Learning From the Past, Planning for the Future: Industry Insights From Vistatec’s Chief Sales Officer
The language and localization industry is constantly evolving. Over the last few months alone, we have seen tremendous changes throughout the industry, especially regarding AI and translation. We asked our Chief Sales Officer, Unn Villius, a few questions about her time in localization and what she sees for the future of our rapidly changing industry.
When you started at Vistatec, the industry was different. Could you compare and contrast then and now?
A very long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, localization as an industry was still quite limited to the IT sector, as the broader digital transformation was yet to happen. Content for localization was also limited to user interface (UI) and instructional manuals. It was incredibly monolithic; development was all waterfall. The instructional manuals were printed, UI was put on CDs, and everything was delivered in a box. There was an online help system, but only if you were lucky. Projects tended to be large – think hundreds of thousands of words, language coverage tended to be much narrower, and timelines were extensive. Consider a “release” – a substantial product update with a months-long project schedule, including testing and ending with a release party. Compare that with the daily app updates on your phone. We did have TMs, but not TMSs.
Today, we deal with small daily drops in automated workflows, often covering over 100 languages. Content is anything from app strings to movie subtitles for industries such as GreenTech, cybersecurity, and health and beauty. The whole service spectrum is also vastly broader, and then, of course, the LLMs have made MT viable for quite some time; ChatGPT and other AI will be next.
The sheer amount of content has, of course, exploded.
What I find extremely exciting and encouraging is that automation and content development methods have allowed for much of the less-creative work to be automated with a human in the loop. It allows human ingenuity to be applied to the best effect. It also provides for limited budgets to be used for maximum value creation. Talented linguists can spend their time on creative marketing, transcreation, and original, hyper-local content creation. This makes it a much more satisfying, meaningful, and worthwhile job. Other talented linguists can spend time on quality management and truly protect global brand value for our customers.
What are some of the big questions to prepare for in the next 3-5 years?
How do we apply AI to the best effect? I’m not just thinking about ChatGPT; it’s a significantly larger subject. What further process automation will be possible, and how will this impact the human linguists of the future? What new training and retraining is needed – and how should educational institutions change and adapt their curricula?
This topic extends beyond linguists – there is a broader talent that the industry will require, including bilingual people passionate about a specific subject who can perfectly produce fit-for-purpose content. How do we recruit and engage them? Our talent teams have a lot to consider.
As LSP teams get more and more embedded with client teams from disparate parts of organizations (think LangOps), we will need to invest in a plethora of upskilling when it comes to planning and communication – including making sure we provide clarity to people outside of our area of expertise and help guide sound decision-making. Last but not least, while we are steadily becoming more commercially sophisticated, a gap in business acumen is beckoning our attention.
The pandemic has changed the landscape; how does this impact relationships for salespeople?
There is still the need for a human connection – the sheer joy of meeting face to face once things started to open up again was palpable, as was the fun of relaxing over a nice dinner. However, we have learned to be much more efficient with our touchpoints.
The ability to meet nearly in person on Zoom or whatever platform you prefer is beneficial, and it is also perfect for reducing the size of our carbon footprints with international travel and our budgets.
With over 20 years of experience at Vistatec, what has been the most significant change throughout your career?
Width, depth, breadth, velocity, and intensity.