Before the program starts this fall, and while you have some bandwidth over the summer, there are some things you can do now that will make your life as a grad student much easier and more pleasant. The TLM program requires you to be fairly proficient with technology, and be able to work well in teams, so keep reading so you can hit the ground running this fall. If you’re landing on this page directly, refer also to the TLM Getting Started page for more ways you can start getting involved in the localization industry…
1. Consider investing in a new computer
When’s the last time you updated your computer? We’ve seen a number of TLM students with older machines who become frustrated with a slow computer, and even fall behind in classroom exercises because they’re waiting on their computers. TLM students will be running advanced software applications such as Adobe’s Creative Suite, Microsoft development tools and localization tools. Windows (and a copy of MS Office) is required for TLM students, as most translation tools are designed to run only on Windows. In some cases, software may be available for both Windows and Mac, and TLM faculty will be demonstrating software on both Mac and Windows. TLM Windows-using faculty will tell you that you should just get a Windows computer. Mac-using faculty will tell you it’s not that difficult to get Windows working, see “How to Install VirtualBox and Windows on your Mac”). If you have a new Mac with an M1 processor, don’t worry, you can now install an ARM version of Windows on your M1 Mac using Parallels!
If you’re getting a new computer, try to get as much memory and hard drive space as you can afford (at least 8GB of RAM and 500GB for the hard drive). Make sure your hard drive is an SSD, preferably using NVME technology (all modern Mac laptops have NVME drives), not a magnetic drive, as these will really slow you down. If you’re considering getting a new computer, do it now. Don’t wait until right before the start of classes—you want to be familiar with how your new computer operates and have time to transfer your data over. You’re investing a lot of money into your TLM degree, so don’t skimp on your computer, consider it an investment—a fast computer really will let you work more efficiently.
2. Brush up on your computer skills
You’ll have enough to worry about as a new student, and using your computer should not be one of them. TLM students will be asked to do basic and advanced procedures, and often faculty assume everyone has the basics. A trivial procedure would be to download assets from a website, save them to a location in the file system, unzup them, modify the files in some way, compress them back up and upload them. Do you have a file management system in place, asked in another way, is your hard drive file system organized in any way? It’s not acceptable to save files to your Desktop or Downloads folder, similar to a physical file cabinet, you need to have a place for all your digital assets, and when you save something to your computer, you need to be able to find it later. Do you know how to unzip assets, then how to compress them back up? Do you know how to install (and uninstall) a program? Do you use any keyboard shortcuts to make your computer tasks more efficient? If you feel like your computer skills could use a refresher, check out “Where can I brush up on my computer skills?” Most importantly though, you need to be open to learning new computer skills, as you will be learning a lot of new computer applications!
3. Get a backup solution
If your computer hard drive crashed or your computer was stolen, how much data are you willing to lose? If you back up your computer once a month, this means you could lose up to a month’s work! This could cause to fail a class! Granted, TLM faculty are sympathetic, but if your hard drive crashes and you don’t have a backup, you’ll be reminded about this article! If you perform a backup once a week, you’d lose only a week’s worth of data, but during your time at the Institute, can you afford to lose more than a day or even more than an hour? This is why you need to have a solid backup solution in place. If you’re a Mac user, you should be using Time Machine (just plug in a hard drive and your Mac will walk you through it). Windows users can use the built-in tools to automatically backup a computer. Another option is to store all your user data in Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive, but this does include your operating system or installed applications, so recovery can take longer since you would need to track down all the software you use. In any case, make sure your important digital assets are backed up on a regular basis.
4. Install a password manager
While the Institute uses a single-sign on (SSO) for email and most web applications, you’ll have a number of other account usernames and passwords to keep track of. We don’t want you to waste time looking up passwords, trying to remember them, or worst of all, having to rely on recovering passwords. In addition, apparently we’re all pretty bad at creating secure passwords, and when you use a password manager, you can let the software generate really complicated passwords that are practically impossible to crack. Plenty of articles have been written about the best password managers (Wirecutter, PCMag, Lifehacker), but the essential take-away is that you need to pick one and start using it to manage your passwords.
5. Develop your personal brand
It’s not too early to start thinking about your personal brand. If you don’t have a good headshot photo, make that a priority. Institute best practices for headshot photos are that you should wear business casual clothing, ideally have a soft-focus natural background and be taken of the torso up. The iOS and Android camera apps now have the ability to do awesome soft-focus backgrounds, take advantage of this! Create or update your LinkedIn profile, do some research to see how to create an awesome LinkedIn profile. Consider reading “How to Make Your LinkedIn Page Less Boring.” Put a little thought into what you want to be called, for example, read “Could a Nickname Get You Ahead?,” and know that Americans (and unfortunately some TLM faculty) are generally bad with CJK names, so a nickname could smooth introductions. When it comes to your letterhead, business card, resume and personal website, choose a color scheme and fonts that are consistent across all of these platforms. You’ll have plenty of time to work with CACS on perfecting your professional assets, but it will help if you’ve thought a little about your personal brand already.
