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Women in Localization Awards:
STAR and Kudos

BY CAMERON RASMUSSON

Most nonprofit organizations live or die by their volunteers’ hard work and passion — or lack thereof. And for Women in Localization (WL), one of the most influential and venerable professional organizations in the language industry, the story is no different.

The good news is that this story has a happy ending. It’s hard to imagine a nonprofit with a more dedicated or enthusiastic volunteer community than WL. In fact, the primary reason it grew from a small California-based professional community into a certified nonprofit with chapters around the globe is … well, women wanted it. Perhaps you’ve heard the popular quote usually attributed to music producer Brian Eno: “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.” Well, maybe not everyone who attended an early WL event went on to form a chapter, but enough of them did to make it a global organization.

“We have the characteristics of a ‘cult brand’ for certain!” said Allison McDougall, the WL board advisor for volunteer recognition. “I think the source of our enthusiasm is one another — passion for lifting one another up, a shared drive for excellence, gender parity in opportunity and compensation, a commitment to mutual accountability, and our collective desire to continue to shape the industry as it evolves.”

Given that reality, it’s no wonder that WL prioritizes recognizing and honoring the volunteers who offer their time and expertise to plan and host workshops, organize gatherings, facilitate communication, and much more. To that end, the nonprofit implemented not just one, but two award programs to highlight individuals who truly went above and beyond the call of duty: the STAR Volunteers and the Kudos Awards, both of which were implemented in 2022.

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“WL is powered by more than 200 volunteers around the world, and it is impossible to capture the commitment, dedication, and passion that goes into this,” McDougall said. “One could call it a movement. Recognizing these volunteers represents a small token of our deep appreciation. We thought it was important to recognize volunteers who ‘go above and beyond’ their responsibilities, as well as other stand-out volunteers who inspire and drive excellence that truly move the organization forward.”

It’s easy to see why WL pulls out the stops to ensure volunteers know they are valued — the organization is big. With 200 volunteers, 30 global chapters, and 9,000 members, WL’s community is vast and influential throughout the language industry. Thus, in 2022, WL leadership recognized the need for more formal programs showcasing the innumerable volunteer hours that turn the organizational gears. McDougall and her colleagues on volunteer recognition — Carrie Livermore Fischer (current President), Cecilia Maldonado, Daniela D’Amato, Luisa Serra, and Jeane Campbell — got to work.

“Volunteer recognition is important, but it became more challenging as the number of global chapters and our membership scaled (exploded!),” McDougall said. “Prior to [2022], we did our utmost to recognize volunteers at a local chapter level and across programs. While this was adequate in the early years, it became evident that we needed to do more, on a global scale.”

In December, WL leadership announced its 2023 STAR Volunteers: Tetyana Struk of Ukrainian language service provider (LSP) Linguistic Centre and India-based professional Madhu Sundaramurthy of Summa Linguae Technologies.

“Interestingly, both 2023 STAR Volunteers are based in emerging markets and chapters, Ukraine and India, respectively,” said McDougall. “I love this so much, and think it speaks highly of the need for connection, mentorship, and the human desire to feel a part of something larger than oneself, on a global scale. Both STAR Volunteers deliver this, driving significant impact.”   

Struk and Sundaramurthy took time out of their busy end-of-year schedules to answer a few MultiLingual questions following the announcement of the awards. And if their words leave you feeling inspired, it’s easy to get involved with WL. Simply check out womeninlocalization.com/resources/volunteer-opportunities/ to see the open roles.

“Authentic passion for our mission is the only real qualification criterion needed, and that’s one of the benefits of volunteering: ‘on-the-job’ leadership training and mentoring,” McDougall said.

Madhu Sundaramurthy

First, can you tell us how you became aware of WL? After that time, what compelled you to join as a volunteer?

I would read about WL on LinkedIn and Facebook, and Anna Schlegel was a huge influencer. There would be articles about the impact she is making in the industry. Anna used to come to India during her stint with NetApp, and she encouraged the initiation of the India Chapter. Since I used to present at events in India, a friend who worked at NetApp recommended me by name, and I joined the founding team of the India Chapter. India has a big localization community, and the opportunity to showcase India at a global level and bring the global community to India compelled me to join WL.

You started with WL in 2019, and little did we know then that a global pandemic was just around the corner. What were the challenges of growing a professional community in those circumstances?

In 2019, we started the India chapter with a big bang. Our first event had 100 participants, which was a WL record. We organized a few live events until February 2020, when the pandemic hit us. But India is a big country, and the fact that we went virtual helped us organize more events. The core team was also based all across India, and we were able to collaborate virtually and successfully organize our events. We did miss meeting in person but made most of the opportunities provided to us.

What are some of the unique characteristics that distinguish the India Chapter from other WL chapters?

We are very diverse and also represent a huge localization community. The hunger to learn, gain credibility, and showcase our contribution to the global community are drivers that help us succeed. We are also one of the biggest localization communities in India, where other localization organizations are not that popular. We were also lucky to learn from some of the best geomanagers who guided and supported our growth.

