Why Cultural and Situational Context are Critical for a Valuable Localization Experience, with Slator’s Co-Founder Andrew Smart


Slator has become the complete resource for language industry news and analysis since Andrew Smart and Florian Faes co-founded the news media group in 2015. And with 25 years of experience across media and localization, Andrew has the inside line on industry trends.

By operating in the space of localization, media, and brand, Andrew has learned a lot about managing relationships, collaborating successfully for the best result, and leveraging feedback from users to deliver valuable content.

He’s also been a key player in building Slator’s own media platform, so his experience in reaching a worldwide audience is one we can all learn from.

Andrew joins us today to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on the localization industry’s growth, the macro-trends that have been emerging in both localization and SaaS technology as a whole, the vital role of translators in our global economy, and opportunities to improve collaboration between brands and linguists.

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On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Slator came to be, and the role their voice plays in the industry
  • Where the localization industry currently stands, and how it's set up for growth 2021
  • Why translation is only growing in importance, and how to leverage localization
  • How to build a strong collaborative relationship with translators, and why it is critical to listen to their feedback
  • The importance of directly listening to your customers and users to understand their pain points, and how to deliver the most valuable experience.

What to listen for:

  • [03:54] - Andrew’s experience and the story of Slator
  • [07:17] - Some insight around Slator’s recent Industry Market Report
  • [09:35] - Growth in the localization industry and the macro-trends emerging right now
  • [13:47] - The influence of macro-trends on the consumer side of the industry
  • [18:00] - The apps and services keeping Andrew connected during the lockdown
  • [22:40] - What might the media landscape look like after COVID-19?
  • [24:06] - Thinking positively about the power of technology and SaaS platforms during a global pandemic
  • [27:09] - Translator pay and job satisfaction: Why you need to listen to their feedback
  • [33:48] - Andrew highlights the importance of cultural and situational context in translation
  • [36:40] - Adrian discusses the opportunity for improvement within the localization industry
  • [39:40] - How remote work is empowering the world with greater flexibility and agility
  • [46:44] - Why brands translate and how they value content
  • [49:30] - Determining the value and measuring ROI of translation for your brand
  • [51:00] - Understand what your users need to deliver the most value

Keep learning 📖

Full Transcript that almost certainly has typos (forgive us!)

Announcer: You're listening to The Loc Show, presented by Smartling.

Adrian Cohn: Hey everyone, and welcome back to The Loc Show. I'm your host, Adrian Cohn, from Smartling, a language translation technology and services company that transforms how you manage content across content types and devices in any language. Thank you for listening.

Adrian Cohn: Andrew Smart is the co founder of Slator, the news, media, and insights group focused on the translation and language technology market. I loved this conversation with Andrew because he has the inside line on industry trends and tangible guidance for localization project managers like you. Andrew is a great guest and kind enough to dial in all the way from Thailand. Let's dive in.

Adrian Cohn: Andrew, welcome to The Loc Show. Thanks for being here.

Andrew Smart: It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me, Adrian.

Adrian Cohn: Where are you now? How are you coping with the situation that's at hand?

Andrew Smart: Well, I've been living in Asia for the better part of 25 years. I'm currently in Bangkok where I live with my wife. We moved up here from Singapore about two years ago. The situation here is good. The economy is beginning to recover. They're starting to open up businesses. So, you can walk about on the street. People are wearing masks, they're doing check in at retail outlets, but life is beginning to return to normal. The activity on the streets is beginning to increase, about 50% of previous times. How is it for you in New York city?

Adrian Cohn: New York is coming back right now it seems. A lot of people out on the street. Businesses are doing innovative things to stay relevant. I'm particularly interested in how restaurants are responding to this complete change in their business model, but it's been really interesting to be in the middle of New York during all of this. And I'm encouraged by the seven o'clock cheer that we've been doing for a long time now for the healthcare and frontline workers.

Andrew Smart: Well, they deserve it, as do a lot of people that are often overlooked, such as taxi drivers and others who are on the front line, grocery stores, people who have been keeping them stocked, working at the checkout counter, we have a lot to thank them for. Here in Thailand we've been using a lot of the grocery delivery apps and also food delivery apps. So it has been disrupted and I think those apps can take a large bite out of a restaurant's earnings, but it has been keeping them in business.

Andrew Smart: They are now opening up, but the social distancing guidelines is reducing their capacity. So I was in a restaurant just the other day and 75% of the seats are marked off. And I was in there with my wife and we couldn't even sit at the same table. So it was a bit odd as we adjust to this new normal, not to be able to sit at the same table as your family members, but it's a beginning. And I think if things continue to trend this way hopefully life will return more and more towards normal and social distancing will become less of a requirement. That's my hope, at least.

