The Language Industry’s Biggest Hires of 2018

2018 ushered in new captains for large language service providers, such as Lionbridge. And who can forget the end to the TransPerfect saga, which saw Phil Shawe gain the title of sole CEO? The rest of the industry was abuzz with change as well as two language industry CEOs stepped down after more than two decades at the helm. This was 2018 in language industry hires.

Ashwin Bhatia – Welocalize

Slator featured several C-level appointments at the start of 2018, such as that of Ashwin Bhatia to the post of Chief Services Officer at Welocalize. He joined the Welocalize leadership team headed by Founder and CEO Smith Yewell after 14 years at Wipro.

Bhatia’s last post at multibillion-dollar IT conglomerate Wipro was Global Head of Consumer Packaged Goods with a responsibility for about 4,500 employees. According to Bhatia, the Chief Services Officer role at Welocalize is similar to that of a Chief Operations Officer; that is, responsible for the company’s supply chain, project management, and technical services.

Asked about his views on the buy versus build debate, Bhatia told Slator, “One thing I’ve learned…especially in a company like Wipro, if you try to be on your own in the technology world today, you are a dead duck.” He added that language service providers should become part of an ecosystem by combining what they have with those of their partners and open source resources.

Aaron Schliem – Bureau Works

Bureau Works (Bureau Translations) named Aaron Schliem Chief Marketing Officer in January 2018. Prior to Bureau, Schliem was the CEO of Glyph Language Services for over a dozen years.

Alberto Abisso – SDI Media

Slator also wrote in January that SDI Media promoted Alberto Abisso to the post of Executive Vice President for Europe, which is SDI’s biggest localization market with 23 offices and over 750 employees. “One of my priorities is to build strong cross-cultural teams,” he told Slator back then.

Abisso joined the company in 2010 as Senior Vice President of European Operations. Prior to SDI, he held a number of leadership positions in companies such as market research company Greenfield Online and APC by Schneider Electric. Primarily based in Berlin, Abisso reports to CEO Mark Howorth, who is based in SDI’s Los Angeles headquarters.

According to Abisso, “With the popularity of streaming and over-the-top platforms, and the demand for instant availability of content worldwide, SDI Media is faced with many new challenges,” including the need for speedy execution, technology-driven changes, increase in the volume of work, and changes to standards and quality.

Jim Weber – Lionbridge

Lionbridge announced in January 2018 that it had appointed Jim Weber as Chief Revenue Officer. Prior to joining Lionbridge, Weber held the same title at HR screening company HireRight and, before that, was Head of Sales at Thomson Reuters.

In the same statement on Jim Weber’s appointment, Lionbridge also welcomed Jaime Punishill on board as Chief Marketing Officer. Punishill joined Lionbridge in November 2017 as reported by Slator.

Véronique Özkaya – Xplanation

In February 2018, Véronique Özkaya stepped into the role of CEO at Xplanation after serving as the company’s Chief Sales and Marketing Officer since 2012. Former CEO Steven Van Lint moved on to the post of CFO.

Özkaya had previously worked as Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Moravia, VP of Sales at Lionbridge, and Language Manager at Donnelley Language Solutions. She now works out of Xplanation’s European headquarters in Belgium and is responsible for all C-level and regional executives.

The industry veteran of 25 years said that the nature of demand for language services was comparable to two roads: a fast highway and a winding country road. She explained, that “the highway is where you need to apply the latest technology such as neural machine translation. The winding country road is for high-impact marketing content, where transcreation, ISEO, and other value-added services come into play.”

Further to LanguageWire’s acquisition of Xplanation in October 2018, Özkaya continues to lead Xplanation operations and will be supporting its integration into LanguageWire.

Ken Watson – Lionbridge

The Waltham (near Boston)-based language service provider announced the appointment of Ken Watson as Chief Technology Officer in March 2018. Watson was fresh off a similar post at fintech firm Ipreo and, prior to that, was Managing Director of the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Dennis Dracup – Morningside Translations

On March 1, 2018, New York-based Morningside Translations appointed Dennis Dracup as Chairman of the Board. From 1999 to 2011, Dracup was CEO of remote interpretation provider LanguageLine, which has since been acquired by French call center operator Teleperformance.

Dracup joined co-CEOs Tom Klein and Roland Lessard and two other private investors on Morningside’s board. A company shareholder, Dracup told Slator he will spend up to 10% of his time with the management team aside from being an active board member and chairman.

While Dracup said they had no immediate plans for rapid geographical expansion, he would “encourage the company to consider” expanding into the healthcare and financial industries aside from working to gain market share in IP and legal from its rivals.

