This time we decided to break our tradition of writing our #LocFromHome takeaways on our own and had someone else take the lead. Meet Kate Alekoglu, an aspiring translator who has been to all four of our #LocFromHome conferences. Don’t let Kate’s seemingly lightweight credentials fool you: At more than 4000 words, this article is filled with insights into the localization industry, inspiring quotes, and actionable advice for both newcomers and industry veterans. Note that it’s written in British English, so make sure to grab a cup of tea and a biscuit before diving into it.

(This article was originally published in French in the University of Lille’s blog.)

Kate Alekoglu: I tend to say this after each of the four #LocFromHome events so far, but for the fourth time around, the team from Smartcat really “outdid themselves”. What a day! The last 3 conferences have already allowed 59 speakers to present their ideas in front of an audience of just a little under 10,000 viewers. This time, with more than 12 hours of non-stop streaming and 13 exciting presentations, #LocFromHome4 was not an event to miss.

If, however, you were not one of those crazy people (such as me) who would stay and watch the whole thing, here is your occasion to check out and see what you missed. In the event of you developing a bad case of FOMO while reading this article, please grab a drink and/or a snack immediately and watch the recording of any session you feel like.

You can watch the entire conference here, and you can also click on section titles to view the sessions separately.

If you are reading this article, chances are you will find the whole event interesting. Take it from someone who attended the very first #LocFromHome conference in April 2020, without even knowing what the term “localisation” meant. By now though, I have had some practice, I did my homework and came fully prepared, with PLENTY of questions.

#LocFromHome is no longer just an event, but a powerful medium of shared experience, knowledge, and advice within the localisation industry. The day began with a little bit of networking in Remo’s “virtual common room”, where anyone could join a table, say hi to everyone and meet some fascinating people. I was instantly ready to play.

The event was divided into 4 conference categories that mostly differed in their approach, as well as their number of speakers. We had an occasion to listen to:

  • Four Panels on topics such as transcreation, education, ROI and globalisation,
  • Four Stories with speakers who shared how they overcame a particular challenge,
  • Three presentations on Technology & Productivity to share insights on how to improve our work processes,
  • And two captivating Mindset Talks on the subject of global product strategy as well as continuous localisation.

Result: A plethora of information, inspiring words of advice, lots of questions, some colourful presentations, and prizes to win! Aside from being allowed to claim a Starbucks voucher when posting a photo of yourself watching #LocFromHome on LinkedIn, some of the presentations were also an opportunity to win a book recommended by the speaker for asking the most intriguing or pertinent question.

For each of the 13 talks I have written about below, you will find a few types of information to choose from, including:

  • An insightful quote,
  • A winning question, or the one that I asked,
  • A book recommendation,
  • A piece of advice, or two.

1. Marketing localization: Is the hype over #transcreation dead?

The very first panel was moderated by Robert Rogge, CEO of Zingword, and discussed the difference between transcreation and local content production. Fabrizio Cattaneo, Marketing Localisation Manager at Stripe, recommended maintaining a flexible line between these two concepts and highlighted the slight trend towards companies preferring to create local content rather than sticking to the more traditional method of localisation, i.e. mirroring the original content in another language.

Lindsay Zhang, Head of Content Localisation at further underlined the importance of “creating content beyond the image”, especially when it comes to large cultural differences between continents such as Asia and Europe.

Paulina Makles, Managing Director at Creative Tribe, weighed in on the numerous examples where transcreation was a necessary strategy that required a large amount of research in order to succeed on the local market, while creation of local content remained the more cost-effective and easier solution.

My question: If you could talk to your past self, when you were only starting to work in transcreation, what advice would you give yourself? Would you also give it to young professional transcreators today?

Robert’s answer: “I think the best answer is that if transcreation and marketing is your field, adding SEO, copywriting, and content writing to your toolbox is a very good idea. As transcreators begin to take on more local content creation assignments (if that is a trend, which we think it is), they will get closer to ‘how the sausage is made’ than ever before.

An example is translating email marketing. I think we might see a world where a transcreator-writer will be expected to be able to work directly in email software like Mailchimp to write and/or transcreate new campaigns for the local market.

