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The ATC’s Member of the Month in April 2022 is Comtec Translations, a Midlands language service company that keeps its family business heritage at the heart of its values and culture.

James Brown, Head of Commercial at Comtec, met with the ATC to chat about what makes Comtec’s PM team so special, his own journey from intern to team lead, and how the pandemic inspired Comtec and its clients to adopt a more experimental approach to working with language tech.

“Comtec was founded in 1981 by Dr Isabella Moore, and her daughter Sophie Howe has run the business for the last 15 or so years. It’s very much a family business,” says James.

Did this family vibe help Comtec win Project Management Team of the Year at the ATC Language Industry Awards 2021?

“Absolutely. We’re a very close-knit team, and alongside our translators, our PMs are the core of our business. A lot of our success stems from the tenacity of the whole PM team. That’s especially been true over the last two years. The team’s commitment to succeeding, adaptability to working from home, and the extra effort they’ve put in – not because they were asked to, but because they wanted to – all speak to why we wanted to nominate them as the PM team of the year.”

It seems that James is right to have such faith in his team. “They’re so driven and energetic, and I’m delighted that they’ve been recognised for their can-do attitude and hard work,” he adds.

Comtec has seen its project management team grow in recent years. “Including our Head of Operations, we’ve got a team of 10-11 project managers. In fact, six new PMs have started with us in the past 12 months!” says James.

Has it been difficult for Comtec to recruit the right kinds of people into these roles since the pandemic? “I don’t think it’s been that hard. The majority of our recruits have been linguists, many of whom are new graduates, with either bachelor’s or master’s degrees in translation, and they’ve all been brilliant. We didn’t really recruit during 2020, but since 2021, there has definitely been a smooth on-going recruitment process. While the pool of candidates hasn’t been quite as big as usual, the quality has been great,” he explains.

Has Comtec needed to look abroad for recruits in recent years, with the number of language graduates declining in the UK? “We’ve had our own internship programme for a while, and training interns and giving back to the industry is really important to us. I actually started out as an intern ten years ago, and that says a lot about our company culture.”

James joined Comtec in 2012, after studying French and German at Warwick University, and he has worked in many areas of the business, including operations, partnerships, and business development.

While the pandemic hasn’t notably affected Comtec’s recruitment processes, James has observed changes in the company’s own practices and those of its clients. “There has been an increase in communications, both with customers and internally. And the pandemic has accelerated requests for video content, such as voiceover and subtitling. Transcreation and MT, too. We’ve invested a lot into MT in recent years and our service production is now very tight. It’s been really fun to explore new options and solutions with our clients, as they have very much been experimenting with new approaches for their clients as well.”

James Brown of Comtec Translations was in conversation with ATC CEO, Raisa McNab.

Written by Michael Dutton

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