Language Industry Hires at Unbabel, Multilingual Connections, Semantix, Acolad, and Andovar

There is a consensus this week that cold calling is a useful lead-gen tool if used wisely. Moreover, one must be rigorously organized to achieve one’s objectives, is a new Business Development Manager’s sage advice; while another says a solid cadence for outreach is critical to maintaining a healthy sales pipeline.

A new Talent Director, meanwhile, believes that prioritizing human relationships allows an LSP to retain talent in a highly competitive industry. As for relationships on the customer side, personal engagement is still expected despite new tech, according to another Business Development Manager. And as these relationships are increasingly bolstered by automation, cleaner, more specific data will help translate customer support conversations in the right tone, increasing satisfaction, according to a new Head of Language Data.

Achim Ruopp – Unbabel

Achim Ruopp joined language services and tech startup Unbabel as Head of Language Data on September 3, 2019. He reports to Maxim Khalilov, Director of Applied AI. Based in Maryland, Ruopp will be responsible for a small language data team located in Lisbon, while also working closely with the Unbabel Language Technologies office in Pittsburgh.

Ruopp has been involved in the translation business, enabling computers to process different languages, since the mid-1990s. He spent close to six years at language industry think tank TAUS, most recently serving as Director of Data Cloud. He specializes in translation automation, internationalization, and multilingual natural language processing.

We asked Ruopp about what they are currently working on around customer service and automation, recently singled out by one Unbabel investor as a good opportunity for language tech as well as a pain point. He said their research on automated customer service via chatbots uncovered this key finding: “Most chatbot platforms don’t provide a multilingual feature for their bots.” Hence their strategy to launch a product where they “turn chatbots multilingual seamlessly.”

Achim Ruopp

“Bots are finally coming of age,” Ruopp told Slator, citing reports from IBM on how bots are used in customer service to automate up to 80% of routine tasks and basic customer inquiries, and Gartner, which predicted that over 85% of customer interactions will be handled without a human by 2020.

He added, “As we expand to more verticals and users, cleaner, more specific data will help translate customer support conversations more accurately and in the right tone. This will increase satisfaction for customers and agents in these conversations. To take advantage of new document-level NMT we also need to preserve context — entire documents, document collections, and conversation threads. Segment-level translation memories aren’t sufficient anymore.”

And what of NMT (neural machine translation)? According to Unbabel’s new Head of Language Data, “Somewhat surprisingly, research improvements to NMT have only slowed down a little bit, so the impact on the language industry still has to be felt. This will increase the need for quality estimation to enable efficient and enjoyable human-machine collaboration [during] translation.”

Pablo Renato Estrada – Multilingual Connections

Pablo Renato Estrada joined Illinois-based language service provider (LSP) Multilingual Connections as Talent and Technology Director on August 27, 2019. He reports to COO Mark Bishop as well as CEO Jill Kushner Bishop.

Pablo Renato Estrada

ML Connections has a large remote team, Estrada told Slator, adding, “I will be based in Guatemala but traveling to our headquarters in Chicago on a regular basis.”

Estrada has worked in recruitment and account management for such companies as Welocalize and Moravia. As Talent and Technology Director at ML Connections, he is responsible for the company’s twin initiatives of technology integration and talent development. Estrada said they focus on “prioritizing human relationships above all” and are always thinking of ways to improve recruitment and retention of highly skilled linguists.

On how they recruit talent, Estrada said networking has become increasingly relevant to this end. He explained, “We value our linguist relationships and rank talent engagement and satisfaction as a high priority. This allows us to retain a core of trusted linguists, who can vouch for our company to their networks.”

Estrada added that while it has always been common to work remotely with freelance linguists, “the idea of using remote workers for key roles — project management, vendor management, etc. — was daunting for the industry, limiting the potential for growth in emerging markets. Since then, technology and multiple success stories have reduced gaps and opened the market to international talents. My experience is a good example, as I’ve been working remotely most of the time for the past 11 years.”

Aside from “opening our company to talent beyond the Chicago area where we’re based,” he cited another way to improve employee retention and satisfaction: focusing on internal training. “This allows us to retain staff, promote from within, and improve our customer service at the same time. But in the end, it’s our team, and the inherent flexibility that we have built into our team structure, that allows us to adapt our services to our clients’ needs in this competitive industry.”

