Should I get certified?

A couple of weeks ago I was asked about certification by one of our Business Consultants… in fact she asked me if I was certified?  Thoughts of being carried away by men in white coats crossed my mind at the very mention of the word “certified”… but I digress!

When I joined SDL at the end of 2006 the first SDL Certification programme was just getting pulled together, and my team were responsible for the technical content, working closely with our enthusiastic marketing team.  We had pretty tight timescales to deliver it, with three levels – Getting Started, Intermediate and Advanced.  All based around two products – Translators Workbench 2007 and SDLX 2007.  I can remember now the amount of effort that it took to prepare this from all the teams involved (Jenny, Tracey, Denise, Argyro… all put in a tremendous effort to make it a reality), and then more work in ensuring all our trainers were certified and had been through our train the trainer courses so they could deliver the certification training to lots of enthusiastic translators and project managers.  Notwithstanding this we also wanted the material in other languages and this was a brilliant introduction for me into the world of a busy Language Service Provider as I was told in no uncertain terms on a number of occasions what a poor client we were!  It was indeed a good education in those early months at SDL.  I can also remember the long… long… long… telephone conversations with some of our enthusiastic customers who went through the certification and then didn’t agree with the answers!  I can see the men in white coats running through my garden towards me as I think about all of this… but I survived!

Certainly the logistics around pulling together a programme like this is substantial and since the days where I had some responsibility for this things have moved on a lot.  Every certification comes with study material allowing you to run through it in your own time in addition to the exams, and both the exams and the study material are available in English, French, German and Japanese.  In addition the trainers who deliver the courses have an extensive range of resources to be able to show users how to do all of these things, in addition to the presentation material itself.  It’s an impressive undertaking.

Today the SDL Certification and Training programmes covers quite a range of products and functions.  The full list of products offering certification would be these (and I’ll just mention the current ones):

  • Language Solutions
    • SDL Trados Studio 2014 New Features
    • SDL Trados Studio 2014 for Project Managers
      • Part 1: Managing Projects
      • Part 2: Streamlining Projects and Pre-production
    • SDL Trados Studio 2014 Getting Started
      • Part 1: Translating
      • Part 2: Working with the Supply Chain & Pre-production
    • SDL Trados Studio 2014 for Translators – Intermediate
    • SDL Trados Studio 2014 for Translators – Advanced
    • SDL MultiTerm 2014 for Translators and Project Managers
    • Post Editing Certification (released 17 June 2014… I had a preview of what’s to come!)
    • SDL TMS Translator
    • SDL TMS Reviewer
    • SDL TMS Project Manager
    • SDL TMS Super-Users
  • Content and Analytics Solutions
    • Developer Certification
    • Architecture Certification
    • Business Analyst Certification
    • System Administrator Certification

The full list of products SDL offers training for is even more extensive.  But I’m focusing on the certification where even this reduced list is quite significant, and after experiencing first hand how much work this was for just two courses my hat goes off to the teams administering this today.  But what I’m more interested in is how much value this is to you?  I could of course repeat the SDL website content and tell you how the certification is a recognised standard of excellence… and I think it is.  But it’s always more interesting to try and see it from the perspective of those taking the courses.  I can’t talk too much for the SDL Content and Analytics Solutions so I’ll just focus on feedback from the users I know; but if anyone reading this wants to share their own view on training and certification at SDL please feel free to add your comments below.

So what benefits will you see from going through the training and becoming certified?  I’ve written a few things here based on feedback I’ve had over the years from users who have been through it.

