E-learning and training are potential growth areas in the next decade, according to the Directors of Business Development from two language service providers (LSPs); with one pointing out a high enough barrier to entry for specialist providers to get ahead.
The media localization boom, meanwhile, has brought to light major inefficiencies as content moves from script to screen, said a Chief Operating Officer who came to join the language industry via the BBC. He also singled out identifying specialists that understand the media industry as one buyer pain point.
A new Operations Director noted how the industry was slow to adopt Agile methodology, until recently, and that expectations around neural machine translation need to be managed as some can be a bit far-fetched. Which brings to mind the notion, according to a Chief Revenue Officer, that self-driving cars will flood the streets before machine translation is able to replicate human translation quality.
Mark Hjerpe – Lingotek
Mark Hjerpe joined Utah-based language service provider (LSP) Lingotek as Chief Revenue Officer on January 6, 2020. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hjerpe reports to CEO Jeff Labrum.
Hjerpe took over from Rob Vandenberg who, in mid-2019, “decided to pursue his interest in artificial intelligence as a means of solving business problems,” Hjerpe told Slator. He said Vandenberg “was instrumental in recruiting me to the Lingotek team” and, by the end of January, will have moved from an operational role into an advisory one.
Hjerpe has worked with such companies as TransPerfect (“very early TPT employee, joined when they were under USD5m in revenue”), Smartling, and RWS, where he spent two years “successfully integrating the legacy CTI and LUZ sales and marketing teams to create RWS Life Sciences,” in the process managing USD85m in annual revenues.
Asked where their focus will be in terms of growth, given Lingotek’s roots as a technology provider that has since expanded into services, Hjerpe replied: “During our initial years spent as a pure-play localization tech company, we realized that there was a gap between what our clients needed in terms of translation services, and what the market was offering. We pivoted, based upon customer need, to become a technology-driven translation services provider, and we haven’t looked back.”
Hjerpe said his primary goal now is “to achieve significant growth through the alignment of all revenue generating activities: marketing, sales, solutions, and customer success.” He added that, in joining Lingotek, he benefits from the “tremendous amount of work that has been done over the years to correctly structure our teams, so there isn’t a lot of change needed on that front, just aggressive recruiting as we grow.”
As for his language industry outlook into the new decade, he said it “brings to mind an idea I’ve heard over the years — and support — that autonomous cars will fill our city streets before MT can successfully replicate the quality of human translation. Today, looking 10 years out, few would argue that our city streets will not indeed be filled with self-driving cars. In this timeframe, I believe that the LSPs that will endure and thrive are those that lead with technology, and stay at the cutting edge of the human / machine interplay.”
Stephen Stewart – Take 1
Identifying specialists who understand the nuances and complexities of media industry requirements is one buyer pain point as “only a small percentage of most language service providers (LSPs) have experience related to the media industry,” Stephen Stewart told Slator about his time on the buy-side working with LSPs.
He joined UK-based transcription and translation service provider Take 1 as Chief Operating Officer on December 15, 2019 from senior operations roles at the BBC and tech company Mirriad Advertising plc. He is based at the Take 1 head office in Cranbrook, Kent and reports to CEO Louise Tapia.
Stewart recalled that another pain point was content security: ”Many producers go to great lengths to protect their content all the way from the creation of the original script, through to the finished programme. With a number of high-profile leaks of content over the years, producers are, understandably, paranoid about their content getting ‘into the wild’ before it should. This means that they often only release finished version of the content very close to the transmission or broadcast date, which puts pressure on language providers to turn around content very quickly, while maintaining quality levels. This takes a lot of management overhead to ensure timely delivery and can also increase costs.”
According to Stewart, over the last year or so, the UK media (i.e., BBC, ITV, Channel 4, etc.) developed rigorous certification programs under a joint initiative called the Digital Production Partnership so that service providers “can prove that they take content security as seriously as their customers.” Additionally, he said “the move to content being stored in highly-secure data centres, managed by the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM, also guarantees a higher level of security than the legacy ‘tape on a shelf’ or even the digital storage of programmes on local servers.”
Stewart’s Operations team comprises Production, Product, and Technology Services, with a total of about 40 people across the UK, North America, and South America.
Asked how a metadata and transcription provider like Take 1 has felt the impact from the rise of OTT media service providers Netflix and, more recently, Warner Bros. and Disney, Stewart replied: “The process of preparing video content for international distribution (or localization) requires a whole new set of data and documents for each territory’s submission. For Take1 that might mean translating transcriptions of the original programme into different languages, producing subtitles or captions and preparing timed text information, post production (or as-broadcast) scripts, contributor release forms, and all kinds of language lists for each individual territory’s version of the content.”
He added, however, that while the increase in global content has resulted in a higher demand for localization services such as those offered by Take1, “it has also highlighted major inefficiencies in the current process related to the duplication of effort as content moves from script to screen.”
According to Stewart, “One reason I joined Take 1 is because I was impressed with their transparency around these workflow challenges and their development of a customer portal that allows content owners to keep track of all their assets, build on, and reformat them to avoid unnecessary re-working of the same content.”