Adrian Cohn: Well, that sounds like a good hope, Andrew, and I'm sure that our futures will be bright. Certainly we've seen great innovation across many different domains and that will continue. Humanity finds a way to win. So Andrew, you're a co founder of Slator.

Andrew Smart: Yes.

Adrian Cohn: Tell us a little bit about Slator.

Andrew Smart: Well, as I mentioned, I moved out to Asia about 25 years ago, and I used to work in the stock market, and I was an analyst by nature. And the Asian financial crisis pretty much blew up that industry. So this current environment seems somewhat familiar in terms of external shocks and disruption. And that required me to also change and think about how I manage my own career. So I got involved in the web design business, and then later in business media applying the skills and background that I had.

Andrew Smart: While in business media at Thomson Reuters I was managing a community for the legal profession, and that's where I met Florian, my business partner. He was managing CLS in Asia. He was growing the business there. They were starting to get acquired by Lionbridge. I don't know if you remember that deal. And he was looking at what we were doing in terms of visibility and lead generation and he was saying, hey, maybe we could do this for the language industry. So in 2015 we put a website together, and we've been running ever since. So it's been a great five years now.

Adrian Cohn: Well, I'm glad you guys decided to take on the challenge of this venture. I personally really enjoy viewing and learning from Slator. And as a quite niche industry that we work in, it's funny, it's niche, but it's also a mainstream product, it's so interesting to learn about the things that you report on, whether it's stories of companies that are managing translation and localization in unique ways or the research that you offer. So thank you for doing that. It's a great resource-

Andrew Smart: My pleasure.

Adrian Cohn: ... and I'm sure that our listeners also feel the same way. What is your role in Slator as a co founder? What is your primary focus area?

Andrew Smart: Well, coming from a business media background I looked at how we could build the platform, so the website and what our audience and users might want and how they consume it. And then we took existing products and services out there and integrated them into our platform. So, Florian took the editorial lead. He has the domain knowledge from the industry. He started writing about the news. He's built the editorial team. We've been building research products together. And so I tend to look at the platform and how things operate.

Andrew Smart: Similarly, on the other side, I've taken the commercial lead. So I've been working with clients who are doing advertising as well as are looking to buy our market intelligence services. So the primary external view is commercial director of sales, but I also work... and Florian and I work together to make sure the platform is as solid as it can be as a startup and a growing company. And then, like all great companies, you do everything else that needs to get done.

Andrew Smart: So, I'm not a natural born speaker, but I moderate at our events and we moderate now in our webinars. So you do everything else that needs to get done on top of that, so.

Adrian Cohn: You seem like a natural born speaker to me, Andrew. You mentioned that you do a fair amount of research also-

Andrew Smart: Yes.

Adrian Cohn: ... as an organization. And recently you released the language industry market report.

Andrew Smart: Yes.

Adrian Cohn: Tell us a little bit about that.

Andrew Smart: Well, this is the second year that we've been doing this. So as we've expanded our coverage we started looking at the language service providers first. And then we started to look at how we can break down the industry in a way that the industry we thought could use it. And we started to look at 10 key industry verticals that would make up the large bulk of the language service industry. So you're absolutely right.

Andrew Smart: A few minutes ago you were talking about this industry, before I met Florian I didn't even know this industry existed, to be honest. And then once you look at it you realize it's literally everywhere. It's in every industry and in every part of the world. So we look at which industries are growing and why. We have been fortunate enough to enjoy a very good several years of growth in the industry, and 2019 was an excellent year for growth.

Andrew Smart: So, a lot of the language service providers were growing in the double digits, in the teens. The companies we were covering were doing an average of about 14% growth last year, a bit of organic growth in addition to acquisition led growth. And then beyond that we've just been hit with this COVID so we were trying to assess the impact, what's it going to mean for revenues this year, is it impacting trends that we're seeing such as the adoption of which types of technology, is it accelerating automation, these sorts of things.

Andrew Smart: So we try to look at what's going on in the industry, think about the practical implications, and then just try to help businesses and clients think about, where are there still growth opportunities, which technologies can be helpful, and who is doing what to adopt them and make them useful in their business models?

Adrian Cohn: Andrew, you mentioned that the report reveals that there was growth in the language services industry in 2019.

Andrew Smart: Yes.

Adrian Cohn: Some of it was organic growth, some of it was net new for language service providers. Why is there growth? What did your research reveal?

