MATI Member Spotlight: Kelley D. Salas

02/03/2017 12:10 PM | Meghan McCallum (Administrator)

MATI Member Spotlight: Kelley D. Salas

Language Pair(s): Spanish>English (Translation); Spanish<>English (Interpretation)


Degree(s)/Certification(s): ATA Certified for Spanish to English Translation since 2008; Graduate Certificate in Translation, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2012


How long have you been a MATI member? Since August 2016

How long have you worked in your field? How did you get started in the field of translation and/or interpretation?

I began studying translation and interpretation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee about ten years ago, while I was on leave from my job as a bilingual elementary school teacher at La Escuela Fratney. While I started translation studies mainly as a way to maintain and expand my Spanish language skills, I quickly found that I loved the work. I began freelancing for several local clients and agencies, and also worked as a medical interpreter at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital.

My progress in the translation field was interrupted when I decided to return to a full time teaching job at Milwaukee Spanish Immersion School in 2009, and later accepted a job as communications director at the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association in 2012. Although I seldom had time for freelance work during these years, I continued to aspire to a career in translation and interpretation.

In February of 2016, I decided to go full time in this field, and I am now making up the bulk of my work week with freelance translating and interpreting work, specializing in the medical and legal fields. I am also a medical interpreter at Columbia St. Mary’s, and I’m working to get interpreter certification through the Wisconsin court system.

It’s exciting to put my degree and certification to use on a daily basis now! I have found that many of the things I learned in my role as communications director are helpful to my freelance work, including website design and maintenance, graphic design/desktop publishing, and coping with high work volumes and challenging deadlines.

What is your favorite thing about working in this field?

It’s important for people to have equal access to health care and the justice system regardless of their English abilities, and it’s gratifying to help make that happen. I also really appreciate the flexibility of freelance work. After working as a classroom teacher, where we commonly had to choose between eating lunch or going to the restroom, it’s wonderful to be able to schedule my own day, and vary my schedule throughout the week.


What is your favorite aspect of your profession?

One aspect of the profession that I really love is continuous learning. Every day I learn new terms and new concepts. Every day I am deepening my language skills and content knowledge in my areas of specialization. I also appreciate the variety. I love the quiet solitude of translation projects and the ability to work from home, and I also look forward to my shifts at the hospital, when I can connect on a human level with patients and colleagues. There was a time when I was quite intimidated by interpretation – I felt safer in translation, since you have more time to consult resources and double check your work. However, I have really grown to enjoy interpreting and the unique challenges and rewards it offers.

Why do you think it’s important to belong to professional organizations like MATI?

I’ve been an ATA member since 2007 and have learned so much during those years from the publications and emails. I joined MATI once I decided to work full time in the field. The ability to network face-to-face with local/regional colleagues is invaluable. I made some important connections at the MATI annual conference in September, and as I followed up throughout the fall, I was able to establish working relationships with two regular clients thanks to these connections. I will certainly continue to attend MATI events and annual conferences, and I also hope to attend the ATA conference in 2017.

Are there any questions you would like to pose to your MATI colleagues?

I’d love to hear my MATI colleagues’ thoughts on any/all of the following:

  • How do you feel about working for agencies vs. direct clients?
  • What are your preferred sources/forums for terminology queries (especially in the medical and legal fields)?
  • Do you have a specific colleague(s) that you go to for support while working on translation jobs, and what does this process look like for you?
  • Is there any specific agency or client that you would recommend I contact for work?

Thanks in advance for your responses! You can email me at