by Gayane Saghatelyan
Academics, industry professionals and students recently gathered in Monterey for the biennial Monterey Forum titled The Future of Localization Training: Keeping Pace with an Evolving Industry. The attendees are all focused and passionate about acquiring new skills and growing the localization profession. The forum included a wide range of topics: from incorporating new technology in the classroom to encouraging students to leave their comfort zones to explore new roles. If there was one word to summarize the forum it would have to be growth. Here are some highlights from the forum.
Rethinking the Localization Profession
Andrew Lawless (Performance Consultant and Coach) kicked off the forum with an impactful presentation inspiring the audience to rethink the way we approach localization training. To make localization stronger and more relevant companies and individuals need to “establish localization as a core competence, rather than a stand-alone program,” proposed Andrew Lawless. Just as every International Business program includes an International Accounting course, every Computer Science and Product Management program should include Localization training.
This perspective was echoed in Pavel Soukenik’s presentation on Teaching Technical Localization Topics to Non-Technical Students. Pavel rightfully pointed out that “as much as programmers make a localizer’s work difficult by not providing a localizable product, localizers create a new layer of complexity for programmers by defining internationalization guidelines.” By bringing localization into the curriculum early on, we can help developers and localizers meet each other halfway on the learning curve.
The forum provided a great opportunity for the meeting of three worlds: academia, professionals and students. This was prominently showcased in The Value of Student Participation in Professional Conferences and Events, where participants got a rare perspective from working professionals, professors and students. Alan Melby (FIT/ Brigham Young University) talked about best practices in organizing student groups to attend conferences and professional events, with a special focus on how to prove the value of these investments to academic administration. Nick Lambson (Medialocate, MIIS MATLM 2016) talked about the employer perspective and how professional conferences are a win-win for both the employer and the employee, in that they help companies stay in-tune with current industry trends. Finally, the panel would not be complete without the war stories of graduating students Min Tan (MATLM 2017) and Lindsay Smith (MATLM 2017), who talked about overcoming their fears of networking to become pros in connecting with professionals.
Min Tan shared her experience with us, “In the first semester at MIIS, I went to the LocWorld conference in San Jose. I was so scared when I was there – there were so many things that I didn’t know, there were so many company names that I had never heard of before. The experience pushed me outside of my comfort zone and made me realize that networking at big events takes some getting used to. With time I built up the confidence to attend more events and learned to connect senior-level executives.”
The moderator of the panel, Winnie Heh (Center For Advising & Career Services, MIIS) asked the participants to share advice with organizers of conferences such as Locworld for enhancing the student experience. The panelists mentioned the following:
- Introducing a buddy program at LocWorld where students can be paired with experienced professionals to help them navigate in an unfamiliar environment
- Adding more volunteer opportunities for students and giving them more responsibilities to get involved
Advice from Alumni
Participants had the exclusive opportunity to hear advice from MIIS alumni who joined the panel Strengthening and Leveraging the Alumni Network. Olga Melnikova (MATLM 2015) and Eva Gross (MATLM 2010) encouraged students to stay motivated and create strong bonds with their colleagues. I want to point out an interesting idea mentioned by Olga Melnikova who in the context of staying close to the MIIS community mentioned that “MIIS TLM grads all speak the same ‘language’,” which makes it easier for new grads to hit the ground running in the industry.
Exploring New Frontiers
Participants of the Forum had the opportunity to explore new frontiers with a panel on Neural Machine Translation (NMT). The panel included a hands-on presentation from KantanMT. Kantan partners with a number of higher education institutions, including MIIS and University of Texas Arlington through their academic partnership program. In addition to KantanMT being taught by professors in a classroom, students also have access to a comprehensive self-paced learning resource, KantanAcademy. All in all, as Machine Translation gains more weight in our industry, academia is quick to adapt to current trends.
It was interesting to hear a CEO’s perspective on today’s talent requirements. Claudia Mirza (CEO, Akorbi) says, “I don’t hire 100% translators anymore,” they have to have other skills. The forum revealed an interesting picture for the skills that the industry is most often looking for:
- Ability to gather and analyze data
- Knowledge in machine learning
- Ability to manage relationships with stakeholder
- Working in remote settings and managing remote teams
To learn these skills we often need to go outside of our comfort zone, as was clearly demonstrated by Tetyana Struk (Linguistic Center and Iryna Drobit (Lviv State University of Life Safety) in their joint presentation titled From Zero to Infinity: Leave-Your-Comfort-Zone Approach. Tetyana and Iryna talked about their experience integrating project-based work in the classroom and encouraging students to go outside of their comfort zone by working in roles they aren’t accustomed to. The results were fascinating: some students loved the new roles, others realized that it was not for them. In either case, exploring new roles was a beneficial experience for both the instructors and the students.
As mentioned by Pete Smith in his closing remarks, I really do believe that “the common thread in all of these discussions is growth and learning.” From technical knowledge to soft skills, the Monterey forum brought together a truly passionate and knowledgeable group of professionals. If you missed this year’s Monterey forum, look out for the next one in two years. I want to leave you with one final thought expressed by Adam Wooten in response to my question “Where do you see your students in 5 years?” — “I hope that you will all find your passion and that it takes you in different directions, so far that it will be hard to gather you all in one place.”