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Localization Industry Expert Q&A: Interview with Winnie Heh on The Eco-System of Language Profession

In this episode of the podcast Localization Industry Expert Q&A, Winnie Heh discusses her Eco-System of Language Profession. See http://al10npm.com/heh_ecosystem.

In the interview, Heh elaborates on the many positions in localization available beyond translation and project management. She differentiates among the production, supervision, support, and sales and marketing roles available at the entry level from those roles available at higher levels of management. She discusses the similarities and differences between vendor-side and client-side work. She expands upon the core competencies and skills that employers seek.

Her discussion is based on decades of experience growing brand new lines of business in the localization industry!

The Eco-System of Language Profession by Winnie Heh

Listen to the interview to learn Heh’s full responses to the following questions and more!

AB: Your Eco-System of Language Profession includes 53 unique job titles of very diverse roles! Could you talk to us about how these roles are related? What are the entry level positions that graduates of MIIS might obtain, and what roles might they work toward?

WH: Entry level positions include production roles (translator, project manager, DTP specialist), supervisory roles, support roles, and sales and marketing…

AB: What are the differences between vendor-side and client-side work?

WH: I’ll start by talking about the similarities, which include solid skills in localization project production, relationship management, and the need to meet deadlines and operate within a budget…

On the vendor-side, you’ll work with a wide variety of clients, content types, and tools… Your customers are the localization teams of client-side organizations and your suppliers are the linguists. On the client-side, a big part of your job is to make sure those who create content take localization into consideration… Your customers are your internal teams and the end users of your content or product, and your suppliers are the vendor side organizations…

AB: You state that your research is meant to be “descriptive” rather than “prescriptive.” If you were to prescribe core competences necessary for the professional practice of localization management, what competences would you say are among the highest priority for aspiring localization professionals to learn?

WH: The highest priority skills come in three categories: hard skills, technology, and soft skills… For hard skills, you’ll need to know translation technology and be comfortable telling stories from data using business math. In terms of technology, you need to learn a handful of programming languages to position yourself to work well with programmers down the road. In the era of big data, you also need to be able to make fact-based decisions based on Excel database analysis. For soft skills, critical thinking, learning, and being the kind of colleague you want to have are essential.

AB: Could you talk to us about the importance of execution?

WH: You’re track record, or ability to deliver projects on time and on budget, speaks volumes more than any talk!

Thank you to Winnie Heh for helping to make this episode!

Episode 3 of the podcast Localization Industry Expert Q&A, titled, “Interview with Winnie Heh on The Eco-System of Language Profession” with host Alaina Brandt was recorded and produced on August 16, 2019. The sound in the episode is Lemoncreme, made in F1 Studio and available on Freesound.

Turn up the heat: Deconstructing best practices in translation productions

No pressure. You’re the localization project manager, and you’re managing projects in languages you can’t read. If you don’t get it right, any mistranslations in the product may result in physical and financial damages along with damages to reputations. It’s your job to get it right. So how do you ensure that the translation product is properly handled?

Watch Turn up the heat: Deconstructing best practices in translation productions to learn how best practices are built into localization production workflows and the consequences of removing best practices!

What are you left with when you remove
standard best practices from localization production processes?
Watch the video to find out!

A Complex Role in Languages We Can’t Read: Case Study in a Khmer safety warning

Any discussion on standardizing LPM competencies is incomplete without explicit emphasis on the product we’re all producing. As an LPM, I’m charged with overseeing the production of translation products in languages I often can’t read! When professionals can’t read the language of the product they produce, an appropriate minimal level of qualifications and skills becomes especially important!


Standards of best practice in translation and localization: where qualified localization practitioners come in

Relevant translation standards use unique terminology to describe key parameters of localization workflows, and each emphasizes important components of localization production in different ways. Through a survey of leading industry standards, we collect the core best practices that must be built into localization workflows.


A comparative look at standards on translation and localization competences

A wide variety of skills and personality traits characterize the LPM role. These include the ability to generate process efficiencies and plan to prevent project issues. LPMs also need to be able to research, communicate, collaborate, and solve problems. They need to be organized and very comfortable with technology. The range of skills necessary to perform well in an LPM role is of course much broader than those just mentioned. For LPMs seeking jobs with LSPs, understanding all of the skills that need to be developed is fundamental to preparing for the role and successfully entering the job market.


Fortunately, the old narrative is changing.

Obsolete industry caricatures depict the localization project manager as no more than a traffic director or file pusher. Within that old narrative, the participation of localization PMs in production processes is limited to sending files for translation to translators, collecting translated files, and passing those files on to subsequent localization stages. The perceived simplicity of the role means that PMs are pushed to push more files. RUSH is the operative word within this kind of a localization model: rush deadlines, in volumes, leading to unsustainable workloads, overtime, and burnout for PMs who don’t feel appreciated for or connected to their work.


So, what makes a qualified localization project manager?

To begin formulating an answer to this question and developing standard competences and minimum skill requirements for localization managers, a logical place to begin is by looking at the job descriptions associated with LPM roles at LSPs, as Professor Adam Wooten did for his talk Localization Careers: What Recruiters Want and How to Succeed. (See Key Competences for Localization Managers: What Industry Expert Adam Wooten has to say…)


Key Competences for Localization Managers: What Adam Wooten has to say…

Our research on job descriptions is carried out based on Professor Adam Wooten’s IMUG talk Localization Careers: What Recruiters Want and How to Succeed. In that presentation, Professor Wooten discusses his research in job descriptions for a variety of roles in localization (not just the localization project managers) and what that tells us about the skills employers look for. 

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