How Ben began, and later thrived as a Team Lead

by Mindrift Team

Apr 30, 2024


With almost 20 years of freelancing experience, Ben’s career has taken him from translating in the pharmaceutical industry to the team lead of a group of German-language automotive experts at Mindrift. In this interview, Ben tells us where he sees his role in generative AI heading and how he balances freelancing with his personal life. 

What’s your professional background and education?

I began my journey as a freelance translator after completing my professional training in 2006. Translations have always been my thing, even when I was still in school. I take pride in finding the perfect words within a different language's structure and conveying information to ensure retention for the reader in their native tongue.

At first, I was in technical translations for products launched onto, or imported into, the German market but translating one owner’s manual after another soon became quite dry. I decided to train in economics and study historical linguistics, deepening my understanding of languages as a living system. 

This led to a long period of translation marketing, market research, usability studies, UX research, and more. I shifted my focus when two clients began assigning me pharmaceutical studies, which then became my main area of expertise for almost 10 years.

Why have you decided to try this experience?

Even with the best translation tools available, roughly 40-50% post-editing is still required to craft a text anyone wants to read. However, from the perspective of the largest agencies, this turns translators from highly qualified professionals into replaceable post-editors.

We still need to read and understand the whole text to maintain its quality, but we now find ourselves as part of a mass workforce on platforms where we are paid for siloed edits. At times, the wages offered are simply unacceptable, especially when considering the level of knowledge and experience required. So, I decided to do the smart thing and join the winning team.

What do you like the most about this role?

The variety of tasks! You go from team management to quality checks to chats about how to improve the pipeline, then you see a unique submission from an expert writer and need to figure out what category it fits in, then you introduce new people to platforms, and so on. 

You never really know what your day is going to bring and you’re constantly on the move. At times it’s stressful but it’s never boring, and I honestly think I needed that breath of fresh air.

What was most unusual within your Mindrift journey compared to your professional experience?

The people. I have worked for a lot of clients over the years and I must say the culture at Mindrift is incredibly positive. I know this sounds like I work in HR, but it’s true! The need for quality work is paramount but if you make a mistake, you simply fix it and move on.

For someone who had to write pages of emails defending my work to clients, who didn’t even take the time to read my comments, Mindrift feels like the future. I suppose it’s also because this is an industry on the way up, while the air in my former industry is getting stale – at least from my perspective. 

How do you find the balance between freelancing and your life outside of Mindrift? 

I’ve been a freelancer for almost 20 years, so I’ve gotten into the rhythm of things by now. My tip is to keep things simple and separate. I have no work apps on my private phone; either I’m at my desk or I’m not. 

When I am working, I mute other devices and fully concentrate on one task at a time. When I get up from the desk, I fully concentrate on not concentrating. Being active is also super important – I find it to be the most effective tool to handle stress.

Are you active in Mindrift’s Discord community? If so, what do you usually use it for? 

Discord is effectively the backbone of communication with our writers and experts. You need to be fully present there and I enjoy that part. It’s a useful tool to quickly update large groups of people on the latest developments. 

I also use Discord to get advice from my colleagues, and other experts, when my knowledge about my domain reaches its limit. It allows you to get to know everyone a little bit better, which makes it possible to send specific tasks to the most qualified people. 

How do you feel about the role you are playing in the development of Generative AI?

Most comments on AI are usually a complete overstatement of the current capabilities or a total dismissal of what has already been achieved. In my opinion, it’s a very good time to enter this industry and see what it will turn into. 

I am still learning about AI Tutoring but as soon as you have grasped the basic concept it allows you to see a text from the machine’s perspective, and how it will try to implement the basic logic into handling large amounts of data. 

As with many digital technologies, I would wager that none of us know what further applications and landmark developments will happen in the future but it will surely continue to seep into society as quickly as algorithms and LLMs already have – we’re in for a wild ride!

Do you think generative AI will play an important role in your future?

Well, now that I have my foot in the door, I will try to expand on that. AI is here to stay and so am I. The applications that are either already possible, or still in the development phase, are just too promising – medical research and diagnoses, autonomous driving, AI quality control in manufacturing, VR-enhanced manual labor, and so much more. 

There is a lot to be done and to be achieved. Sure, the media hype is sometimes too much, and not everything will be a success, but once a technology is out of the box it will continue to grow in ways that may surprise us.

What would you say to a person who might be considering this role? 

The key thing in my role is “structure”. Do you like structure or do you like creating structure? In any fledgling industry, you will be required to forge your path, quite literally. If you expect set ways and every question to be answered from day one, you might have to rethink.

We are constantly optimizing workflows, scrapping ideas that didn’t pan out, shuffling work around, and looking for new ways to offer high-quality content to clients. It can feel overwhelming at times but we’ve all been there and we understand where you’re at. 

You have to give it your all in the beginning. After a few weeks of researching generative AI, I thought I was quite up to date on the topic but found that I underestimated a lot of aspects.

If you feel comfortable sharing - we'd love to learn more about you outside of your professional life. How does Mindrift fit into your lifestyle? 

Oh, I keep things simple. I have several clients from several different industries to be safe from upheavals in their companies, when they are bought out and put under a new management for example. 

At Mindrift I lead the automotive team for the German language, not only because I am a translator and language specialist but because I have a habit of buying and working on rare, obscure cars from French and Scandinavian manufacturers. 

This led to the strange, but useful, situation that I was already researching mechanical and electrical issues in several languages. So, I have a basic understanding of what my team is trying to explain to me and I can proofread their output.

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by Mindrift Team