PROFILE

Edith Bendermacher
Fostering Community

NATIONALITY
German, born in Poland, has US citizenship

PROUDEST PERSONAL MOMENT
Seeing her two children, Lukas and Matilda, grow and chart their own paths

PROUDEST PROFESSIONAL MOMENT
Awarded “Language Industry Person of the Year 2023” by Think Global Awards

INTERESTS
Photography, reading, and travel

PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS
Mentoring, volunteering, building, and maintaining relationships

As the director of globalization strategy and localization operations at NetApp, Edith Bendermacher’s daily life centers on coordinating multiple professionals, stakeholders, and departments toward furthering a singular vision. But simply getting the job done isn’t quite enough. To build a business — or any worthwhile endeavor — that lasts, Bendermacher understands that you must foster a sense of community. And that’s exactly why she’s made volunteerism and community support a hallmark of her long career.

The world might be changing, but some bedrock human needs remain the same. In light of that, we spoke with Bendermacher about how she weathers the vicissitudes of a tech-reliant industry while keeping humans front and center.

Tell us about your career up to this point. What drew you into language work, and what kept you here?

My globalization career started 12 years ago, but I have always worked with global audiences, such as in my previous role in public relations, where I worked with journalists from all over the world.

Based on a recommendation of a previous colleague, I was hired as linguistic quality team lead at NetApp and grew to manager in this role. Later I took over the localization operations role and worked closely with our translation vendors and linguists on the end-to-end localization process.

Four years ago, I was asked to lead globalization strategy. I established a team of globalization strategists, and we developed frameworks to engage with local stakeholders, communicate regularly, and measure the impact of globalization.

Today I am the director of globalization strategy and localization operations at NetApp. I lead a team of globalization strategists who focus on understanding the local requirements of customers and partners in different regions. Our company sells to many countries worldwide, and we provide localized products, content, learning materials, and documentation in many languages in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) regions.

I also lead the localization operations team at NetApp. This team of localization project managers manages all localization projects for the company end-to-end, starting with requests for translation, and working with our translation vendors all the way through to delivery and invoicing.

I collaborate closely with our globalization systems team to ensure requirements for a successful global customer experience are in place. A state-of-the-art globalization infrastructure is the key to a seamless experience, internally and externally. This means that we work together on selecting the right translation management system (TMS), create workflows for multiple types of content, establish integrations between content management systems and our globalization systems for translation and publishing of localized content, brainstorm and implement advancements in neural machine translation (NMT) and AI, and much more.

The globalization team I lead pursues the mission to drive global success from strategy to execution. We do everything with the customer in mind so that NetApp can provide the best customer experience.

And what brought you to NetApp?

My career in localization started in an unconventional way. After having my children, I was looking for a new opportunity and spoke to a friend who worked for an enterprise company. She knew of a role that she thought I would be a fit for. This role started my localization journey as a team lead for a linguistic quality team. At that time, the team had 15 leads, secondary and tertiary linguists, and they needed someone to oversee operations for linguistic review projects. When I joined the team, I knew nothing about localization, but I knew how to lead a diverse team, how to identify gaps and streamline workflows, and how to establish and document processes. My first accomplishment was introducing a Jira ticketing system for linguistic review jobs that cut emails by 50% and streamlined linguists, departments, and internal requester communication.

As my career has grown over the years, I have been acquiring knowledge about anything and everything localization. I have taken courses and attended webinars to learn about each role in a localization team. I have read books and articles to gain a wider globalization perspective. I believe it is important to understand the entire business you are in, even if you are not an engineer or content creator. Because if you can’t connect the dots, your view is limited, and you might miss opportunities.

Even today, I continue to learn about new technologies, how to be part of an association, and how to work together in an interconnected world. Learning never stops.

You’ve mentioned that, ultimately, the customers’ needs define the internal localization operation at a given company. For instance, NetApp localizes into 15 languages in a comprehensive operation across all departments. How does that reflect the needs of your customers, and how is it distinct from other companies with different customers?

Although English is the unifying language for business, particularly in the technology industry, nothing can replace the native language. Native language is a way to quickly browse, digest, memorize, and filter information and accelerate business outcomes, such as choosing the right product, fixing an issue, learning a tool, etc.