I would add that the limit you have in local content creation is ‘domain expertise’, and you have it in a way that in translation you do not. A translator might have expertise in Software and Accounting and could translate almost any article on that subject, but that doesn't mean they would be ready to write 800 words about Trends in Accounting Software, because to do that (at a high level), you'd actually have to have an idea of what those trends actually are.”

As transcreators begin to take on more local content creation assignments, they will get closer to ‘how the sausage is made’ than ever before”

2. Customer development beyond the value proposition: Which of your clients’ challenges should become your changes?

Eugenia Gorodetskaya, Vice President of Technology Development and Rodion Pochekaev, Head of International Sales & Localisation have over 30 years’ experience of working together in the industry at Ego Translating, based in Saint Petersburg. They talked about their carefully organised work process and supported them with some relevant case studies that show how different experiences can really carve out your company’s personality and character. Eugenia and Rodion also gave us advice on what are the correct questions to ask in order to stand out when communicating with your clients, understand their needs and make a difference.

I asked Eugenia about what she thinks is the most important factor to consider when choosing a solution for a client, apart from bespoke service of course. Would the priority fall on the budget, innovation or maybe something else altogether? Her answer was loud and clear: quality. She advises to not get involved in providing a solution that cannot meet quality standards or is insufficient. Moreover, make sure to have a detailed briefing with your client in order to establish whether you can proceed together or not.

Book recommendation: “The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you” by Rob Fitzpatrik

Alex Chernenko, CEO at Translit, took on a hot topic of the impact of AI and ML or Machine Learning on the language and localisation industry. An interesting topic was brought up while talking about free resources for translators and small businesses who would like to provide more solutions but do not have the budget of a big LSP. Recently, Smartcat released a feature that allows you to translate subtitles while also having a real-time preview of the video, which can be a good starting point to test the platform and see how you perform in such a task.

This presentation inspired me to ask a question that I think everyone in our trade has in mind today: “Arle Richard Lommel said that machine translation will only replace those who translate like machines​. According to you, will this be true?” Alex Chernenko answered as follows: “There is always an element of creativity that machines do not have, especially in the field of localisation. The machine is capable of learning, but you have to stay creative and keep working on creativity to help improve the market.”

Most pertinent question: “What do you think of the ethical implications of such tools and solutions for companies that work with them, not users”

Alex’s answer: “Some start-ups are already detecting and fighting the use of deep fakes. At some point, it seems that we will no longer be able to see what is really being said in the news. Regulation is needed to control this phenomenon and limit it to strictly creative purposes.”

Insightful quote: “Creativity is what will not be replaced by machines so easily.”

Creativity is what will not be replaced by machines so easily.”

4. In search of respect: Building successful relationships with localisation stakeholders

Anastasia Taymanova, Head of the Localisation Team, joined Dataduck more than 3 years ago, when the company was in the midst of its expansion. With a lot of effort and hard work, the order was established and today Anastasia Taymanova shares her experience and tips on how to build successful relationships with localisation stakeholders and multidisciplinary teams. She focused her presentation on three main points of equal importance, i.e. correct positioning as a localisation team with a clear awareness of the core business, continuous and consistent training and finally communication.

My question: “What would you recommend doing first in order to minimise over-interpretation (and therefore conflict) in your team or in the company when working remotely?”

Anastasia’s response: “Make sure your workflow is well-documented and don't forget to educate and train your staff regularly. Don't be afraid to remind others that you exist, organise meetings and training. Be curious about the company and most importantly, be patient!”

Insightful quote: “Communication + Collaboration = Success.”

5. TMS challenges: Top five reasons why companies avoid TMS migration projects

This is an important subject as many institutions, buyers, as well as vendors who are considering adopting a new technology. It mostly concerns small, accelerating organisations, start-ups, as well as large companies who are either looking for a solution to apply a multi-vendor strategy or to update their complicated and often overly costly workflow setup.

The five title reasons why a company may fear acquiring new technology and migrating its TMS can be summed up with a few key terms: expertise, time, risk, fear of consequences and failure. Meanwhile, according to the Nimdzi Language Technology Atlas 2020, there are more than 370 different TMS platforms you can choose from and this number continues to grow.

