There are no limits to quality: a conversation with our QM experts

In this profession, you have to have an eye for perfection and be interested in learning new things. And that sums up exactly why this line of work is precisely right for Valentina Bieri and Theresa Mansfield. As ICT Support & ISO Officer and Quality Management Specialist respectively, the two ladies at Apostroph Switzerland and Germany make sure that the quality is always right. How they do that? That’s exactly what they’re going to tell you about today.

Valentina Bieri, ICT Support & ISO Officer, Apostroph Switzerland

How did you end up working in the world of languages at Apostroph?

Valentina: Learning about other cultures is something I find really fascinating. That’s why I loved Apostroph and my position from the word go. And I had already majored in Business English during my training and had lived in London for six months. I started my career working in accounts. After holding various positions at other companies, I joined the team at Apostroph. Here, I started out in project management and then moved over to quality management. For me, there’s nothing better than learning new things. And quality management doesn’t just offer lots of variety – it also gives me the chance to get an insight into what goes on in all the other departments. Working together with different people, exchanging stories and sharing experiences with them is simply fantastic.

Theresa: As a graduate specialist translator, I have been associated with the company since I was a student. During my studies, I did an internship at what was then Wieners+Wieners GmbH (now Apostroph Germany) and I returned to the company as soon as I qualified.

Originally, I was responsible for proofreading translations and also for project managing translation jobs, with quality naturally playing a major role in that too. I got into quality management because I had to cover for someone who was off sick. It was something I really enjoyed and when the job became vacant, I stayed.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I like sharing my knowledge with others. In my opinion, these are both useful characteristics to have in quality management.

How has quality management changed over recent years?

Valentina: Quality management has definitely gained in importance. I don’t know what it was like 20 years ago – I’m only 25 myself (laughs) – but what we and also auditors are seeing is a constantly growing interest in ISO certification. That probably also has something to do with the fact that it provides customers with a point of reference in this fast-paced world. Information security has also become a very important topic – naturally because of digitalisation.

Theresa: Yes, digitalisation is a big topic. If I think back to the days when I used to have to print out the quality management manual and the company manual for each employee, give them their own version number, document when I handed them out and collected them back in again, I have to say that it’s much easier nowadays to publish the manual on the Intranet in real time and inform all employees about the changes at the same time.

 

Theresa Mansfield, Quality Management Specialist, Apostroph Germany

What measures are used to ensure the linguistic quality of our services or perhaps even improve them?

Theresa: That’s something I could talk about for ages (laughs) … but I will restrict myself to a few examples! We work with databases and glossaries in which we store our translations. This is how we can ensure that similar texts and terms are always translated the same way. That’s really important for quite a lot of our customers. After all, they always want to use the same wording when speaking to their customers.

Style guides – whether our own or those we get from our customers – and specific knowledge data sheets also help when it comes to making sure the relevant requirements are always fulfilled. Along with the job-specific briefing, style guides serve as indispensable resources for those working on the text.

All our customers’ jobs are taken care of in compliance with the translation standard ISO 17100. That means we carry out all translations in accordance with the four-eye principle. If customers so desire, we offer comparative proofreading to check that the text is correct both in terms of language and content as well as to ensure the customers’ specific requirements have been met.

To what extent do technological innovations, such as machine learning and AI, play a role?

Valentina: Innovations like the ones you’ve just mentioned play a really big role. Because people want shorter and shorter turnaround times and, naturally, without having to sacrifice the quality. And that means that, out of necessity, it’s virtually impossible to do without AI. I personally believe that you can offer the best possible quality when you have a combination of a human being and AI. And that is precisely what we stand for at Apostroph.

Could you name a few examples of successful quality improvement projects or initiatives that have led directly to customer satisfaction?

Valentina: There are lots of examples – from the ongoing revision of the complaints procedure to the internal suggestion scheme. After all, quality management also includes processes that are not directly linked to our customers. The most important thing is to detect possible weaknesses quickly and then act accordingly. That is something we are always working on.

Theresa: For some time now, particularly for translations of medical technology texts, we’ve been using a quality assurance tool that allows us to make customer-specific checklists alongside our standard tools and the knowledge and experience of our employees. We use these checklists before delivering a translation to make sure that all the customers’ requirements have been taken into consideration during the translation process.

How do you react to feedback from customers and what measures do you take to respond to individual requirements?

Theresa: Oh, two completely different topics in one question! But there is actually one answer that fits both topics. As the texts we deliver are all different and the requirements are always very specific to the particular customer, there is no “one size fits all” solution. You have to decide from one job to the next.

Positive feedback is a great source of encouragement because it shows us that we are on the right track with our services. We see negative feedback as an opportunity to further improve our process and, in turn, our services. That’s why we analyse negative feedback carefully and draw out learnings which may well lead to us adapting the way we work.

Usually, we’re told of any special requirements before the project starts so that they can be passed on to the person working on the translation by the project manager. There are different ways of going about it – from a simple work instruction to applying default settings in the translation software.

What role do training and further education play in ensuring high quality standards? How are these training sessions conducted?

Valentina: Training and further education are the be-all and end-all in quality management. We hold training sessions at regular intervals – sometimes online, sometimes in person. It depends on the subject in each case. What’s important to me is that quality is also fun. The excellent documentation we have on all our internal processes and procedures is a big help. It’s not just new employees who consult the documentation to find out more information or take another look at the training documents.

Theresa: Yes, both are important – training up new employees and informing existing employees about new topics, new software or processes that have been changed. Our processes can only run smoothly if every employee has a high level of knowledge. It’s only then that we can offer our customers top-quality services. We also learn about new topics in external training sessions offered by renowned training providers and industry-specific organisations.

What do you both like most about working at Apostroph?

Theresa: The professionalism of my colleagues and the strong sense of camaraderie in the team.

Valentina: Definitely, the exchange of ideas and information. It’s one way to make sure things never get boring and that we’re always learning something new. I always enjoy working with other teams even if it’s about a serious subject like quality.

What do you do when you finish work? What do you do in your spare time?

Valentina: Actually, I’m still involved with language after hours. I love reading fantasy books and can really switch off when I listen to true crime podcasts. And then I like watching series or films, particularly mystery thrillers where you have no chance of working out what exactly is going to happen until the very end.

Theresa: I have a daughter, so we play together, go for walks and ride our bikes. And I love reading! I read a lot and I also like baking and recently rediscovered crocheting. Soon, I’ll be running out of people to give my crocheted blankets to (laughs).

Valentina Bieri

ICT Support & ISO Officer, Apostroph Switzerland

When there are questions about quality at Apostroph Switzerland, Valentina Bieri is the person to talk to. As a commercial clerk with a Swiss certificate of proficiency and an advanced qualification in Business English, Valentina speaks German (CH/DE) and English. She’s passionate about the continuous development of our quality management but also likes pursuing murderers... In her spare time, Valentina likes listening to true crime podcasts.

Theresa Mansfield

Quality Management Specialist, Apostroph Germany

Theresa Mansfield loves using, and improving, her languages – Spanish, French, English, Italian, Portuguese and Swedish – in foreign countries. That’s why her favourite destination is South Africa – also because of her family. When she’s not devoting her attention to quality management for the company, she turns her hand to baking and from time to time she even treats the Bremen office to the finished products.

Do you have any questions or are you interested in working with us?

I would be happy to answer your questions or introduce you to Apostroph Group and our services in a personal meeting.
Nadia Gaille
Head of Customer Success

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