Andrew Smart: Well, I think the industry as a whole has been benefiting from some very strong macro trends over the past few years. If you look at globalization and internationalization, this has been going on for decades, and we say the retail and the travel industry companies have been going international. They've been looking at how to expand their overseas markets.

Andrew Smart: Technology has suddenly, and in a lot of industries like media, for example, or gaming, suddenly opened up the whole world very, very quickly. And therefore these have been accelerants in terms of driving organic growth.

Andrew Smart: On top of that, in some ways I think our industry has lagged other industries in terms of consolidation. And so we were seeing the emergence of what we have described as super agencies, language service providers doing more than $200 million in revenue. But this consolidation has happened in other industries following the same technology adoption curve such as the advertising industry. Once the internet opened up and the way advertising has changed and advertising services have changed, you had large agencies appear like the WPP Group.

Andrew Smart: So the long and short of it is the industry has been growing very well by a number of these macro drivers, globalization, technology adoption, a lot of lifestyle travel business. And then for those that were growing even further, some acquisition as they expand into the new geography. Or if you look at someone like TransPerfect, they recently made some acquisitions in terms of media companies that help round out their portfolio of services in that space. And then they can expand that across the rest of their clients.

Andrew Smart: So I would say up till February it was very good times in the industry. I think the language service providers we spoke to were talking about a good start to the year and that it was the same for us.

Andrew Smart: I think one of the positives I see, if I can continue a little bit further, is that while we have been in this tremendous external shock for this industry, I am somewhat hopeful that there are signs in the broader economy that we have flattened the curve, things are beginning to turn to normal. And in certain industries like the US housing market where mortgage applications have rebounded pretty quickly, I'm hopeful that once we get through the shock there will be some time where companies work through it, but our industry is poised to return to growth.

Andrew Smart: And so Slator's view as a whole is that we'll be back on a growth path in 2021. So there's going to be some tough times, we're right in the middle of it here in the second quarter, but we can work through it. You touched on technological innovation, humans are incredibly adaptive, incredibly innovative. And I think, to be honest, where I'll end it is, that's a conversation, I think, worth having within companies. How do you make your teams that are working remotely now more productive, more collaborative, because one of the downsides of this current remote working environment is this lack of human touch.

Andrew Smart: As much as we're talking over the internet, it would probably be a lot better if we were sitting at the pub having a beer and talking about what's going on in the industry.

Adrian Cohn: Boy, would I love to be doing that with you right now, especially in Thailand. It's a marvel that we can have this conversation over the phone, but I certainly will take you up on that pint as soon as this is all over. You referenced, Andrew, some macro trends. And then you started to speak a little bit about how that's influenced the agency side. How has it influenced the customer side, or how has it influenced the volume of work that has bumped up the growth in the industry?

Andrew Smart: Well, I do think overall you're going to see economic contraction. So broadly speaking you already see, I think, the first quarter GDP numbers are out on the US and it's down 4% or 5%. So you're going to see overall some contraction. But in companies where there's actually been an expansion of engagement, and if their finances are still healthy enough, there is opportunity to continue to build and invest in the communities that you're serving and also the technologies that you're using to service them.

Andrew Smart: So one good example on a rather large scale is Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg recently held his town hall and it's on his Facebook post page. And he spends most of his time talking about working remotely. But if you look at Facebook, here was a company that had incredible reach but also had a lot of physical office spaces. So one impact for them, first of all, was to learn how to work remotely. And he mentioned that now about 90% or so of his staff work remotely at this moment in time.

Andrew Smart: And that's not how it's going to be going forward. People are still figuring out the new normal. But the first thing that a lot of buy-side or end clients have to figure out is, how do I shift and adjust and manage my work teams, and how do I collaborate more remotely?

Andrew Smart: In the positive, this is one place where language service providers and our industry as a whole have been leaders. We've really been working remotely with freelancers and others and teams around the world much more than a lot of other industries. So this is a chance for, I think, language service providers and technology providers to share that experience and to support that process.

Adrian Cohn: That's a cool storyline, Andrew, and when you describe how the language industry has been at the forefront of, let's say, a remote workforce, the first thing that comes to my mind is the translators who do the actual work. And last year, as you know, we published this whole book about our translator.

Andrew Smart: Yes.

Adrian Cohn: And it actually hit me a couple of weeks ago that, well, first I was very fortunate, we're very fortunate that we did that program last year as opposed to this year, wouldn't have happened. But we were able to show people the remote lifestyle before it came into fashion or became a requisite for everybody. And the stories that we've learned from these translators, I think, are compelling. And we've actually gone back and interviewed a lot of them again, and they've been able to share some of their experiences, remote workforce people, with folks like you and me who may not be accustomed to working remotely.

