VANESSA: Welcome and thank you to listening to ROAR: Speedbumps. I’m Vanessa Prolow
LINA: And I’m Lina Yan Ning
VANESSA: And we are currently graduate students at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. We both study Translation and Localization Management.
LINA: If you are unfamiliar with ROAR, we are a student-led podcast designed to address speedbumps, or challenges, that exist in the localization industry. We speak with industry students, professionals, and educators to learn about these speedbumps and discuss possible solutions.
VANESSA: Today we have with us Kayla Muñoz. Kayla is a localization manager at Desmos, a software company.
KAYLA: Hi, I’m Kayla Muñoz.
LINA: Thank you very much for being with us here today, Kayla, we really appreciate your time. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
KAYLA: Yeah, so I graduated with a master’s in Translation and Localization Management from the Middlebury Institute in May of 2019, so last year. My career started with an internship at MediaLocate as a project coordinator, and then from there, when I graduated, I went to a LSP called Supertext. They specialize in transcreation. And then shortly after, I switched to my current role as a Localization Manager at Desmos.
VANESSA: Thank you for sharing. Now we want to ask you about a speedbump, or a challenge, you have seen in the localization industry. So what speedbumps have you witnessed?
KAYLA: I think, being a new graduate myself, one of the bigger speedbumps I’ve noticed with younger industry professionals is trying to struggle to find the work/life balance, and learning how to advocate for yourself. I’ve seen a lot of people really struggle with being at work too much, or not getting paid enough, and not really knowing how to work around that and find something that fits for them.
VANESSA: How have you been able to work around this yourself?
KAYLA: I think, as is most common with our first jobs, we’re always so anxious, and we then get into a job, and then for me personally, my first role just wasn’t a good fit for my personality. It wasn’t necessarily the company, but I really had a hard time advocating for myself for the first two months, and I put myself through a lot of mental pain over the situation, because I felt like maybe I was in the wrong career path or I was failing. And at some point, after talking to a lot of professionals who had been in it for 20 years, I decided that maybe I should just try something different, and looked for a job sooner than I had planned on looking for a new job, and ended up in a role that I really love. So I think it really comes down to young industry professionals needing to realize that you aren’t 20 years into your career with a lot of experience. There is always going to be a job that is a good fit for you, and if you’re not happy at your job, it’s worth considering taking a leap of faith and doing something different, as opposed to punishing yourself and trying to make yourself fit into a role that just isn’t for you.
LINA: OK, so it looks like you have already told us some of the solutions that you have managed, or that you have been using, to cope with this speedbump. Are there any other solutions that you think will appear in the near future?
KAYLA: I think, as the world changes, a work/life balance is becoming more of a priority for our generation. I also think remote work and different work lifestyles, so maybe you’re not someone who works from nine in the morning until five; maybe you work from 11 to eight because that’s what works for you; I think that’s becoming more and more common. And those jobs do exist. So I think it’s a matter of the world is changing, and while we’re waiting for it to change, just learning that you’re the only person who is going to speak up for yourself, and advocate for yourself. I also think, really, fostering relationships with people around you who have been in the industry longer, who can give you advice and tell you when things are normal or not normal. I think the other thing is that a lot of us are young; it’s our first professional job, and maybe we don’t know that certain situations we’re suffering in aren’t healthy or aren’t normal situations, because we haven’t been in different jobs before. So having someone who is older than you who has more experience than you to tell you, “Hey, what you’re going through is not okay. Maybe you should more,” or, “Hey, this is totally normal and it’s going to get better, I promise,” but having those people to support you is really important.
VANESSA: I think that work/life balance is a huge issue for everybody in our generation, so where do you see this issue in localization specifically? Where do you think it be different than with other professions?
KAYLA: I think the problem with where work/life balance comes into play with localization is that given that we are often the last step for companies, and a lot of companies want to roll out new products quickly. A lot of companies don’t necessarily think about how much time it takes to get content back from translation. So oftentimes you have project managers staying up or getting up early in the morning at two am to receive a document because it’s coming from Europe because it’s their daytime but it’s not our daytime, or vice versa. And I think that’s where the problem comes in; there is not enough time baked into processes to allow for project managers to have their personal time. They often end up working weird hours or extra hours because they have to receive content or deliver it. And there is a lot of pressure around it, especially if you are working on the LSP side. You’re really wanting to deliver to client because that’s how you get paid, and there’s so many different options out there that if you don’t deliver on time, they can easily go to someone else. I think education around translation and baking more time for translation into your processes will definitely help with that.
VANESSA: Have you been able to advocate for that at your current role on the client side?
KAYLA: Yeah, and thankfully, my role—the company itself has a very strong belief system around work/life balance, and they really push for it. So thankfully I already have buy-in from my higher ups as far as taking my time, not having to work extra hours, unless it’s absolutely necessary. So I didn’t have to struggle too much with that, but that was one of the things I purposefully fought for in my most recent job search, which was finding a company that really believed in work/life balance and also showed it. I talked to employees who weren’t the hiring managers about how they felt their work/life balance was and did a lot of research on the company beforehand. And I think, my job before that, I really fought to have a work/life balance. I made a point not to answer emails or not to answer correspondence that I felt could wait until the next morning. I think not allowing yourself to be pressured into doing more work than is absolutely necessary is key. You know, sometimes we do work when we don’t need to; it could wait until tomorrow; it could wait a couple of days. But we feel this pressure from our bosses to be perfect, and I don’t think that’s necessary. I think setting boundaries for yourself and being clear with your boss about “this is my time off and I’m not going to be answering you, and if you need something, you need to let me know it’s an emergency, because otherwise I’m not going to take care of it until the next day’s working hours.”
