Judy & Dagmar Jenner

Twin Translations is owned and operated by identical twins Judy and Dagmar Jenner. Thanks to an international upbringing, Judy and Dagmar have a multinational, multicultural, and multilingual background and run their boutique translation and interpretation business from Las Vegas, NV and Vienna, Austria. Judy and Dagmar were born in Austria and grew up in a trilingual household in Mexico City. Their native languages are both German and Spanish.

Jose Blanco

Featured podcast: Lessons learned from 20 years in translation and interpretation

Register to download this podcast to hear about the professional and personal journey of twin sisters, Judy and Dagmar Jenner, and how they became successful in their careers. We’ll learn more about how they entered the world of translation and interpretation, the ups and downs they went through and the biggest challenges they faced. They’ll also give you advice from their learnings to help you succeed in your career as a translation professional.

Get to know Judy & Dagmar...

What languages do you translate between and where are you based?

Dagmar:
My working languages are German, Spanish, English, and French, the latter being my only passive language. I live and work in Vienna, Austria, which is considered to be one of the world’s most liveable cities. 

Judy:
German, Spanish, and English. I am based in Las Vegas, NV – yes, it’s a real town and it’s not just showgirls here. I travel a lot for work – to the tune of up to 100 flights a year, which I am currently trying to reduce.

What's your role and specialisms?

Dagmar:
I am the owner of the European side of our business. While I like translating legal texts, my favorite texts are marketing texts.

Judy:
I run the American side, and it’s grown so much that I have mainly morphed into project manager, which is a role that I enjoy very much. In terms of what I enjoy translating, no surprise here: just like Dagmar, I enjoy marketing and e-commerce texts. On the interpreting side, I do a lot of court as I hold a very high judicial interpreting certification, and I also do quite a bit of conference interpreting, which is exhilarating.

Who are your customers and do you address any vertical markets?

Dagmar:
We work with SMEs and Fortune 500 companies and every project small or big is important to us. We have a one-stop shop concept: we offer copywriting, editing, proofreading, translating and interpreting services, all provided by us or by a small number of hand-picked contractors whom we all know personally.

Judy:
Yes, exactly. On the interpreting side for the US, we also contract with amazing colleagues, and we certainly do know all of them quite well. There’s nothing like breaking bread and getting to know the colleagues who represent your company. We’ve been very lucky and we’ve chosen well – we have a great team of contractors.

What's the name and mission of your company?

Dagmar:
Since we are identical twins, our company in the US is called Twin Translations for obvious reasons. Given that that name wouldn’t work so well in German-speaking countries, the European side of the business which I am in charge of is called “Texterei” and it’s all about moving the world with words (borrowing this lovely motto from Smartling).

Judy:
Yes, and our CPAs also ran away screaming when we suggested the possibility of one business being a subsidiary of the other! So we decided to have two separate businesses on the back end, but we market it as one so it’s not too confusing to American clients.

How did you start your career?

Dagmar:
After college (I have degrees in journalism, French, and translating/conference interpreting), I worked as an employee for a while and then decided to start what is now the European side of our business. A few years later, Judy joined me and we started Twin Translations.

Judy:
I was an in-house translation team manager for a travel website, and this was in the very early days of localization (VEGAS.com). We don’t even know that it was called localization back then. I learned a lot about technology and had a lot of fun, but I was ready to leave and embark on this twin adventure with Dagmar and I’ve never looked back.

Why did you decide to specialize in your area?

Dagmar:
Some specializations are an obvious choice, which is marketing and creative texts for us. Others develop organically because a client asked you to delve into a subject. Some of these specializations include postal services and seawater desalination. 

Judy:
A recent one for interpreting that I didn’t see coming was videogames/e-sports. We didn’t grow up playing video games as our parents were big proponents of reading (a habit that has stuck with us for life; as we each read about 50 books a year), but we delved into this world and have found it to be quite fascinating. E-sports is growing by leaps and bounds, so interpreting some of these high-profile competitions has been fun.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Dagmar:
I never feel like not going to work and I love being my own boss, even though she can be a real slave driver! Every day is different, and every day is a challenge, mostly in a good way.

Judy:
The variety of it, definitely. It’s great to not do the same thing every day, and I love the flexibility of combining interpreting and translation jobs. That being said, I do work way too much, so I am working on (pun intended) improving my work-life balance.

What do you find most challenging in your job?

Dagmar: The inevitable ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. There will be times when business is great and others when it’s not. It can be challenging to cope with this, both on a personal and on a financial level.

Judy: The amount of work – you are never done, and I wish I had more hours in my day. My least favourite thing is dealing with non-paying customers, which happens rarely. When it does, it’s quite annoying.

What's your greatest achievement in your personal and professional life?

Dagmar:
On the personal side, I started playing chess late in life, in my late 30s, and I am now taking my first steps in tournaments and I have already won a trophy at a small regional event. I thoroughly enjoy the endless complexity of the game.

Judy:
I’ll definitely have to say that I am the VERY proud twin sister of a chess champion! On the professional side, growing Twin Translations to where it is today and speaking at conferences around the world, which is a big honor. On the personal side, one would be to set goals and stick to them – one of them was running seven half marathons. And doing a polar bear plunge into the Baltic in December of 2017 – I’d been wanting to do that for a long time.

What's next in your career?

Dagmar:
I will be taking the interpreting test to work as a freelance interpreter into English at the United Nations in Vienna. I failed it last year and I’m working hard to pass on my second try.

Judy:
I am an AIIC pre-candidate and really want to continue working towards becoming a candidate and eventually a member. I also want to continue improving my legal knowledge and look forward to taking more law classes. 

How has technology helped your career?

Dagmar:
Technology boosts our efficiency and makes our lives easier. I cannot imagine working without the Internet. I know colleagues who used to have to go to the national library to look up terminology for their translation. Today, we have the world’s entire knowledge at our fingertips. We just need to use it wisely.

Judy:
Yes, agreed 100%! We won’t be replaced by technology, but rather by colleagues who are better at technology than we are. We need to be sure to adapt and evolve and not risk getting left behind. 

What advice would you give anyone looking to build a career in translation?

Dagmar:
I think three elements are key: hard work, entrepreneurial thinking, professionalism. Also, since this is a very female-dominated profession, we should not fall into the female trap of just wanting to be nice and loved by everybody. If we are to make a good living in this profession, we need to stand up for good working conditions, be self-assertive and embrace the power of the word “no.”

Judy:
How much time do you have? We even wrote a book about this! Of course I agree with Dagmar and would probably add that you have to be a bit of a risk-taker to be an entrepreneur, and it’s not for everyone, which is OK. Before you embark on this journey, you need to ask yourself some hard questions such as: Can I handle not having a paycheck? Can I handle it if the phone doesn’t ring or no one emails me for three days? Am I disciplined enough to get work done when I could be watching cat videos all day because I have no boss? Can I handle working through weekends if need be? Can I handle my own computer issues? Am I good at organizing my time? Those are just a few of the questions I think you need to ask yourself. There’s no secret to success, but hard work and grit are definitely key. Also: learn how to deal with conflict.