Andrew Smart: Well, I think that's great. And I hope you go back and share some of their stories this year, because, I mean, there have been some areas where there perhaps is potentially an increase in business. There's been a lot more remote simultaneous interpreting for instance, but there's also been some adverse impact as well.

Andrew Smart: So I think if you hear their stories and see how they're adjusting, there have been some surveys out, depending on which part of the industry you're in and how you've been working. If you've been on an onsite interpreter, there's no more events, this has been really hard. This situation has been very hard on you, but also has driven the adoption of technology, remote interpretation platforms, and therefore a new normal, if you will.

Andrew Smart: That actually opens up opportunity in a way. If you're a translator in, say, Europe, and you're doing a lot of work with the EU, and that's great, potentially there may be other markets further afield that you can now access through technology. So, it's not always completely negative. I hope that people can look for bright spots, and I hope as you do these podcasts you can share more of these bright spots of people making their way and succeeding in this difficult environment.

Adrian Cohn: Totally. Yeah. And I think that one of the points that we were alluding to earlier is how localization is a... it's a niche discipline. It's not the first thing that comes to people's minds although it is ever present in the global economy. What are the delivery food apps that you've been using in Thailand?

Andrew Smart: Well, Grab is the dominant car service. They've beat out Uber here locally. And then there's also Foodpanda, which is... And they've covered all the restaurants you pretty much need, from fast food up to every type of gourmet service. So I do think some areas in eCommerce have done well. Out here platforms like Lazada have been doing pretty good business and we've purchased some things off that. So e-commerce, certain sectors of e-commerce have done well. Of course the travel business has been hurt very badly, airlines, hotels, etc., have been hurt very badly.

Andrew Smart: But I think within this if you could look and adapt and focus on, say, mobile apps or gaming, these translate very well, and they're highly scalable. So I think there are growth opportunities to look at.

Adrian Cohn: Yeah. I mean, I agree. There are all of these platform first companies, they were usually built with the idea of scale in mind. That's why Netflix has had the market penetration it's had, that's why Disney+ has been able to expand so rapidly in under a year.

Andrew Smart: Indeed.

Adrian Cohn: And the list goes on and on and on, but what's so interesting is that the language translation component of it is usually underappreciated, or it's under-discovered by consumers alike. We think a lot about product and packaging, like for example, Apple spends a huge amount of time and money packaging their products, and people appreciate that. So it's top of mind for consumers when they go to buy an Apple product or a competitive product. I don't know how much language translation is top of mind, unless the translations are not good. Do you have any insight into this?

Andrew Smart: Well, in terms of any survey or statistical analysis, no, but I can tell you from what we've seen, it does make a tremendous impact. I mean, if I can go back and I dig a few things out, I'm sure I can find some broad numbers, but I think we covered a number of different case studies on Slator where...

Andrew Smart: Let me give you an example now, Netflix, for instance, right? You brought up Netflix. As a OTT media company, consumption of their products has gone up. Last year, 2019, I think they released or produced an amazing about 350 different media shows and movies, which is amazing. But now everything gets put on hold. So what do they do? I mean, they have to start shifting and looking at where can they get incremental revenue growth from additional languages.

Andrew Smart: So they're very much looking within their business to say, all right, where are we getting increased usage, and in what languages, and therefore, how can we do this at scale, and what technology can we use to aid us, like machine translation, and how does that plug into a translation management system and that workflow? And so you have companies looking at how to continue to grow revenue and continue to be profitable even in these difficult environments where they can't even produce their core product, which is content.

Adrian Cohn: Content. Yeah. I mean, that's a fascinating insight by the way, because we do look at things like airlines, hotel groups, it's obvious that they aren't going to be doing the typical business that they've been accustomed to, that we're accustomed to right now. But if we think of media products, it's a whole different ball game right now. The pipeline is going to shift dramatically for, I guess, the rest of this year and maybe the next two to three years in terms of what content we'll be able to consume.

Andrew Smart: Well. And so in that regard gaming and e-gaming shows, and a lot of this can be done remotely now, and you can create whole new worlds essentially and whole new games without even real people. Maybe we'll see a lot more cartoons, more Rick and Morty or other TV shows created. And also the way that these industries are being supported, there was initially, I think, some hesitation about remote dubbing or remote voice acting and home studios, but the situation is almost mandated. And I think Mark Ruffalo was saying he would love to work from home forever.

Andrew Smart: So, I think even in these situations there are some bright spots in the adoption of technology. I do think in some industries it's a lot harder, say, if you're in the legal industry, and the courts have been closed in places, I think, like New York for some time. It makes court interpreting impossible to be honest. But in the healthcare sector it's probably more mixed.

