What Does It Mean to Be Truly Global?

What Does It Mean to Be Truly Global?
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October 12, 2016
Renato and Michael with Anna Schlegel
What's the roadmap for elevating localization's role in a global enterprise? In this episode we discuss best practices for success in international markets—and your career.
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Renato Hi, I am Renato Beninatto.
Michael And I’m Michael Stevens.
Renato Today we have an excellent guest to our show and we’re going to talk about globalization from an enterprise perspective with somebody that has worked in several major technology companies in Silicon Valley.
Michael Yes, and our listeners may benefit, we covered a little bit in the interview but globalization is a word that’s thrown around.
Renato And globalization, localization, translation, internationalization, are all parts of this…
Michael Alphabet soup?
Renato Alphabet soup but, also, this movement and these activities that we exercise when we want to do global business. So, let’s listen to our guest.
Anna Hi, this is Anna Schlegel. I am from Catalunya which is a small, little beautiful nation between France and Spain. I am a senior director of globalization and information engineering at NetApp. NetApp is a company on the West Coast of California.
Renato Well, that’s not a very good start, Anna. You mentioned Catalunya and you mentioned the West Coast of California but the topic of your book is about being global. In a global business do places like Catalunya and the West Coast of California matter?
Anna Yes they do! Catalunya is one of the top ten innovators right now in Europe. And, as you well know, the West Coast of California is the home of the Silicon Valley where you find some of the top leading LSPs that believe in globalization and are doing relatively well in that space.
Renato Well, I’m being a little mean but the point I want to make is that if we’re going to talk about global business, one of the things I love to mention is this book that I read in 1992 called The Global Paradox and John Naisbitt talked about how the more global business, the world becomes, the stronger the local identities will become.
Anna That’s right.
Renato So, I found it very interesting because, in reality, what drives globalization is localization, is making content local. So, local languages like Catalan, Gaelic, Venetian and smaller languages in Asia become more relevant, is that the reality that you see in your day-to-day work?
Anna Yes. Well, in my day-to-day work because I lead product globalization and company globalization for an engineering company that sells highly complex storage products, languages at the smaller level are really not important. We do globalize into Chinese, we do globalize for Japan and a few other languages where the countries that can afford our systems and where we see the bigger deals, those are the languages that we’re after.

But, if I were to work for Facebook or Twitter, PayPal or eBay, I think we do see the importance of smaller languages. Catalan, by the way, is a language spoken by seven million people so you cannot compare it to Gaelic as an example.
Renato Good. There is some national pride in there, I feel.
Anna A little!
Michael Now, just so we’re clear on terms, because some people who are listening and you guys are talking about globalization, may think you’re talking about reducing the inequality between countries, is that what you guys mean, is that what you mean, Anna?
Anna So, when I talk about globalization and enterprise globalization it’s really about what each business sets out to do. So, it’s about business goals and making international revenue. That’s the sort of globalization that I am talking, through my book and through my work, is different companies have different goals and they have different sets of countries where they want to be successful in and hopefully they have a road map. So, the type of globalization I am an expert and have more insight into is how do you realize those goals for a company to be successful in the countries that they choose. And, each company chooses a very different set of countries.
Renato So, the title of your book is Truly Global: The theory and practice of bringing your company to international markets. Is this written mostly for the enterprise, for large companies, what is the target of your book?
Anna That’s right, yes, it is a book for enterprise globalization and it describes how the bigger companies set up to reach the international footprint and international revenue that they decide to go after. Then, obviously, there is a lot for start-ups as well that want to be set up properly so that when they grow up, even if they’re in their emerging state right now or they’re piloting or beta of products where they have one product, two products, it’s a really good place to start understanding what will it take.

And, my strong recommendation is that they actually visualize and map out “what would it take?” because there are certain things that can be done form the get-go that will make it so much easier for their products to be successful in Russia, or in Japan, or in France.
Renato Usually, localization is seen as a very mundane activity inside the organization. You propose that this role be addressed at higher levels of the organization. How so?
Anna That’s right, yes. Well, it’s been my experience as I was hired to run a translation team and a localization team, and I was happy to do so in my first years of my career. I quickly realized that being set up as a service or as a workflow to taking translations or localization was nice and there’s a lot of work and pride in that but there is a very strong connection and correlation of how companies do well because of the amount of content that you push through the localization machinery; or what products you push through; or what things you should have never pushed through that machinery because you could be collapsing the other end with information that’s actually not needed at the local level.

And so, understanding all those pieces needs to be elevated. If we are in companies and we set up a localization team, a localization service, and there is nobody watching over the bigger strategy of “was that content the right content; were the products the right products; were the marketing managers on the other end aware that this program, project, product was coming?” you are in a very dangerous zone of not understanding if what you’re doing actually has any meaning for the company.

