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 global language market, and the many challenges new hires face.
In this month’s column: Aase Helene Leknes of Titles-On explains the impact of the EU directive that media streamers offer a 30% quota of European content to European subscribers, and the ensuing dearth of audio-visual (AV) talent to service demand.
Toppan’s Franziska Hardmeier talks about why regulated industries have become more open to deploying machine translation (MT) where there once may have been resistance. Her colleague Mercedes Irazola, meanwhile, touches on the impact on human resources as LSPs focus on a more targeted service and tech offering.
Expounding on the same theme, LAT Multilingual’s Jonathan Levitt explains why companies, regardless of sector, need to focus on the customer experience rather than simply producing well-crafted marketing campaigns — and how language, community, and culture play a huge role in purchasing decisions.
Mother Tongue’s George Cook points out how the industry has emerged from the MT hype cycle and reached a plateau of productivity — and that any major leaps in MT quality and capability in the near-term will be a surprise.
And Global Lingo’s Josh Branton comments on how the ever-changing legislation on data-sharing between the UK and Europe can impact business.
Aase Helene Leknes – Titles-On
Aase Helene Leknes officially stepped into her role as Managing Director, Nordics of UK-based dubbing, subtitling, and captioning provider, Titles-On, on January 1, 2022. She is based in Bergen, Norway and reports to Bente Ottersen, CEO and Founder.
According to Leknes, Titles-On based its business model on that of the top video streaming platforms, which “allowed the company to operate local units on a global scale without having to invest in brick-and-mortar facilities.”
As such, Titles-On did not have to deal with the friction of pivoting an older or bigger company to adapt to changing demands. The company was also able to leverage its team of executives with track records in the space going back two or three decades.
Leknes, for instance, has worked in the space for 20 years, most recently at BTI Studios (merged with Iyuno in 2019) prior to joining Titles-On. She told Slator, “At Titles-On, there are fewer layers of management and less operational oversight, so we are able to react to changes in the marketplace to take advantage of emerging trends more quickly.”
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Asked if she expects any developments in Europe to make an impact on the media localization sector, Leknes replied that more content will need to be localized or translated from non-English languages, including from the Nordic languages. She explained this will be “partly triggered by the EU directive that streamers must offer a 30% quota of European content to European subscribers, and legislation to make streamers re-invest a percentage of their revenues in each European country where they operate.”
As localization demand is currently growing in video entertainment, sports, news, and gaming, Leknes said they “are constantly building our teams” to meet it. But their biggest challenge right now is to “find competent people at the bottom line of creatives, the voice artists and translators who actually make the assets. This is especially true for translators from different languages into English.”
While Titles-On has its own way of developing this talent pool, the new Nordics Managing Director said it will take some collaboration from all industry stakeholders to collectively meet market demands: “As an industry, we need to recruit, train, and certify large numbers of AV translators; and Titles-On encourages ‘regular’ translators to consider a career in AV-translation and enroll in one of the excellent training programs offered online.”
Jonathan Levitt – LAT Multilingual
Jonathan Levitt joined Canadian LSP LAT Multilingual as Chief Marketing Officer on December 1, 2021. He works out of the Montreal, Quebec head office and reports to Lise Alain, Founder and President.
Levitt said LAT Multilingual comprises two “fully integrated but separate” business lines: translation and multicultural marketing. It is the latter that is under Levitt’s direct supervision, with the marketing team (responsible for both business lines), as well as the strategy and client delivery teams reporting to him.
LAT Multilingual runs on an STP (segmentation, targeting, positioning) marketing model. Levitt explained that such top-down marketing models have become popular as businesses shift to delivering personalized content to target audiences.
“It means being very data-driven and relies heavily on research. We also employ the same model for our clients looking to connect with and reach specific cultural segments. Our primary focus is helping our clients reach Canadian and US-based demographics. We believe that an effective marketing approach today, given the noisy digital landscape, requires a deeper, not wider strategy,” Levitt said. The company also plans to further expand into Europe and Asia and has “some aggressive plans for the next 36 months.”
Prior to LAT, Levitt built a long career in digital marketing and branding across various sectors. Asked for his take on the migration of marketing professionals from the retail space to the language market in recent years, he said, “Retail in North America has been decimated for various reasons; whether it be due to newly designed business models or changes in consumer shopping behaviors. I think a lot of marketing professionals in retail have simply had enough and decided to move on to a variety of different industries. Early indicators of the great reshuffle.”
The CMO added, “For me, no matter the vertical or even the role I’ve held in the past, my focus has always been on building brand and demand. Companies can no longer control the message with well-crafted marketing campaigns. They need to focus on their customers’ experience and rely on them to promote their products or services.”
But to connect with audiences on a more visceral level brands need to better understand the cultural nuances of different markets. Thus, “language, community, and culture play a huge role in all our purchasing decisions,” Levitt said.
Franziska Hardmeier – Toppan
Toppan Digital Language appointed Franziska Hardmeier VP AI & Technology on December 1, 2021. The IT and Solutions Implementation team reports to her and she, in turn, reports to Nicolas Bosovsky, COO. Hardmeier is based in London.
She told Slator, “A key part of my role is being a scout — scanning the external environment for innovative, disruptive technologies. In this analysis, I always include the angles of scalability, information security, and relevance to the unique needs of customers in the industries we serve.”
