The pet industry is a dog-eat-dog world, and Jordanna Ber knows all about it.
Jordanna works at Rover, the international company known for providing 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers in over eight European markets. She leads up the localization team and has been with the company since they acquired the organization she previously worked for, Dog Buddy, in October of 2018.
On this grrrific episode of The Loc Show, she introduces her very well-traveled pup and explains how her professional intention of becoming wholly well-rounded landed her permanently in Barcelona. Jordanna fills us in on what localization and translation projects look like when a company is internationally acquired, and shares with us the importance of placing translation at the forefront of all corporate planning.
Press play and learn all about Jordanna Ber and Rover!
On this episode you will learn:
- How neither she nor her partner knew any Spanish when they moved to Spain
- Raising brand awareness in Europe for an industry that is already flourishing in the U.S.
- How her “scrappy marketing” team organized care for 2,000 dogs in under two weeks (woof)
- Examples of localization and translation hiccups that had to be navigated when infiltrating different locales
- How she organized her team to recode the base that took engineers seven years to create and how she had to configure all currency, data formats, placeholders to their specific locale requirements
Jump into the hot topics!
[3:18] Jordanna’s path to permanently landing in Barcelona
[7:05] Where Jordanna works and how she got there
[9:04] Competitive landscape at Dog Buddy (was in 6-7 markets) in 2017 and what the value proposition that Dog Buddy took to market
[12:44] How Jordanna’s first team of “scrappy” marketers found pet sitters for 2,000 dogs with a couple of weeks notice
[13:53] What translation support looked like in the early days of Jordanna’s career at Dog Buddy
[16:25] What Jordanna concentrated on most and experienced when Dog Buddy was acquired by Rover
[19:10] What realities hit when Jordanna was put in charge of all localization at Rover and what she realized about the role
[21:06] How Jordanna navigated a specific Dutch localization question to avoid calling clients of Rover a swear word when they meant to convey the company’s tagline of “The Dog People”
[27:38] What Jordanna learned and how she implemented very quick changes after Rover’s acquisition
[32:50] Jordanna’s thoughts about translation first in the planning process
[34:25] Language translation and revenue within the industry
[37:45] SEO and keyword research frequency at Rover
And find Smartling online too!
- Smartling’s site
- Smartling’s Twitter
- Download our FREE e-book, ‘The Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Your Translation Value’
Full Transcript that almost certainly has typos (forgive us!)
Announcer: You're listening to The Loc Show, presented by Smartling.
Adrian Cohn: Hello everybody, and welcome back to The Loc Show, this is Adrian Cohn, your host with Smartling. You know us, we're the language translation company that has both technology and human translation services that enable you to connect with your customers anywhere today. I am especially excited for today's guest, Jordanna Ber. Jordanna's over at Rover, the popular dog walking and dog care mobile application. It's used by folks here in the United States, but also all over Europe, and Jordanna's story is particularly intriguing to me, because she's an MBA holder, she started working at DogBuddy, which was founded in the U.K. and Spain, and it was acquired by Rover back in 2018, and the story you're about to hear is of how Jordanna was able to introduce localization to Rover. Let's get right to the show. Jordanna, it's great to have you on The Loc Show.
Jordanna Ber: Thanks for having me, it's great to be here.
Adrian Cohn: Yeah, it's going to be a fun conversation, I've been looking forward to this one. I got a really delightful email from you a couple weeks ago, and you shared a pretty remarkable story with me that I am really excited for you to tell on the show.
Jordanna Ber: Awesome.
Adrian Cohn: But before we dive in, I think what you and I have easily established just in talking for a few minutes is that we are both lovers of dogs.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, or some others might say obsession with dogs, but we'll use that.
Adrian Cohn: Both apply. Tell us about your dog.
Jordanna Ber: My dog's name is Lomu, I adopted him when I was living in Toronto in Canada. He's very well-traveled, he's lived now in the U.S., in Canada, in the U.K., and now with us in Barcelona. He is-
Adrian Cohn: Wow. I hope you have a good passport for him.