I think that localization teams need to really think through if they should become globalization teams and the connections to the main stakeholders are very, very important; so that everybody that’s trying to push a product or program can, actually, help the company do better in particular countries.
Michael One of the things you did well in your book, I felt, was work to get that understanding, provide people a list of questions whether you’re talking to a stakeholder within the company, you’re trying to see the impact of your work in translation and localization on their final job and their goals but, also, when you work with partners. You did a good… I don’t even have a question for you on this but I think the questions will be helpful for people as they go and check out this book.
Renato How did you compile these questions and is it your day-to-day talent? You have a professional journey; you have been in several of these Silicon Valley companies. Were these the questions that you wish you had asked in other jobs; were these the questions that you asked and finally you figured out which ones were the right ones? How did you select this set of questions in your book?
Anna Thank you, that’s a good one! I think I just started asking questions and I remember I didn’t even know if I was asking the right questions at the beginning but the minute I started travelling to meet with my localization teams in Japan, or in Korea, or in China, I started staying an extra day to go and meet with our partners and clients, especially in the countries that mattered the most for my company, whatever the company was. I would stay an extra day and go and nail an interview with the head of product or head of channel or at a pathway, a partner.

And I would ask the questions such as “is the pricing well set up; is the content that we are sending you labeled easily for you to find it; is our offering better or worse than another offering?” because, at the end of the day, we’re all vendors and services to the end customer. So, I went in as a vendor. So, I started asking questions “are our products in English helping you; are the docs in English helping you?”

So, the more I asked these questions, the more I got the right answers and, again, I’ve always been in highly engineering environments where the products don’t need to be necessarily always in language if you’re in countries like Sweden or Germany where engineers are very comfortable in English environments.

But, the questions need to be there; you need to ask “why am I localizing this; why am I not localizing this?” And the more questions you ask the more you will help your company.
Renato This is very interesting. I like your approach, Anna, because the reality is that nobody asks those questions consistently because it’s nobody’s job. The only point where all these things come together is at the localization level. So, maybe you are dealing with pricing at somebody in the pricing group, maybe you’re dealing with specification issues, conversion tables and this is somebody in the product group, and engineering. And then you’re dealing with the brochures that are not coming out in time or with the correct message, and this is the marketing group and nobody is bringing all these things together. Localization is the only point where they converge.

So, the point that you took the initiative to go and talk to different stakeholders in-market, is very interesting and gives you the edge. I assume this is how you went from localization manager to senior director?
Anna I think so, yes. Even if it was none of my business, I made it my business because, Renato, as you’re saying, it’s nobody’s job to understand the whole product lifecycle delivery, globally. It’s a huge undertaking. And I sit in a lot of conversations where they talk about “do globalization teams need to be centralized or decentralized, and what are the trends of those?” And it’s good conversation and there are many companies that do it in different ways but, at the end of the day, somebody needs to pretend to be the Japanese customer who is going to interact with your company. And the Japanese customer interacts at the pre-sales level, at the download level, at the installation level, at the pricing negotiation level, at the post-sales, at the support, at the upgrade level.

So, once you understand that, the conversation really changes from localization to business, and if you can bring this insight back to your vice-presidents of how things are looking in Japan, are they going to see you as a service, or are they going to see you as the person that they can email whenever they have a question on anything Japan?
Renato That’s a fantastic point and, Anna, I’ve seen organizations where the only place where all this information gets back together is at the CEO level. So, it’s either at the localization level or at the CEO level. Every other function is completely placed in other leaders and it’s decentralized in the organization. So, you create that bridge, and that’s a very interesting recommendation to your readers.
Anna I think I did it because wherever I have worked, I didn’t see a forum to do that. I did work once for a very clever man whose title was VP of Strategy. I learned a lot from him. He had a model that was called a country-served model where it was so clear what countries the company cared about and then what did it take to be in that country? So, then, we would go in as the localization provider or as the internationalization provider or as the geo-alignment provider to make his dreams come true.

But, he had a strategy; he knew the countries; he knew what partners; we knew the money that we needed to be making; and all that was mapped and looked at quarterly. That was brilliant. I think I learned a lot from this gentleman.

So, I can imagine that there are many companies that have this at the CEO level; however, I haven’t seen it.
Michael So, for the average director, manager in a company, how do they put together this information and report up in a way that doesn’t seem condescending to their bosses? They should know this about their business, right, and they don’t.
Anna Yes.
Michael How do you walk that line?
Anna I would say let’s pretend you’re in a support organization, you work for the support organization or the professional services organization. I think you can start with your own work; even if you’re a manager, just put it together and pretend that you have a customer or a partner that your company just want to deal in, let’s say, Russia. Okay, so what does this Russian customer need? Then, really fully envision everything that can go right and everything that can go wrong with this customer in the relationship with your company in this person’s language. And start figuring out if you have it in place or if you don’t have it in place.

