Changes, challenges, and opportunities: 10 takeaways from the #LocFromHome conference

When things started to get a little crazy a few weeks back, we wondered what we could do to brighten the mood and stay connected within the industry. So we set out to put our trusted technology-plus-people combo to the test and organized the #LocFromHome conference.

To our delight, it turned out to be a great success. Here are just some numbers:

  • 12 hours of non-stop streaming,
  • 2400+ live attendees in total,
  • 500+ simultaneous viewers,
  • 500+ people joined the #LocFromHome community on Slack,
  • 85% of attendees rated the event at 8/10 or higher in a post-event survey,
  • 90% of attendees said that they would likely attend the future LFH event, should we organize one. (Spoiler: we will ?)

What we learned from this experience and data is that people in our industry are still keen to network — perhaps even more than usual — and people are trying to figure out how to best get through these difficult times.

We realize watching the whole 12-hour replay might be a bit of a challenge, so here are the highlights of the topics covered along with some insightful snippets from the speakers.

1. It’s okay not to be okay

Everyone is worried about what’s going on. But thanks to Don DePalma’s presentation, we managed to pinpoint exactly what we are worried about. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our main concern is that we’re worried about the slowdown of work, but in second place, we’re struggling to deal with the uncertainty of it all. How long is this going to last? When will things be back to normal? This seems to be what’s keeping most of us up at night, and it looks like it’s something we’re going to have to get used to for the foreseeable future.

What these findings show is that adjusting to this new reality is hard, and it’s important to cut ourselves some slack. This crisis, for the vast majority of the world population, was totally unexpected. Nobody was ready to deal with the consequences and we are still processing what has happened even several weeks after major lockdowns started worldwide.

“We’re not in just a work-from-home reality, we’re in a pandemic reality, and people are stressed out,” says Chris Carter of Intelliglot. “It’s an unfortunate need for company owners to take care of your employees’ psychology. Allow yourself and your staff an opportunity to have a bad day.”

Allow yourself and your staff an opportunity to have a bad day
Chris Carter, Intelliglot

And if a bad day turns into a bad week or month, well, don’t beat yourself up! Just remember: you’re not the only one struggling right now. In fact, this is one of those rare occasions where we’re all in it together, or at the very least people can understand what you’re going through.

2. Stay close to your customers

Many of the speakers who run their own LSPs pointed out how important it is to stay in touch with customers. With so much uncertainty, anything “normal” will make them feel better, so they will definitely appreciate your reassurance that your business with them will go on as usual.

Krzysztof Zdanowski of Summa Linguae adds: “We’re making sure we OVERcommunicate with our existing customers right now.”

We’re making sure we OVERcommunicate with our existing customers right now.
Krzysztof Zdanowski, Summa Linguae

Even if you don’t have much work from them right now, it’s a good idea to ask them how they are doing amidst the pandemic. You need to strengthen your relationship not only in business but also on a personal level. “We try to keep our customers close to us,” says Katja Virtanen of Delingua, “so that when they come back from the recession, they come to us.”

3. Adapt & embrace technology

When things get tough, people often look at their expenses and start to evaluate just how “costly” some of these are. For a long time, many businesses had been quite simply throwing money away in the name of “well, this is how we’ve been doing it for years.” These times are over, and, as Renato Beninatto of Nimdzi puts it, “companies are finding out that there are expenses that they don’t need.”

Don DePalma of CSA Research agrees: “The pricing models of some translation management systems are pretty onerous,” he says. “So now is the good time to move towards microservices and cloud-based solutions.”

Now is the good time to move towards microservices and cloud-based solutions.
Don DePalma, CSA Research

But, as you may have been hearing a lot these days, we humans are great at adapting to whatever the world throws at us. And, if you think about it, getting to grips with new technology to help our businesses stay competitive is most definitely worth the temporary learning curve — especially as onboarding is becoming increasingly seamless.

In the grand scheme of things, we’ve survived a lot worse, so we hope companies will take this time to reassess and, more importantly, realize the need to “upgrade” their mindsets from desktop to cloud to start competing with the big leaguers, whether it’s through Smartcat or otherwise.

