Just between us, we had a hard time thinking about what to choose as the topic for our second LocFromHome conference. We didn’t want to make it another “how corona changed our lives” event, and people are tired of the fearmongering-cum-hoperaising agenda anyway.
Then, one day I had three important conversations: An LSP owner told me how she was happy about having finally adapted to her clients’ continuous localization needs; a freelancer complained about how he’s missing a more “ecosystemic” connection between him, his agency, and the end customer; and, last but not least, my boss told me that we had to have a topic by the next day.
I don’t know which of these events had the biggest influence, but that night I dreamed about an octopus — yeah, I know — and woke up with the words “Localization as an organism”. We had our topic.
Jokes aside, here’s the point. We are so often lost in our day-to-day roles within the industry that we forget to look at the big picture. But once we do, we see a huge entity that moves, breathes, and — what makes it different from a “perfect machine” — tirelessly adapts and evolves. It lives.
So we started asking potential speakers to see if this idea rang with them. And, surprisingly or not, it did! In the first week of calling for speech proposals, we received so many we had to say no to more than a half of them to fit the twelve-hour running time. Upside: You can be certain you won’t get bored.
So, let’s get down to business and see how each presentation and panel brings home the idea of localization as a living organism.
Adapting to change
The first thing you think about when talking about “life” is adaptation. This is perhaps the single most important distinction between rigidly programmed machines and unpredictable animals. While the former are robust and — by design — perfectly fit for a concrete purpose, the latter — with all their fragility and shortcomings — can modify their behavior and sometimes even internal structure to a changing environment.
And the language industry landscape right now is an epitome of change: With the content economy becoming increasingly prevalent, individual orders shrinking and deadlines shortening, LSPs and localization departments alike face challenges that would have been unthinkable ten or even five years ago.
Continuous localization seems to be the go-to answer to such challenges, allowing you to localize small chunks of updated text in a seamless flow with your content management system or repository. Not sure why this matters for your business? Tune in to Smartcat’s senior product manager and ex-Evernote localization director Igor Afanasyev’s presentation titled “Beyond technology: How continuous localization makes your organization faster, stronger, better.”
But even if you’re on board with the idea of continuous localization, making it work is not for the faint of heart. This is exactly what Semir Mehadjic of Infobip will be speaking about in his presentation, aptly titled “Traps of continuous localization.” He will be taking from his own experience implementing a continuous localization workflow in the company — or “surviving it”, as Semir puts it.
And if you want a broader, more philosophical take on adaptability, tune in to David Utrilla of U.S. Translation Company. Titled “Comfort is the enemy of growth”, it will include personal and industry success stories from the company’s 25-year experience and highlight the “importance of adaptability, especially under the current unpredictable circumstances that we are living in.”
Finally, there will be my own cozy little panel titled “No source attached: When translators decide to become (copy?)writers.” Together with a well-known translator and the author of a “Content writing for translators” course Natali Lekka and a few other great guys and gals (tba), we will discuss what it takes for translators to venture into copywriting or writing in general.
Finding a niche
According to Wikipedia, a niche “describes how an organism or population responds to the distribution of resources and competitors”. Finding an environmental niche is key to the survival of any living organism. This is especially true in the language industry, a disproportionately demand-led market with an excess of suppliers.
As Renato Beninatto of Nimdzi puts it in the synopsis of his presentation titled “Niche markets and specialization as a strategy for growth”: “As a language services provider, you are tempted to try to sell everything to everybody. This strategy works for a while, but you soon find out that your customers will cluster around certain specialties.” How can you get the most out of this phenomenon? Tune in and find out!
And if you’re hungry for some real-life examples, we have not one but two. First, there’s Nir Sabato of One Hour Translation with “How to find your identity as an LSP?”, in which he walks us through the company’s path from a “generalist, transactional LSP to” a “machine translation training partner for some of the world's largest online companies.”
Second, we have Taylor Matthews of Mugen with “Trials and tribulations of translating in the game industry,” in which he will tell “the adventures [his] company has had in dealing with translating both games for consoles and the mobile industry,” including the award-winning Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
If we consider the use of tools by animals to be a sign of evolution in intelligence, the language industry has been going through this evolutionary stage for the last few decades, with varying success. While most translation companies and teams have long switched to translation management systems and computer-aided translation tools, others are still hesitant and sticking to manual processes.