Jordanna Ber: He does, and you know what's so funny is that the dog photos, or the pet passport photo is actually optional, so we had a lot of fun coming up with a outfit for him that he could wear for his professional outfit, or his professional passport photo. It's kind of with sunglasses, he has a necklace on.
Adrian Cohn: I love it.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, so he's a very well-traveled, happy boy. You have a dog as well, Fitz.
Adrian Cohn: I do, Fitz is ... if you've listened to any Smartling webinar or podcast recording you've probably heard him chime in. He is my beloved border collie who I rescued when I lived in New Orleans in 2012, and I've had him since then. He was a year old when I got him, and he's just like the youngest hearted dog I've ever known, he is still bouncing off the walls every single day even though he's nine years old. He is such a joy, and he's also really well-traveled, although I have to say not quite as well-traveled as your pup. My dog, born and raised in Louisiana, he's been throughout the South, so we've been to Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, we went to Arkansas, we've been to Vegas, we've been to Toronto a couple times-
Jordanna Ber: Wow, very well-traveled.
Adrian Cohn: ... all up and down the Eastern Seaboard. He's never been to Europe, and frankly, I don't think he'll ever make it to Europe.
Jordanna Ber: That's okay, I'm sure he enjoys his life with you just as it is.
Adrian Cohn: He does enjoy life, and we live here in New York City, but you're in Barcelona.
Jordanna Ber: Yes, I'm in Barcelona. I was born and raised in Toronto though, so hence the accent, which is very confusing when I have Zoom and Skype calls with people now, but I'm based in Barcelona where Rover's international headquarters are.
Adrian Cohn: Fantastic, and how did you find your way to Barcelona?
Jordanna Ber: I was working in Toronto in marketing and graphic design for about 10 years or so, and I think it's the traditional tale, I fell in love with a French guy, and we wanted to move back to be closer with his family, I wanted an adventure as well, so we made our way over to the U.K., and I speak French and English, but not a word of Spanish when I moved here, and there was a job opportunity to come to Barcelona. After about 24 hours of freaking out that I don't speak Spanish, we made the decision to come here, and just absolutely adore the city and can't imagine living anywhere else. The community here is so warm and welcoming, and it's just been a really great move with no regrets.
Adrian Cohn: Does your boyfriend also speak Spanish, or was this a hurdle for him as well?
Jordanna Ber: Oh no, he doesn't speak any Spanish either. We learned on the go, and a lot of Duolingo, and other language apps to help us get through. We used to have also some language classes at the office, which was really nice to be with other people that were equally as bad as me and needed to learn, so that was great. It's coming along, but it's not as easy to learn a language when you're an adult as it is when you're a young one.
Adrian Cohn: Yeah. I've told the tales of my attempts to learn French and Italian in past episodes or in webinars, I won't get into it, but it's really ... I was not successful. I would really love to learn a language, and I think for me the way it will work is if I actually relocate like you did to a country where English isn't the first language. That would be the forcing factor.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah.
Adrian Cohn: It's funny, Jordanna, you're not the first guest, we've done almost 20 episodes now of The Loc Show, you're not the first guest to have fallen in love with someone from Europe and moved from the Americas to Europe. I think that's an interesting trend that we're getting here. When you were in the U.K. though you were getting an MBA, is that right?
Jordanna Ber: Yes, yeah. After about 10 years of working in creative, I started as a graphic designer and slowly moved over to the world of marketing, which you know really well, and I was really interested in understanding and rounding myself out to see the other sides of business, so from finance and HR to operations, and there were amazing programs, I mean, all over the world, but the one that was for me was in the U.K. Studied at the University of Bath, which was an incredible experience going back to school-
Adrian Cohn: Beautiful place, too.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, yeah, it's incredible. Going back to school, though, when you're in your early 30s is also a really funny experiment when all the undergrads are 18 and 19 years old. A lot of people mistake you as a professor when you're on campus, which-
Adrian Cohn: Well, that's kind of nice.
Jordanna Ber: ... if you didn't mind.
Adrian Cohn: Yeah, that's kind of cool.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, it's a compliment, it's a compliment, but it was a wonderful experience, and I'd recommend it to anyone who is looking to really round out their knowledge, and maybe even jump into something new, which ultimately ended up happening to me.
