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Working lives

Ray Peat, 52, is a freelance engineering translator. A chartered civil engineer, he specialises in construction related translations from German into English.

Route to the job I graduated in 1970 with as a Bachelor of Technology from the University of Bradford and joined the planning, traffic and safety section at West Riding of Yorkshire Council. My first duties involved planning and monitoring the council's then huge highways capital plan. For the next 14 years, I benefited from the wide range of technical highway engineering related work for which the in house staff of public bodies was largely responsible in those days. After several large motorway schemes, I worked on the design and site supervision of the runway extension at Leeds Bradford Airport. I spent the next 17 years as a bridge engineer and roads design manager for Aberdeenshire Council, managing design work and addressing the challenges of a front line roads authority area office. I left there at the end of March this year to work full time as a freelance engineering translator. I work mainly for translation agencies or provide the specialist input for other translators, having become proficient in German over 25 years of study and by using it for holidays and business. About six years ago, when I had two children at college and needed the money, an opportunity came up and I started summarising German patents into English in my spare time.

Expectations What attracted me to civil engineering was the chance to be involved in creative problem solving. However, it is a profession dominated by technical experts who seem happier dealing with objects or concepts than with people. Translating is totally different from civil engineering, but looking back, I suppose I was always was a bit of a linguist.

Reality A recent political steer towards greater democratic accountability and more involvement of the public in services provided by local authorities has encouraged engineers in the public sector to be more customer oriented. My new career is even more people oriented though, and makes increasing use of computer developments such as computer aided translation (CAT), the internet and voice recognition technology. I enjoy the relatively short design and construction time of the typical translation project. No planning permissions, public inquiries or similar delays. I also like the challenge of finishing on time and to budget presented by what is often an unseen text. I have been surprised and pleased by the sense of teamwork and mutual encouragement that springs up between client and translator.

Advice Be an expert in whatever field you are currently working in. Take every opportunity to build up a wide range of transferable technical knowledge and experience but do not neglect softer non technical skills - they may be useful to you some day.

Ray Peat tel: (01975) 564 007 rdpeat@villfarm. demon. co. uk

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