How the Role of the Localization Manager Is Evolving

SlatorCon Remote - Panel, Intento, The Elevation of the Localization Manager

With the visibility and importance of localization managers having risen significantly over the past few years, four experienced localization managers explained what they are doing to stay ahead of the curve at the SlatorCon Remote March 2022 Intento panel. Moderated by Slator Commercial Director, Andrew Smart, the panel also traded views on the future of the profession.

Mark Hjerpe, VP of Revenue at Intento, Pascale Tremblay, Director of Localization at GAP, Jonathan Turpin, Localization Team Lead at Esri, and Theresa Heim-Stohler, Senior Operations Manager for Localization Operations at Nike, discussed how the role of the localization manager was evolving.

Hjerpe highlighted the major trends in the localization industry to date. He said the great advances in AI and machine translation (MT) have affected companies and localization managers, leading to many opportunities for both.

“Supported by the trends, I’ve seen localization managers get more and more influence, more and more responsibility and, of course, more and more challenges,” Hjerpe said, adding that “with massive responsibility comes also the chance for massive recognition and success.”

Tremblay noted two critical ways that global communication and multilingual content affect localization managers: from a strategy perspective and from an execution perspective. Localization managers need to be aligned with corporate strategy so they can anticipate needs and constantly seek input cross-functionally, straight from the drivers of technology transformation. “Because if you’re missing the beat, then it’s too late; you’re going to play catch up,” Tremblay said.

Heim-Stohler talked about the challenges faced by localization managers, and said that one of the biggest for Nike was managing rapid growth in multimedia localization. “Just a couple of years ago, we only did one-off projects that involved dubbing, but now the majority of our activity apps are dubbed. Figuring out the most efficient process for that in terms of time, quality, cost, and which partners to choose, has been really challenging,” she explained. Making decisions on when and how to apply AI to different content types was another big challenge, Heim-Stohler added.

The Elevation of the Localization Manager

Moving from challenges to specific skills and tools localization managers need, Turpin said “the main tool that I’m seeing is the need to adapt and change, and move forward in a way that you’re not limiting yourself.” Localization manager roles have changed and evolved over time, from simply handling files and scheduling things, to monitoring an automated workflow, Turpin said. The localization manager should now be the expert-in-the-loop, able to look at the entire project scope from A to Z.

According to Trembay, inclusion and accessibility have contributed to the elevation of the localization manager. With inclusion and accessibility trending as core values within companies, localization teams can gain visibility as global content enablers; thus, influencing processes and strategies.

From Machine Translation to Speech

Rounding out the discussion, the panelists fielded audience questions and shared their views on the major challenges for localization managers in the coming years. 

According to Heim-Stohler, with “new AI coming out almost on a daily basis,” it will be challenging for localization managers to keep up with the technology. Turpin said, thanks to new technologies, localization managers are moving away from their traditional roles and now have the opportunity to evolve into new ones and get up-to-date with automation; although, as he pointed out, “it can be very scary.” Redefining these new roles and responsibilities will also be quite the task, Tremblay said.

In conclusion, Hjerpe said he foresees a progression from machine translation into machine speech. He said that translators can handle only 5% of content needs; therefore, localization managers are projected to be using smart machines to handle the other 95% in the near future. To do so, they will need access to the best AI engines, MT engines, machine speech engines, and content generators, Hjerpe added.

Missed SlatorCon Remote March 2022? You can watch this panel discussion and the full conference via Slator’s Video On-Demand channel, or follow ongoing editorial coverage of the event.