METM19 keynote 

Translation and writing in a corporate environment: making it count in the C-suite

David Jemielity

For the last 15 years David Jemielity has led the in-house translation team at Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (BCV), a large bank in the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland. Against an increasingly “gig-economy” backdrop where businesses with internal translation units have tended to downsize or shutter them, BCV’s translators emerged from a 2012 corporate “re-org” intact, and better positioned on the bank’s organization chart than they were before. Most notably, the head of translations became an ex officio member of the bank’s comité éditorial, a small group that develops and steers BCV’s overall brand-level communications policy across all languages. 

That decision by BCV’s management was a tacit acknowledgement that translators can add real value to a company’s (source-text) communications. It was also a pay-off on a decade of effort by the BCV translation unit to manage the perception of their role within the bank. More recently, in 2016 and again last year, BCV’s translators succeeded in expanding their team’s size, even as the bank pared back its overall headcount. 

Dave will tell METM19 about some of the secrets behind his team’s success in a “nuts and bolts” talk that will tackle questions like these:
  • How do you get a large company to change “translator-unfriendly” business processes (such as source-language text-owners who change wording they don’t like in the translations of their content and then send it off without circling back to ensure they haven’t introduced glaring grammar mistakes)? 
  • How do you get a C-suite executive to take a meeting with a translator? How do you convince her it’s worth her time to engage in some give-and-take on the wording of a tricky, “image-critical” bit of corporate multilingual content? 
  • How do you make that meeting count? How do you prepare for meetings like that, and how can you use them to help manage the perception of translation within the firm? 
  • How do you make the case for expanding your in-house team, given that translation is generally a “cost centre” and not a “profit centre”? 
  • How do you argue for allocating a modicum of a bank’s (admittedly considerable) resources to financial translation research?
  • Why is it crucial to “blur the lines” between translating corporate content and creating it… and what are the pre-requisites to doing that right?
  • How do you get a (non-LSP) firm to agree to regularly take on translation interns and pay them decently? And why is it worth the effort? 
The BCV translation unit has checked each of those boxes over the last decade. Good luck certainly played a role, but Dave hopes the METM19 audience will nonetheless see some actionable takeaways in the process/product model he and his colleagues have developed to answer those “not-as-vexed-as-you-might-think” questions. 
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About the presenter 

David Jemielity is Senior English Translator, Head of Translations and Vice President at Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (BCV) in Lausanne, Switzerland. Since 2015 he has also been creative/editorial lead and overall project lead for the bank’s French-language brand identity campaign. Details on Dave’s role in creating that award-winning multi-year campaign and how it ties in with the BCV team’s approach to translating may be found here (in French).

When he’s not at the bank Dave can often be found in a classroom at FTI-University of Geneva, where he is a tenured lecturer in French>English financial translation, transcreation and multilingual communications business processes. His most recent publication is a long overview of translation in business and economic contexts that appears in the Routledge Handbook of Translation and Culture (2018). 

Dave grew up in South Bend, Indiana and studied English and philosophy at Amherst and Oxford as well as (more recently) brand communications at Northwestern Kellogg.