About rapid advancements in neural machine translation, Dracup said: “I think those non-regulated industries run the risk of being commoditized, quite frankly, which is why we want to focus on the regulated industries. You know the syntax, the context, the word ordering — all those are so extremely important in the verticals we play in that, perhaps, these technologies will aid us in the future; but I’m not sure that they are going to replace us.”

Morningside’s chairman added that the company’s stretch target is “to be a 300-million-dollar player over the next five years.”

Felix Donoso – MSS

Barcelona-based MSS – Language & e-Learning Solutions named Felix Donoso CEO in March 2018. Alvaro Rocabayera, Founder and former CEO, stepped down to focus on expanding the business.

Donoso said he will work on consolidating their three main areas of business: multimedia localization, e-learning, and AI-focused language solutions. He told Slator, “The classical translation business is and will be dramatically decreasing. That is why we need to focus on leveraging all the linguistic know-how and experience of the language and engineering teams into specific out-of-the-box solutions for our customers with multimedia as a key factor.”

Annika Hampf – Semantix

Semantix announced in March 2018 that Annika Hampf was its new Chief Marketing Officer. Hampf had built her marketing career in such companies as Hästens Beds and Procter & Gamble.

Dietmar Johannes Zimmer – German Federal Office of Languages

Slator reported on the appointment of Dietmar Johannes Zimmer as the head of the Federal Office of Languages under Germany’s Ministry of Defense. Prior to his appointment in an induction ceremony held on May 23, Zimmer headed the Ministry’s vehicle fleet service.

Zimmer is now responsible for a staff of 1,000, which operates in more than 60 locations, translating some 170,000 pages and logging over 20,000 hours of interpretation each year. Germany’s Federal Office of Languages also provides foreign language courses to more than 15,000 people annually and German lessons to 700 allied armed forces.

Nihat Arkan – thebigword

2018 saw a change in leadership for thebigword as Nihat Arkan stepped into the CEO role on June 18. Arkan joined thebigword from content management company 1Worldsync, where he had been CEO from 2012 and, prior to that, its predecessor, SA2 Worldsync, from 2008.

He took over from Larry Gould, company founder and CEO since 1996, who assumed the post of Executive Chairman of the Board. Gould will focus on M&A and fundraising opportunities for thebigword.

Arkan identified North America and Asia-Pacific as strategic priorities for further growth. He said that it is essential to grow organically but also make strategic investments and consider acquisitions, especially in tech.

Kristen Giovanis – ULG

United Language Group (ULG) named Kristen Giovanis CEO on June 21, 2018. Giovanis had served as ULG President since 2016. The Minneapolis-based firm also announced several promotions this year: Karrie Willis to Chief Operating Officer, Sarah Siler-LaFave to Director of US Operations, and Michael Ridgway to Chief Sales Officer.

Shunichiro Ninomiya – Honyaku Center

Back in April, Slator covered the appointment of  Shunichiro Ninomiya to the role of President of the largest language service provider in Japan, Honyaku Center, effective June 27, 2018. He took over from Ikuo Higashi, who became Chairman of the Board.

Ninomiya was previously Executive Officer and Director at Honyaku, in charge of overall planning and management of the company. He joined Honyaku in 1997 at the age of 28 and was appointed Director after seven years. In his relatively rapid rise to leadership, Ninomiya follows in the footsteps of his predecessor Higashi, who became Honyaku President at age 40 back in 2001 after serving as Director for only four years.

James Kent – CyraCom

In September, James Kent assumed his post as Chief Financial Officer at CyraCom Language Solutions. Kent was most recently VP of Business Support at Health Care Navigator and had previously spent 13 years in leadership positions at Cannondale Bicycle Corp.

Shaun Gregory – BTI Studios

Slator reported in August that BTI Studios named Shaun Gregory CEO effective October 1, 2018. He took over from Founder Björn Lifvergren, who joined the Board of Directors after serving as CEO for two decades. Media localizer BTI Studios is owned by private equity firms Altor and Shamrock Capital.

BTI Studios has grown from its roots in Sweden to 25 local facilities globally, including major hubs in London, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles. In 2010, BTI’s main revenue stream moved from subtitling (96%) to dubbing, a service that now accounts for 60% of revenues, compared to subtitling at less than 40%.

It is Gregory’s first foray into localization, as he joined BTI from London outdoor advertising company Exterion Media, where he was CEO. He told Slator that, “in media localization, technology will always be used as an enhancement rather than a substitute, due to the creative nature of the industry.”

Earlier in 2018, BTI appointed John Koscheka as its new Executive Vice President of Over-the-Top (OTT) Operations. Koscheka, a 20th Century Fox veteran, will lead OTT operational staff across the organization, optimize their workflows, coordinate with the sales team, and support new US-based customers. He will be located in BTI’s Los Angeles facility and report to the CEO.