Recently, we were lucky enough to get an insight into the busy world of our client, Noëlle Kooter at Howden. She trusts us to translate highly technical internal comms into words that hit home with a vast and varied audience.
Hi Noëlle, thanks for your time! Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in your career?
Of course. I came to work for Howden in around 2007 initially as a secretary. Originally, I actually worked in the travel industry (at the airline KLM in the really early days). My role back then as a secretary was more or less organising travel arrangements for various people in the company. After KLM I moved to a business travel company where I made travel arrangements for other companies. It was just over thirteen years ago now when I began my time at Howden… well, back then it was a company known as Thomassen who were acquired by Howden in 2011.
I see… so you now work in internal comms. What sort of responsibilities come with a role like that?
Well, my job description says Communications Manager which really refers to both internal and external comms – but in practice the focus is more on the internal side of things. Corporate comms are managed by our offices in Renfrew and marketing is done locally. I deal mostly with connecting people by rolling out messages that come from top management, as well as sharing stories. Until recently our business unit consisted of a total of four business locations in Europe; located in France, Czech Republic, Russia and the Netherlands. A big part of my job was to make sure all these places were in alignment in terms of having all the management information that they need. It’s very much about engaging and informing people with the comms that come from management and connecting everyone, so they all understand how they contribute to the big picture!
That sounds like a lot of people…
Yes, in total it’s around 300-400! That covers a vast range of people from engineers to corporate and factory workers who have been with us for 40+ years… It’s so diverse that I doubt whether we would ever be a ‘single language’ company.
So, being a highly specialised industry, is it safe to assume you have to use quite technical language?
Yes, specialist terminology plays a very big part in what I do in internal comms anyway. We’re talking to lots of technicians and engineers… for people who aren’t familiar with this terminology, it might seem to be a language all of its own! I’m used to it by now but in my early comms days it could be quite overwhelming.
The kind of comms I work on can be things like new contracts we’ve won or to tell colleagues about a new order; what compressor it is, what it’s application will be… so that of course involves a high degree of technical language. It can also include business results, like how we’re doing financially or other significant developments. Just recently we had a lot of comms go out about the new company values and mission.
Given your globally widespread audience, translation must be an important factor in your job?
Yes! Certain areas of the business need more support than others in terms of translating from English. In general, a lot of my colleagues tend to have a good understanding of English, but we still have many employees who do not. Still, it’s crucial to remember that it’s just as important for them to be informed and up to date with what’s going on in the company.
So how did McFelder come into the picture? Had you worked with other translation agencies in the past?
Basically, McFelder have been our preferred vendor, I think, ever since the start of my career at Howden. We haven’t really had much need for other translators. We have a dedicated Project Manager (Cristian Martín) and the service is fast so I’m very content with that.
What about the working process? What sort of challenges do you face there?
The process we take normally starts with me writing the text from scratch in English and I then have McFelder produce translations… which is really helpful in terms of freeing up my time so that I can focus on other things.
The difficulties we have usually lie with the local flavour of the translated language – the choice of words and so on. This can be difficult to get right but very important all the same. Again, it all comes back to time and how labour-intensive these translations can be to get just right and McFelder is helpful in this sense.
I use their online editor facility, too. It took some getting used to but it is useful because it allows McFelder to see what I’ve changed and be informed for future translations.
It is also important for me to link each message that I write to Howden’s specific corporate values – so it follows that these values should come through in the translated text too. A tricky task to get right.