6. Work on your interpersonal skills
The TLM program is technically an academic graduate program, but really it’s the start of your professional career. Be professional with everyone before you lower your guard as you become friends with someone. Take stock of your interpersonal skills, which may help you to connect with your classmates and professors. The following is adapted from Skills You Need, a website that covers a bunch of other interesting topics such as leadership and presentation skills. We need to think about how we communicate: verbal (clarity of speech, remaining calm and focused, and following basic rules of etiquette), non-verbal (facial expressions, the tone and pitch of our voice, gestures, and even the physical distance between speakers) and listening skills (receive and interpret messages, not the same as hearing).
We need to consider how our emotional intelligence affects interactions; are we aware of our emotions, do we have self control, what about empathy and good conflict management skills? We need to be able to function well in teams, and the communication skills mentioned earlier will help when combined with a little knowledge about group dynamics and personality types. We need to be ready to negotiate, pursuade and influence but always be ready to compromise. Conflict is a natural part of working in teams and can lead to amazing solutions, but when conflict becomes negative, we need conflict resolution skills. And finally, problem solving and decision-making skills will let you make decisions about the best course of action. If you really want to make a good impression on your classmates and professors, you should seriously consider watching the course “Being an Effective Team Member” on LinkedIn. You can access LinkedIn Learning using your MIIS network ID, otherwise you could consider using the free trial.
7. Start thinking about the words you use
You’re going to meet a lot of different kinds of people at the Institute. These people won’t all have the same life experiences and background as you, and that’s a good thing. First, we conciously avoid using non-inclusive language and aren’t afraid to talk about how we use language. Check out the “Inclusive Language Guide” from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Don’t be surprised if someone requests you use preferred gender pronouns. See “What Are Pronouns” if you have no idea what gender pronouns are. Beyond pronouns, the Institute is supportive our LGBT peers, and if you identify as straight (and/or cis) read PFLAG’s guide “Straight for Equality: guide to being a straight ally” to learn how you to make all feel welcome. And finally, if you want to go down a rabbit hole, check out “The essential guide to conscious language,” a searchable database that will give examples of how you can be ultra inclusive. TLM students are unabashedly “language nerds,” so we, of all people, know how powerful words are.
8. Improve your public speaking skills
TLM students need to be strong public speakers, which includes formal prepared presentations and also impromtu presentations such as when you‘re in a meeting and your boss asks you for a project update. You don’t know when you’re going to be in a situation in which you’re asked to present. Lynda has a great “Public Speaking Foundations” course that will help you “prepare and deliver an outstanding speech or presentation.” Check out the course “Body Language for Women,” which will make you aware of ways that culturally-bound perceptions on gender can be overcome. And of course, if you really want to build your presentation skills, consider joining a local Toastmasters chapter (MIIS has a chapter). You could also watch a 10-minute TED Talk that will teach you everything you need to know about presenting, “How to speak so that people want to listen” from Julian Treasure. We also have an entire course in public speaking taught by the amazing (and hilarious) Michael Jacobs.
9. Work on time management
Grad school is intense, and many students elect to work while going to school, either on campus or interning at local agencies. This means students have three things to juggle: school, work and personal life. To be healthy and happy, you need to make time for everything, and that means efficient time management is essential. Our school uses Office 365, which includes email, calendar, tasks, file storage and just about any function you may need to stay organized. Using your network ID, you can visit Office 365 and start using your calendar and task list. Put your recurring events on the calendar, once you have your class schedule, put your classes on your calendar to make it easier for your professors and classmates to schedule meetings with you. Find out a way to get some exercise, there’s an awesome recreation trail along the coast. Put your exercise time on your calendar, but consider marking this time as “Free” in case someone wants to schedule something at that time (the default is “Busy,” meaning you’re not available). If you have a deadline or think of something you need to take care of by a certain date, add it to your task list! It you’d like to learn more about time management, consider watching Time Management Fundamentals or Managing Your Calendar for Peak Productivity on Lynda.
10. Enroll in Google’s “Localization Essentials” online course
If everyone participates in Google’s “Localization Essentials” course, we can cut to the chase and use our time more wisely. The course covers a brief history of localization, explains the need for localization and why it’s important, introduces challenges with different content types, introduces you to some Google localization professionals, and gives you a great overview of processes and tools. Christina Hayek, one of the hosts of the course has this to say about the localization industry: “The field of localization excites me because it’s one of the few industries that offers the opportunity to immerse in one’s own culture as well as other cultures beyond just language. Working with an international team of people coming from over 30 different countries is enriching to say the least. Also, thanks to localization, language professionals have the chance to enter many of the world’s largest software and web companies, and that in itself offers unparalleled learning and growth path.”