Andrew Smart: In some ways there was a shortage of healthcare interpreters, but then I think with video remote interpreting the adoption of this platform can actually make the interpretation safer for all, less people in the room, at the same time more cost effective, quicker access to a broader set of interpreters. So I think the key here is thinking about which technologies can aid this process and how usable they are. I think one thing we haven't really talked about is no matter what you adopt, how usable is it?

Andrew Smart: You talked about our or asked about our research report earlier, we did a survey of 50 language service providers, and the average is almost three translation management systems they have to deal with to serve themselves and their clients. So, how usable these products are, how well they plug in to their clients, how smooth is the workflow. These are things that not just make you profitable, but also make things less painful for the teams you're working with. The idea behind technology is to make life better, simpler, easier, faster. So this is the challenge, I think, that companies like yours are overcoming.

Adrian Cohn: Yeah. And the research that you just referenced was focused on how translators have to use multiple platforms to serve their clients. Is that what that specific insight was in?

Andrew Smart: In a sense, but it was more the language service providers. So the companies themselves, they may have a proprietary system, but their clients are on another platform.

Adrian Cohn: Got you.

Andrew Smart: So they also have to be proficient in that platform. So there's two or three different platforms. And of course the freelancers, they also have to then be proficient on, if they're serving more than one language service provider as a freelancer, then they have to think, which one of these platforms do I want to be most proficient on?

Adrian Cohn: Got it.

Andrew Smart: And then some of the things that have jumped out are ease of use and the work with the company, and also, to be honest, payment, right? I mean, people want to get paid. So there's other things that companies can do to keep their freelancers and their translators happy, what products they use and how quickly they pay them. So my greatest piece of advice right now is pay your translators fast, keep your best translators close.

Adrian Cohn: Well, let's dig into that. Was there more research that you revealed in this report on translator pay on what the rates are, and whether or not translators are satisfied, how quickly they're being paid? What did you find out?

Andrew Smart: Well, not in this report specifically, but in the past we've looked at different trends. There has been general pressure on rates, per word rates in the industry. There has been already the shift towards the hourly basis and this post editing model that comes in with machine translation. And I think this crisis is going to continue and accelerate these trends. So it really comes down to almost company by company, some are still paying by words, some have moved to an hour remodel. So it's difficult to generalize broadly, but the trend is, I think, moving towards automation and that direction.

Adrian Cohn: Yeah. That makes complete sense to me. I mean, there's a lot of discussion, I think, where we're getting into something different than we anticipated on speaking about today, but translator pay is a super interesting topic. And I think that it's important for people, localization managers, language service providers, anybody who touches the pipeline to consider their resources.

Adrian Cohn: At the end of the day, without the translator the work can't get done. Of course there is a massive pool of translators for most languages. So there are a lot of people to choose from, but if you want to get high quality results, and you want to get consistent results, and you want to work with the same people, which is one way to build your ability to always deliver brand driven content, you got to work with them on mutually beneficial terms.

Andrew Smart: Yes, no, I agree. I think you can get enough productivity growth out of a technology that the need to squeeze human side of the equation, if you will, is not necessarily there. Again, this crisis aside, I do think, generally speaking, the industry has been enjoying many years of growth, at least 6%, 7%, 8% growth as a whole. And so I do think that provides opportunity to expand your business. And with that expansion, and if you're using an implementing technology, taking a lot of the manual aspects out of the workflow, then you have margin to play with it.

Andrew Smart: So I think if you look within your own P&L as a business owner, you want to make sure that the people who are providing your output, whether it's, they're doing the original human translation or they're post editing and making sure the quality is there and also making sure the corpus is of high quality for what goes back into the mix for the translation management system and the memory system, these are your star players, really, when you think about it. They're project managers and your translators are really the heroes of your organization.

Andrew Smart: So my cautionary tale will be, don't squeeze your talent too hard. They have options. I mean, they can go elsewhere. Good translators, I would hope, would have options. But before I wander too far down that path, I think I would put it back to you and ask you to ask what your translators are telling you. I think this would be a fascinating report later this year if we do a quick survey, would love to hear about the results.

Adrian Cohn: Well, we did research last year, not specifically on translator pay, but on the translators' satisfaction with the industry. So we asked the net promoter score question on a scale of 0 to 10, I think how we phrased it was how satisfied are you with the language translation industry, and I'm forgetting the number, but it was not a great result.

