Alexander Alyakrinskiy (MATLM 2017) is a Localization Program Manager at Fitbit. Before attending MIIS he worked as a Foreign Language Instructor, Linguist and Localization Analyst. I was intrigued by his observations on the crucial role that one’s temperament plays in their success. Here is our conversation.
In our recent conversation, you brought up the topic of how to align one’s skills and temperament with specific roles in the localization industry. Can you talk about how you arrived at this idea?
As a program manager I interact with a variety of stakeholders on a daily basis including language specialists and l10n engineers. I noticed how certain temperaments help people to succeed in a specific role (ex. vendor management and engineering) and align with their type of communication.
Could you please give us some examples of skills/temperament types and the types of roles that are good fits for them?
came across many project/program managers who do not have a strong linguistic
background, but possess well developed interpersonal communication
skills. Being able to adjust and staying flexible in difficult and sometimes
frustrating situations is more important in this area of l10n.
The rare and well desired mix is a localization engineer. They
tend to be on the introverted side but have difficulty using soft skills and
can’t handle multitasking.
It came as a surprise to me that many language specialists within tech are introverts and enjoy focusing on the language as opposed to communication with stakeholders and project management.
How did you figure out your skills/temperament and how did you find the right role to match your skills/temperament?
For me it came with experience and wasn’t a straightforward path. I got to work on the vendor side and have experience as a language specialist. I really enjoy puzzles and I am stimulated by complex projects. I got my job as program manager at Fitbit right after graduation from MIIS and I realized that I enjoy the amount of responsibility and interactions with stakeholders. Brining people and ideas together and translating them into a localized product is something I really enjoy. I face daily challenges on a bigger scale and have to make decisions independently using sound judgement and direct the resources to make things happen.
What advice would you give to TLM students in terms of how they can approach this exploration process?
My advice to the students is to apply for internships and learn about different roles and their daily responsibilities within the company. Also, self-assessment and understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses is crucial in defining the right role in the future workplace. I’ve seen many students so desperately trying to apply for project/program management role to only realize that it requires way too much interaction and ambiguity they didn’t expect and can’t handle. There should be a clear understanding that program/project management isn’t about language and creative side of it per se. It’s about bringing people and resources together, analyzing risks and forecasting the budget which requires marketing and analytical skills.
After building Eezy’s localization program from the ground up, Hilary Normanha is taking a new position as a Localization Program Manager at ASICS Digital in Boston, MA. She sat down with me recently to reflect on her career as a language professional and the learnings she would like to share.
How did you enter the localization industry?
As a teenager, I had the incredible opportunity to move to Brazil where I ended up living for many years. After high school, one of my first jobs there was teaching English at a language school. The owner of the school got me started on the road to translation, I was hooked from day one and the rest is history! Over the years, I’ve always kept one foot in the localization industry (even when it didn’t pay the bills) because I am passionate about languages and I enjoy the constant evolution of this industry. I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychological Sciences with a minor in Women’s studies.
What do you think are the most important skills, knowledge and mindset aspiring localizers need?
The localization industry is moving fast, and is accelerating along with the rapid growth we are seeing in the tech industry as a whole. This means that if you enter this industry now, the landscape will change (and continue to change) quickly. If you want a long and prosperous career, you must be open to continuous learning and professional development from day one! This is no longer an option in our industry – it is a requirement. Another thing I love about our industry is that it overlaps with so many others; marketing, sales, SEO, product, design, engineering…the list is endless. This means that localization doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it is cross-functional. Localization professionals today need to be willing to grow broader skill sets in order to provide the best solutions for their companies and end users. As an example, at Eezy I partner regularly with our SEO team, marketing team, development team, and product/design teams. In addition, I regularly present to our executive team and growth teams. This has given me the opportunity to grow additional skill sets so that our localization program fits within the broader scope of the company as a whole and works toward our goals. This role has challenged my assumptions about what localization looks like, and what it could look like in the future.
What are the things that you think educational institutions can do to help prepare students for success in the localization industry?
Many times localization professionals work within small teams, or even on their own. While their work overlaps with many other teams, there is an expectation that they run their department and be their end user’s biggest advocates. In order to succeed, localization professionals need a foundation in data analysis, presentation skills, project and program management, risk analysis, scrum and agile (if they plan to partner with development teams) and reporting (especially financial reporting). These skills are useful even if the student’s professional goals don’t involve working for a large company. Let’s say they want to run their own translation company. If they can look at their client’s core customer, or a Google Analytics report of their client’s traffic and click through rates on the website and turn that data into a report showing how their translation services are the best fit for their client…it will put them a step ahead. They should be able to put together end of the year financial reports and projections for their clients, or convince their client why they would benefit from a service they can provide.
You have worked on both the vendor and client sides. How would you compare your experience in both? Do you think one needs to have different skill sets on either side?
The skills sets are definitely different but there is a lot of overlap as well. Customizing your process/workflow for your end user is something that I experienced on both the client and vendor side. As a vendor, I was accustomed to customizing TMs, terms bases, projects and workflows for both the clients and LSPs that I worked with. Now as a client, I use those same skills when thinking about the end user of Eezy’s products, and partnering with cross functional teams to customize our process. Project management is a skill that overlaps as well.
With that said, there are unique skill sets on each side. Sales and prospecting is a huge part of a vendor’s work flow. I remember spending hours researching how to write cold emails or pitch services early in my career. Thankfully sales has evolved since then, there are a lot more tools available and it is a much more empathetic business focused on solutions. Learning how to identify pain points and offer solutions is key for vendors, as is partnership. Now that I am on the client side I am learning how to leverage my vendors and partner more heavily with them. Vendors have a lot of experience with a variety of clients and projects, so as a client I have to be willing to open up and share the problems I am trying to solve with my vendors. Seeing vendors as partners (and not as a third party service) opens doors. On the client side, I would say partnering both with your vendors and cross functionally within your organization is the best way to grow. On the client’s side being the end user’s advocate is the key to succeeding. This means looking at data, building partnerships with other teams, and finding creative solutions.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
Back when I was still in school, struggling to build up a client base as a translator and pushing myself to develop my project management skills I had to supplement my income with bartending. I absolutely hated it, but it was necessary because it payed the bills and didn’t interfere with my daytime schedule. One night at the end of my shift I opened up to my manager at the bar where I worked. She encouraged me find a new vantage point and to “see everything as an opportunity.” Once I flipped that switch in my mind, I began to see bartending as an opportunity for growth alongside school and translating. Working as a bartender helped me develop my sales skills, taught me to prioritize and multitask in a high stress environment, and pushed me to find common ground with any stranger who walked in the door. Her advice stuck with me, it has not only helped me overcome obstacles but has also pushed me to grow both personally and professionally. Every step you take can elicit growth and contribute towards your goals, it just requires the right mindset.