Adrian Cohn: Yeah, well, I'm really curious to see how you ended up where you are today. I guess that begs the question, where are you today? You're in Barcelona, tell us about where you work now and what you're responsible for.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, so I moved to Barcelona back in September of 2017, and I had a career advisor during the MBA specifically tell me that, "You shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket when you're applying for roles, especially if you're moving to a new continent." So, I did the exact opposite of that, and when I was researching roles here in Barcelona I found this company DogBuddy. I already was obsessed with dogs so it was a really great fit. They were looking for a maternity leave contract to cover their country brand team, which is the team that manages all of the local marketing for the countries that we were in. Ended up getting that job, which was perfect for me, and the team there was just incredible. I think were about 25 to 30 people at the time, and now Rover is over 250. So, it's been a really kind of big roller coaster ride. Throughout the three years that I've been there now I think I've had three completely different roles, which is completely up my alley and really exciting.
Adrian Cohn: That's awesome, and we'll learn more about this, but Rover is the U.S. based company that acquired DogBuddy.
Jordanna Ber: Yes, yes, and I think that's what the fun story is about here.
Adrian Cohn: Yeah. So, why don't you take us back to 2017 when you joined DogBuddy. What was the competitive landscape like for the service that DogBuddy provides, and what was the value proposition that DogBuddy took the market?
Jordanna Ber: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, DogBuddy was in, I believe, six or seven European markets by the time I joined. So, that was the U.K., France, Spain, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and we were kind of in Germany, I can speak to that a little bit after. But the offering or the value of the product is really that it's a marketplace of loving, trusting, pet sitters to take care of your dog or cat if you need to be away on holiday, or you need daycare just for the day because you have 25 meetings and you're not going to be able to get out to walk Fitz for lunch, and he really needs his afternoon walk. So, the app was really developed and designed to be seamless to connect you with local people in your neighborhood that can take of your dog or cat whenever you need. Our pet sitter, at least in Barcelona, is now really a part of the family. During COVID actually when there were not many bookings she messaged me on WhatsApp and was like, "Hey, can I come just see Lomu and take him out on a walk, and cuddle him?"
Adrian Cohn: Oh. I got the same message from my dog walker.
Jordanna Ber: Really?
Adrian Cohn: Same thing, yeah.
Jordanna Ber: That's so nice. Yeah, it becomes like a part of your family, it's like handing over your child to someone. That trust and love needs to be there to feel comfortable to do it. So, we worked really hard to ensure safety, and trust, and loving sitters were there to provide services where our owners needed them.
Adrian Cohn: That's cool. I mean, it's such an awesome concept, and I think it's been a very successful solution. I mean, everyone who I know that has a dog has used Rover, your parent company-
Jordanna Ber: [crosstalk 00:12:25]-
Adrian Cohn: ... at least once. They use it to fill in the gap whether it's they're coming home late from work and they needed someone to feed their dog, or just take him out for a quick lap around the block. There's not a single dog owner I know that hasn't used the product.
Jordanna Ber: Wow, that's awesome. That's really good to hear. I think there's still a ways to go in some of our European markets in getting the brand awareness and the word out there, but it's something that we're definitely excited to expand into.
Adrian Cohn: So, when you took that first job filling in for the person on maternity leave, what were you doing? What was your day to day like?
Jordanna Ber: Yeah so, I was managing a small team, I think we were about three people, four people at the time, and every person was the local marketer for their region, so someone for the U.K., someone for France, someone for Spain that was there to manage PR, media requests, all the communications, and as well as localization, so we had a very small translation component to the previous company as we were a lot less people. This team also managed the localizations, as well as any sort of marketing needs. We were kind of the marketing generalists of the company. So, anything that needed to get done was basically the marketing team.
Adrian Cohn: The SWAT team just taking care of business.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, yeah, we were really scrappy, which was super fun.
Adrian Cohn: I love scrappy marketing.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah.
Adrian Cohn: I think it's my jam, is scrappy marketing, it's just so much fun to throw things together and get it out the door quickly.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, yeah, we had a lot of fun. We had some events that come to mind where the event organizers asked us, "Hey, can you run a dog sitting service at the event where there's going to be 2,000 dogs?"