Hanna Brunou – Semantix

Hanna Brunou joined Semantix Finland as Business Development Manager on August 1, 2019. She reports to Sales Manager, Tarja Tainio, who is responsible for overall sales in Finland.

Prior to Semantix, Brunou worked as Admissions Manager at peer-learning organization, Presidents Institute; and, before that, worked in such diverse industries as financial services and shipbuilding.

Hanna Brunou

Asked how she came to join the language industry, Brunou recounted this story: “When I was looking for a new job, I posted on LinkedIn on May 1. On May 1, Finns are in festive spirit and typically go on picnics with friends and family. I had basically written my CV / open application in the form of lyrics to the melody of a Finnish children’s song called ‘Aunt Monica.’ My colleague saw it and told me they are thinking of growing the sales team and looking for someone with an edge.”

Today, as part of Semantix Finland’s sales team, Brunou targets five meetings per week, minimum. She told Slator, “In Finland, it’s quite hard to get f2f-meetings because of the geographical distance and time management issues. Most people prefer to meet via Skype, or some similar video conferencing tool, and only vital meetings are held in person.”

As for lead generation, she said, “an active LinkedIn presence is essential here in Finland”; and between attending conferences and cold-calling, she prefers the latter, “but of course in a smart way. In Finland we don’t have that many relevant conferences.”

According to Brunou, the industry is at a turning point and “we can expect rapid change in customer needs and the range of services.” But, although technology is changing the game, “in the background, customers will still be expecting personal engagement.”

Michael Kohl – Acolad

Michael Kohl joined the Acolad Group as Business Development Manager on July 1, 2019. Based in Switzerland, Kohl reports to Odile Herbst, Country Manager. Prior to Acolad, Kohl worked in various industries, including construction and FMCG.

Kohl said he had been always interested in languages: “I am trilingual (French, German, English) and I am willing to learn Russian and Italian. I saw the job offer, and I thought, ‘business development and language, that is the perfect match for me.’”

Michael Kohl

He takes four in-person meetings per week while balancing “the job of a business developer but also manage my actual clients, like a key accounts manager. It is a pluri-disciplinary job. It is necessary to multitask and be rigorously organized to achieve your objectives,” Kohl said.

Acolad’s new BDM told Slator, “I mainly focus on my top 20 clients. Indeed, I have big law firms and corporates in this list, and only a few departments in each company. The strategy is to be known in each department by recommendation, conferences, and cold-calling. Nothing is more important than human relationships in this job.”

Kohl noted the growing demand for the translation of legal documents that need to be accurate and turned around quickly while remaining confidential; which is why “few law firms use Google Translate.”

According to Kohl, “Our translators all have a background in the legal field. Of course, machine translation is part of the future and will shape it, but I think the best will be a combination of machine translation and proofreading done by a legal translator, since legal documents can be interpreted in very different ways.”

Ivan Tutka – Andovar

Ivan Tutka joined Singapore-based LSP Andovar as Global Business Development Manager on July 1, 2019. He reports to Santiago Lopez, VP of Global Sales. Tutka is based in Budapest, which he described as “a great location to nurture our current clients and partnerships, whilst also being able to jump on a plane and travel one to three hours in any direction and meet with new prospects.”

Prior to Andovar, Tutka worked in senior sales roles at several SaaS companies with offices in Sydney, Australia, where he was based until the end of 2018.

Ivan Tutka

He described his business development strategy as being a combination of using social media and “good, old-fashioned elbow grease in the form of cold calling, emailing, etc.”

According to Tutka, “having a solid cadence for outreach is critical,” and conferences and networking events (e.g., local Chamber of Commerce) also contribute toward a healthy sales pipeline.

“I think it is important to pick up the phone, but equally important to pound the pavement and shake a potential prospect’s hand. Given the competitiveness of this industry, building relationships and being consistent is key,” Tutka said.

Asked where he sees more translation demand coming from in the near term, he said, “You can’t look past gaming, which is close to my heart. This is a booming industry and will only continue to grow. We partner with a lot of Asian gaming companies looking to bring their games to the West. I can’t see this slowing any time soon.”