Adrian Cohn: So we asked, what would you want to see changed? And the answers were, they always want to have visual context. That was the first and most important tool that would make their level of satisfaction with the industry better. I think that's fair. If you're sitting in front of a computer all day and you're translating in a spreadsheet, it's going to be really hard to get the job done correctly, and it's got to be tough, whereas if you can see the rich experience that the end user will see at the end, it makes your job better, easier, and you become more part of the team.

Adrian Cohn: The second thing that they said was important to them was actually knowing the customer, knowing their client, having the ability to directly communicate with them, either through the platform, through Slack, through a Zoom call, having the ability to just have a conversation, because a lot of the content and feedback comes down to preferences. It's interesting, because a lot of the talk of the town in language translation is translation quality, but oftentimes it's not that the quality is poor, it's that the preferences of the brand are not met. So this is one way to combat that.

Adrian Cohn: Pay was also part of this, and then the speed at which the payment was made. So these are the four things that stand out to me from the research that we also spoke a little bit about at our global ready translation summit, which was in London in September and New York later in September, 2019. So that's what we learned when we spoke with translators. And we actually had translators at those events, which was really cool. And they spoke directly to the audience.

Andrew Smart: Well, I think those are excellent points because when you talked earlier about where has the language industry been beneficial to end clients, when you're speaking to somebody in their own language and you're trying to connect with them, it's more than just the actual words, there's usually a cultural context, a situational context, who are they, who is that persona, what is it they're looking for?

Andrew Smart: And one of the things that I think you see in web designing, for instance, from my own background is, what do they want, and how and when do they want it? So how do people consume? So usability in general is very, very important. And a big context of engaging with others is within the right context. And then you also talked about the cultural aspects, and then the technology below that is a pain point very often in any technology, it doesn't matter, the language industry, any technology, how easy is this to use, and what's the cost and all of that.

Andrew Smart: But I will say the last point you made was also very good, which is, I don't know any industry where people don't like being paid on time. It's as simple as that. So people got to eat, people have rent to pay, if you're stretching it because you can, if you're [inaudible 00:35:01] them with fees because you can, that's not good for your reputation overall, just because you can. And that puts you into a competitive dynamic where people will start to equate some of these small negatives or even medium sized negatives with you that are easily avoided, especially if you have the money to do it.

Andrew Smart: So I think the best thing you can do with anyone is pay your people first, and then pay your landlord or anybody else second. So look after your talent.

Adrian Cohn: Smartling prides itself on our ability to connect you directly with translators, the very people who you depend on to transform your products and services into any language. Last year we launched a campaign called Move the World with Words to shed light on the hidden figures behind global commerce; translators. In addition to publishing an award winning book on these unsung heroes, we also launched the Move the World with Words Podcast to feature translators from around the world.

Adrian Cohn: The first 30 episodes were recorded at ATA 60 in Palm Springs last October. And if you're interested in learning more about their personal lives and professional pursuits, check out the Move the World with Words Podcast wherever you listen. Let's get back to the show.

Adrian Cohn: So, as you were responding to that question I pulled up the data so that we can-

Andrew Smart: Oh, good.

Adrian Cohn: ... actually have the information. So the way that NPS works, for those of you who may not be familiar with it, is the question base is on a scale of 0 to 10. And the scale of the result is actually -100 all the way to 100. If your answer is between zero and seven, sorry, zero and six, it counts as a minus one. If your response is seven and eight, your response counts as a zero. And if your response is nine or 10, it counts as a plus one.

Adrian Cohn: So out of the survey of our translators, the NPS score for the translation industry, not related to Smartling, but their perception of the industry was -25. Now, to give you some context, there are no companies that have an NPS of 100. The top performing companies like Apple have an NPS of something like 80, anything above zero, let's say like 20, 30, 40, that NPS score would be really, really strong, but -25 is really not strong. So there's a lot of work that we can do.

Adrian Cohn: And I mentioned the few things that they really are looking for, visual context, communication with the client, pay, and speedy payment, but they did mention two more things that I wanted to just bring up here because I think it's interesting, is they want more continuous feedback on their work. So once a translation job is done, they want to know, did they do a good job or not?

Adrian Cohn: It doesn't have to be a lengthy debrief, it could just be a couple of sentences, hey, this translation, spot on for our brand, or hey, we ended up changing this translation because it didn't quite hit the tonality that we were looking for. Keep this in mind for next time. That's a really important tool.

Adrian Cohn: The other thing that translators asked for, which I think is something that will be very, very tough for many businesses to achieve, is more time, giving translators more time. That one's hard because the deployment of content is faster than it's ever been. And I think that's a big part of why the industry is growing, it's that there's just more content, there are more devices to support, and the result is companies are pushing out more experiences more quickly and it needs to be translated fast.