Adrian Cohn: Yeah, no problem.
Jordanna Ber: "Oh, and the event's in two weeks in rural France." "Yeah, yeah, we can do that, we'll figure it out."
Adrian Cohn: 2,000 dogs, we got this.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, I think our legal team had a heart attack, but we ended up pulling it off. It went really well.
Adrian Cohn: Oh, my gosh, well you might have to send me a link to a social media post or something that we can share with people, because that sounds very interesting, must've had a lot of hands to help with that, or something.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah.
Adrian Cohn: So, what was the translation story at that time? You said it was limited support but still supported.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, we were working ... I think Transifex was our platform at the time, and we had probably under 1,000 words a month being pushed through for translation, and the team would take care of it, so it was pretty simple. There wasn't much to really localize and the engineering team was also quite small, so you could just go tap someone on the shoulder and ask them a question about a string, whereas when you're a larger organization as we are now, and you're in a lot more markets, you really need to have that built into the platform a lot better, and better processes for everyone to kind of automate that process a little bit. So, we were translating content as it came in on an as needed basis. I don't think we had SLAs or anything, it was just, "Hey, we can get this to you in two days.", and the engineers would say, "Okay, yeah, that works.", whereas now we have a lot better process to organize ourselves and make sure that we can deliver on everyone's needs.
Adrian Cohn: What were some of the hiccups in the process at that stage, or was it just not a priority, you just sort of it was there, it was in the back or your mind, and as it came in you dealt with it?
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, I think when I joined DogBuddy, the platform was internationalized because it was designed that way from the get-go, we had our-
Adrian Cohn: That's a good start.
Jordanna Ber: It is a really good start. We had our engineers in Barcelona, our headquarters were in London, so we were already starting with two locations and two different languages, and that needed to be implicitly there. So, there weren't that many hiccups in the early days, and we didn't really pay much attention to localization. Where it really came to the forefront, just front and center, was when we got acquired by Rover, which was in October of 2018, I believe, and that really put it in the forefront, and made it a very important department or business unit of the company.
Adrian Cohn: So, as you all entered this period of acquisition, which is always an exciting time for a company, you were scaling pretty quickly and had some pretty cool results to share with Rover, which is ultimately why they acquired DogBuddy.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, we were launching countries about once or twice a year, which was really exciting doing the research, hiring marketers, hiring more engineers. We had over a million bookings through the platform at that point, and the company was really on the fast track, and the conversation I think between our two CEOs, Richard and Aaron, who's the CEO of Rover, they were friends for a long time, and there were always talks about it potentially happening, and the day that it did happen was really, really exciting for everyone involved. We had people from the U.S. team come over, and I remember the time that it was announced was around 6:00 p.m. local time in Barcelona, and everyone was waiting for someone to happen because we were told we need to be at the office waiting in the kitchen area at 6:00 p.m., and there ended up being some sort of technical glitch with the printers, and they couldn't print the contracts out to sign.
Adrian Cohn: Oh, my God.
Jordanna Ber: So, everything was ready to go, and there's all these 250 people waiting for find out what's going on and the printer was broken.
Adrian Cohn: It sounds like a great ad by the way for DocuSign.
Jordanna Ber: Yes.
Adrian Cohn: Speaking of scrappy marketing.
Jordanna Ber: This is not an ad, just want to preface with that.
Adrian Cohn: Yeah.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah so, the announcement was made and I remember my manager coming over to me who was our CMO, and asked, "Hey, this is a huge thing, we're going to have a crazy next six months. I'd really like you, and I think you're the best person, to take on the localization of the platform to get it ready to launch in eight European markets." I was super excited, but at the same time I said, "Okay, well, I mean, I could definitely do that, but that's easy, that's not going to be a big job.", and I was very, very, very wrong about that. It ended up being a massive job, and involved people from every part of the organization to get up and running, and is ultimately now what I'm doing at Rover, which is really exciting.
Adrian Cohn: Wow, a belated congratulations on the acquisition.
Jordanna Ber: Thank you.
