Global Considerations From a Unicorn's Perspective - Episode 99
In this episode of VistaTalks, guest Kristine Sheikh joins host María Roa. Kristine is a customer-centric, high-performing, driven leader with 13 years of experience and a passion for strategy. She is focused on creating globally consistent yet locally relevant integrated expansion plans and campaigns for tech companies. Kristine is a former Sr. Director of International Expansion at PandaDoc, and the Vice President of Marketing at RedTeam Software.
PandaDoc lets users create, share and sign official documents online. Its customers are currently distributed across 130 countries, and in the last year, its user base has grown by 80%, with revenues jumping 63%. (This discussion was recorded during Kristine’s time at PandaDoc.)
In this episode, host María Roa asks Kristine how did PandaDoc come to the conclusion they needed localization? How was that journey, and what was the driving force? They touch on the topic of what happened in the first year of that localization plan. Kristine shares how they listened to customer feedback and considered that as they looked at the roadmap, they realized that localization was necessary to be successful locally.
PandaDoc already had many international customers when Kristine joined the organization, and they were already quite happy to use the English version. Localization is part of making it personal to the users, making you feel like it was actually made for you. After researching, Kristine realized how she needed to create a scoring model that evaluated several factors.
Kristine shares some information about how PandaDoc aligns localization with other strategic functions in the organization. Insights include how they had to internationalize the whole staff for web and mobile. No internationalization was completed at this early stage, and the executives gave Kristine a deadline to achieve this. What followed was conversations with vendors, assembly of a team of engineers, and with additional help, they started the journey.
This approach hit the deadline and launched as planned in six countries and six languages. This success resulted in the question, “How do we accelerate growth? Today, Panda Doc is focused on new markets and working closely on localization, resulting in being empowered to make strategic decisions.
Kristine shares her thoughts on international expansion being a team sport, you cannot do this on your own, and you cannot go on this journey alone; you need the other teams and departments within your organization to pull along with you because it is huge! This includes central governance, which is something PandaDoc has for localization and internationalization in general.
Another area discussed is how Kristine and the teams are finding the balance of local versus localized—really looking at what do PandaDoc localize versus what they create locally from scratch and how they became a bit more focused this year after launching. The other thing that Kristine and the team found is that it snowballs very quickly. For an organization considering whether it should go global or international, it’s essential to understand that it’s hard to stop once you start. To be ready, because it’s an exciting journey, but it takes a lot, takes a lot of effort and thought, and you need to be prepared for that.
Advice includes starting early, especially if you’re a young company that is thinking when do we do this? Kristine comments that the sooner you start, she believes the easier it will be, and you can take small steps now. Start with some of the more minor things and gather all the knowledge you can now because it will be much easier than the heavy lift you have to do when you’re bigger. The other advice she shares is to learn from others, stating that none of us have all the answers as this is such a broad topic.