Josef Kubovsky, CEO at Nimdzi Insights, shared some tips on what to pay attention to when approaching a TMS migration project: where to get started, how long it may really take and at what cost, who is involved and what impact sticking with your ‘old’ system may actually have on your business.

6. Go global, think local: How to establish an international web presence

This presentation, moderated by Optimational’s Business Development Specialist, Silvi Nuñez, and Strategy Director, Ann Montañana, was the perfect introduction to the main subject of the other half of #LocFromHome, namely globalisation.

The two experts thoroughly demonstrated the crucial importance of extensive market research and optimal multilingual content strategy when preparing to establish your company’s presence on the global market.

My question: “Do you think it’s important to recruit team members internationally when providing any language service (such as translation, localisation, live streaming, voice-over, etc.)?”

Silvi’s response: “Totally. For a strategy to make sense in the new target market, it has to be done by a native expert who actually lives there and understands the culture. This is what we really mean when we refer to localisation: satisfying the needs of a new, foreign target audience with the help of local experts.”

Most pertinent question: “According to your experience, how much content should a small digital agency translate to expand?”

Ann’s response: “A lot depends on your resources, but you can start by testing some approaches. The home-page and the About page are the must-haves here, then you can move on to blog posts, etc.”

Insightful quotes:

  • “Translate the content that performs best.”
  • “Localise the country, not the language.”
Localise the country, not the language.”

7. Creating internal localisation services to guide your organization’s global success

Marina Gracen-Farrell is a Localisation Consultant and Senior Content Developer at Pearson, but she is best known for her legendary monthly networking events as the Ambassador of LocLunch, an informal local group of people working on internationalization, globalization, localisation, and translation.

It is difficult to summarise this session, packed with valuable information and tips, whether they are addressed to a Junior Translator just entering in the market, such as myself, or to a Localisation CEO with over 20 years' experience.

Nevertheless, since this article is written by a master’s student, I am happy to share some of the advice that Marina gave to the peers from my generation: “Network, learn everything you can, join a translators' association and attend conferences that will boost your knowledge of the trade. Put yourself forward and make yourself known to acquire your first clients. Surround yourself with like-minded people who share your passion for this profession and who support you. And finally, look for your specialization, something that sets you apart from the others.”

My question concerned creativity in a profession like ours: “Is being creative enough to become a good Localisation Project Manager/Expert or are there other skills that are crucial to succeed? Do you think there’s a golden rule?”

Marina’s response: “Back in the day, no one would say you could be creative, everybody said you should work hard to succeed, but not bother with things like creativity”. Marina in fact disagreed with this approach and said that being creative makes you more successful than those who keep their heads down. "Be aware of what you enjoy doing most and learn as much as you can from it.”

Book recommendation: “Truly Global: The Theory and Practice of Bringing Your Company to International Markets” by Anna N Schlegel.

Most pertinent question: “What are the top 3-4 skills, in your opinion, needed today vs. when you started to build a localisation program (thinking about new tools, work processes, soft skills, etc.)?”

Marina’s answer: “Empathy for yourself and your peers, being collaborative and developing listening skills. Most importantly, you succeed the most by supporting others and keeping the drive up.”

8. Uncomfortable questions to localisation providers

It is important to ask the most correct and relevant questions in order to succeed with your project. In the case of localisation projects, it is necessary to understand why certain questions have particular value in our relationship with a provider. We then proceed to the actual localisation process, what it will look like and whether it will be smooth and fruitful. Igor Afanasyev, Senior Product Manager at Smartcat, analysed the different possible scenarios and, naturally, answered numerous questions, even the uncomfortable ones.

How do you choose your technology, whether it is a TMS or a CAT tool? How can we make our work more effective and efficient? How do we value our work? What do we really mean when talking about continuous localisation? Igor looked at all the problematic aspects and suggested some potential solutions.

My question: “How do I approach a localisation provider if I have some concerns regarding their ethical policy, e.g. the rates they provide vs. the salary they pay their employees?”

