By Design: How Mentor Graphics Engineers Localization

Commercial electronic design automation (EDA) began in the 1980s with increasing demand and the subsequent birth of such companies as Mentor Graphics, Synopsys, and Cadence. Today, the players that inhabit the space are billion-dollar companies built on an engineering science that has been described as being “where electronics begins.” In a nutshell, EDA firms come up with computer programs (and software and hardware tools) for designing all the electronic components that go into, well, nearly everything.

We reached out to Tom Roland, Translation Manager at Mentor Graphics, who told us, “More than 50% of our revenue comes from Europe and Asia.” For all that, the GUI for several key Mentor products is only in English and most of their training libraries are not localized, Roland said, adding, “It’s a funny situation, but it seems pretty much par for the course in the EDA industry.”

Asked to explain what could be regarded as an incongruity—Anglo-centric products primarily targeted at non-Anglo markets—Roland said, “Until recently, most EDA software had been intended for use by high-level electrical engineers, most of whom have graduate degrees from schools that teach primarily or exclusively in English.”

So the perception was most of the market was okay reading training materials and other EDA documents in English. But times, they are a-changing and Roland points out, “More design tasks are performed by people who graduated from two-year technical schools, and who aren’t so comfortable using English. Therefore, demand for localization is rising.”

Tom Roland, Mentor Graphics Translation Manager
Tom Roland

Roland, who is “fairly fluent” in Chinese, has a BA in Asian Studies. He went to Taiwan in his sophomore year intending to stay one semester, but ended up staying two years―and getting married.

After returning to the US to finish his degree Stateside, he and his wife hot footed it back to Taiwan, where Roland worked as a translator for three years. The couple decided to return to the US to start a family. They settled in Boulder, Colorado, where Roland “was pleasantly surprised to find a thriving translation-localization community there in 1997.”

He then worked at language service provider International Language Engineering, “which later became part of Lionbridge. I’ve stayed in localization ever since, with a primary focus on Asia,” Roland said.

What follows are excerpts of our conversation with Mentor Graphics Translation Manager Tom Roland.

Slator: What does the bulk of your work focus on as Translation Manager?

Roland: The bulk of my work focuses on localization of marketing materials.

Slator: Which product area within your company uses translation and localization the most?

Roland: Everything related to automotive and manufacturing.

I don’t see MT or the other “big solutions” being driven by the major localization players as being very beneficial to us―Tom Roland, Translation Manager at Mentor Graphics

Slator: Is translation and localization regarded as a cost or revenue driver at Mentor Graphics?

Roland: It’s seen as a cost, although executives are aware that it does drive revenue, otherwise they wouldn’t approve the expense each year.

Slator: How much of the budget is set aside for translation and localization?

Roland: If we looked at overall software development and marketing budgets, less than 1% would be spent on localization.

Slator: How many staff work in some translation, localization, or globalization capacity at Mentor Graphics?

Roland: Seven full-time. Many other staff have partial responsibility for various localization roles such as localization engineering or QA.

Slator: What kind of work is passed on to your translation or localization partner or partners? Does it include technology integration, management, and transcreation?

Roland: Primarily localization pre- and post-processing, translation, and some audio and video production. Technology integration and transcreation, no. Project management, yes.

Everything related to automotive and manufacturing uses translation and localization the most―Tom Roland, Translation Manager at Mentor Graphics

Slator: What volume of work do your partners receive?

Roland: I was going to tell you my annual outsourcing budget, but it turns out I’m not allowed to share this information. Sorry!

Slator: Which partners do you work with for translation and localization and why?

Roland: Primarily Boffin Languages, headquartered in China, and TOIN Corp., headquartered in Japan, for their stellar project management skills and dependable linguistic quality.

Slator: Do all business units within Mentor Graphics use the same translation or localization partner?

Roland: No, they don’t.

Slator: In a past role you once maintained a virtual team of 600-plus freelance translators. Which tech platform did you use back then, if any?

Roland: We initially used a fairly basic off-the-shelf contact management database. I think it was called “Goldmine.” Then we moved to a slightly more powerful in-house solution. Technology wasn’t a big part of that effort, aside from e-mail, phone, and the usual communication tools. What success we achieved came from our efforts to cultivate personal relationships with our freelancers. They were not faceless “resources” to us.

Slator: What translation or localization technology or translation management platform do you use now at Mentor Graphics?

Roland: SDL Passolo and memoQ, including memoQ server.

The prospect of bringing humanity closer together is what brought many of us to translation as passionate 25-year-olds―Tom Roland, Translation Manager at Mentor Graphics

Slator: What trends in the broad translation and localization industry excite you most?

Roland: I’m excited by the burgeoning demand for translation on social media platforms, driven not by the desire of companies to reach their customers but by the demand from users to be able to communicate with each other.

The prospect of facilitating communication between cultures, bringing humanity closer together, is what brought many of us to translation as passionate 25-year-olds; and it’s exciting to see this becoming more of a reality through the MT engines tied into Facebook and other platforms.

Slator: What services or technology do you foresee being most useful, especially in EDA?

Roland: Because EDA is an industry with so much jargon, specialized terminology, and highly technical concepts, I don’t see MT or the other “big solutions” being driven by the major localization players as being very beneficial to us.

I think all of the technological advances that support small “virtual” companies—ubiquitous and cheap broadband, cloud servers, reliable telecom—will benefit me the most as a localization buyer, in so much as they enable boutique companies to provide specialized, EDA-tailored localizations services to me.