6 Books
for an Impactful Localization Career

BY Gaya Saghatelyan

What surprised me the most when I first started my career in localization is just how much I was learning about things that seemingly had nothing to do with localization itself. I had earned a degree from one of the top localization programs in the world, so I had learned all about project management, quality programs, internationalization, and more. But in my first job, I quickly realized that continuous learning is one of the prerequisites (and perks!) of the localization profession. I may be stating the obvious, but think for a moment about just how much you’ve learned by working with clients and teams from various industries and businesses. I’m sure you’ll be impressed with yourself if you truly think about that!

I, too, have had to learn and adapt throughout my career. Along the way, I’ve read a number of books that shaped my personal and professional thinking. Six books in particular have impacted my career, any my hope is they can be helpful in yours. You’ll notice that the majority of these books have no direct connection to localization, but I’ve included them because they do one very important thing: They explain the context you operate in as a localization professional, which helps you effectively support a business on their globalization journey.

The Culture Map by Erin Meyer

This book is my all-time favorite and one I wish I had read much earlier in my career. I recommend it to anyone who works across cultures. The Culture Map puts a framework around things many of us who’ve been working or living internationally have noticed, and it opens your mind to just how deep-rooted cultural differences are. You’ll learn about how different cultures tend to make decisions, communicate, disagree, and much more. I apply the learnings from this book in my day-to-day life and regularly refer back to a hard copy I have in my bookshelf.

Biased by Jennifer Eberhardt

In this book, you’ll learn about the historical and scientific background of bias and the resulting racial inequities. You might be thinking: What does this have to do with localization? Short answer: This book will not give you a roadmap for taking your products global or building a successful localization operation, but it will shed some light on the biases around us that inevitably shape the products and experiences we create — and then try to localize. Throughout my career, I’ve tried to build an awareness of this and it’s made me a better partner to the teams I work with, because what is localization if not inclusion? And ultimately, companies should care about inclusion if they want to be successful in an increasingly diverse world.

Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to lead a strategic initiative to globalize an area of a product. I had worked with product teams before, but intuitively, I could sense that I wasn’t always on the same page: Why won’t my product counterparts commit to a specific launch date? Why am I getting so much resistance when pushing for international customer use cases? These were some of the common questions I kept asking myself when we’d hit a wall in a meeting (which was often). I wanted to become better at working with product teams, so I reached out to some people I had good relationships with and asked for recommendations for resources I could read up on to gain a better understanding of how product managers think. This book was recommended to me independently by multiple product professionals, so I knew I had to read it. Have you ever asked yourself: How can I get my product colleagues to better empathize with international customers? Then I highly recommend this book to you. It’ll give you much-needed insight into how modern product teams think about problem discovery. Knowing this will equip you to advocate for international customers.

Take Your Company Global: The New Rules of International Expansion by Nataly Kelly

Nataly Kelly’s new book Take Your Company Global is a one-of-a-kind comprehensive guide on global expansion and a must-read for any leader who aspires to be successful outside their domestic market. What I found especially compelling is the amount of emphasis placed on understanding the target market and developing a concerted strategy for market intensification. In my experience, so many companies go international without truly understanding the market they’re expanding into and paying due tribute to go-to-market differences. I particularly appreciated seeing an entire section dedicated to this topic. Although the book only recently came out, I think it’s not too early to say that it will quickly become the global expansion bible.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

This book was an invaluable resource while transitioning careers, and it was recommended by my manager then. Up until then, I was an individual contributor and successful thanks to what I thought was hard work and follow-through. With each chapter of this book, my eyes opened up to the fact that what I considered hard work and follow-through was overcommitment and that I had to change my approach if I wanted to amplify my impact in a new leadership role. This book examines why leaders resist change, the importance of managing your own time and energy, how to be aware of the weight of your ideas as a leader, and more. You might find the learnings to be hard to digest and accept at first, but the exercise is well worth the emotional effort.

Harvard Business Review – Emotional Intelligence

I’m a big fan of a lot of the Harvard Business Review collections, but this one is my favorite. Emotional intelligence is a key attribute of any leader, but especially a localization professional who has to work across cultures and corporate functions. This is a collection of six books titled Empathy, Authentic Leadership, Happiness, Influence & Persuasion, Resilience, and Mindfulness. Each book is composed of a few of the most popular HBR articles on the topic. What I love about the collection are the real stories they tell in a digestible way. You’ll appreciate learning from leaders in various fields about dilemmas they faced and how they overcame them.

Gaya Saghatelyan is passionate about helping B2B companies create delightful products and experiences and leads globalization enablement at HubSpot. Find her on LinkedIn. 



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