Igor’s response: “You may never get an honest answer, for instance regarding the use of machine translation. So, choose a technology that will give you the smoothest control over your project. If it takes place on your platform, you will have measurable control, allowing you to compare the value and the quality of the work delivered. On your own side, always be transparent to gain others’ trust.”

9. Rising tides: Filling the education gap in localisation through mentorship and coaching

Moderated by Tucker Johnson, Board Member and Co-Founder of Nimdzi Insights, this panel was an example of the fact that, as of today, the localisation industry still has no specialised training or job description, as it would be the case with translation, for instance.

The speakers looked at the difference between coaching and mentoring and proposed several definitions. Where is the place for both? What is the difference between this relationship and an external relationship? We learned that every Manager must be able to manage and mentor their employees. Should they push you out of your comfort zone and apply constructive criticism or should they support you? Beware, coaching is not cheerleading!

As someone who is still a student and believes in life-long learning, it is quite important for me to learn from my mentors. But how do we choose our mentors? How do we know their advice is indeed useful, correct, and effective?

Allison Ferch, Executive Director of the Globalization and Localisation Association (GALA): “GALA is currently running the Young Women's Student Mentoring Program, which works in small groups, cohorts, organizes events, etc. Students are often shy or afraid to contact people with more experience to ask for help. Be a little brave and don't be afraid to ask for some time, you never know where it might bring you!”

Michal Antczak, Head of Localisation Technology at PayPal: “It won't hurt just to send a little message. In the worst-case scenario, you will get ignored, but most of the time people are likely to help you even a little bit. LinkedIn is great for finding that kind of relationship.”

Kris Girrell, Principal and Owner of Innerwork Consulting: “Send a reach-out message, such as "I really like what I see in you, and I’d like to learn!" If the person declines, you probably wouldn't want to work with them anyway.”

Yuka Nakasone, Chief Strategist at Global Bridge: “As soon as you find someone who inspires you, try to start talking about things together. When you seek your answer, just go for it, and proceed depending on the answer. Get to know each other and your relationship may turn into a mentorship. Remember, if something is wrong, you should be able to say it straight and trust in the other person to understand.”

10. Keynote: Global-ready product strategy

In this keynote speech on globalisation, Talia Baruch, Product Strategy Executive at Global-Ready and Geo-Fit, discussed strategy for today’s “multi” world. How do we move the corporate culture towards a strategic mindset that is adaptive, inclusive, global-ready, dynamically generating good local experiences on a global scale? The “world after” is today: it is time to adapt and learn everything all over again.

There was no Q&A session during this presentation, but one exchange in the chat particularly caught my attention during this intervention: “There is a localisation maturity model. Is there a global readiness maturity model?” Marina Gracen-Farrell replied: “Just getting to ‘organized’ and ‘re-leveraging content’ raises your Localisation Maturity Model!”

Insightful quote: “Every mission requires a passionate missionary.”

Every mission requires a passionate missionary.”

11. ROI: A voyage into the unknown or a way to communicate localisation value?

With Rodrigo Cristina, Group Localisation Customer Experience Champion at t'works, as the Moderator of this panel, we indeed embarked on a journey of analysis and discussion of a relatively simple financial term, which yet always seems to provoke a rather heated discussion when used in the context of localisation. Why is this so? And what about the specificity of this industry, what role does it play in the growth of the global market? There are many answers to these questions and each speaker had something to contribute.

Carrie Fischer, Manager of Globalization Services at Subway: “There are tools that can help us make more or less accurate calculations, as well as experts who are able to run a prognosis. In the end, it all depends on the type of company you invest in. At Subway, for example, the ROI discussion never happens, but I do the calculation anyway for my personal knowledge, as one of my data points.”

Iti Sahai, International Staff Product Manager at Chegg: “ROI is about results, not language, which is organic. Criteria for success need to be determined and defined, for example, to increase discoverability to encourage acquisition. It's not always about revenue, but also about promoting leadership qualities.”