Adrian Cohn: That sounds like a very exciting story. All right, so your CMO asked you to stay on the team, and asked you to step into a new role that you thought would be a cakewalk, turned out to be a little bit different. What happened here? What's the story?
Jordanna Ber: Well, the story is, and I think this is common for a lot of organizations that acquire U.S. ... North American organizations that acquire European or international companies, and the entire codebase was in English, and a lot of it wasn't ready or country configured to adapt to the European markets. So, things like currency, data formats, placeholders, there was none of that, and the day that we realized that we were going to have to basically rewrite the code for the entire platform, which was seven years of work of an extremely talented engineering team, I think our CEO had a mini heart attack, but we put together a plan and we were able to pull it off in six months with-
Adrian Cohn: Whoa.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, with some big blips along the way, but we had basically to localize everything, and no one in the organization at any point had tried to quantify the volume of the work that needed to be translated and localized, so asking those questions for the first time to product, to engineers, to our content team that writes the blogs, our help center articles, the number of support macros was a big job to pull together. So, I think that took up the first, at least, month of pulling everyone together, and starting to localize and internationalize the codebase. And then we had some fun conversations, right now Rover's tagline is, the dog people, and I remember one day my Dutch country manager came up to me and said, "Hey, how are we supposed to localize, the dog people? Because in Dutch, if I translate that in Dutch it's going to be like calling someone a dog, which is a swear word in Dutch, so I can't exactly use, the dog people." So, we had to have a lot of conversations around that, which were fun, but ultimately got us to where we are now, and provided mini road blocks along the way that it's all part of, I think, the entire process.
Adrian Cohn: Wow, there's so much there. So, it's interesting to me that DogBuddy was internationalized from the get-go, then you get acquired by Rover, and their codebase is not internationalized.
Jordanna Ber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Adrian Cohn: So, your team, I'm sure, brought a huge amount of expertise in this specific area.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, definitely. There were things that we had to work with design a lot to translate things like service, provider, or insurance policy, and the button that was designed for that in English could only hold 10 characters, but in Swedish it was 27 characters long. So, that-
Adrian Cohn: No longer a button at that point.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, a lot of conversations-
Adrian Cohn: It's a [crosstalk 00:23:55]-
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, exactly. "Can you make that shorter?" So, a lot of conversations like that, and the team of product managers and engineers that were working on the international side worked really closely with the team in the U.S. to provide some guidelines, and to kind of support that migration, which I think was extremely beneficial, and I'd recommend for anyone that's looking to internationalize into any other language in market.
Adrian Cohn: What were the conversations like, because you're kind of in the middle of them, you're identifying the problem, you're not the developer that's solving the specific problems, but you have the experience and knowledge and what has to happen for different locales to be supported, so I'm curious to hear what sort of ... what were the conversations like? Was there a first conversation where the developers who put together Rover were like, "No, we know what we're doing.", or were they like, "Oh, my God, you're pointing out a massive flaw in our code."?
Jordanna Ber: No, no, the teams were really open from the beginning, and it was awesome to be in the room, to be pulled into the room for those conversations, because I learned a lot about coding. I think I helped code part of the Dutch website at midnight one time, a lot of late nights. We formed kind of a task team of people from both organizations to pull into this migration effort, and the rest of the business still needed to go on while this was happening, so we still needed people to respond to users, to ensure bookings are happening to market, to do all the things that a business needs. So, this task force team was focused just on the migration for those six months. The conversations happened, to answer your question, I think they happened on a as realized basis. So, I was having lunch one day and our old CPO came up to me and said, "Hey, when you're seeing this kind of code come in for translation, what are you and the team doing?" I said, "Oh, well, we change the dollar sign to a euro symbol, or a British pound symbol.", and he was just stepped back and was really quiet for a second, and he was like, "I think that we need to have a conversation with the engineers in the U.S." So, that day was kind of one of those conversations where we're like, "Hey, guys, this is going to be a lot more work than we actually expected. We can't just push hard coded copy through the translation platform, because all of this needs to be country configured, and placeholders made." So, we had a lot of conversations like that. Something would come up, or someone would realize something along the way, and the entire team would get together, have a quick meeting, and then, "Okay, let's go." There was just no time to be wasted.