Michael Coates – Protranslating
The language industry’s e-learning sector offers huge potential on returns as well as some barrier to entry, according to Michael Coates, Protranslating’s new Director of Business Development. Coates has spent the last five or six years primarily focused on supporting e-learning and training localization.
He said e-learning had already reached USD107 bn in 2015 and is predicted to be a USD350-billion-dollar industry by 2025. He told Slator, “I also like it because it requires true expertise, technology investment, and strategy. You can’t just walk off the street and decide you’re going to support e-learning translation and be successful let alone profitable.”
Coates joined the Miami-based LSP on November 18, 2019 and is remotely based in Dayton, Ohio. He reports to Carlos Estefani, VP of Sales. Protranslating is currently expanding their e-learning support team, Coates said, and he will soon be responsible for a team of business development managers.
He described his business development strategy as “focusing on specific industries and verticals to drive value,” adding that he feels fortunate that decision-makers are now better informed about translation, preceptive in evaluating partners, and receptive when it comes to hearing ideas.
About lead generation, Coates said, “Rather than bombard prospects with boilerplate emails and collateral, I put more focus on sharing information, knowledge, and best practices for the verticals and industries I specifically support.”
He also makes himself accessible and more visible; “whether that’s sharing valuable video content though posts on LinkedIn, speaking as an industry expert at a conference, or simply providing insight to prospects about challenges and issues that affect stakeholders in similar roles and industries. It’s really the opposite of what you think of as old-school traditional hunting. As for in-person meetings, I think now more than ever it’s important to connect with your clients and potential clients in person when you can.”
Coates sees digital marketing as generating big demand in the near term. He explained, “With the insane amount of Content Management Systems and the various ways content is managed and published, it’s an almost impossible task to translate and have a multi-platform, functional, integrated solution. I’ve had many struggles at previous organizations trying to manage integration process and technology. I feel like the proxy approach, truly, is the most beneficial to the LSP and the client.”
Mary Shillue-Goldberg – Language Connections
Although MT adoption in life sciences has taken place more slowly, neural machine translation (NMT) is changing that, according to Mary Shillue-Goldberg, who has focused on life sciences since 2006.
Shillue-Goldberg joined Language Connections on November 12, 2019 as Director of Business Development and reports to Leo Galperin, President and Founder.
She recalled how conversations used to be about the limits of MT; but while “there are still settings where MT is not useful — transcreation, for example — gone are the days that it can be ignored!” She said, however, that clients are, of course, more focused on their business needs. “In my experience, few clients actually want to talk about localization workflows, fuzzy matches, and NMT. They are more focused on their deadlines, budgets, etc.,” Shillue-Goldberg said.
As the Boston-based LSP’s new Director of Business Development, she plans to build off Language Connections’ experience in its core verticals (e.g., life sciences, e-learning, and legal), while also offering interpreting as a white-label service to other LSPs.
“I know from personal experience how painful interpreting can be to sell and manage in a company whose core business is localization or translation. However, by not offering it, you are leaving the door open to competitors. By executing poorly, you put your reputation and customer relationships at risk. I would love to help my industry colleagues avoid these negative outcomes,” said Shillue-Goldberg, who refers to language and interpreter training as “another product offering in my quiver.”
The localization veteran said she homes in on a particular profile of buyer by using a variety of sales tools as well as cold-calling, pointing out that “sales is a numbers game — there is no substitute for outbound activity. However, at the end of the day, it’s not how many meetings you set. It’s how many deals you close!”
Prior to Language Connections, Shillue-Goldberg worked for over eight years at AMPLEXOR, holding the post of Senior Vendor Manager for the last six years. She told Slator, “Going from a large LSP to Language Connections feels like coming home. One of my earliest localization industry jobs was as the first employee at an LSP that grew to 40 employees before I left and remains a thriving business. Throughout my career in localization, whether at small, mid-sized, or one of the largest global LSPs, I have focused on developing strong relationships and delivering quality language services by putting the customers’ needs first.”
Justin Murphy – Travod
As Operations Director at Travod, Justin Murphy’s focus is threefold: Quality Management, Vendor Management, and Automation and Agile Practices. He said, “Initially, my focus will be on process improvement and development of the Quality and Vendor Management Teams. We are hiring in both these departments, but also across the company in general.”
Murphy joined Travod on October 1, 2019, is based (for now) in Chisinau, Moldova, and reports to CEO Elena Grigoras. Prior to Travod, he worked with such LSPs as Vistatec, Ubiqus, and Lionbridge.
Having seen the same trends come and go after many years in the industry, he noted how, now, it is about incorporating Agile practices into the localization process: “The industry was slow to adopt Agile to any great extent, until recently, and it was predominantly adopted by localization departments of large technology companies as opposed to LSPs, for instance.”
He added, “One of the biggest pain points for clients and internal stakeholders alike is the time required to provide localization services. The adoption of Agile practices in localization goes a long way towards eliminating this pain point.”
As for that other trend that has swept the industry, NMT, Murphy said there is a “need for education around the benefits, best practices, and limitations for clients and indeed some within the localization industry. The expectations can be a little far-fetched at times and I believe it is our responsibility to ensure that these expectations are addressed.”