Chris Englund, Vice President of International Operations at ActiveCampaign: “ROI has the risk of reducing the complexity of a business decision into something that may not exactly capture what is of interest to the person that we’re discussing localisation with. Sometimes what we sell isn’t what the other person Is buying. You need to make sure you are on the same page in order to be aware of the true impact of the investment.”

My question: “What would you advise young people who look to invest in localisation NOT to do?”

Carrie’s answer: “If we are talking in general, I would say don't limit yourself. Be open to new opportunities and technologies that hit the market. For years, I didn't really believe machine translation or synthesized voice would EVER work for Subway's content. I was wrong. If something looks interesting, ask for a demo. If you have a degree in localisation project management or translation, don't limit yourself to look for those types of jobs. Look for opportunities that give you as much hands-on experience as possible.”

12. A walk on the wild side with continuous localisation

Rebecca Ray, Director and Chief Analyst of CSA Research, went into great detail on the history of continuous localisation and presented us with the latest research on the subject. She also analysed the impact of new technologies on the localisation process over the last years.

My question: “What is your forecast on what is potentially next in store for continuous localisation?”

Rebecca’s response: “We'll see a lot more machines and AI, for sure. There are also ideas coming straight from Silicon Valley, such as Robotic Process Automation or RPI to ensure process optimisation. All of this is already happening.”

While we are on the topic of continuous localisation, it is worth mentioning a comprehensive guide prepared by Igor Afanasyev, Smartcat’s Senior Product Manager, entitled “Automated vs. Continuous: How companies fail at automation, and how you can make it right” (link here), containing a lot of useful information on how to approach this topic.

13. What is globalization?

This last conference of the day was moderated by Yuka Nakasone, Chief Strategist at Global Bridge, and addressed the concept of globalisation, down to its nitty gritty. It is in fact a term that carries a variety of definitions, depending on its context and usage.

Tex Texin, Chief Globalisation Architect at XenCraft: “Today we are no longer talking about companies that plan to enter the global market, but about companies whose business is focused on the act of adapting services and products to different markets around the world.”

Rachel Carruthers, Head of Internationalisation and Localisation at Canva: “What works well is having a close but distinct link between localisation and internationalisation. This allows for a greater level of communication and collaboration between these two areas of co-information.”

Doug Bruhnke, Founder and CEO of Global Chamber: “What we have against us, as people working in the field of globalisation, is that most people in the world tend to have a more local view, they don't think globally. It seems that the term has a strong pejorative connotation which does not help but has not prevented the development of this modern phenomenon.”

One view from the comments section, by Thierry Lavigne, also caught my eye: “You learn every day what it is to be an international professional by being part of the International Chamber of Commerce community: ask local people who know everything about their place, their culture, their customs and how to do business locally or nationally. Avoid mistakes related to legislation, culture, way of doing things or customs by being part of a global network of friendly professionals you can rely on every day.”

Book recommendation: “International brand strategy: A guide to achieving global brand growth” by Sean Duffy

On a final note...

This summary of opinions, visions and comments is but a simple overview of what we experienced during the 4th edition of #LocFromHome. Any words of conclusion? Localisation is evolving in parallel with our “world after”. Today.

I thank all those who shared this experience with me and who answered my numerous questions throughout the day.

Oh, and you can already sign up for the next edition of #LocFromHome — so make sure you do!

From Vova: To add to Kate’s takeaways, I have one of my own, a meta one if you wish. Every now and then we hear that the localization industry is dying, what with machine translation, AI, automation, and all the other technologies that are “about to” replace its human participants. Pieces like this one make it crystal clear for me that our trade is alive and kicking.

And it’s not only because of the insights and quotes this piece contains. It’s also because it shows that we have awesome young people like Kate join the ranks of translators, project managers, localization engineers, and whatever other professions our industry comprises or will give rise to. People whose eyes are shining with excitement and whose hearts beat for the craft.

Kate’s article is a proof that we do have a future, and so is Kate herself. As for me, it’s been a freaking amazing experience being your editor-in-chief here in this blog — and I couldn’t have wished for a better way to end my wild five-year purple ride than by giving a voice to those who will shape our industry’s tomorrow.

Bye for now, and see you around!

Sign up for #LocFromHome V