Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How do you get to travel so much?

Travel informs my work and vice versa. I rarely take holidays, rather I’ll work some of the time and immerse myself in local culture in other time. This keeps my work fresh, mind active and life interesting. Travel aside, I’m focused on productivity rather than presenteeism. I discussed why in this podcast series I presented about women entrepreneurs in science, engineering and technology.

I don’t have that much stuff . I haven’t had a car for several years, though I’ve still a license and use work cars when I need to. I rode a motorcycle every day when I was living in Thailand because the traffic pollution made cycling too much of a health risk. I tend to give away or sell most of my possessions when I move between countries – it’s a great form of catharsis.

How do I get work in science communication?

Reading the Association of British Science Writers’ advice (PDF) and the Science and Development Network’s e-guide to science communication should give you some useful tips on this one.

How do I get work in international development?

Like working in the media, the best way get started in development is to volunteer. The cost of living in countries like Cambodia or Peru are so much less than Australia or the US. So it’s likely you could support yourself for months in a country seeking volunteers, with only a few months of savings from a job in a developed country. If you want to continue with your experience, paths to a funded role supporting development should emerge. It’s likely you’ll need to actively pursue those paths, but such fundraising is a typical part development work.

Should I study science or journalism?

It’s up to you. I did a degree in journalism (and another in international studies), with some science electives, and have since done specialist science editing training and some other science courses. I’m now doing a PhD in science communication, which is in ANU’s Faculty of Sciences so technically a science degree.

Many people go the other way, doing an undergraduate degree in science and then a postgraduate course focusing on communication. Both paths work. If you have your heart set on working for a particular organisation, I would contact them and see what qualifications they expect graduate-level staff to have.

Though before you plan your career around the preferences of an organisation, I think you should read George Monbiot’s career advice.

How do I get work as a translator?

Know people who need things translated! When I’m a more experienced translator I might have more tips. I think it’s important to travel and immerse yourself in the culture and language you want to work in. Studying French and Italian at university were of little value to me, compared to what I learnt in-country. No amount of grammar, vocabulary or oral examinations will give you an understanding of the language like hearing it in action.

How many languages do you know?

As well as my native English, I’ve studied French, Spanish, Thai, Italian and German. My German is so rusty it’s almost nonexistent, while my Italian is headed that way. I’m currently learning Thai, which is my first non-Latin script.

French and Spanish are the languages I’m most comfortable with besides English. However I only work translating from Spanish or French into English, as I think it’s important to use a native speaker of the language to which you’re localising. I also think you get better value for money using a translator familiar with your material. Science, for example, can seem like a language of its own, so I may be more adept at translating a scientific paper from Spanish to English than a more experienced Spanish translator.

Given I work in technology I also have some understanding of coding and markup languages, though I’d  say I’m only “fluent” in old-school HTML.

How much do you charge?

You can get an idea of my rates from the National Union of Journalists (UK) freelance fees guide. If you’re a non-profit organisation I’m open to negotiation.

Where else are you on the web?

You can read about my research at the Australian National University and my travels at WordPress. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr.

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