Guidance across the globe
Supported by RWS
New York, USA
University of Colorado
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I am a closet sci-fi fanatic
Assisting businesses with an international product launch is no small task. And when it involves coordinating internal and external team members across many continents, the logistics just get tougher. Fortunately, experience is the best teacher, and RWS’ Jackie Yanus, vice president of client services, has no shortage of that. Over a decade-long career, she’s learned how to assist clients across several verticals and company sizes, irrespective of whether they have a vision for international expansion or not.
Tell us a little about the circumstances that launched your career. What attracted you to language work, and what has kept you going over 15 years of work?
It feels as though there are individuals who go into the language industry intentionally and those that stumble upon it. I stumbled upon it. While living in China, I worked for a company involved in a joint venture to introduce products to the Chinese market.
Localization became a crucial aspect of the product launch, highlighting the significance of language in reaching out to and engaging with local audiences. The experience fascinated me, and on returning to the United States, I knew I needed to have language as part of my career. So that’s when I joined (what later became) RWS.
It’s been an incredible journey, and I have never looked back.
The good majority of your career — about a decade — has been spent at RWS. In an era of work where professionals often hop from company to company, what has kept you working for RWS?
It’s a combination of two significant reasons.
Firstly, the cliché is true: It’s all about the people. I can’t help but admire my incredible team, colleagues, and the amazing customers we work with. RWS also goes above and beyond to treat their employees with respect, valuing work-life balance, and standing by us through life’s unpredictable twists and turns.
Secondly, it’s the excitement. Each day, I wake up to a world of endless possibilities. It’s a place where I dive headfirst into different challenges, brainstorm solutions, and immerse myself in the cutting edge of technology.
RWS provides a perfect stage for my ideas to flourish and evolve. It’s been quite a journey that keeps me energized, inspired, and grateful for every moment.
Could you describe your role at RWS? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned over the years that you’ve applied to your work?
I lead our Client Services organization for the North American region. Client Services is a team of approximately 150 individuals located around the globe, comprised of project and program managers, service delivery teams, testers, engineers, localization leads, and managed services personnel. It’s a diverse team but one that’s collectively focused on delivering the best experience for our clients.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years is that it really is all about the people in this industry. When you have a high-performing, engaged team, we really can move mountains. Every individual adds something unique to the mix, and if you spend the time getting to the crux of what makes them “tick,” you can bring out the best in everyone.
I think this also comes with age, but you really can’t sweat the small stuff. Ours is a business that still depends on human interactions and ingenuity, and things happen. You must be able to keep your eye on the bigger picture.
You’ve developed substantial experience working with key members of RWS’ customer base. Can you tell us about the types of customers you specialize in?
Our largest footprint is in technology, though my team supports many of the top brands in retail, training, manufacturing, automotive, nonprofit, and others. The list goes on.
What unique needs do those types of customers bring to the table? For instance, what distinguishes a retail client from an automotive company or nonprofit organization in the requirements they need to be fulfilled?
For a start, all of them need to localize their content. A product, whether it be a shoe or an app, generally goes through a lot of the same processes and has the same localization needs, but there are nuances as to how we get from source to target.
The technology sector is almost always going to want this process to be executed at a very fast pace. They’re the ones that really introduced continuous localization as a mechanism to achieve faster outcomes — so we’re talking about agile development and have a lot of discussions around the application of automation and AI.
Other industries can be more circumspect, perhaps with a more cautious approach, with consideration for every detail and the opportunity to evaluate their options.
Automotive, on the other hand, has some very unique needs, so we have a team of specialists who deal effectively with dense owner manuals and the technical detail involved. And, given the pace of change in the industry, they now have to think about the on-screen user experience, in a similar fashion to the high-tech business.
Retail is its own game, because it’s typically a business-to-consumer process, so they have to deal with the pressures of satisfying consumers at scale or challenging quality levels. That means they’re hyper-focused on their brands and what they’re offering to their markets. Interestingly, we’ve had a lot of retail customers who want a consultation, market research, or one of the premium marketing services we offer.
So there are a set of needs that can be specific to a market segment, industry, or geography, but they will also have a set of common needs that we’re able to identify and meet with the benefit of our previous experience.
What are some of the essential considerations when working with customers like this? What do they expect you to bring to the table, and how do you prepare to meet those expectations for them?
Our clients look to my teams for more than just a production service. They tend to call upon us for advice, guidance, and a chance to help them meet their aspirations, involving us in brainstorming and problem-solving processes.
Clients that have smaller localization programs often lean on us as an extension of their team to help them develop and mature their localization strategies within their organizations.
We also have to be “on our toes” when it comes to discussing new trends, technologies, and services that are directly or indirectly associated with language. I think it’s fair to say that almost all are constantly looking for ways to optimize, evolve, and “do more with less” within their localization programs. So we have to draw on our collective experience across a huge range of clients as well as keeping up with the latest trends, in order to meet those expectations.
Given RWS’ approach to business and helping companies of all sizes unlock global markets, I’d imagine not every customer knows precisely what they’re looking for when they first start meeting with you and your team. How do you guide them through the process and help them realize new, perhaps unforeseen opportunities?
That’s an interesting point. We tend to have three types of customers when they first engage with RWS.
