Slator’s hires column offers a glimpse into the inner workings of language service providers (LSPs): what they specialize in, how they run operations, how they engage clients, the impact of changes in the USD 26.6bn addressable global language market, and the many challenges new hires face.
In this month’s column: Arnaud Daix of e2f shares his views on the competitive market for talent. So transferable are their skills, Daix noted, that they can move from LSP to language buyer and vice versa or even across industries.
Jean-Charles Risch, another new addition to e2f, expounds on the theme of spreading the AI culture. While there are solid AI-model architectures, courtesy of startups and the GAFAM — Google (Alphabet), Apple, Facebook (Meta), Amazon, and Microsoft — Risch said there remains a gap between technology and industry that needs to be addressed.
Diego Bartolome of Language I/O enumerates his team’s key focus areas for the rest of year. He also singles out where AI is most critical right now and which technologies will gain most traction over the midterm.
Frédéric Queudret of Acolad talks about how a tech-driven LSP can set itself apart in a market where machine translation is so pervasive.
And Ryan Foley, who has rejoined MasterWord, explains the challenge LSPs face when buyers view language services as transactional purchases.
Arnaud Daix – e2f
Arnaud Daix stepped into his role as COO of e2f on April 4, 2022. Based in Wisconsin, he reports to Michel Lopez, CEO of the Silicon Valley-based LSP.
Daix has over 25 years’ experience, mostly in management positions, at companies such as HP as well as Amplexor (Acolad), where he was SVP for Sales and General Management (US & UK) prior to joining e2f. Daix said his new role “requires organizing the right mix of expert resources and technology to execute processes in a very agile environment.”
He added that while e2f and his previous company both operate in the language market, “the audience for these services is different and so is the delivery engine.” What has not changed is “client expectations for consistent, high quality service.”
Daix had been heavily involved in Operations at his previous company; so the experience of taking on the COO role was “natural and positive,” while benefiting from insights gained from sales and account management.
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On the current talent market, Daix noted “an increased permeability between industries — which allows language industry personnel not only to move from vendor to customer and vice versa, but also to very successfully take their skills to different industries. This makes the recruiting of talented individuals more competitive.”
According to the e2f COO, “100% of our staff is working remotely from around the globe. We currently have over 100 employees worldwide, with approximately 45% being full-time.”
Daix said the challenge right now is finding individuals with the right combination of expertise, experience, and business acumen. “This is reflected in many positions, with project management professionals being a particular point of attention these days,” he said.
Jean-Charles Risch – e2f
Another recent addition to e2f, Jean-Charles Risch, was appointed Head of Engineering on March 8, 2022. The Solution Architect, Lead Developer, Developer, Scrum Masters, QA, Innovation, and the rest of the engineering team report to Risch; and he, in turn, to CTO Rich Sadowsky and CEO Michel Lopez.
Based in France, Risch has a PhD in AI with a specialization in text classification. He spent five years at French AI startups as founder and CTO. At e2f, his job is to serve as a bridge between the executive and the development team.
Risch told Slator, “Two or three years ago, e2f started to digitize its processes and there is still a lot to do. We have already created an innovation team in order to prototype quick AI solutions. I think that, in six months, we will be ready to spread the AI culture.”
Continuing on the theme of an AI culture, Risch pointed out how most of the tech is being developed by the GAFAM in tandem with the top academic institutions.
He explained: “Most of the work concerns supervised learning — which means that we now have very good model architectures, MLOps environments, pretrained models, etc. The reality is that a pre-trained model is not good enough to be deployed in production and, most of the time, data scientists need to fine-tune pretrained models. But with what data?”
Having worked for over seven years trying to apply AI to industry, Risch concluded that “the gap between it and technology is too big. If the GAFAM and startups are able to collect enough quality data to train their AI models, most of the global language industry is not. To summarize: the technology is there, but culture is still an issue.”
Diego Bartolome – Language I/O
US-based machine translation provider, Language I/O, named Diego Bartolome CTO on January 10, 2022. R&D, Software Development, Project Management, IT, and Support all report to Bartolome, who in turn reports to CEO and Founder, Heather Shoemaker. Bartolome is based in Spain.
Prior to Language I/O, Bartolome worked at Microsoft, where he focused on cognitive services (i.e., language, speech, vision, decision). Before that, he spent five years as Director of AI at TransPerfect and CEO of his own language tech startup, tauyou.