Our goal is not to localize everything but localize only the important parts of what the customer needs to be successful. We developed and implemented a framework that gives us deep insight into the customer journey and all its stages. There is not one customer journey, there are multiple depending on the department and their delivery. Understanding this has given us the opportunity to invest in localization with purpose, by not only localizing what is really needed but also creating a globalization infrastructure and workflows to support it.

What we do differently is that we invest time and resources in understanding the needs of our customers by listening to their feedback, collaborating with the local sales team, and gathering global requirements. Tight alignment between departments and having a full view of how globalization will impact our customers allows us to make decisions based on customer needs and deliver to their needs.

One example is the implementation of machine translation (MT) and the success it created for our audiences. Around ten years ago, when we brought in MT, we only applied it to selected knowledge base content, which was published using raw MT. Next, we started translating technical documentation with MT, but because the quality was poor, we invested in post-editing, and little by little, the quality improved. Our customers and partners appreciated our efforts, and that kept us going. In 2020, we switched to neural machine translation (NMT), and overall quality improved significantly. We gained enough credibility and interest to expand our globalization content strategy and apply NMT to more content. Today, we translate 90% of our content with NMT and 10% with human translation. We also utilize NMT for internal communications and partner with the diversity, equity, and inclusion team to offer NMT as a self-service translation tool to our employees.

What is your relationship with language service companies? What role do vendors play in helping you meet your goals, and what qualities do you look for when considering prospective business partners?

Translation and technology vendors are an integral part of our success and day-to-day operations. We see them as extensions of our teams and rely on their expertise. If our go-to-market (GTM) strategy requires a quick turnaround time, our translation vendors work with us closely to make it happen. They understand the requirements that we communicate through regular interactions such as quarterly business reviews, monthly check-ins, and technology reviews.

The work with our vendors goes both ways, and we inspire each other. We talk about our use cases and about the things we want to make happen, and the vendors help us to find innovative solutions.

On that note, do you have any advice for language service companies as they adapt to an evolving world in localization?

The work of language service providers and globalization technology vendors is a large part of the success of my organization, from supporting our GTM efforts to delivering content on our website or support site, to launching a product in a language. We collaborate closely with our vendors, we learn from them and with them, and we encourage them to let us know at any time if any of our workflows or processes need to improve.

Vendors have a unique insight into the many globalization teams they work with. They gain a deep understanding of the requirements, issues, and goals. That gives them an opportunity to position themselves as advisors and provide additional services and offerings to enhance the relationship with their various clients.

You’ve mentioned how you learned early in your career that embracing new technologies was key to remaining effective in your work. What led to that epiphany, and how have you implemented it in your career?

Technology has been part of my career from early on. When I started my first job at a law office, they brought in computers to write letters, which we didn’t email out then but printed and mailed at the post office. I embraced these computers quickly as the typewriter was slow and loud. But joking aside, in every line of work, technology is what allows us to do more with less, makes us efficient and organized, and lets us scale up and scale down as the business requires.

In my current role, globalization technology is key to understanding how fast we can bring a localized and customized experience to our audiences. I am driven by the idea of the one-click experience and evaluate all opportunities through that lens. But it is not as simple as implementing new technology because it sounds exciting and comes with high promises. Implementing new technology or replacing existing technology in a complex environment requires a lot of orchestration and understanding of how it gets implemented into an existing network of content management systems, integrations, and tools. Competing deadlines, budgets, and resources must be aligned before we can execute and deliver. This is the fun part of the job, but also one of the most challenging, as designing, planning, and implementing can take a long time.

Speaking of adapting to technology, I think we’re all trying to do that with AI and other emerging technologies. Where do you see the future heading, and what are you doing to prepare yourself for a changing world?

Change is the only constant, as a famous Greek philosopher once said. Machine translation was once an emerging technology, but today it is something that everyone applies, in small or big ways. Our entire globalization content strategy is based on NMT, and together with human translation, it allows us to provide a unique experience for our worldwide audiences.

AI is a hot topic now, not only for the globalization industry but also for every aspect of our lives. Utilizing ChatGPT to summarize large amounts of text is great, as my high schooler proclaimed. Planning a dinner using AI can help me to find recipes and extract the shopping list so that I don’t have to do that myself.

For our industry, AI brings exciting opportunities, especially around increasing efficiencies. But we are still learning about its capabilities and its limitations. The industry is humming with excitement, but also with fear, because we don’t have all the answers, and AI can and will affect many people working in the localization industry.

