PERSPECTIVES

Giving the Next Generation of Localizers a Chance

By carrie fischer

Why aren’t we hiring those who are new to localization?

I haven’t always been of the mind that I should hire people with localization experience because they understand the industry, they already know what they’re doing, and ramp up time will be minimal. Sure, I’m guilty of pilfering two people from LSPs — I figured they knew the inside secrets and give me an advantage running a better localization department. But is that really the case?

Let me start from the beginning. I got started in the localization industry in the early ’90s by volunteering to localize my company’s assets (box, software, documentation) when we decided to sell our products outside the United States. I got paid for it, of course, but it’s something I raised my hand to do. Despite knowing nothing about it or having a clue about what I was doing, I volunteered for this industry and had 18 people reporting to me at the age of 25. I hired people with all kinds of backgrounds, and they turned out to be incredible employees. Now that I’m 55 and have a few decades of experience under my belt, it’s easy (and sometimes kind of fun) to look back at the early years and think about all the mistakes I made.

I don’t regret anything, by the way, because they all taught me about myself and also how to improve going forward. But one thing I did well was train my employees. The industry was still pretty new in the ’90s, and it’s not like we had experienced localization people in New Hampshire at the time. I picked people who were eager to learn, flexible, not afraid to voice their opinions, and in general, were good workers. It helped if they knew another language, but it wasn’t required. It made me wonder why that changed over the last 20+ years. Why are we insisting on hiring people with at least three to five years of localization experience for positions that don’t necessarily require it? Yes, I’m on the client-side of the industry, so perhaps my question doesn’t resonate with everyone.

I asked myself these questions after one of my mentees, a recent graduate of Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS), expressed her opinions on a Women in Localization event about hiring trends in the localization industry. She really appreciated one panelist’s honesty who said that client-side companies won’t hire recent grads. Your best bet is to be hired by an LSP, then if you want to make the jump to the client side after a few years, you can give it a try. This is my gut feeling too, because I’m one of those client-side people who had hired experienced localization people (after those first jobs in New Hampshire and Connecticut), and I was especially excited if I was able to hire from the LSP side. What happened to my naïve optimism when I thought I could train just about anyone to do a localization PM job? I can tell you it wasn’t because I had bad experiences hiring non-localization people in the past. Over time, I let myself think that only experienced localization people make the best hires. But what’s wrong with hiring a recent grad who’s interned for an LSP, for example? Or a recent grad with a translation degree? What’s wrong with hiring someone with different experience who comes from a different industry, but is interested in making a change to our industry? I know a lot of sales professionals have found their way to our holy land, but have linguists, project managers, or engineers? Have we become that closed community that only lets in people who have done the same stuff we have? I hope not. I really want to get responses to this question, especially from my LSP family members.

I’ve always felt I got more out of mentoring than my mentee, and after this discussion, that feeling was validated. Someone woke me up out of my typical way of client-side thinking. Someone new to the industry, someone that has worked hard through school, being told that she can get a job anywhere after graduation. But that is really not the case. I have to wonder if a person new to the localization industry might work harder than someone else who’s been in it a long time. Would they be more flexible in their way of thinking? Bring new ideas to the table? I’m being incredibly simplistic here, I realize that. But for me, the answer is yes. I know this because I hired another recent grad from Poland as not only a translator, but I will train her as a project manager as well. She doesn’t have any translation certifications from any translation organization. How do I know she’s good? I asked her to translate a page of English into Polish and asked my Polish reviewer to take a look. The reviewer said the translation was perfect and didn’t need any revisions. Yes, it really was that simple. I’ve also mentored her for almost a year, and I can see the same passion, and yes, the same fear that I faced at her age. But I can give her the experience, the knowledge, and the set of soft skills that aren’t taught in school. I can make a difference in her life, my company, and our industry. This is our chance to hire and train the new workforce (our replacements!) and allow someone in with zero experience to our community in the real world. I invite you to do what you can, and to let me know if you think I’m completely off my rocker.

Carrie Fischer isCarrie Fischer is globalization services manager at Subway with three decades of experience in the localization industry. 

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