Adrian Cohn: Yeah, that's an amazing story, and I can imagine the urgency behind the development work, because Rover acquires DogBuddy in part because the demand that you've created in Europe, and now Rover wants to acquire that demand in market. So, Rover is now the operating application in Europe, it's on longer DogBuddy? Like DogBuddy is no longer an application at all?
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, that's correct, so we decided to go under the Rover brand and have one unified brand for the entire organization.
Adrian Cohn: Right, so it was a strategic imperative that this project would be handled quickly. So, six months later, there's obviously some fast coding to make that happen, you mentioned a couple of hiccups along the way, it happens with any products that's being developed, but you're now managing eight European markets. Now that you're translating more Rover content, you brought up the example of a button for the Dutch market, but what other challenges did you run into when it came to supporting multiple languages for Rover, or maybe said another way, I don't know, what were some of the things that you learned through that process, or that you did that you felt accelerated, or made this a successful endeavor?
Jordanna Ber: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, I think one of the key lessons that I learned is really getting the right people in the room from the get-go, and that's also one of our core values as an organization, so pulling in the right product person, the right engineer, the right designer, myself from the localization side, potentially sometimes someone from our legal team, and getting that team together to kick off a project before it happens. So, rather than getting the localization at the end of the line when it's almost ready for launch, really inserting internationalization and localization as a key factor in the decision process of how this is going to look and feel and adapt to different markets, so that was really important. There were times where we would launch a new feature, for example, we launched a little slider that when a dog walker takes out your dog for a walk around the neighborhood, they can actually checkoff whether your dog made a pee or a poo. So, as an owner, you get a notification at work like, "Hey, Fitz made a poop on his walk.", which is great because you know that, "Hey, he's not going to be needing me to get early home, or right at 6:00 after work so I can take him out again." We had to localize that where so it came through just the word poop, there was a job with just the word poop-
Adrian Cohn: That's the string.
Jordanna Ber: That was the string, and-
Adrian Cohn: What was the name of the translation job, number two?
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, that would've been very good.
Adrian Cohn: It would've given a few people a good laugh.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah. The team kind of, we were all in the same room at that point, and someone from our Italian team turned around and said, "Well, I don't know how to localize that.", because we have a Rover brand tone of voice and guidelines, and we had developed a glossary over that period, but the word for poop in Italian she was saying you can either translate it on a very medical side, so what a veterinarian would call it, or it could be something almost vulgar. There's kind of not that word in the middle that English has for so many things. So, making those kinds of decisions was ... is and was always fun. So, things like that, getting involved in the early stages of the development process really helps to make things smoother when it gets down to when it's almost ready to launch and you're just waiting for translations.
Adrian Cohn: Yeah. I love that you said one of the last things that you learned was getting the right people in the room before you got started. Was it hard to do that, or did that start ... yeah, is that something you actually did, or is that something you wish you had done?
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, that's something I wish I had done earlier, I was actually listening to one of the previous Loc Shows with ... I think you pronounced her name Iti Sahai?
Adrian Cohn: Yeah, yeah.
Jordanna Ber: From Procore.
Adrian Cohn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jordanna Ber: And she mentioned that product sees international as something that's going to slow them down, and when she said that I was like, "Yes, that's exactly what it's like in the beginning." You feel almost like you need to insert yourself, and it takes time to get to the point where people are coming to you to say, "Hey, we're going to kick off this new project, the meeting's going to be X date.", and I don't think we're 100% of the way there yet either, there's always things that slip through the cracks that I wish I had kind of known about before. But we're getting a lot better at thinking globally at the beginning of a project rather than, "Okay, I designed this button, it's this, it's that.", and then it gets to the translation stage, and we're like, "Hey, this emoji, this photography, this word.", and you're more of a nuisance. So, if you can be there in the conversation in the beginning, you can help kind of guide and consult almost on what's going to work and what's not going to work so that you save everyone on the team a lot of time needing to go back and fix things at a later point.
