It's a pleasure to chat with you today, Robert! I know the CTO position can cover a lot. Can you describe your duties at Tembua?
My position is really CIO/CTO. My responsibilities (along with my team) in a nutshell:
- Maintain the Tembua network, to include servers, PCs, software, cloud, access.
- Have agreements in place for outside specialists to augment internal personnel.
- Study and implement hardware and software solutions for language services.
- Ensure that everyone involved has compatible language tools and the knowledge to use them.
- Develop and maintain applications in support of Tembua's services.
- Keep up with the industry advances. That's been the hardest task.
- Bear responsibility for our interpreting equipment and the technicians who set up and operate it. Tembua can support anything from one-on-one interpreting to meetings to full conferences in large auditoriums.
Tell me about your previous experience. How did you come to take this position?
I've been developing, implementing, testing, and supporting software since late 1976. Initially it was financial and inventory software in COBOL (blast from the past, although still widely used), followed by software to drive a robotic storage system (in 1978!).
Since then I've developed control software for medical devices, hot glue guns, robots, diagnostic tools, dispensers, and a few other devices. I've also written and tested quite a lot of communications software, including about half the code for a major European bank's network.
I began with Tembua as an occasional consultant, helping with backup strategy and a little bit of network connectivity work. Eventually the CEO asked me to take over the network administration.
The position grew to half-time and I cut back my other job to half-time as well. Finally I left the other job, intending to continue 20-25 hours/week at Tembua. That lasted until we had a large gap to fill and I've been full-time with Tembua ever since.
You mentioned development of specialized applications for customer interfaces. Can you give us an example?
Tembua has several clients who send us specialized files that require special handling. One in particular is a known file type but per agreement has certain types of information that are to be transferred unchanged to the target language. That can't be filtered by the CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools. I wrote an app that selects those types of data and places them into the target language.
Another app reads previously translated files and splits and indexes them for easy translation into other languages and one-step integration of the new language.
How about the applications for internal use? How do they fit in?
RM: Each project, regardless of type, requires numerous operations such as entering the project into our system, generating work orders for the linguists, closing the project, etc. Approximately 1/3 of the projects also require a quote. I've implemented apps for all of these operations in addition to various project management and financial helps.
What are some of the specific challenges you face?
I already mentioned the biggest one: keeping up with the rapid advances in the industry. 10% of my week is designated as study time but it's never enough.
Tembua is also migrating operations into the public cloud and that naturally presents obstacles. In this case the task was to select the best third-party monitoring company to free up our own resources for development.
At present we also have a major software project under development. It will replace our aging management system and integrate better with our website, cloud applications, and hosted applications.
How do you see the technology in your industry developing in the next decade?
The linguistic services industry is exploding and very dynamic right now. Translation is becoming more automated and less dependent upon the lower level, less-experienced human translators.
I think that to maintain viability, an LSP (linguistic services provider) must provide a broad range of services, to include custom machine translation all the way through the traditional translation/revising plus subject matter expert review, desktop publishing, and integration into the original format.
Similar to music, movies and TV, society will expect a free option and we'll be ready to deliver that, too, as part of our service line.
Computer-aided interpreting is also growing. In the next 10 years this will improve and video interpreting will perhaps take over for a large percentage of the events that currently need on-site interpreters.
I would expect a system to eventually simultaneously interpret for a meeting (for example), create immediate transcripts in all languages used, project the transcripts if requested, and create a web page with the full transcripts, along with associated video and other content. The meeting could have attendees on several continents. Tembua is working to integrate these services.
Thank you for this interesting discussion! We'll be looking for your innovations!