A number of language service providers (LSPs) have taken advantage of the recent business slowdown to fine-tune their processes, provide crucial training, and bring onboard new people to position the company for post-Covid growth. Four such companies are featured in this week’s hires column.
“We are in growth mode. Now is not the time to become complacent or cautious,” said a recent C-level addition. “Just before Covid-19, we made some major changes in the organizational structure and our team needed fresh blood and energy,” according to another.
All say they will continue to rely on the tech tools they used for remote work, even as some members of the team have gone back to the office. Among those tools mentioned were Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack, Confluence, with one exec stating they use four platforms (Whereby, Google Meet, Zoom, and GoToMeeting); and yet another saying their go-to platform is, of course, their own proprietary one.
Shannon Zimmerman – Summa Linguae
“A return to the language industry was never a certainty,” Shannon Zimmerman told Slator. The Sajan founder took on the role of Chief Revenue Officer at Polish LSP Summa Linguae Technologies in January 2020. He reports to CEO Krzysztof Zdanowski and is based in River Falls, Wisconsin.
After selling Sajan in 2017 and taking a few months off, Zimmerman recalled thinking that for him to return to the industry “it would have to be done in an inspired setting with exceptional people.”
He said, “As Kris [Zdanowski] and I got to know one another, it became evident to me that we shared a similar philosophy for how technology can truly add value. This is a market with so much ‘me too’ that is simply not exciting. After discussions with Kris and Jochen Hummel, founder of Trados, we agreed that we see a different future for the industry. So I decided to both invest and join this great company.” (Hummel assumed the role of Executive Supervisory Board Member at Summa Linguae last summer.)
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Sales and the Global Solutions report to Zimmerman, which enables him, he said, to influence all things growth-related and help guide future market solutions. He added, “I see a future where reaching Diamond status on Delta Airlines may not be a regular thing — and this is good. The overwhelming adoption of video conferencing will play a big part in the new normal.”
According to Zimmerman, “remote work has worked out wonderfully” and their teams rely on Microsoft Teams and Skype to stay in touch. The company even organized an online fitness session with two-time Olympian, runner Adam Kszczot. Thus far, about 15% of staff have started to report to the office.
On the rationale of continuing to hire during the pandemic, he said, “This is an established company, but also with a strong start-up vibe. We are in growth mode. Now is not the time to become complacent or cautious.”
Barry Olsen – KUDO
“The time had come to stop opining and observing from the sidelines and start creating and implementing,” Professor Barry S. Olsen said about his joining multilingual conferencing platform KUDO as Vice President of Client Success on May 18, 2020. He reports to CEO and Co-founder Fardad Zabetian and will work out of Washington, D.C.
For the last decade, Olsen said, he had largely observed and advised from the sidelines: “I have experimented. I have reviewed technologies independently as a professor and technology geek. I have shared experiences from an interpreter’s point of view. I have sought to explain to the world what interpreting is and why it matters. And I have learned much.”
But it was time to jump in. So, when KUDO asked him to join them in late May, “I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t let slip by. Remote interpreting is in the age of implementation, and I want to be part of it at this crucial time. I’ll be helping make the transition to virtual and hybrid meetings as smooth as possible for interpreters and clients alike, not just rooting from the sidelines.”
According to Olsen, he will “hire, train, and develop a world-class Client Success team. As VP of Client Success, I own and manage client onboarding and work directly with our partners to conduct promotional events and assist KUDO’s marketing team in the creation and delivery of social media content.”
He said a handful of KUDO employees have already resumed work at New York City headquarters, albeit with social distancing. “We are an international team with employees spanning the globe, so the way we work has not changed drastically since the lockdown. Team members working out of our New York, Geneva, and California offices did begin working from home to adhere to social distancing requirements put in place by state and local governments.”
They use Slack and Microsoft Teams for internal communication, Olsen said, but “first of all, we use KUDO!” He added, “Given the accelerated growth in our client base and the swift adoption of multilingual web conferencing, we have recently invested in our cloud services infrastructure, servers, personnel, and support team on three continents.”
And nowhere is that growth more apparent than in their continued hiring. “The shift to online multilingual meetings has been both sudden and vast. We need good people to join our team to help the world continue to communicate,” Olsen said.
Agata Rybacka – Diuna
“Early this year, I felt I was ready for new challenges and Piotr [Kolasa, Diuna owner] was one of the very first people I told about my plans to move on with my career. I got a job offer before I even started looking for one, and he found a manager before he even posted an ad,” said Agata Rybacka, who formally assumed her post as General Manager at Poland-based LSP Diuna on July 1, 2020. She reports to Kolasa and will work out of Warsaw.
Rybacka and Kolasa are both founders of POLOT, the Polish Association of LSPs, and she said, “we worked together as directors of the board and I think we cooperated well.” So an informal chat quickly became an agreement and Rybacka was tasked with “the overall operation of Diuna; in fact, all key employees report to me, including Project Management, Marketing, Administration and Accounting, Sales, IT, and product managers.”
Although Poland has slowly lifted restrictions, Rybacka said half the team still works from home. “Remote work was a relatively easy move for us when Covid-19 hit us in mid-March. Our TMS and CRM were already cloud-based, so we were lucky in the sense that we didn’t need any major investments or reorganization to maintain full operational capacity while making sure our staff and their families were safe.”
She said the Diuna office is now “open to any employee who feels like leaving the house. At the same time, we follow the official recommendations on sanitization and distanced desks.” But they continue to use conferencing tools: “Whereby is our first choice for small meetings, while [Google] Meet is better when we need all employees to participate. For webinars, we use Zoom and GoToMeeting.”
The new Diuna GM told Slator that they are developing new products, such as multilingual content creation and AI learning tools. Additionally, the company is “running courses for aspiring translators on specialized translations, post-editing, CAT, and MT. Soon we plan to launch more business-oriented courses for freelancers,” she said, adding that their IP translation and validation service lines are “getting stronger every month.”
Asked why Diuna has continued hiring, Rybacka credits the company’s diversified product and services portfolio, which enables them to work with several major industries. “Having more than just one leg helped us survive the worst of it. And a crisis is always a time of new opportunities — we managed to catch some of them.” Also, pre-Covid, Diuna “made some major changes in the organizational structure and our team needed fresh blood and energy,” she said.
Hans Smans – Global Voices
“In previous roles, I have bought language services for a global telecommunications firm and worked with several of the industry-leading LSPs,” said Hans Smans, who stepped into the role of Digital Marketing Director at Global Voices on May 25, 2020. He said this previous experience and his multilingual background enabled him to connect well with Luigi Koechlin, CEO and Founder of Global Voices, to whom Smans now reports.
Smans will work mainly out of company headquarters in Stirling, Scotland. His key focus is brand awareness for Global Voices as well as London Translations (“which is wholly operated out of Global Voices”), strengthening existing customer relationships and increasing demand for their B2B solutions. “A Digital Marketing Manager and Graphic Designer will report to me. As we expand our digital footprint over the next few months, we will be looking to boost the team with additional resources to align our Marketing and Technology roadmap.”
He said they were immediately able to transition to remote work, using Microsoft Suite and collaboration tools, such as Confluence. Smans added, “We do hope to get back to our office at some point later this year as there is a lot of energy when we’re all together! We all miss our lunch time table tennis tournaments!”
On their continued growth through the pandemic, Smans said, “The management team has invested greatly in the acquisition of key people and tools for us to be able to service our customers, even in tough times. We have taken this period of economic slowdown to fine-tune our internal processes so we are better aligned to our customers’ changing needs. We anticipate the remainder of 2020 to be busy as our customers restart their businesses.”