As with every new technology, it will take time to find its best use, but I do not think that it will replace human knowledge and human touch, at least not in any foreseeable future. So, we have to learn how to weave it into our existing workflows. The bigger challenge I see is for us to think of workflows differently and see how AI can enhance them. I look forward to seeing what the globalization industry will come up with.

You believe strongly in giving back to the professional community, hence your enthusiasm for volunteerism and supporting other professionals. What are some of your favorite projects you’ve taken on in your career?

“Knowledge not shared is knowledge wasted.” I didn’t start volunteering because of this saying, but this encompasses the feeling I have when I am volunteering. Volunteering comes in many different shapes and forms. When my children were little, I volunteered at their schools to help the teachers. When the athletic club at my kids’ high school needed leadership to support more than 700 school athletes, I volunteered to find sponsors and establish transparent ways of communicating between the principal, parents, and coaches.

When NetApp offered opportunities to support local organizations and gave us 40 hours per year for volunteering, it was a no-brainer. We support small and big organizations through ongoing efforts and make small and big impacts in our communities.

Professionally, I am engaged in the globalization industry in multiple ways.

An organization close to my heart is Women in Localization. I have been involved in it for many years, and I am currently the program director for marketing. Women in Localization is a global community for the advancement of women and the localization industry and has over 9,000 members. This organization allowed me to meet many women in many walks of life, and together, we continue to push the organization to new highs.

I became a GALA board member earlier this year, and I am extremely proud to represent the buyer side on the board. GALA is a nonprofit organization that serves and supports the language services and technologies industry. Working on the board gives me a broad view of globalization, and I contribute directly to driving change in the industry.

Volunteering at Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey (MIIS) is another way I give back to the industry by providing mentorship to up-and-coming localization super stars. For example, we developed a six-week program where students learned about globalization strategy, competitive analysis, and how to create a presentation for executives. Later this year, I will be part of a program to provide mentorship and lectures to students.

My motto is that anything helps, at small or large scale. We can inspire someone without even knowing it. My son got inspired by the food bank I took him to, and his high school senior year project was about food insecurity and ideas on how to solve it. My daughter is starting to volunteer with me now, and I am happy to see how the experience is showing her how she can contribute to any community.

Volunteering has also helped me to find a voice and a purpose that goes beyond my work and my family. It gave me confidence that my help is needed and is worthwhile. I learned a lot about the needs of our communities and that we need to involve ourselves as others might not be able to.

Volunteering creates a community: at work with colleagues, with other like-minded people at the non-profits, with people I would have never met while packaging food. I get inspired by those communities and they help me view the world in a compassionate and relatable way. If I can help or inspire one person, any effort is worth it.

Have you had moments in your life where you believe that someone else’s volunteer work or mentorship helped you in your professional journey? What are some of the most impactful moments?

When I think about this, I realize that all my life I was guided by people who saw something in me and helped me bring it to light. When I was young and just moved to Germany, I was living in a boarding school. My German teacher invited me to her house on the weekends so I could get a home-cooked meal and meet an exciting group of grown-ups who were discussing politics and art. That inspired me to pursue higher education and gain deeper understanding about the world around me.

When I moved to the US and my English was very limited, the owner of the PR agency offered me a job based on a conversation we had over the phone, and she helped me to establish my career here in the US.

When I started my career in globalization, I knew nothing about the industry. My first manager took the time to teach me all the things that I needed to know and mentor me on how to be a manager and how to present. Without her belief in me and her support, I would not be where I am today.

And the list does not stop there. I was mentored and supported by exemplary women, and I have formed friendships and long-lasting relationships with many of them.

Is there anything you want to add?

The globalization industry is an exciting place to be. I love how vibrant, engaged, and interested everyone is and how we all try to work and learn together across the globe to make a difference in our own globalization teams. This feeling is based on the many people I have met over the years and who helped me to get to where I am today. I hope by giving back to the industry others will recognize opportunities they didn’t think of, give space to different perspectives, and create a community that is based on trust, sharing, and fun.

My success is based on the people around me. At work, that means my direct team but also the people I interact with. I am all about building and maintaining relationships, taking time to learn what people care about, what their interests are, what makes them happy. My team works hard every day, and we face many obstacles, but together we make progress with the end goal in mind, which is to delight our global audiences.

At home, that means my family: my husband Patrick, my children Lukas and Matilda, and our beloved Boston terrier Boba. They keep me grounded, they keep me busy, and they give me the support I need to keep enjoying my work and volunteering for the community.

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