Adrian Cohn: Do you think this level of maturity is something that's changing very quickly at product organizations broadly, or do you feel like this is like a secret sauce that you all have sort of developed as part of the way you build and the culture of your company, because we hear a lot of localization managers, product owners that simply don't always think about translation first, but I'm wondering if there's a trend emerging where that's no longer the case, like localization, translation is top of mind in 2020 moving forward?
Jordanna Ber: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I feel like it's definitely something that's becoming a lot more popular, and similar to the startup tech industry, you have almost a first generation of people that have gone through and been through the trenches, for lack of a better word, of scaling a company, and I feel like it's almost comparable to internationalization and localization. So, you have someone who goes through it with a company for the first time, and then is able to then teach others at their next organization. So, I'm hoping that it will become more and more popular, and it will ... we'll have kind of the first, second, third generations of people that are thinking global first and localization first. So, that would be great if we can move towards bringing that to the forefront.
Adrian Cohn: Yeah, I think that would be really cool, and it would allow people like you, and ultimately companies like Rover, to be more successful, because it just removes friction from the process, it's a very strategic ... language translation like ... I'm not naïve, I know that language translation isn't the reason why all of these markets create millions of dollars of value, right?
Jordanna Ber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Adrian Cohn: People need the service, it's a good product, not just what Rover provides, but all different products, but language translation is just an essential component to making that revenue possible.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, exactly. For example even, when we were looking to localize the Rover's service feature names, so dog boarding, daycare, this service and this company is still very ... the concept is very new in a lot of places. So, while it's pretty well-established now in North America, in Europe we're still creating brand awareness that a service like this even exists on the market. So, we did a lot of keyword research upfront, rather than just translating dog walker to, in French, [French 00:36:15], to see what people are actually searching for, and we found in certain cases, like Germany, people are actually searching dog boarding in English rather than in German, because that's just the trend that it's kind of taken on. So, doing that upfront work is incredibly important to your search rankings, and a lot of the integral bits and pieces that need to come together to localize the entire product.
Adrian Cohn: So, this is really interesting to me, because we got tons of question about how to manage global SEO. Was it your marketing team that did the keyword research? Did you work with an agency?
Jordanna Ber: So yeah, we pulled in our SEO manager internally from the company, and worked on figuring out a process, because he speaks English and is actually based in London. So, how are we going to take his knowledge and apply it to people that have never done this before so that they can actually do some research to inform what we're going to choose for the words. So, we basically took the SEO process of keyword research, and kind of backwards engineered it to come up with all the different options of what could be a translation for this. We did some competitor analysis, so what are the competitors in each market using for these words, and then looked up keyword volumes that came up, and made a educated guess of what we thought would be the best option for each language. So, for example, in French we actually say dog sitter in English, which still confuses new engineers when they join the team. They'll submit some strings, and then like, "Hey, it came back in English."
Adrian Cohn: "This has got to be wrong.", yeah.
Jordanna Ber: We're like, "No, no, no, don't worry, don't worry, it's all good." So yeah.
Adrian Cohn: Hmm, and so when you've done the research, you add these terms to your glossary and you mark them as do not translate if they're dog walker, dog sitter, I can't remember for German.
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, dog sitter.
Adrian Cohn: Yeah, dog sitter. So, you mark it as do not translate for German, and then it appears on the website in the app as dog sitter as opposed to the German translational for it?
Jordanna Ber: Yep, exactly.
Adrian Cohn: Yeah, hmm, that's really cool. Yeah, is that an ongoing project, because I mean, keyword research for us is something that we do, every two to three months we'll do a refresh, how often are you updating your keywords for local markets?
Jordanna Ber: Yeah, I would say probably about the same ration. Once a quarter we're looking at keywords, not only for the service names on SEO pages, but within the apps as well to make sure that as brand awareness grows for this type of service, that we're adapting to the market as well, so that dog sitter might actually change to something else eventually. I can't speak German, but when the market adapts we want to make sure that we're there to be able to show up when people are searching for this kind of service.
Adrian Cohn: Hmm, and I guess, Jordanna, I mean, that's one component of translation and localization, and we've talked about a number of others, like internationalizing the code, what are some of the other things that you feel are either happening automatically without your having to think about it that enable your program success, or what are ... yeah, maybe let's start there, and then I have a follow-up question on that.