Can we help them make the transition? In a presentation titled “My dream TMS tool: A checklist I wish I had 10 years ago”, Anna Iokhimovich of Paxful provides a detailed account of the concrete requirements every localization team should analyze when selecting a tool to manage their translation workflows. Industry consultant Bridget Hylak, in turn, questions the very idea of a TMS and its applicability in a presentation titled “Evolving tools for language service companies and departments: Is a TMS enough?”
Directly following Bridget, Don DePalma of CSA Research will speak about Self-actualization for language service providers. He will pick up on the themes from his first LocFromHome presentation and study the journey that LSPs must make to place themselves within their clients’ most important business initiatives as part of the ongoing digital transformation in the industry.
And for those willing to dive into some intricate details of tool use, ex-Smartcatter, now at Intento, and all-round nice guy Pavel Doronin will lead a panel titled “Machine Translation quality: Quantifying the unquantifiable.” Together with ContentQuo’s Kirill Soloviev and TransPerfect’s Anna Zaretskaya, he will discuss the implications of assessing MT quality and finding out what technology exists to quantify machine translation quality in a reliable and repeatable way.
Communication is essential to almost all life forms, from animals to plants and even fungi! Needless to say, it is essential to the language industry as well. From peer groups to sales to education, we as a trade wouldn’t be able to evolve and adapt if we didn’t exchange insights and motivations.
In “Selling without selling”, Acclaro’s global brand champ and a gunpowder box of energy Javi Diaz will share tips on how to create, nurture, and do business with your community from home — which is especially valuable during these difficult times. (I know, I know, I promised not to push the coronavirus agenda, but it keeps popping up.)
And when we talk about communication, we cannot skip the role of teaching in making an organism survive through generations and ages. In “Back to school: educate translation and localization professionals?” with MIIS’s Max Troyer, Spotify’s Martiño Prada, Creative Words’ Diego Cresceri, and a recent “industry graduate” Clysree Brown, we will discuss the state of translation education — and what needs to change. If you’ve ever wondered whether you should get an official qualification — whether as a translator, project manager, or a localization engineer — don’t miss this one!
Aside from external communication, there’s also the “small” matter of what happens on the inside, and how the different parts of a living system maintain a stable equilibrium. And, when it comes to localization, internal communication is trickier than it seems! “Selling” localization within your own company can be challenging because many companies see localization as an unrelated, fifth-wheel process that work by itself. How do you tackle this mindset? Join the discussion with Skyscanner’s Hristina Racheva, Roblox’s Julien Bertaud, and Infobip’s Semir Mehadzic — moderated by Kathrin Bussman of Verbaccino, yet another top-50 Nimdzi influencer on our roster.
On the other side of the equation, there’s the ultra-important and often overlooked world of vendor management. In “Vendor management is now talent management!”, Ann Lawless of CQfluency, Jayme DeSocio of Welocalize, and Nora Zilahy of espell will discuss “talent management as a driver for sustainable growth in their companies, with a focus on the human side” — moderated by our serial panelist Diego Cresceri. And for some firsthand experience and insights, don’t miss Anca Greve of Slack talking about Maintaining the Slack voice and tone at scale!
From echolocating bats to eagle-eyed, well, eagles, observing the environment and making quick and substantiated decisions is paramount to the survival of any organism. In translation and localization, though, more often than not decisions are made based on hearsay and “common sense”. “Can’t read, won’t buy” is a common mantra translation teams refer to when “selling” localization. But how much of “can’t” and “won’t” is involved, exactly?
If that’s something that bugs you as much as it does me, don’t miss Citrix’s Robert O'Keefe talking about Data-driven decision making for globalization strategy and operations. Behind the complicated title stands a presentation that I myself consider the marvel of this conference, based on what I’ve seen so far. Citrix has made a huge effort to substantiate their guesses with concrete data, and even if that’s not easily repeatable, taking cues and insights from this one is something every company should do!
Life and death
Talking about life is not possible without talking about death. With every end of life begins new life, so every end of a translation company’s lifecycle opens up new paths for those who were part of it. In “How to sell your language business without losing your shirt,” the closing speaker for our first LocFromHome and the industry’s Al Pacino voice Michael Klinger of Language Transactions will explain “what to prepare before putting your business on the market, how to determine competitive pricing, and who would be the best buyers for your business.” So, if you are at least considering an exit, this is a must-watch!
I hate to leave you on a sad note, but maybe it will bring about the right mood to think about our life that we already have in our tight, closely connected industry — and the ways we can make it even stronger.
And, quoting the least appropriate person to be quoted about this:
And now, grab your seats!