You’ve been especially involved in event planning and coordination. What are some of the most memorable events you’ve helped plan or lead since 2019?

The list is really long, but personally, I would like to list a mentorship event we conducted for the India Chapter in 2022. We hosted the event in person in three cities on the same day and it was a grand success. I would also like to highlight the global community event about Africa in 2022 and the BookBuzz series in 2023 where we talked to authors who have written books about localization. I also enjoyed curating the event about the Globalization Playbook with some of the finest speakers in our industry. The session with Kim Ruth on financial literacy in 2023, where we discussed how women can independently manage their finances, was a huge success. The 2021 event with Peri Shawn about closing successful boardroom conversations is another favorite.

Besides your work with Summa Linguae and WL, what are your passions, and how do you pursue them regardless of whether it’s a job, volunteer position, or hobby?

I am an avid reader and volunteer at the Neev Literature Fest, the biggest children’s literature festival in Asia, and am also part of a book club. I am involved in the School Management Committee at Neev Academy. I also volunteer as VP-South at CITLoB (Citbob.in) and have co-hosted Samvad, the annual event, for the past two years. I am the president of the residential community where I reside. We must give back to the community, which has played a role in making us the person we are. I also learned a lot when collaborating with people from across the board, different industries, and people with similar beliefs. This helps in building a strong network, which leads to personal and professional growth. I dedicate specific time to these passions and ensure that I contribute to the best of my ability.   

What advice would you give a young professional about the value of giving back to their professional community?

The only way to learn and grow is to connect and collaborate with a community that can empower you and provide opportunities to share your opinion, value your experience, and give you the platform to build a better future. You will learn from the best and find amazing mentors to propel your growth. And when you give back to the community, there will always be a feeling of pride and satisfaction that you supported and helped someone else realize their goals and dreams. Volunteering is advantageous as these add to your professional experience, credibility, and passion for connecting professional work and community work.

Tetyana Struk

How did you first become aware of WL? What inspired you to get involved?

I first learned about WL during one of the conferences, either GALA or LocWorld. I spotted a WL table with a colorful banner at one of the lunches. The vibrant atmosphere there drew me in, and I approached the table. I was warmly invited to join the table and engage in the conversation, and I felt the energy and sense of belonging were contagious. I knew I had found my community.

From that moment, I made it my mission to launch a WL chapter in Ukraine. I wasn’t alone in this mission; a dedicated team quickly formed.

While it took us a couple of years to launch the chapter, it was an endeavor well worth the wait. The year 2020, amid the challenges posed by a global pandemic, saw the birth of WL Ukraine.

Since then, we’ve been tirelessly organizing numerous events, panel discussions, workshops, and networking and mentoring sessions. The experience has been nothing short of fulfilling, and I have cherished every moment.

You’re no stranger to balancing an immense amount of responsibility, having started your own company out of necessity since no one was hiring a mother of three. How and why did you add volunteer work to your plate on top of everything?

Balancing the responsibilities of starting my own company while being a mother of three was indeed challenging. However, my journey into volunteer work was a natural extension of my commitment to my profession and the values I hold dear.

When I began my entrepreneurial journey, it was out of necessity, driven by the realization that traditional employment avenues were not open to a young mother with three children. As I navigated the demanding world of entrepreneurship, I recognized the significance of giving back to the community. It became apparent that volunteering was not about adding more to my already full plate but about aligning my passions with meaningful actions that could benefit the industry and the community.

Volunteering offered a unique opportunity to share my knowledge and experiences while contributing to the growth and well-being of my professional community. It was a way to bridge the gap between my personal and professional life, allowing me to make a positive impact beyond the confines of my business.

I am aware that, for many young colleagues, I serve as a role model, demonstrating that it is indeed possible to harmonize the demands of family, career, and volunteer commitments. I make it clear to them that this journey may present challenges, but I also show that it is entirely achievable.

Working in Ukraine hasn’t been easy since the outbreak of war. Can you describe for us the experience of managing your family, business, and volunteer work, all while navigating the outbreak and developments of a years-long war?

Navigating the complexities of this life stage has required a delicate balance and strength. On one hand, I was a wife who spent a year gripped by fear for my husband on the frontline. He volunteered for the army during the first days of the war, and now I am supporting him through his treatment and rehabilitation process.

As a mother, I often feel helpless, understanding that it is beyond my power to ensure the safety and well-being of my children, whether during air raid attacks or the realization that my sons could be called to the army at any moment. Additionally, I see how my daughter is making tremendous efforts for a fresh start in Canada, where she left a flourishing career in Ukraine that was disrupted by the war.

On the other hand, as a business owner, I had to navigate the economic and logistical challenges of the ongoing war, keeping commitments to my clients and my team.

My commitment to volunteer work remained steadfast in these personal and professional responsibilities. Our leadership team at WL Ukraine has been doing an exceptional job in navigating the current challenges. Despite the obstacles, we managed to keep our weekly meetings going. These gatherings have become a safe space to unite, share experiences, and support one another throughout it all.

