TransPerfect in the Financial Times

Great to see the translation industry featured in the Financial Times within the context of general business education and not narrow localization skills. Read about TransPerfect’s management…

Super article in today’s Financial Times about Liz Elting and Phil Shawe and Phil Shawe of TransPerfect called:

The bright idea that translated into profit

Well worth a read. The article is ostensibly about the importance of business education:

Liz Elting and Phil Shawe met in an international finance class at New York University’s Stern School of Business in 1991. She had majored in modern languages in college and had spent several years working in the translation industry. He had always planned on becoming a banker after gaining his MBA, but was beginning to have second thoughts.

Indeed, their own enthusiastic genesis reminds me of my own beginnings in the IT sector 20 years ago, slaving over a 512KB RAM Apple Mac. I still think some of my best writing was done then…smile

They set up shop in a dorm room at NYU. The room, according to Ms Elting, was “ridiculously small” and contained a rental computer, a fax machine and a hand-me-down desk, which also served as the dining table. They subsisted on a steady diet of noodles. “Seven days a week, we worked from the time we woke up to the time we went to sleep,” Mr Shawe recalls.

Anyway, the strong message coming from the story is the importance of treating translation (or localization, or whatever you’re having yourself) as a business. For years I’ve wondered why localization education programs don’t run the full gamut of business education; instead sticking closely with issues like tools, linguistics and the perfunctory justifications for localization. Little about process integration, internal business drivers, SWOT analysis, and so on.

Well done to the FT for featuring these guys, and for also couching translation within the context of general business education. Localization professionals should be all-rounders with business skills that could be readily transfered to other sectors if necessary. Indeed, this point is critical if localization professionals are to retain employment at all, as the need to create new value-add areas in the face of new competition from low cost countries becomes all the more apparent, particularly in high cost operating environments like Ireland and the US. For too long localization has been treated as a specialism for “professionals”, bent on certification, instead of promoting itself as a a source of management expertise, entrepreneurship, and great all-round business practises.

Let’s see more people with higher management degrees in the localization management space too, please.

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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