Adrian Cohn: But that's where I think we come in with the software automation, because we can compress everything surrounding the human translation process. But putting all that aside, I think these are pretty fascinating insights into the translator community.

Andrew Smart: Well, no, I would agree. And I think, in terms of having more time, I don't know, working remotely saves you commute, and some of these commutes can be half an hour, or an hour one way, or sometimes more. So time management online, time flexibility online, these are things where working remotely can perhaps be an advantage. However, feedback is often sorely overlooked in almost every role, unfortunately. So if you could have some sort of dashboard, I think, but I think people generally do look for a feedback on their information.

Andrew Smart: And to be honest, if you're the end company, you would really want to know who's providing you with quality work consistently over time. I'll give you one good example. Zuckerberg literally says in his town hall that they do want to work to a heavier remote working balance, and the first people that can apply for this to become more permanent beyond 2020 are senior and more experienced people who are above a certain level in his business [inaudible 00:40:52] five or something like that, but also have good performance track records.

Andrew Smart: They've shown that they've over-delivered, over-achieved, performed well, have demonstrated a discipline to be productive on their own, and therefore as they transition to this remote working environment with... There's some gray areas in how people operate, these are people who are going to be stronger and more likely to continue to produce quality work.

Andrew Smart: So, that's where I think technology comes in, enabling those who are capable to do more, but with more flexibility hopefully, because work life balance has been a challenge now for 20 years since the internet came into play, maybe longer. And so having more work life balance in this mix, I think, is also important.

Adrian Cohn: Totally. Well, you bring up an interesting development that Facebook is starting to explore and many businesses are starting to explore. And the specific example that you offer is that for more tenured folks and folks who have a very strong track record for high performance will have the ability to apply for remote first. How do we provide some guidance to localization managers or developers who work in localization to start reporting on their work a little bit more effectively internally?

Adrian Cohn: And now, I know, Andrew, you've not been an in-house language translation manager, so some of these may not be your expertise, and you may not have done that side of the work, but you are a business person and you look all the time at analytics, and you explained earlier on the show, actually, that one of the core things you focus on is making sure you have a very well oiled machine, which is your website in particular and the media property that you offer. How should people be thinking about the value that they deliver to their company right now?

Andrew Smart: Well, it's a great question really, because at the end of the day you are an individual selling yourself as a service provider to a company. You have a skillset. No matter what your ambition is, whatever you want your career path to be, essentially when you get hired by a company, they're looking for you to do a set of services for them.

Andrew Smart: And so, I would always advise anyone to look within their organization at what career path and what career opportunities may be available to them, to look outside their own skillsets and their own areas to see what the business itself is talking about, and to actually learn about the business so that you can start to speak the language, if you will, of business managers, so that you can understand what they're looking at, how they're looking at things. Because ultimately, at the end of the day your business managers are trying to solve problems for customers.

Andrew Smart: And very often, the people at the front line of these situations are, maybe they're pre-sales, are very often project managers, they're seeing what works, they're seeing which tools work in different situations. All of a sudden you have a tremendous amount of value to add in conversations with clients. And so very often in other industries like enterprise IT you see project managers hearing the first problems from the clients as part of the ongoing work. They become revenue generators as well as delivery specialists.

Andrew Smart: And so I would say that in terms of communicating within the organization, learn the language of the business, think about what the business is doing and providing, which tools they're using, and think about... Look for areas where there's either individual growth opportunities. The small start would be with this client, they're looking for this, helping and working with the sales guys, in this industry we're seeing that. Starting to share, starting to speak up and share what you see. And eventually you start to become a spotter for opportunity in your organization.

Andrew Smart: And people see that. People want talent that's looking to speak up and offer solutions. They're not looking for grandstanding, they're not looking for showboating, they're looking for people who can actually deliver as part of a team. So I think once you start to have those conversations and be close to your clients and work well with other team members, then you're well on your way. Which again, I want to come back to remote working, that is actually a challenging situation within a remote working environment.

Andrew Smart: So also become used to and comfortable with these tools, strengthen your communication skills so that you can operate remotely and project manage, become proficient at all the other tools, whether you use Asana or Microsoft Team or whatever you use, and just continue to work and engage with people. And the rest will really take care of itself, to be honest. You'll see opportunities that will come up and people will start tapping you for those opportunities.

Adrian Cohn: That's awesome advice. I love it. There's so much to learn from that. And one of the things that we are trying to learn from other people on this podcast is, why does your organization even bother with language translation? What is the purpose behind supporting 5, 10 different languages or countries? Oftentimes the reason is very different from company to company.