In the words of Krzysztof Zdanowski: “This situation is reinventing us. In a few months, we’ve achieved more success with important initiatives than in the last three years.”

4. Focus on the soaring industries

As we’ve already talked about, some industries, mostly tech-related like online communication tools and e-learning platforms, have unwittingly benefited from the situation. If you’ve seen a fall in translation requests, why not shift your focus to these rising industries? Many companies are growing so fast that if you play your cards right, they’ll be more than willing to send business your way.

But the public sector can be a source of orders too. For example, many official policies and regulations have had to be updated and rolled out: “We’ve been experiencing a surge in requests from the government sector, who had to ensure that the papers were provided in all the diverse languages of Australia,” says Costa Vasilii of Ethnolink.

And another vertical which has seen a significant boost — not surprisingly given the planet-wide lockdowns that made having fun offline almost impossible — is video gaming. “The gaming industry is seeing up to 20% increase in traffic,” says Julio Leal of Ciena. “And this is one of the industries that are very enthusiastic about localization.”

The gaming industry is seeing up to 20% increase in traffic. And this is one of the industries that are very enthusiastic about localization.
Julio Leal, Ciena

Essentially, you should be capitalizing on anything that’s working for you. As Kristy Sakai of Supertext says: “It’s been a crazy couple of months, with requests from press releases to website updates.”

5. Appreciate where you are

Many say that as an industry we should appreciate how lightly, in comparison to others, this has affected us. Of course, the crisis will still impact some of us more than others within the industry depending on our client base and specializations, but as a whole, we could have it a lot worse if we had chosen a different career path.

Many translation providers find consolation in stability, like Diego Cresceri of Creative Words, who says: “We are in line with last year’s last quarter. Of course, we wanted to grow badly, but I think we are stable, which is quite positive compared to other industries and companies.”

Similarly, Cecilia Enbäck of Translators Scandinavia admits: “The phone isn’t ringing anymore, but we have not lost any of our existing customers, with most of them ordering crisis-related information right now.”

Our biggest strength as translation professionals is that we can work from home. As Andy Andersen of Tinder puts it, “We have to step back for a second and be thankful that we are actually able to work from home.” Not only that, but many within the industry already worked remotely and have been doing so for years. This has made it much easier for businesses to adapt to a fully remote workforce.
Nevertheless, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for everyone. “33% of Mozilla employees have already been remote,” says Jeff Beatty of Mozilla, “but for the rest, it has been, well, an interesting transition.”

We have to step back for a second and be thankful that we are actually able to work from home.
Andy Andersen, Tinder

6. Do something for the greater good

Many companies and individuals are taking this time as an opportunity to give back in some way. The Alibaba Group, for example, wants to help those who have lost their jobs by offering them the chance to participate and earn in the language industry. “We are opening up our crowdsourcing platform to more users around the world, on both the supply and the demand side,” says the group’s senior language solution architect Roxy Ye. “We want to build it to have 1,000,000 users in the future”.

At a more individual level, you can always contribute to the work of nonprofits like Translators Without Borders. “The road is still long,” says
Stella Paris
, who heads the organization’s language services, “but what we’ve seen so far at TWB is a terrific level of collaboration from different companies and organizations across the language industry.”

As well as our LocFromHome conference, at Smartcat we wanted to do our bit and launched our own publicly available CovidTM. We invited translators everywhere to share their coronavirus-related translation memories for the benefit of anyone in need of quality and speedy translations about the current situation. We know sharing your translation memories might seem a little counterintuitive and that getting your clients’ permission isn’t always easy but in times like this, it’s important to remember that we’re all in the same boat. And the more we work together, the quicker we will make it to calmer shores.

In times like this, it’s important to remember that we’re all in the same boat.

7. Hire great talent

One of the most interesting phenomenons to come out of all this upheaval is the influx of fresh, new talent into the industry. Jan Hinrichs, founder of Beluga Translations and LocLunch — nope, we totally didn’t rip off the name for our conference title! — shared this insight during his talk with Smartcat’s Bryan Montpetit.

