Get to Know Lesley, Smartling’s New Head of EMEA

I had the chance to get to know more about Lesley as she joins the Smartling team.

Matt Grech

Matt Grech

Content Marketing ManagerSmartling

Could you imagine starting a new job without the chance to meet any of your coworkers?

Of course, that's just become the new reality for a lot of people. But it's really cool to see how teams can still come together, and how we can have those personal and connections that drive amazing collaboration.

Smartling recently welcomed our new Head of EMEA, Lesley Ronaldson. With a unique background in sales, probably the most amazingly positive personality I've had the chance to interact with, and just an overall dedicated vibe, Lesley has already been making waves!


I had the pleasure to get to know Lesley really well over just a few calls, and I learned not only her hopes and goals for Smartling but her insight on the industry and sales as a whole!

Matt: Let's start at the very beginning, tell me a little bit about your background!

Lesley: So I spent sixteen years working with Dell, and another six years at LinkedIn. I tend to do things for the long haul, and relationships are very important to me, I care so much about people!

I can tell you right now, I'm committed to Smartling for the next five years!

Matt: That's great to hear! Of course, things right now are a bit unusual. I'm really curious, what has your onboarding process been like? How have you been adjusting?

Lesley: Well right away I realized that Smartling is made up of two parts, the software, and the people.

Of course, the software is important, but it wouldn't happen without the people. And that's where I wanted to start!

Right away I knew who I wanted to speak to, and who would be important to connect with. I had an amazing conversation with Brian, and something he said really surprised me.

He said I'm not going to let you think about a number for the first two weeks.

Now, someone who has got over two decades in sales, been managing people for nearly 17 years and a deep love for numbers and excel this was really unusual for me.

But, I have to say, kudos to Brian. It gave me the freedom to get on a Zoom call with someone and not jump right into 'how was your quarter last year,' or 'where are you pacing in this year?'

Instead, it was literally just a simple 'how are you? Why do you work Smartling?' I really wanted to get to know the people, not the roles.

I always made sure to ask everyone the same question at the end of our call, and that was 'what do you need from me?'

One of my concerns was that within an hour could I create that connective tissue over a Zoom call?

But I really strive to make that personal connection, it's such an important foundation. So for May I've been rolling out individual development plans for the EMEA team and spending an hour with each person to do a SWOT analysis of how we can work towards these goals.

These have given me some incredible insights into the strengths of the team, but more importantly what Patrick and I need to focus on to lift all boats!

Matt: It sounds like you really had the chance to learn who everyone is, and connect on a personal level! Got any funny stories about the team yet?

Lesley: I really try to set the right framework for people to trust me. I really, really care about people that I work with, and anyone that's ever worked with me will know that. And so with the chance to get to know so many people so closely, I really feel like I'm part of the Smartling family!


Even just my first one on one with Jack, it was 6am where he was and he asked if he could make breakfast while we chatted.

I could hear him like cracking eggs and whipping them up, and for me that was really amazing, showing that we are all just human. We can all relate to each other on that personal level, and the conversation we had was really open and honest!

Matt: I think you kind of answered my question already! But, what have you learned or seen at Smartling that's surprised you the most?

Lesley: Oh, a lot! I think a great example is the all-hands we had a little while ago. I love that Jack answered questions with no padding, no sugar coating Just open, honest, and straight forward.

And the thing I was most impressed by the most, I've never seen a CEO do this before, was changing one of our values brand right there during our company meeting.

To do that, and do it the way he did it, I just loved it. It really highlights the agility and responsiveness that echoes throughout all of Smartling.

Matt: Since you've entered an entirely new industry, I'm sure you've been constantly learning. And translation is a bit of an interesting industry, not many are totally aware of how large it can be! What right off the bat surprised you the most about translation?

Lesley: It really all comes back to the people. I've learned that translation is not just a simple process of writing down text and throwing it into a machine to be translated, but there's so much more behind it.

Aside from the fact we have the best tech in the business. I have also learned how personal translation really can be. I can say this, I'd much rather have a native speaker working on my translations!

Matt: What's different about Smartling compared to other brands out there? What helps us stand out?

Lesley: Move the World with Words was one of the most beautiful things I've seen, and it really makes translation more personalized. It takes away that image of an engine.

And Smartling is even more than just translation! We can integrate with your tech stack, we work with translators directly, we can provide content insight and strategic guidance.

People are my passion, and when you work for a technology company you really don't always think about that techy side. But I had an hour with Max, our CTO, and he was so passionate! I mean, a team of 62 engineers! That's just amazing. And with such a close-knit company we can have direct contact between teams.

And just from a branding standpoint, when you go onto Smartling's website, the feel is very current. It speaks to my generation! There was something really fresh and innovative about our website that really caught my eye.

The colors, the branding, the messaging, everything together as a whole package really helps highlight how much Smartling stands out.

Matt: Well, you're now a part of that family! I'm curious to know, with all your amazing experience, what do you have planned for the team?

Lesley: I want to make EMEA a machine. I want us to be high execution, overperforming sales team to deliver the best experience to the Smartling customers, and ensuring that the message and branding are consistent.

I'm blown away by the marketing team, I just can't get over how much Adrian does! In our first one on one, we made a bit of a pact, that we would always be honest with each other.

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You know, if something doesn't work, we'll say that. And since then, we speak every day on Slack. I share with him my objectives and key results to really foster a strong bond between sales and marketing to create an amazing team.

I obviously want to grow the organization, but it's really important that I recognize the stellar work which I am building upon. I don't want to come in and change the magic that Patrick has created. EMEA definitely is a family, and I want to make sure I'm a fit for this family. I want to help bring them from the great spot they're in, to absolutely brilliant.

And I want to make sure that every single person feels like they play an important role in everything we do. Because often, on a sales floor, when the big deals come in and everyone's hitting the gong and high fiving, we can sometimes forget about those silent heroes in the back. From SA to SC to CSM, everyone will play some part in the deal!

I want to make sure that we're all aligned towards the one goal. I don't just want to know the numbers for the year. I want to make sure that every single person in that office knows the numbers as well, so that we can execute with confidence and authority.

Matt: If there was one piece of advice you want to pass off to your colleagues, your friends, and your team, what would that be?

Lesley: Seek to understand. I learned that from a VP at LinkedIn, he was such an inspiring leader with a background in teaching. He always said seek to understand.

Even just that one person you reach out to, they could be having a terrible day, they could have a sick partner, or a sick child, or worried about their career.

It's all about the whole butterfly effect, and just being a better human. It cascades.

If you were rude to me on this call, I know you didn't go 'I'm going to be awful to her!' I know there's something behind it, and I might say 'hey listen you seem off, is everything okay?'

No one gets up in the morning and says I'm going to piss someone off today!

Matt: That's really amazing, and it's such an important insight to remember. You never know what someone else has gone through! Not to circle back to the cliché, but I'm really curious, how do you incorporate this whole idea of seeking to understand into your sales strategy?

Lesley: Oh right away, listening for me is the biggest skill.

You want the customer to feel that you've actively listened to them and that you understand them. You want to become more of a consulting partner in their transaction journey.

And it's always about understanding where they're coming from. Why did you reach out to Smartling? Why did you take this call today? What did you hope to get from this call? On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you say your understanding of translation is?

If you hear it’s a four, you might think "I got this!" but if it’s a 10, then you'll be able to tailor your approach.

So I think that's really seeking to understand at every level.

Thanks, Lesley!