We may not have control over the external circumstances, but we can control how we support each other and keep a community that uplifts and empowers. We also make plans for the future. We absolutely refuse to let the difficulties of the present hinder our vision for a better tomorrow.

You care deeply about Ukraine, its culture, and its language. Tell us about what inspired those passions and how you pursue and advance those causes still today.

My love for Ukraine and its culture grew from my own journey of adaptation and appreciation. Living in Ukraine since I was 15, I developed a profound connection and admiration for its heritage and identity. Witnessing the challenges Ukraine faced during its history in fighting for its language and culture ignited my advocacy. It became clear that I wanted to participate in this effort to promote and preserve Ukraine’s linguistic and cultural heritage. I had pioneered Ukrainian localization at times when many customers thought that it was fine to use only Russian here, and I remember persuading nearly every person that it was a wrong approach at industry events years ago. Since then, I never stopped in my efforts.

I continue to promote Ukrainian language and culture through initiatives, including educational programs, cultural events, and my current work, where I contribute to Ukraine’s European integration efforts.

In addition to everything we’ve already discussed, you describe yourself as “an author, an educator, an advocate for Ukrainian culture, a humanitarian, and most recently, an integrator of Ukraine into the European context.” Can you tell us about the work you’ve undertaken in those categories?

I have worn many hats during my lifetime, and I am grateful for these opportunities.

As an educator, I have developed and delivered courses in translation and localization. These courses have not only provided students with essential knowledge but have also been tailored to meet industry needs, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared for the demands of the field. I have also actively evaluated curricula according to national quality standards.

Supporting this activity, I have authored books on translation and technology, including a university-level textbook on translation technologies. These books till now help students and professionals in the localization industry, contributing to their education and skill development.

As an advocate for Ukrainian culture, I have been actively involved in spreading awareness of our identity on a global scale. This includes presenting at international conferences to share Ukraine’s experiences and organizing cultural and educational events to showcase our unique pathway and enrich cross-cultural understanding.

In 2022, after a full-scale invasion of Russia in Ukraine, I embraced a humanitarian calling as a country program manager in Ukraine with CLEAR Global/Translators without Borders. Effective communication is crucial during times of crisis, and I have been committed to ensuring that language-related challenges are addressed to support humanitarian efforts.

In my most recent role, I actively advance Ukraine’s integration into the European context. I work on aligning Ukraine with European standards and values at the local level, fostering cultural exchange, and contributing to Ukraine’s European aspirations.

These roles and initiatives help me feel that I am positively impacting various facets of my professional life and beyond. It is a very important feeling to me.

What advice would you give a young professional about the value of giving back to their professional community?

Young professionals should recognize that giving back to their professional community is not just an act of kindness but an investment in your own growth. Contributing through mentorship, volunteering, or advocacy can inspire others and impact our industry. It enriches your professional journey, offering fulfillment and a deeper understanding of our field.

By actively engaging, you join a supportive network of like-minded individuals, advancing your career and your personal development. And the main thing, giving back is a rewarding part of your life, that makes it meaningful.

Anything else you want to add?

I want to emphasize the immense significance of our global connections within the localization community. These bonds extend far beyond professional networking; they have turned into genuine friendships and a continuous source of unwavering support, which is particularly invaluable during these challenging times of war.

Words cannot adequately convey the depth of gratitude for the heartfelt messages, offers of assistance, the willingness of our community members to open their homes and hearts during the initial months of the war, and the support activities to Ukraine run by our colleagues till now.

As we move forward, let us remember the power of unity within our industry. Together, we can continue making positive changes within our professional sphere and the world at large.

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2023 Kudos Award Nominations

The continued growth and success of WL stems from its engaged and committed volunteers around the world. While the STAR Volunteer Award is presented bi-annually, the Kudos Volunteer Recognition is designed to honor incredible volunteers on a quarterly basis who go “above and beyond” in their respective programs and global Chapters. Examples of achievements include completing special projects on behalf of the organization, securing a new strategic Sponsor or Partner, producing a blog post that received high audience engagement, launching a new Mentorship Platform, among many others. Please join us in congratulating these incredible volunteers! You exemplify the WL mission and we are so grateful for you!

Q1

Meghan Nicholson

Volunteer Onboarding and Offboarding, Operations & Metrics

Tatyana Vingert

Publishing Editor, Content Marketing

Margarita Núñez

Program Director Global Community

Q2

Madhu Sundaramurthy

Program Director, Global Community

Shalini Gupta

Marketing Manager, India

Vidushi Kapoor

Chapter Manager, India

Q4

Mimi Moore

Program Manager, Content Marketing

Dominique Puls

Sponsorship Manager

Luisa Serra

Volunteer Recognition Assistant, Operations & Metrics. Mentorship Lead, Global Community

Cameron Rasmusson is Senior Writer and Editor of MultiLingual magazine.

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