With all the layoffs in other industries, we’re seeing an increase in talented professionals looking for alternative opportunities. Since our industry seems to be coping relatively well, many jobseekers with the right skills are now considering translation and other positions in the language industry. “It is a moment of opportunity,” he says. “There are people in the market who can collaborate with you who wouldn’t have been available a year ago.”

There are people in the market who can collaborate with you who wouldn’t have been available a year ago.
Jan Hinrichs, Beluga & LocLunch

Jeannette Stewart of Translation Commons echoes this idea in her presentation about reinventing our businesses in times of change: “The quickest way to add new skills is to employ the right people.” In other words, now more than ever, we have to focus on surrounding ourselves with the best talent, and this includes valuing both experience and potential.

8. Be ready for changes

Perhaps the most repeated thought of the day was that a moment of crisis is also a moment of opportunity. But at the same time, many of us are all struggling to focus on anything right now. Actually, it’s hard enough to know what is going on now, never mind what changes will come in the future!

But some speakers are adamant that there will be big changes. “In the post-covid world, globalization is going to look very different,” says Sara Maria Hasbun of Meridian Linguistics. “It’ll be led by new powers, characterized by different kinds of connection, and powered by a different kind of supply.”

In the post-COVID world, globalization is going to be led by new powers, characterized by different kinds of connection, and powered by a different kind of supply.
Sara Maria Hasbun, Meridian Linguistics

Julio Leal concurs: “We’re seeing a change of paradigms, and it might be the end of office work as we know it. There are so many open questions related to the ways we are interacting now.” Yes, if this lockdown has taught us anything it’s that many businesses can reduce costs enormously by having all or most of their staff work from home. Will they keep it this way once the pandemic is over? Let’s see.

9. Be creative

When our world is turned upside down and we cannot get on with life as usual, it’s time to mix it up a bit. But what will get us through this? Creativity! In personal life, whether it’s joining the sourdough craze or running a marathon on your terrace, the best ways to handle the situation might come from the weirdest places.

Even if these are just odd coping mechanisms to keep you sane during lockdown, there is something to be said for getting out of our comfort zones, detaching ourselves from our usual — often mindless — day-to-day activities, and thinking about ways of dealing with what’s hitting us. After all, new challenges call for new ideas, which means getting creative.

As Hilary Normanha of ASICS Digital puts it: “There are changes and limitations, but it’s also an opportunity to think creatively.” And Michael Klinger of Language Transactions sums it up nicely: “Take care of your team, communicate transparently, diversify, and BE CREATIVE! It might be the best time to fix your business!”

BE CREATIVE! It might be the best time to fix your business!
Michael Klinger, Language Transactions

10. Think for yourself

Now that you’ve gone through our highlights of the speakers’ insightful contributions, we’d like to end with a somewhat strange but hopefully reassuring note. No one knows exactly what is going to happen, so any “expert advice” we — or anyone else — gives you might get it completely wrong.

“How the hell is that reassuring?!”

Well, what we’re getting at is that, at the end of the day, it’s about what you do in your own personal situation. Yes, things may be tough ahead, but it’s ultimately about how you deal with it, so what applies to others may not work for you. Trust your own judgment and intuition — you’ll know what’s best for you.

We’ll wrap up with these brilliant words by Sara Maria Hasbun:

Don’t assume that people and businesses around you are making the logical choices. Think for yourself!
Sara Maria Hasbun, Meridian Linguistics

Once again, thanks to everyone who made it to the live sessions as well as those who watched the replay or will be doing so now. And remember, you can still join the #LocFromHome community on Slack so that we can keep talking, sharing ideas, and even disagreeing! Because it is through connecting with each other and exchanging thought-provoking ideas that we’ll find the way forward.

Just think, one day we’ll all look back and remember all this commotion as a simple hiccup along the way.

Stay tuned for the next #LocFromHome event, and stay safe!