites to an extent. It’s also nice to be surrounded by lots of other clever people you can bounce ideas off.


What do you think makes AST different from other (translation) companies?

I think our in-house translator team is unusually large, especially relative to our overall size. That means we can offer our clients a level of capacity, flexibility and expertise that other companies would struggle to provide, at least so readily.

Also, having our own large in-house translation team means everyone here has a deep understanding of the most important factors behind providing our clients with a consistently high-quality translation service. We’re not just computer operatives.


What’s your favourite type of text to translate? Why?

Any text that really requires you to get inside the head of the people involved. So interviews are great fun, as is journalism in general and business journalism in particular – I like any kind of text that lets you demonstrate that you know a bit about what’s going on in the outside world.


Would you ever like to work on a non-commercial translation project (literature, biography etc.)? If so, what?

I like the idea of literary translation and I feel literary translators are both highly skilled and extremely undervalued. But I think I’d get bored halfway through – I’ve got quite a short attention span!


What are your working languages? Are you learning/planning to learn any more?

French and German, plus a bit of Italian and Polish. We have plans to go to Portugal so it’d be nice to try and learn a bit of Portuguese beforehand.


What’s your fondest memory from working at AST?

Everyone was very generous when my daughter was born; that was nice.


And now for some more in-depth questions:

Do you find that you are influenced by the approaches of newer, less experienced translators who have joined AST over the past few years? If so, how?

Yes, absolutely. New people always bring new perspectives and different ways of saying the same thing as well as different life experiences. And the younger generation are more well-versed in the new technologies, something that’s increasingly cropping up in translation projects too.


What do you enjoy most about being a manager at AST and what changes have you effected/do you hope to bring about in the future?

I enjoy developing people, helping to set their targets and then being there to see them meet those targets. It’s quite flattering when you see people pass on to others some of the tips and tricks that you’ve given to them.

As Translation Services Manager, I feel like I’ve introduced quite a lot of innovations over the past few years that have helped to make our way of working that bit more efficient. Like in many walks of life, it’s all about the marginal gains I think.


You’re in charge of making sure AST complies with the latest quality management (QM) standards – why do you think QM standards are so important in the translation industry?

The advantage of the ISO 9001 standard is that it isn’t confined to the translation industry. So a new client coming to us “cold” will instantly see a seal of quality that they recognise – they will probably have the same certification themselves. And then there’s the translation-specific standard ISO 17100, which we gained certification for earlier in the year and which is rapidly gaining currency as “the” quality hallmark, even amongst industry outsiders. In both cases, investing time and money in a certified quality management setup shows that you’re serious about how you go about doing business and dealing with your clients.


You started working at AST over ten years ago and are one of its longest-standing staff members. How have the company and translation industry changed over that time?

First of all, size. We’re now a much bigger company in a much bigger industry. Clients have a wider choice and are becoming more knowledgeable and more discerning, meaning it’s vitally important to find your USP. Second of all, technology. Computer-aided translation was still a bit of a niche area ten years ago, whereas it’s completely unavoidable now, and rightly so.

Get in touch

If you have a translation project you’d like to discuss with one of our project managers contact us today

+44(0)115 970 5633