- Those that have established programs, great technology setups, and a true vision of what they want to accomplish. Our job is to take that vision and help it come to reality in the long term.
- Those that think they know what they want, but where we can help tweak that vision to help them get the most out of their localization program.
- Those that have no firm ideas and need a significant amount of guidance.
We work with all three types, and much of the route to a successful relationship is based on the ability to execute a robust onboarding process. Those first few months of working with a new client or stakeholder are key to a long-term partnership.
It’s also imperative that once the onboarding process is complete, we continue to have the same types of strategic conversations around their programs on a regular basis. This will help them realize new and indeed often unforeseen opportunities.
Do you have any client success stories you consider especially close to your heart?
I think one of my favorites was with a client who was trying to launch two cameras in the same product cycle, whilst preparing for Black Friday. They had never done it before and had just lost a team member, so they were down from three to two. They came to us saying, “It’s all hands on deck. We don’t know how we’re going to do this.”
We just sat with them and worked hard to figure it out. We did everything — aligned in terms of the product, the testing, and the marketing translations. Everything had to be done, and it was a huge amount of work, both on their side and on ours, to get it done. But we did, and they were so appreciative. They actually sent all of us a camera as a thank-you gift, to recognize the amount of effort and commitment that went into it all. And our key stakeholder was just over the moon about it all. She talked about it to everybody, and it was just such a good feeling seeing something like that happen.
Another that I loved working on was a large streaming company that was launching into — and this is more meaningful now — Ukrainian. We managed and delivered all the market research for them. We set up the team from scratch, we did the title translation, all the synopsis translation, and all the product UI translation. We did everything to prepare for the launch, knowing that launches are always an intense process and experience! People were calling in at midnight wondering if it was all going to work. Had we done all the right things? So many of these titles were so well known that had we mistranslated them, people who were already excited about a particular show may have thought that we had ruined it for them. But it went beautifully. They were so thankful, and we still work with them for Ukrainian and other languages.
You not only need to consider your clients’ needs but also those of your team members. Tell us a little about how you manage a large international team of professionals and the challenges and rewards that come with it.
The team is my favorite part of the job.
I think one of the keys to managing such a large and dispersed team is to have a vision, to ensure that vision is clearly articulated, and to ensure that every person understands how they are working towards the shared goal.
When individuals in a team are all walking in the same direction, they feel more deeply connected, regardless of time zone.
There are challenges, like time zones and local nuances that are at one level obvious and familiar to most of us in the localization industry. But it can cause issues if not addressed with care, attention, and consideration to all. We take great care to make sure that we’re set up in such a way that everyone feels supported during their working hours.
The rewards greatly outnumber the challenges, however.
Many of us come from different cultures, with different backgrounds and experiences. There is such a rich mix of ideas and perspectives within the team that we can draw upon and a wealth of ideas and experiences that help us move those mountains for our clients. And for ourselves!
I feel very lucky to be able to lead such an amazing group of professional individuals.
As you envision the future for your work, what excites you the most, and what are you preparing for as the nature of work continues to evolve?
I think expectations around the workday and how people engage in work are going to continue to evolve as new generations enter and dominate the workforce. There will be more immediate connections to work and how it’s integrated with our lives. And of course, how this all has an effect on our mental health and how we can maintain a healthy, positive outlook and approach to work and life.
As an LSP, the nature of our work will continue to evolve, just as the way we provide a service to our clients has changed substantially in the 15 years I’ve been a part of this industry.
I foresee further automation, further integration, and even more compelling technologies allowing individuals to focus on meaningful and solution-oriented work.
This issue is themed around emerging markets globally. What insights do you have for existing or potential clients who are interested in expanding into some of these regions?
We’ve been talking about what’s been referred to as “the next billion users,” a concept that we’ve been exploring with a number of clients. It really started a few years ago with the biggest technology providers. They were curious about Southeast Asia and so, as a result, we’ve been helping a lot of these big organizations to navigate Southeast Asia markets.
Some are also interested in African regions, ones that are attractive for nonprofit, training, and market-insight organizations. They’re constantly looking for new avenues, new communities, and new languages to address. We’ve worked closely with them to identify the best markets to penetrate and approach, based on their needs and their user base. It’s definitely an exciting time to expand.
I’m actually really excited about Africa because they’ve essentially gone from nothing to mobile communications in one short leap, which has made the buying and user habits in those markets so unique. It’s similar to Southeast Asia, but there is something that’s very compelling about Africa, and you have to put a completely different hat on when you’re thinking about that market.
Both regions have a lot of challenges, the lack of infrastructure being one of the largest. We were working on a project where we had to translate into Tongan, but a hurricane knocked out the internet connection. We couldn’t communicate with the client for a week! So those are the considerations that we have to think about. You can’t go blazing into that sort of environment and expect the same level of scalability and service as in the developed world.
You maintain an interesting set of interests outside the office — for instance, I understand you’re an animal lover and a scuba diver. Can you tell us about that, and what else keeps you happy and refreshed?
When I’m not working, I love nothing more than immersing myself in nature. The ocean and scuba diving are indeed my happy places, and I’ll take any excuse to be near the sea. I have traveled the world to dive in some of the most remote places, such as the waters of Komodo Island, or to test my limits like reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Nature grounds me back into the reality of life, where being with my family, and my friends, is the best way for me to be my best self, every day.