He said Language I/O differentiates itself from other AI-driven LSPs by its goal of “not sending as much content as possible to human review but, rather, only involve linguists where machine translation (MT) issues can be critical or the output, high-risk.”
Bartolome told Slator, “Our focus for the next six months will be on releasing our newest machine learning solutions related to MT quality estimation, our self-improving glossary technology (SIGLO), increasing the number of CRM integrations, providing new self-service solutions, releasing our first voice-translation solution, and achieving additional security certifications.”
He sees customer support, multilingual customer-support automation, and agent empowerment as being critical over the short term. He added, “Looking beyond the next two years, I think technologies such as automated content generation, semantic search, and speech-to-speech translation are likely to gain traction fast for many use cases.”
After its series A, Language I/O has been continuously hiring across all roles. According to Bartolome, “Our team is growing every day! We are now over 60 employees and engineers, developers — and data scientists make up a high percentage of our growth.”
On which roles are challenging to fill, the CTO said, “Finding the right balance between talent and culture fit is always the challenge; but, in general, machine learning roles are the toughest to recruit for.”
Frédéric Queudret – Acolad
France-based LSP, Acolad Group, appointed as its CTO, Frédéric Queudret, on November 8, 2021. The VP of Product, VP of R&D, Director of Software Engineering, API Engineering Manager, and Head of Business Solutions report to Queudret, who in turn reports to Acolad CEO, Olivier Marcheteau.
Based in Paris, Queudret has a deep R&D background in enterprise SaaS and the ERP market. As Acolad CTO, he leads the tech organization responsible for delivering an integrated, translation management system (TMS) and connecting it to internal teams and external products or customer workflows.
According to Queudret, Acolad is “starting to migrate away from legacy software to our new 100% web platform that is running in the cloud. On connectivity, we have a strong strategy around REST APIs, which should enable more connectivity use cases for our customers.”
His take on the language technology market is that, while there will be an increasing adoption of machine translation (MT), “the overall content translation lifecycle needs to further evolve to sustain growing demand, continuous translation processes, and the pace of market needs.”
And because there is still some room for a tech-driven LSP to differentiate itself from the rest of the market, “especially in the pre- and post-editing phases,” Queudret said, “we continue to invest in MT and terminology management to improve language coverage and translation quality.”
Asked what his team is working on right now, the CTO replied, “We are looking at innovative computational methods for MT and also technologies powered by AI to process any kind of content format.”
On which frontier tech shows the most potential for gaining traction over the midterm, Queudret said, “There is a lot of interest in multilingual NLP to train faster MT engines and enable various language pairs with a good level of quality with the same MT core engine.”
Ryan Foley – MasterWord
Texas-based LSP, MasterWord, hired Ryan Foley as Director of Communications on October 26, 2021. Digital Marketing, Social Media and Communications, Graphics Design report to Foley and he, in turn, reports to Ludmila Golovine, CEO.
Based in Houston, Foley has been in the language industry for many years, “starting as a sign language interpreter; building out the training, assessment, and recruiting functions for MasterWord back in 2011; directing operations for the Maryland-based LSP, Ad Astra, in 2019.” Now, after training and working for years as a communications consultant, he has rejoined his former company.
“MasterWord is essentially twice the size it was when I last managed the Training and Assessments department back in 2011,” Foley said. But the LSP has since adopted a “system for setting company and department goals, managing expectations, and running sleek and expedient meetings.”
So is there anything inherently different about comms strategies for an LSP versus those in other sectors? According to Foley, “The value proposition most industries communicate to clients is obvious and easily measurable. Many buyers, however, view language services as transactional purchases. It can be challenging for LSPs to convey the overall big picture and value of our services; how a partnership and strategic approach can lead to better outcomes and increased ROI.”
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He added, “The challenge is reaching senior executives with the message that language access and localization clearly and positively affect business outcomes. They are not a simple compliance issue with government requirements or industry standards. Expanding into a new market is often at the core of an organization’s marketing and communication strategy.”
Over the next few months, Foley and his team will focus on business lines that have shown higher demand (e.g., data solutions and sign language interpreting). They will also be busy with several organizations MasterWord has been supporting for years, such as the Global Coalition for Language Rights and the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force.