Bjoern Lux Joins XTM—the Week in Language Industry Hires

Unbabel VP Edmund Ovington and United Language Group VP Michael Ridgway share their go-to lead generation strategies.

Bjoern Lux of XTM International answers the question localization buyers will likely ask when trying to decide between an off-the-shelf TMS or completely outsourcing to an LSP.

This is the week in language industry hires.

Edmund Ovington – Unbabel

For Edmund Ovington, VP of Partnerships at Unbabel, highly personal prospecting and participating in “truly innovative events that become a point of gravity to the right buyer personas” create the most impact in terms of generating business.

Ovington, who began working at the online translation startup on January 1, 2017, told Slator he had relocated to Lisbon, Portugal, but intends to spend half the time in London and the US. He reports to Wolf Allisat, Chief Revenue Officer.

Prior to Unbabel, Ovington worked at New York-based web and mobile platform Percolate “doing large SaaS deals” as Partnerships, Alliances, and Global Account Director for the firm’s largest customers. He said, “I saw, first hand, [how] language was a barrier to both our fastest growing clients as well as large corporates adapting to a new global market,” where localized service was in demand.

The biggest obstacles now in driving sales, Ovington said, are “accelerating market maturity” so that it sees translation as a vital service for the entire business “across everywhere that touches a customer,” making cost per word irrelevant, and keeping abreast of related technologies, such as developments in artificial intelligence.

Asked about which metrics he uses to manage his sales team, Ovington said he focuses on three things: opportunity progression rate so the pipeline is not stagnant, frequent buyer communication and responsiveness, and account growth “to understand if we are selling properly and meeting or exceeding buyers’ expectations post-sale.”

Michael Ridgway – United Language Group

Agreeing that generating business is all about solid engagement, which sales and marketing must work closely together to achieve, is Michael Ridgway VP of OPI (over-the-phone interpretation) at United Language Group. He started working at ULG on January 3, 2017, reporting to ULG President Kristen Giovanis. Ridgway is a veteran of thebigword, where he “held multiple roles during my seven-plus-year tenure,” after which he worked for a couple of years in marketing in advertising before rejoining language services via ULG.

Ridgway said he noticed that “three areas are the most commonly missed marks for global LSPs.” First is developing a clear and concise value proposition that homes in on the core competency. “In today’s world, nobody can be all things to all people. LSPs that try to do this set their sales team up for failure.”

Second is sales training that focuses on the client, delivering real commercial value to the enterprise. “So many LSPs still train and go to market with commodity-based strategies (i.e., how many languages, pages, minutes).

Third is “building the right model to deliver products the client wants to buy, and sellers want to sell.” It may seem basic, Ridgway said, but “only a handful of companies have a sales message and delivery model that are fully aligned.”

On the metrics he uses to manage the ULG sales team, Ridgway rattles off a substantial list: revenue, pipeline growth, sales stage progression, account-based milestones, opportunity yield, conversion, client engagement, and client satisfaction scoring.

Asked if the language industry has changed in the past decade, the new ULG VP said it has, moderately so, but “is accelerating now” due to advances in technology, a new interest in MT, price reductions (“mostly by providers through squeezing linguists”), the rise of VRI or video remote interpreting, and greater industry consolidation.

“We are starting to see a change on how clients value language services, and the conversation is moving from a commodity buy and becoming more commercial, focusing on the enterprise. Clients of language services want value, engagement, and agencies that understand their brand and company,” explained Ridgway.

He said, in the next five years, the industry will see greater adoption of alternative workflows and support as companies understand there is no “one-size-fits-all” model. Furthermore, Ridgway said, tech advancements in MT, speech-to-speech, and speech-to-text “will also gain some traction, but mostly in non-regulated spaces.”

Bjoern Lux – XTM International

Buy an off-the-shelf translation management system (TMS) and manage the process in-house or completely outsource to an LSP? An end-buyer of localization can choose either one, but Bjoern Lux believes several factors favor the vendor agnostic approach.

Lux told Slator he started working at XTM International on January 23, 2017, “from my home in Argentina, but selling into the US market.” He reports to Sales Director Shamus Dermody as a business development manager, Lux said, but his official title is Client Solutions Manager for America. Before XTM, Lux sold localization services as BDM “for a variety of LSPs over the past 12 years.”

Controlling localization assets saves the client money and this would favor the vendor agnostic approach, said Lux. He said it would also be easy to see the progress of a project. What’s more, using a vendor agnostic TMS means not relying on just one vendor and having the choice of changing vendors as needed or working with multiple ones. The client can build localization around their needs “instead of working with preset configurations dictated by a supplier,” Lux said.

He added that a vendor agnostic TMS also gives individuals within the enterprise control of parts of the localization process so they can keep them in house (e.g., in-country review). He said it would also help the streamlining of processes and integration with other systems (CMS, finance, etc.), and the client has control over the metrics instead of just relying on the information and LSP provides.

Nadia Kotaishova – Venga Global

As Vendor Manager for Venga Global, Nadia Kotaishova said she often relies on country- or region-specific websites to recruit freelance linguists. Oftentimes, she said, linguists also point her toward their local associations, “and those recommendations are pure gold!”

Kotaishova started working at the San Francisco-based LSP from December 12, 2017 and told us she works remotely from Prague, Czech Republic. She reports to Maria Granstrom, Global Supply Chain Manager.

“I took a brief break from localization,” said Kotaishova. Her last job in the industry was with Janus Worldwide, where she split here time between recruiting and assisting project managers in allocating projects to vendors. At Venga, however, her focus is “almost exclusively on recruitment.”

So what hurdles has she had to overcome in sourcing good quality freelance linguists for Venga? “Perhaps an obvious one, but it is often the case that the common platforms for finding linguists have generally been exhausted.”

Another is identifying when linguists “are on the cusp of meeting ISO and other requirements — for instance, in terms of years of experience — and reaching out to them at the appropriate time.”

Kotaishova said that, while it is great working with seasoned linguists, “identifying young talent is equally important, especially when increasing the vendor pool is crucial for business.”

The Venga Vendor Manager said she does not anticipate any big change in the price of freelance linguists in the near term. “I think the rates will gradually go up slightly, but nothing major,” she said.

Asked if she recruits other LSPs as subcontractors, Kotaishova replied, “Yes, I do. But I prefer working with single language providers or small agencies that focus on a specific set of languages within their geographical region.”

Denise Taylor – PAB Languages Centre

“We correct mistakes for languages and grammar on a daily basis and the majority of these come from software and digital applications. The digital storm is moving with lightning speed. However, the need for human intervention, now often overlooked, is still needed to ensure quality translation,” Denise Taylor pointed out. She said quality means it is 100% accurate but also culturally appropriate.

Taylor stepped into her role as Business Manager at PAB Languages Centre from November 3, 2016. Based in PAB’s UK office “in heart of Colchester, Essex,” she reports to Managing Director Iwona Lebiedowicz.

Saying she had always been interested in languages and cultural differences, Taylor disclosed taking an interesting path to joining the industry: “I started my working life as a hairdresser, had a fantastic five years in the capital equipment arena, went into recruitment and, for the past 10 years, worked in office supplies for Staples, Office Depot, and Banner.”

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