Shyla Brooks, NIC


I’m Certified, Now What? An Interpreter’s Journey towards Certification.

As I sit enjoying the last few moments of daylight with my dog asleep at my feet I can’t help but contemplate the last four years and my journey towards becoming nationally certified. I think back and realize two things; one, all of my perseverance and hard work has paid off and the second thing I realize comes to me in the form of a question; “I’m certified, now what?” This question forces me to analyze my four year journey from entering an interpreting program through graduation, entering the profession and now transitioning to a certified interpreter.

While in school I had a support system composed of teachers and classmates, with many resources at my disposal. After graduation and as I was transitioning into the interpreting profession, I found myself alone in a foreign world with no support system and limited resources.

As it is the goal of all interpreters to become nationally certified, this is the goal I set for myself, although I didn’t have the resources or know exactly how to achieve it.

After being in this foreign world for six months, I was given the opportunity to work for a community college where my supervisor (who was an experienced interpreter) took me under their wing and started leading me in the right direction. Along my journey towards certification I was able to form a support system made up of interpreters with varying degrees of experience. I took advantage of every opportunity I could find to help achieve my goal of becoming certified. These opportunities included participating twice in the New Mexico Mentoring Program and working with experienced mentors. Watching video’s and DVD’s to help in developing my skills. Armed with a video camera, I would videotape myself and do a self-evaluation. I would also take these skill samples and have my supervisor sit down with me and both of us would watch the tape together and discuss my strengths and weaknesses and of course she would give me open honest feedback and constructive criticism on things I could do to develop my skills. But like all journeys, I was confronted by many hurdles causing me to want to throw in the towel and quit. With the help of mentors, experienced interpreters and my innate stubbornness, I confronted all hurdles head on. The biggest hurdle I faced was failing the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) the first time I took it. After my “grieving” period and disappointment of failing was over, I took this challenge; analyzed it, dissected it and learned from it.

I developed an “Action Plan” where I set short term reasonable goals on specific areas needing improvement. Of course I again had to lean on my support system for their feedback. For example: If I needed to work on making my fingerspelling clearer, I would take the goal and show it to a willing team interpreter who would give me feedback and I would work on it for one week. If at the end of the week there was improvement, I would put a little star next to it and move on to the next goal on my list. If there wasn’t enough of an improvement I would work on it again for another week. After doing this and when I felt I was ready to face the challenge of taking the NIC again I made my appointment and went into the room as a confident interpreter.

After the initial excitement and shock of receiving the letter congratulating me for obtaining national certification wore off, reality began to set in. My ultimate goal of being certified was accomplished, but, what do I do now? Of course I will continue to attend workshops, conferences and other events to earn my CEUs in order to keep my certification, but what can I do personally to improve my skills? What goals can I set for myself?

The first thing I did was sit down and reevaluate where I am in my professional career. I realize now I have an even greater responsibility and accountability to the clients/consumers I serve to provide them with quality interpreting. Having this understanding helps me to realize I need to continue maintaining my support system I established when I was a Pre-Certified interpreter even more and listen to their guidance.

The second thing I did was contact my mentors and ask for their feedback and guidance. After discussing my concerns and what I felt I should be doing, they of course gave me some suggestions for continuing skill development. What I found was they were almost the same exact suggestions they told me when I was a Pre-Certified interpreter.

The third thing I did was sit down and developed a new “Action Plan” with short term reasonable goals on specific areas needing improvement. Armed with my video camera I am continuing to do my self-evaluations and having others evaluate my work.

Lastly, I set for myself a new goal to work towards. Within the next three years after working on my “Action Plan” and gaining more experience, I plan to take the NIC again with the goal of obtaining an Advanced or Masters Level of certification.

Now that I am a Nationally Certified interpreter I have an obligation not only to the clients/consumers I serve, but I owe it to myself to continue with this “Action Plan” I have developed to ensure I stay current with developments and changes in the profession and to ensure the clients/consumers I serve are receiving quality interpreting services. When someone has earned certification this does not mean the journey ends; really, it is just the beginning!

Shyla Brooks is currently working part time for a community college in New Mexico and is going back to school to continue her education. She is also the New Mexico RID Newsletter Chair/ Editor. You can contact her at