In the Spotlight: Elena Dunne

Meet Elena Dunne, a former NEO STC member who volunteered on the academic program committee. In her current role at Rockwell Automation, she leads a terminology management initiative. She explains her position, “I am currently working to expand the scope of terminology beyond translation, since terminology doesn’t merely facilitate the work of translators, but has an impact on the work of people across our global company and, ultimately, on our customers around the world.”

Elena’s journey started with a Bachelor’s degree that “was more of a classic, general university education, rather than a narrowly specialized degree.” The degree provided her with transferable skills that helped her earn her second Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She shares, “although I did not pursue a career in Psychology, the discipline still fascinates me and I use the knowledge I gained from my education in Psychology as much as my language background. While language is about communicating with others, some language and terminology discussions can get highly personal.”

Elena continued her journey by pursuing a Master’s degree in Translation in a world-class program at Kent State. Elena explained the program as, “heavily rooted in practice, and while everything we did had a solid theoretical underpinning, it focused on “how to do things” rather than talk about them. It gave me practical skills and the knowledge of tools and processes that translation and localization companies used at that time. I was able to hit the ground running on my first day at work.”

She continued her education with a Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) which led her to pursue a Ph.D. in Translation to explore risk management at Kent State. She shares, “In my dissertation, I explored risk management through the prism of language project management and developed a typology of risks for language projects. I’ve since been contacted by several translation students outside of the U.S., who have expressed their interest in the model that I developed, and a couple have started to build on it.”

Her Master’s in Translation allowed her to start working as a Localization Specialist which led her into project management. She explains, “This work allowed me to bring together my skills and interests from the two disciplines, translation/localization and project management, and to learn more about both.”

Elena has volunteered for PMI for 10 years as a contributor to standards development which allowed her to be part of the team that created the PMI Lexicon of Project Management Terms. She reflects on the project, “I am fortunate to be using my knowledge and skills to have an impact on such a critical discipline in our modern world, and grateful to PMI for such a tremendous learning opportunity.”

I asked Elena what career advice she would have given her younger self to which she shared, “You don’t have to have an answer to the questions “what are you going to be when you grow up” when you start college or even after you graduate from college. As long as you follow your interests (while balancing them with real-world constraints), and as long as you keep an open mind, you will see and can take advantage of opportunities that you might not have even imagined before. I think this is more relevant now than ever before.” Great advice, Elena!

She shares her opinion on maintaining a work/life balance, “It’s a process, not a problem that can be solved once and for all. Work is a huge part of our lives but even if we are lucky to be doing meaningful work, it is only one part of our life. For me, it’s about having the “north star” and setting priorities, and having to say “no” to some things and to some people, if what is asked of me does not help me keep on track. These decisions to say “no” are difficult at times, but it’s part of being an adult.”

In her downtime, she “devours” any books and articles that cover cognitive, developmental, and social psychology. She continues, “I love to travel. Most of the time when traveling I am a planner (having a real or virtual folder with itineraries, researched places to visit or eat, etc.). But I also like to have time to get lost in a new place and in the moment, leaving unstructured time for chance meetings, discoveries, and serendipity. What can be more exciting? And, being a project manager at heart, I do a “lessons learned” after the trip – in a form of notes, journal entries, or a photo book.”

Wow, thanks for sharing Elena!

By Elena Dunne and Sara Buchanan