Rising stars shine at inaugural edition of Localization Case Competition

On Feb. 17, the first edition of the Localization Case Competition was held at Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey. Six industry judges, with an average experience of 11 years each in localization and globalization, listened to case presentations by localization student teams, who proved themselves as future talent of the industry.

A team of translation and localization management graduate students at MIIS conceptualized a case competition focused on solving business and strategic challenges in the localization industry. The competition aimed to inspire participants to tackle the real-world issues of the localization industry. Students and young professionals showcased their problem-solving and presentation skills to expert industry judges, gained experience designing strategic localization solutions, and received invaluable feedback.

This year, seven teams of 27 students participated in the preliminary round, with four teams making it to the finals, where they presented their solutions live to faculty and industry judges: Yelena Proskurin (MIIS), Edith Bendermacher (NetApp), Janice Campbell (AMTA), Nora Duong (Tesla), Hilary Atkisson Normanha (Spotify), and Carolina Salazar Escudero (Khan Academy).

Case study on localization challenges in elearning

The presentations were focused on this year’s case study, developed by the competition committee in partnership with the industry advisors. The case study highlights the localization challenges faced by E-Volve, a fictitious global elearning company. Divided in two scenarios, contestants could choose to either design a new localization function from the ground-up for the 2023 E-Volve company or advise the 2026 E-Volve company on growing their existing localization program.

The case study incorporated sections commonly included in business case studies, such as company overview and organizational structure, product lines, price breakdowns, and competitor profiles. However, more emphasis was placed on highlighting the current state of localization within the company, with the case providing figures and information about user languages and locales, as well as emerging issues the company is facing. This was intended to mimic the scope of available information a localization manager might have when devising solutions to be presented to upper management, an experience which would help student participants prepare for case interviews. 

As industry judge Hilary Normanha said in her closing comments, “Over the course of my career I’ve been asked to give presentations very similar to this case study in final interview rounds, and then answer questions from panelists. [Today’s competition] is great preparation for all of you, and I’m very impressed with everyone’s work.”

The case study brings to light some key challenges in localization, especially one that could be faced by an elearning company like E-Volve:

  • Establishing a Localization function from scratch, while considering the diversity and volume of localizable content on an elearning platform.
  • Adopting a traditional Language Service Provider (LSP)-based model, versus crowdsourcing and other volunteer-centric approaches.
  • Building and growing a scalable localization program to keep pace with the company’s organizational goals.

A platform for learning and strategic thinking

With such a breadth of issues, it is not surprising that contestants approached their solution from different perspectives. One team geared their localization solution towards executive leadership, another chose to focus on content tiering and production approaches, while one more team highlighted technology and budgets. 

It was no easy decision for the judges to pick a winner, as all finalist teams delivered strong presentations with a solid demonstration of their localization expertise. Industry judge Edith Bendermacher said, “I was impressed with the recommendations that the students delivered in their presentations, as their fresh ideas, great insight and solution-oriented approaches showed the six judges that the new leaders of our industry are here.”

The winning team, DJXX (Peixi Ren, Dayna Brown, Jasmine Huang, Star Tang), highlighted how the exchange of ideas helped the team design a multi-pronged localization strategy for E-Volve. “We were able to showcase our creativity and test our ideas in a risk-free environment to address real-world professional challenges, incorporating feedback from industry leaders and peers to keep learning and growing,” said the team.

This was echoed by another finalist team, Loc Y’all (Kyle Chow, Yiqing Lu, Silver Zhang, Di Wan): “From designing a localization strategy for a fictional elearning company to presenting in front a panel of judges, the entire process pushed our limits in overall strategic thinking. We learned so much from each other and the other amazing groups about how to present things in a way that aligns with a company’s overall business vision.”

The learning experience extends beyond student participants. For the organizing committee (Min Chua, Aurora Wang, Cecilia Lin, Nina Hampton, Ellie Wu), seeing the competition from conception to completion was a highlight of their own localization journey. By building this platform for knowledge sharing, they were rewarded with insights into program management from industry research, professional outreach, to event logistics and coordination. Above all, the level of support the competition received from localization students and experienced professionals alike serves as a testament to the solidarity of the industry.

Looking Ahead

The success of the first Localization Case Competition sets the stage for a larger event in a more competitive format next year. The organizing committee envisions that more early professionals will compete alongside students under separate categories to propose optimized localization strategies, demonstrating the value of on-the-job learning versus project-based learning. There are also plans to invite industry advisors who will work with contestants to provide additional input on framing a localization solution. Details will be announced in the second half of 2023. 


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