So, for example, a Russian customer needs to be able to call you to open a ticket; needs to be able to look at your support site to look at this ticket; needs to be able to talk to you through social media; needs to be able to download support documentation, instructions, how-tos; might want to look at a knowledge database; might want to check out another product. So, all these things, you can say “yes, we have a 9-5 call center.” “But, what happens if this guy or woman needs to call you at 5.30? Who is he or she being routed to? And in what language?” And what about the phone tree; is he or she going to be able to follow the instructions of that phone tree?

So, start imagining this person so you put, what I call, you put your field glasses on. You put somebody else’s glasses on and you pretend to be this other person. So, it doesn’t matter what your title is, if you’re a manager or senior manager, director, you have to start doing this for your customer if your company is a global company.
Michael And Anna one of the nice things is you share all this experience with people so they can glean the years of knowledge you have there. But, some may be starting off in the same place where you did. You talk about your first job, very briefly, in the book. You were doing a Spanish translation for a family member, is that how it went?
Anna Yes. That’s how I started, yes, it was so bad. So, I think it was my first year of college, and everybody needs money in the first year of college.
Michael And mom and dad weren’t sending the check, huh?
Anna Well, very small check, you know. And fortunately, and unfortunately, I had a cousin, my mom’s cousin who was a CEO of a software company in Barcelona and he said “well, I hear your English is pretty good already; I have some manuals and we need them translated.” So, he hired me for a year because these manuals were very big. He said “here are these two big books; it’s for you to translate them”. This was in 1986, I don’t even know what typewriter I had. So, he said “this is yours”. And I remember starting, I opened this software, tech-pop document and I made so many mistakes, but I learned so much. One of the words was data tables and my first reaction in Spanish was to translate table as a table where you have lunch! And when he looked at the first pass he’s like “oh my God! What are we going to do with you!”
Renato In English it’s the same word in Spanish it’s a different word!
Anna And that’s how it all started. I’m like “oh! I’m sorry!”
Michael He was a gracious family member?
Anna He was very gracious and he gave me a check at the end of the year.
Michael That’s great. I think that’s where the experience you share is helpful for people listening, regardless of where they are in their career and what they’re doing, now. Start-up, enterprise, they can benefit from it. What is your one pitch for your book, now, if you want to leave our listeners with that in the forefront of their mind?
Anna I think the book shows you the behind the scenes of what could be done, what can be done, and what will really help you be more successful. If you want to stay in a set of countries you really cannot wing it and you cannot let it split among many, many different teams if there is not a process to vet and understand carefully how all of this is going to work.
Renato Wonderful. We know that you also have another passion, that you started an organization called Women in Localization. How’s it going?
Anna That’s right; it’s going so well. We started Women in Localization in 2008 and I co-founded it with Sylvia Avary from Brazil and Eva Klaudinyova from Slovakia. And the three of us started as a very small organization called Northern California Women in Localization. And move ahead all these years, we are about 3,000 members, we have nine global chapters and we’re spending this year to re-organize as a board, much stronger, and we’re going the non-profit route next year with a lot of partnerships across the profession and opening up roles for men and a lot…
Renato Oh! That’s very good to hear because I would never join a sexist organization like this but now you’re changing!
Anna Yes, we have changed quite a bit. There is a lot of support and a lot of different initiatives to be advancing the profession and advancing the innovation in our space and talking about globalization as well. So, it’s very, very exciting.
Renato So, you’re a starter and a doer, that’s great to hear.
Michael Where’s the best place for people to find the book?
Anna So, if anybody is interested in purchasing the book, the book can be bought through the Friesen Press website or through Amazon. Friesen Press is the Canadian House that helped me write and publish the book. [Friesenpress.com](). Obviously, Amazon is selling the book around the world as well.
Michael That’s great. Thank you for your time.
Anna Thank you Michael and thank you, Renato, it was fun.
Michael So, Renato, that was a lot to take in from Anna Schlegel, today.
Renato She has a lot of experience and a lot of information which is very useful to our listeners but I found it interesting, this whole global and local discussion, how our personal identities play an important role. And I ask myself, do you need to be a foreigner to empathize and do this job? Could you, as an American, do this job, Michael?
Michael Well, it seems to be really beneficial to not be American in that job.
Renato But now you have a book and you have the questions to ask.
Michael You do and, really, I think what’s great about this book is you see a maturing of an industry as well as Anna’s personal maturing as a manager and moving to director, senior director, all of that Now there is more of a groundwork to understand what to do whereas, when she took over the translation team, they just were doing translations. It was disconnected from the business conversations that were happening. And now, as an industry, we’re moving more in that direction and now there is a road map for people to learn from.
Renato Fantastic.

End of conversation

Anna Schlegel

Anna is the senior director of globalization and information engineering for San Francisco-based NetApp. She is also the author of Truly Global: The Theory and Practice of Bringing Your Company to International Markets, and co-founder of the organization, “Women in Localization”.


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