Donna Parrish’s Influence on My Own Localization

Marjolein Groot Nibbelink

is the director of sales and advertising for MultiLingual. Born and raised in the Netherlands, she lived an international nomad’s life for eight years before settling in the US. She holds a degree in communication from the Rotterdam Academy, and has been with the MultiLingual team since April 2015.

Marjolein Groot Nibbelink Portrait

Donna Parrish hired me shortly after I arrived in the USA, penniless and awaiting a green card after years of bumming around South America. As one of the language industry’s leading influencers since 1997, Donna had been crucial in developing MultiLingual and LocWorld as the brands we have come to know and love. Her limitless care and selflessness have contributed to the industry’s culture of assisting rather than competing with one another, something that is evident through her work with Translators without Borders (TWB). Donna is on Nimdzi’s recent Localization Influencers Watchlist, a reflection of how proactive she is in maintaining the full scope of the industry and its leading professionals.

Joining the MultiLingual team in April 2015 meant taking the conscious and somewhat reluctant step from writing in British English to American English — I was born and raised in the Netherlands where British English was the rule. Business communication had to be in line with the same style guide we ask our writers to adhere to, and sentence structures for marketing had been carefully developed over years of deliberate finetuning. Even after years of sharing offices, she’d throw idioms my way (discussing a reluctant client, she once said, “Well, you can lead a horse to water…”) that made my eyes glaze over and a large question mark appear overhead. She’d see that and fill in “…but you can’t make it drink!” with a warm smile. Through these efforts, Donna quite literally inspired the localization of my entire person and gave me the opportunity to claim a space in the industry by working hard and demonstrating a capacity to empathize and take care of others. This is a success story I’ve heard repeated countless times by colleagues, especially by those who entered the industry before 2010. Through my work and open conversations with industry veterans who put less value on job titles and more on honesty and kindness, the meaning of localization has crystalized into a colorful gem I hope to carry with me for life.

In so many ways we can see Donna’s personality reflected in the language industry — a great capacity to listen and understand other people’s hurdles is the essence of the work we do. I personally manage sales and advertising, which is impossible to do well without deeper comprehension of the localization process and my client’s business objectives.

Donna has always known how to ask the right questions and let you find your own challenges to then establish a more defined set of goals. This helped me become independent and confident, as well as develop a unique set of social abilities based around care and thoughtfulness. In the same way, she’s worked tirelessly and with a permanent smile to provide localization buyers with a place to develop skills and find the resources they need. Meanwhile, providers use the many channels Donna has cultivated for more than 20 years to share case studies and connect to other professionals around the world.

We are the industry that supports global communication, and in this time of the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses are taking a serious look at their online presence hoping to develop international opportunities.

Despite the overall global economic stress, the language services market continues to grow. Users, providers, and project managers alike continue to work hard behind the scenes to help businesses enhance their worldwide messaging and be noticed in efficient and exciting ways. This is what connects us and holds us together, even when we are in every country — even when we can’t meet up at go-to events such as LocWorld, GALA, Elia, ATA, and others. How normal it is to send clients and collaborators pictures of your vacation or share videos of yourself singing covers of The Police? But normality has no place in our line of work — we are here to differentiate.

A friend and industry veteran shared the Hebrew proverb “to swallow the frog” (to accept an unpleasant or difficult fact or situation and move on) and pointed out Donna knows how to do it. Handing over the reins of MultiLingual had to be done, and she found people willing to take them with the same degree of respect for people: a warm, personal approach to doing business while staying mostly in the background. In the meantime, I have been answering concerns over the direction our industry’s leading source of information will take after this change. Our team stands with Donna’s heritage and know it to be unwise, even impossible, to separate the MultiLingual brand from her charm and identity. This, in my opinion, is a good thing.

As of July 1, 2020, Donna stepped down as publisher of MultiLingual magazine, but remains principal of LocWorld and board member of TWB. This is my homage to the powerhouse who gave me the opportunity to live and thrive in my new community while staying in touch with my international roots. I will miss Donna the same way I miss my British accent — as the unique foundation my today is built upon.