Prior to Toppan, Hardmeier worked at SDL (RWS) where she was responsible for the LSP’s translation platform — which “built very well upon my past experience of starting as a presales consultant for MT / AI apps,” she said.
Asked for an update on Toppan’s tech integration with Global Lexicon, Hardmeier replied, “We’ve already added more machine translation capacity, and launched automatic speech recognition pilots for our market-insights clients,” and there are many more opportunities to include technology into the market insights, life sciences, and consumer verticals GlobaLexicon serves.
On how regulated industries have become more open to deploying MT where once there may have been resistance, Hardmeier said, “Essentially, this is because digital content continues to explode in an unmanageable fashion, MT capabilities have strengthened over the years, and clients understand the practical applications of MT more now over time, supported by the mainstream adoption and advocacy of MT by Big Tech.”
As for any future M&A plans, around tech or otherwise, Toppan’s new VP AI & Technology said, “We are actively pursuing an M&A strategy, as well as significant organic investment.”
Mercedes Irazola – Toppan
Mercedes Irazola took on the role of Global HR Director at Toppan Digital Language on December 1, 2021. Based in Madrid, she reports to Christophe Djaouani, President, and is responsible for the Human Resources and Talent Acquisition Department.
According to Irazola, her job is to “help develop and assign talent, especially key roles, in our company during its high-growth phase,” and to take charge of employee “development and engagement through a customized career plan, where everyone is given the chance to progress and grow along with the company.”
She joined Toppan fresh off her role as Senior HR Business Partner at RWS, but her localization journey started seven years ago at RR Donnelley. “I love the opportunity that our industry gives me to combine my HR and legal background with my passion for languages and technology,” Irazola told Slator.
The new Global HR Director said that Toppan is currently hiring for “service delivery roles globally with a focus on highly regulated markets, namely market insights, life sciences, financial and legal services.”
About the expanding profile of the LSP employee, with many joining the industry from retail, FMCG, and other sectors, Irazola said, digital transformation has driven LSPs to service these businesses all the more. “Therefore, having an outside-in approach and incorporating talent from those industries contribute toward a more targeted service and tech offering.”
She attributed the current hiring upsurge across the localization market to three things: (1) acceleration of digital transformation spurred by the pandemic and remote work; (2) greater consolidation within the localization industry; (3) strong demand from the pharma and telehealth sectors.
Irazola said she expects 2022 to continue the trend of remote work and a shift to the hybrid workforce, company cultures that set up an employee for success regardless of location, as well as a focus on improving mental health and wellness.
George Cook – Mother Tongue
Transcreation and translation service provider, Mother Tongue, hired George Cook as Head of Language Technology on October 18, 2021. Working out of London HQ, he reports to James Bradley, Operations Director.
Cook is the first to occupy the newly created position at the UK-based LSP, a role that reflects “the company’s continued growth and rapidly diversifying client portfolio,” he said. “My role is to provide expertise around translation memory, terminology, and machine translation, and advise both colleagues and clients on best practices.”
As Head of Language Technology, Cook also drives new strategies for working within the existing technology stack, and identifies opportunities to use more tools and software to improve current services and enable new ones. Among his first major projects at Mother Tongue is reviewing the workflow, tool integration, and further workflow automation.
Prior to joining Mother Tongue, Cook spent over 16 years at RWS IP Services in a number of operations and account management roles; the last decade overseeing global language technology, where he created and grew a specialized team.
To succeed in the current language market, Cook said most LSPs will diversify, maintain a core specialization, and add the appropriate technology. “On top of that functional diversity, you have to be easy to do business with, so flexibility around a robust framework is really the key. Selecting the right technology is fundamental to your capabilities as a service provider, whether it be custom-trained machine translation (MT) or a quick-and-easy online-ordering portal.”
His assessment of the current state of MT? “I think we’ve probably emerged from the hype cycle and reached the plateau of productivity. I’d be surprised if there are any major leaps forward in quality or capability in that area in the next few years. What will, I think, happen is that agencies and translators will find new and better ways of working with the systems that are available.”
Cook added, “One area that’s ripe for improvement within the MT space is automated quality evaluation, so I’m hoping for some steps forward there!”
Josh Branton – Global Lingo
Josh Branton joined Global Lingo as the Global Process and Technology Manager on November 8, 2021. The entire technology team reports to him including infrastructure and support. Branton, in turn, reports to Karl Eastwood, CEO, who took the helm of the translation, transcription, and interpreting provider in November 2021.
Branton’s division currently consists of a single team that combines infrastructure and support, and “an in-house development function” will be added in the near future. He is based in London HQ.
Prior to Global Lingo, Branton was in charge of training and development for a team of Language Technology experts at RWS. At Global Lingo he heads technology and processes for all offices and all regions are within his remit.
According to Branton, he was “hired predominantly to assess the technological needs of the business, take responsibility for existing assets, and ultimately build out projects for improvement.” Most of his time over the next few weeks will be devoted to enhancing the company’s hosting and archiving capabilities.
As an expert in serving the IP market, he noted how legislation on communication and data-sharing between the UK and Europe being altered regularly could have an impact on the business. “Our industry is based around making communication between regions simpler, so new legislation can muddy the water,” Branton said.