VANESSA: How are you able to do that at the beginning of your career, and not feel like you’ll be seen as not that dedicated an employee, or not that dedicated to your career?
KAYLA: Yeah, I feel like that’s a fear that a lot of people have, but I think the biggest thing that when you are working, when you are putting in your eight hours a day, being super dedicated and communicative about what you’ve been doing to your supervisor, making sure you’re getting things done on time. I’m not saying to rush through your work, because that also can have poor results, but making sure you’re managing your time effectively. I think if you can show your manager that when you are working, you’re being productive and getting things done, they’re going to be a lot more respectful of you saying, “This is my done time and everything else will wait until tomorrow and I’ll get it done tomorrow.” I think sometimes that pressure to perform is internal, and there’s a lot of assumptions that young employees have, and if they talked to their manager, they would find out that their manager doesn’t expect the world out of them. And honestly, in my personal opinion, and I know everyone has different circumstances and it’s not always possible, but in my opinion, a company that expects you to work 14 hours a day—it’s not a healthy company to be in anyway. So if you’re going into your manager and you’re saying, “I can’t work this much anymore for my mental health, for my [inaudible] health,” and they don’t respect that, and don’t see your value as an employee, you’re probably in an unhealthy work environment.
LINA: Occasional extra work, sometimes we do have projects that are due on the weekends. That’s acceptable. Just not working seven days a week, extra hours. That’s not something that we could cope with.
KAYLA: Yeah, exactly. I think, and I’m sure it will happen to me even in my current role, there are going to be some times where there are projects where we have to get them done, and the whole entire team is putting in effort. But I think it’s also important to notice, okay, when that happens, does your company then say, “Okay, everyone takes a day off after this and we’re going to just have a mental health day after this project,” or “Everyone take a vacation; let me know your time and just go do your thing,” or “Take a couple of hours; come in late tomorrow.” If you notice that your company, after asking you to do extra, also gives back to you, I think that that’s healthy. I think that what’s not healthy is working 80 hours a week, every week and not being able to take a vacation, and getting flak for wanting time off or being sick. I think that’s not healthy.
VANESSA: At what point in your career did you realize that work/life balance is important to you and that you needed to advocate for yourself?
KAYLA: I’ve always been someone who has kind been in between wanting to have a high-powered career and wanting to be a backpacker who doesn’t care, and so I’ve always kind of battled with myself about that. I’ve always known that I wanted to have work/life balance. Before I went into languages, I was actually studying medicine, and that was the reason I left my studies in medicine, because I realized I was never going to have that balance if I became a doctor. But then when I got into localization and I kind of got sucked into that fear mindset of “I need to perform,” I kind of let that go for about a year and a half. But then at some point, I had some health issues, and I realized that this just wasn’t what I wanted and my health was suffering for it, and so I knew that I needed to go back to what my original goals were and really learn how to stand up for myself. And honestly, I really haven’t had any dramatic situations occur because of me saying, “Hey, I can’t do this right now, “ or “I need a break.” All the managers, thankfully, have been super understanding with my boundaries. I think a lot of the fear I had around performing was in my mind and I didn’t communicate what I needed to my managers beforehand. But once I finally started doing that, it wasn’t even an issue.
VANESSA: What do you see the differences in terms of performance expectations between an academic environment and in the workplace?
KAYLA: Yeah, I think that might also play into it. When we’re in the academic environment, we go to class almost all day, and then we do homework all night, and then we get up and we do it again. So I think we kind of carry that into our work life as well. After eight years of studies, that’s where my mindset was as well, that I have to put in the extra work. And I definitely think that isn’t necessary. I think academics are actually way more demanding of your time, obviously depending on your profession, but with localization especially I think going through the academic program was way more demanding of my time. I had to work extra hours on homework, and then learning to let that go when I graduated, and really setting a timeline for myself: “This is the end of my productivity; I’m going to go do something for myself; I’m going to go take a class; I’m going to go hang out with friends.” And actually having my evenings to myself was a big shift for me, actually.
VANESSA: I think it’s great that you’ve been able to realize this about yourself so quickly, and be able to advocate for yourself so early in your career.
KAYLA: Yeah, I think it comes from a couple of really good mentors in the industry who have been in it for 20 years and kind of just looked at me and said, “You know, what do you gain from killing yourself for your company?” What do you gain from working those extra hours? Are they necessary? If you’re not gaining anything amazing from it, why are you doing it? At the end of the day, you’re replaceable to them; you’re just an employee to them; they can hire someone else, but you cant replace your mental health once you’ve broken it, right? You have to work for years, so don’t break yourself working for a company who won’t remember you after you’re gone.
LINA: That’s true and good to know. Should we wrap it up, Vanessa?
VANESSA: Sure. So thank you, Kayla, for coming in and discussing your experience with work/life balance with us; I think it’s really important for people who are just starting their localization careers to understand that their life is important, and you should prioritize both your work and your life, and make sure that work really doesn’t take over, which I think with localization can happen pretty easily
LINA: Yeah, thank you Kayla. Thank you for listening to our episode of speedbumps, and have a great day and watch out for speedbumps!
KAYLA: Thank you, bye!