At SlatorCon Remote, What to Focus on Amid All the ‘Wait and See’

SlatorCon Remote September 2022 Event Summary

“Many conversations we’re having don’t indicate that there’s any major slowdown happening in 2022. It’s more of a ‘wait and see,’” said Florian Faes, Managing Director at Slator, getting discussions going at SlatorCon Remote on September 21, 2022.

Slator Commercial Director, Andrew Smart, who emceed the online conference, had earlier opened with this assessment: “Inflation remains high across many major economies, interest rates are still rising, increasing the cost of capital, and the CEO of FedEx is predicting a worldwide recession. Despite all this, our industry has been resilient and revenues at the best-run firms are still growing.”

Those firms were well represented at the fall edition of the conference, which gathered the biggest percentage of client-side participants (46%) of any SlatorCon to date, along with delegates from language service providers (45%), as well as advisory firms, academia, and others (8%).

Geographically, North America (ex Canada) made up 40% of the close to 300-strong audience, followed by Europe at 33%, and the rest of the world.

Faes pointed out several indicators of overall industry health, including hiring activity and, to a certain extent, acquisitions. Of the latter, he noted how there is “still a strong appetite for profitable businesses with a unique selling point,” and an M&A uptick is expected in the coming year.

The Slator Managing Director rounded things up with an assessment of the jobs market and the skills that would most benefit next-gen linguists, as well as the opportunities for language service providers (LSPs) in adjacent industry verticals. Catch the rest of it soon via SlatorCon on Demand.

People, Process, Product…and Technology!

Stuart Green, CEO of Zoo Digital, delivered a keynote that centered around the next evolution of media localization. Among the valuable takeaways —

  • how the industry is dealing with a localization ecosystem designed for “English into another language” in the face of the current, sweeping non-English trend for all genres;
  • the five challenges media localizers face today that are spurring a workforce, facilities, and tech evolution;
  • what industry leaders are doing to grow the talent pool and future-proof it; and
  • current tools of the trade and emerging tech.

As in previous SlatorCons, the trading of insights and audience Q&A sessions were fast-paced. Moderating proceedings were Slator’s Smart along with Maria Stasimioti, Research Analyst, and Anna Wyndham, Senior Analyst.

Pangeanic CEO, Manuel Herranz, and CTO, Amando Estela, shared what they learned from successfully leading the EU’s Multilingual Anonymization for Public Administrations project. Herranz called data anonymization “a goldmine,” and quipped that he would be very surprised if a compliance team existed somewhere in the world that hadn’t thought about data masking.

The duo recalled Pangeanic’s transformation from LSP into tech company (Herranz encouraged the audience to listen to SlatorPod #43 for more on this), noting how the main barriers to an LSP developing its own data-anonymization tools were the “same challenges you might have building your own machine translation.”

In SlatorCon’s trademark, not-a-single-minute-wasted format, the mid-event break featured a group discussion on the impact of Google’s July 2022 update. Sarah Presch of Argos Multilingual and the University of Strasbourg and Simon Golding of SocialSEO outlined why it was “devastating” and the effect the update could have on LSPs.

The Great Resignation and The Great Reset — unavoidable topics when discussing human resources. The Welocalize tandem of Erin Wynn, Company People and Customer Officer, and Brennan Smith, VP of Talent, fielded questions from the audience on these hot-button issues in the direct and transparent manner the LSP has become known for — even sliding into chat to continue responding to each audience query when time had run out!

As a company “built on M&A,” Welocalize came up with a solution to address the many challenges of a fast-growing company. And getting at that solution (i.e., a career framework for employees), unearthed many of the things people look for in a company — and what could potentially motivate them to leave.

During the Machine Translation (MT) Quality Estimation Panel, Conchita Laguardia, Senior Technical Program Manager and Localization Specialist at Citrix, recalled how they applied MT at scale. She said localization value comes from striking a balance between velocity and quality.

Meanwhile, Adam Bittlingmayer, CEO of ModelFront, talked about how machines can sometimes catch what humans miss, which tool is a likely bottleneck (hint: it was an investor favorite through the lockdowns), and where innovations are most likely to happen.

Storybook Time

In a segment that ended with the chat box being inundated with clapping emojis, Gary Lefman, Senior Globalization Architect at Cisco, chronicled the continuous localization journey of the multinational tech conglomerate — storybook style.

“Agile localization is dead. Long live agile,” cried Lefman. Graphic novelesque visualizations of Cisco’s loc journey depicted the interaction between project manager and product development team, how everyone survived “the quagmire of despair,” and how the team dealt with mundane issues; not least of which is someone leaving the company. It took Lefman about 20 minutes to recount the 18-month quest, from conception to onboarding.

Capping the conference was the head of the world’s largest interpreting service. Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director-General for Interpretation (SCIC) at the European Commission, took the audience through the challenges and opportunities of interpreting in “highly political” environments.

She revealed the measures adopted by the SCIC to maintain the high caliber of its interpreters and the future of language tech at the EC — which now runs on 80% traditional or in-person interpreting and 20% hybrid. “The challenge now is how to define ‘hybrid,’” she said.

Missed SlatorCon Remote September 2022? Catch it soon via SlatorCon on Demand.