  1. Working through the courses and taking the certification helps you to get a rounded view of what the products can do;
  2. Once you’ve been through this you are less likely to have “how-to” questions because your confidence in using the products will have grown and you become more self sufficient;
  3. In the approximately seven years SDL certification has been available it has become a recognised, and often required, qualification to have on your CV for some employers;
  4. It provides confidence to a potential employer that you do have the basis for being able to get the most from a translation environment and can bring this with you to benefit them too;
  5. In addition to more conventional qualifications and experience it does provide an indication of how up to date your computing skills are and your willingness to learn;
  6. Demonstrates initiative on your part when certification might not be a formal requirement at all;

All in all I think it’s worthwhile and I would love to see more users going through the process.  Of course there will always be some people who don’t see the point and who will only see it as a money making venture by SDL.  Frankly I wish it was!  SDL do provide a lot of free stuff around getting help and learning how to use the products; the formal training and certification however is not free.  But then I don’t know of any certification worth having that’s given away for free, and it’s not expensive anyway.  You don’t need to take them all, and you can study at your leisure using all the free stuff if you’re good at self learning… and I think most translators are!

Once you’re done you also get a page where SDL host your accreditations as evidence of your diligence.  So you can share that link on your emails, on a business card or even on your website.

To come back to the question I was asked right at the start… was I certified?  Well, I only ever did the Studio 2009 certification and until this month had not been back and taken another test.  So I took the Studio, MultiTerm and Project Manager certifications after being asked the question.  Fortunately I passed (click on the image at the top)… could have been embarrassing if I failed after writing all these articles!  But then I noticed a new one, the Post-Editing certification.  I would not have been able to pass this one without reading something so I downloaded the training material and read through it this week.  This made me add another item to the list above:

7.  The enjoyment of learning something new and the personal satisfaction of passing.

I thought the documentation with the Post-editing Certification was really good, and it made me think about this in a more positive way than I might have seen it before.  I get quite tainted in my views sometimes because I spend a lot of time listening to people who don’t like machine translation and who don’t see the value for anyone… actually I spend time listening to people who feel this way about CAT tools too!  I can of course see the value of machine translation for an Enterprise, Language Service Providers, translators and end users of course, but when I’m getting my hands dirty I sometimes see things from the other side of the fence too much and I think about all the things some translators don’t like about it!  So if you’re thinking about taking on a post-editing assignment, or if you are employing post-editors I’d recommend this course because it does help you see it in a different light.  I think it does require different skills, and post-editing effectively means in many ways having to be more aware of language and the business need for the translation than you do when translating work without it, not to mention you need a positive attitude towards machine translation in the first place… but I digress.

What do you think?  Is it worthwhile getting certified with SDL products?  is it worthwhile getting certified in anything that relates to your chosen profession?

I think so!

2 thoughts on “Should I get certified?

  1. Hi Paul,

    I’d say that for translators who work for agencies, the benefit you list as point 4 (proof of competence using Studio) is the most important one.

    You can divide translators into three groups:
    1) those who don’t use a CAT tool,
    2) those who own one but have never taken it on board,
    3) those who use a CAT tool regularly.

    It’s easy for agencies to identify the first group, but sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the 2nd and 3rd groups. An agency needs to know whether a translator can be depended on to follow instructions (use a certain termbase, perform certain QA checks, etc.) and deliver what is required (TMX, docs with track changes, bilingual files, etc.).
    Certification is a good way of showing agencies that you belong to group 3, and don’t just have “Trados” listed in your CV as an empty promise.

    With regard to your point 5, I think potential clients look for proof of three things:
    1. Subject field competence
    2. Linguistic (translation) competence and experience
    3. Technological competence

    Studio certification certainly helps to prove the third point.

    Kind regards,

  2. I’ve been working with Trados/SDL products for over 10 years now, starting with Trados 5 and progressing over the years to Studio 2014, MultiTerm 2014 and GroupShare 2014.
    I feel that the training and certification can be beneficial and it is a nice qualification to have. But one complaint I have about the certification tests is that they tell you your overall score, but not which questions you got wrong and what the right answers were. You also can’t go back and look at the questions again after the test is completed to try to figure out what you answered wrong. Seeing what you got wrong and what the right answers were is an excellent learning opportunity that SDL has missed the mark on.
    I also find not knowing this basic information makes you less confident in what you have learned. You know you obviously were mistaken about something but you don’t know exactly what, and so you start second-guessing what you learned to try to figure out what you got wrong. That doesn’t exactly help you grow in your confidence with the products.

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