Jordanna Ber: So, what happening automatically, I think the process that we have in place now is pretty solid. We have great SLAs with our product and engineering team, we have content coming in from GitHub that gets translated within a certain amount of time and pushed back, there's a great feedback loop so that is content is wrong either in the source or in the translation, we're able to fix it and ensure that it's documented so that it doesn't happen again. I'm really proud of that, it took a while for us to get to that point. There was a learning curve both on the localization team side and on the engineering side of new processes to take on. We can't just push code live anymore, it needs to be a certain amount of time to actually internationalize and localize the content. So, from that perspective I think that happens on a pretty automated basis, but everything else still requires some local knowledge and intervention from time to time.
Adrian Cohn: What does that feedback loop look like and who's the feedback coming from?
Jordanna Ber: So, we use the Slack integration ... Sorry, that was my dog. We use the Slack integration to flag up issues or questions about content. So, if something maybe doesn't have a clear enough instruction, or there's a placeholder that's not very well-organized, or not very well ... sorry, not organized, a placeholder that's not very well-described in the instructions, we can flag it via Smartling, and it will go into a channel that we started in Slack with our engineering team so that there's an immediate response rather than someone needing to go into GitHub and search who's the engineer for that job. It tags the person right away, which is awesome, and we're able to then fix it, and either cancel that job and resubmit it without the source, or to just correct the translation.
Adrian Cohn: Wow. And then these are the things that are happening on a regular basis, localization is a continuous process, it never really stops, what are some of the other two or three things that you think about on a daily basis as a long-term opportunity for Rover as it relates to language translation?
Jordanna Ber: I think language translation is almost like a simplistic way of putting it, because what I'm thinking about on a daily basis is a lot more wholistic of is there going to be product market fit with this feature that we're going to release, and how are we going to make sure that there's a cultural fit? How are we going to adapt it so that the photography doesn't look like a street in Seattle, it could also be a street in London, which is really hard. We actually played a game with the team at one point where I put up photos of different cities and they had to guess which city the photo was, always of people with dogs, and a lot of the team couldn't tell the difference. But we had the marketers there, the local marketers for each market, and they hadn't seen the photos prior either, and they knew, "Oh, well, that's the tram in Berlin in the background. Oh, well, that's this famous building, Parliament building in France.", or ... So there's things that we might not think about that visually make a product look and feel like it's not from the place that you're actually experiencing it in, and I feel that that's really a big part of what I do on a daily basis is, "Does this emoji work in that market, or does it mean something else?" A lot of stuff like that, adding new dog breeds all the time as well, so there's certain dog breeds that the Rover platform didn't have that European people have a lot of these dogs, so adding things like that, or adapting our new sitter sign-up, we had a question in the sitter sign-up for people that are registering to take care of pets that said, "Do you accept, or will you accept crate-trained pets?", or something along those lines, and in Sweden it's actually illegal to crate your dog.
Adrian Cohn: Oh.
Jordanna Ber: So, adaptions like that are kind of the constant of what are we putting out there, and is it going to be relevant for our market? So, we want it to look and feel as though it's a local product in each country we're in.
Adrian Cohn: That's really cool. I feel like we could talk for hours and hours, Jordanna, but I feel like I've learned so much from you today. Thank you so much for joining us here on the show, and sharing a little bit about your story from Toronto to Barcelona, from DogBuddy to Rover.
Jordanna Ber: Cool, thank you so much. It was really fun chatting.
Adrian Cohn: Jordanna, thank you so much for being on The Loc Show, it has been so much fun to have you here today. I feel like I learned a lot, what about you guys? We talked about the importance of bringing translation and localization into a larger company setting so that you can advance the company's product market fit anywhere in the world. We talked about how to manage SEO content and language, and we just had some fun, too. So look, I really appreciate Jordanna's time, thank you so much. If you guys liked this episode of the podcast, I would really appreciate it if you left a five star review on your podcast player, and hey, if you love the show, post about it on the social media, that helps to grow the show and attract amazing guests like Jordanna. Speaking of guests, we've got some amazing folks coming up, and if you would like to be featured on The Loc Show send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much, and see you next week.