Adrian Cohn: Of course, one of the primary drivers for many businesses is there's the expectation of greater revenues, but we've interviewed people on this podcast who are doing it for compliance purposes. If they want their product to be available, they have to do it, otherwise, it will be illegal. And I think that your point of understanding exactly what the priorities are of the business and then matching your talk track and the results that you report on to those business priorities is such a... it's like Ninja advice, Andrew, that you're offering.

Adrian Cohn: It's perfect for folks to think about so they have a more focused view as to how their role fits in with the wider picture.

Andrew Smart: No, that's great to hear. I think you bring up some good examples. So if we can just expand on that a little bit, if you look at, say, the life science industry where you might be doing clinical trials in another country, and if you don't explain to the doctors who are running these trials exactly what to do precisely, people can die. And so managing this, and then filling out all the forms correctly and going through each country's review process is critically important.

Andrew Smart: So that's a very long game. It takes years to get to the finish line where then you can actually offer that product in that country. That's a very, very longterm view on that. So it's very different in context and importance and in practice than being on Lazada and trying to get your wife who wants to buy that new blouse, that's another $20 sale, or a $50 sale, $100 sale.

Adrian Cohn: Yeah. Well, I love that you also brought in the medical industry here. We have a customer, The BMJ, The British Medical Journal, and they are translating a significant volume of content. And what I'm getting to here is that we've talked about how the translation industry expanded in 2019, right? More money was spent in translation. We're talking about how to understand the value of your role within the larger picture of an organization. These two things are actually quite closely tied together, and everything that occurs within the language translation space, and as a project manager, everything that you have to think about has to be combined.

Adrian Cohn: For The BMJ, they need to spend more money on translation services to get the quality correct. They cannot jeopardize translation quality at all or else their work is compromised. So this is one way that you can tie a business driver, quality research content, to your consumer base in X number of countries with how the translation spend may be increasing.

Adrian Cohn: We need to find more qualified translators, we need to spend more time making sure that the translations are correct, that's why we work with so many in market physicians to review the content. That's why it takes longer to deploy the content. I mean, all of these things are tied together, and for every business it's unique, which is exactly why we're doing this show, and it's exactly why I'm so glad we've had this great conversation.

Andrew Smart: Well, no, I appreciate that. You've touched on compliance, it also applies to the financial service sector. If you're doing IPOs and you're putting a prospectus out, we have legal obligations. If you're doing regular reporting to your high net worth individual clients, we have a different set. If you're putting out research, you have to make other declarations in multiple languages, even within the financial service sector they're working on it at different paces if you will.

Andrew Smart: If a merger comes together and you have the secrecy of due diligence, it's a very fast and intensive process versus the marathon and the rollover of regular equity research or bond research. So understanding what your customer is doing and how they're doing it is really important. Finding ways to add value and make their life easier is what we all get paid for. At the end of the day, we're here to make people's lives easier, no matter what we do. And by doing that, they will come back to you and your business will grow.

Andrew Smart: The other thing that I would say, just as a matter of practical advice, is, no matter who you're engaging with on the client organization, ask them questions, not just the questions related to your job or the function of that, ask them what else is going on in their business, what are they going at? They will share stories. They will tell you about things. If you see something in the news that happens to another side of their business, ask them about it.

Andrew Smart: You'd be surprised, because if you ever want to grow your client and your client business, or you might be doing something with somebody in Europe, and they'll tell you about something that has happened in the US or in another division, and next thing you know, if they're happy with you, they'll start giving you client referrals. Again, this is a great situation where project managers engaging with clients daily, and they're the first listener, if you will, on what's going on a day to day basis from the client side. So, talk to your client, but just don't talk about work, talk about a few more things.

Adrian Cohn: Yeah. And I think that advice also applies to businesses, project managers within a company that are managing translation. Learn about what other business units are focused on, what their priorities are, and see how you can get ahead. Find out what's on their roadmap for the next six to eight months. How does translation or localization fit into that picture? The person you're speaking to may not know all the answers, but as somebody who is an expert in language translation, that's where you come in. That's where your role can really shine.

Adrian Cohn: So there's a lot of opportunity to find your place and purpose within a small or a large organization, and I think you've offered some great ideas here today, Andrew

Andrew Smart: Well, I hope I've been helpful. Again, we're in this difficult time, but we're in it together. I think the most important thing I would say to business owners out there would be, think about your teams and their wellbeing within this difficult time, because this is not the first and it won't be the last external shock we experience.

Andrew Smart: So as we work through this together we look for the opportunities that present themselves, we re-engineer our businesses as we go forward together.