Interview — Sonia Oliveira


Interview — Sonia Oliveira

Interview with Senior Director, Globalization at GoPro

Priscillia Charles, Communications Director, VTQ

Tell us about your background and your education, did you study Translation and Interpretation as well as Linguistics?

I have a degree in translation and interpretation and a degree in international relations as well as teaching. My affinity with foreign languages dates back from childhood. I feel very fortunate to have been able to find a career that intersects with a lifetime passion of mine.

You have built your career around Localization, starting as a QA Engineer. What led you into the technology sector?

Simply put it was about being at the right place at the right time. Silicon Valley was picking up steam and being here meant a world of opportunities.

How has localization developed since you started your career? What changes have you seen?

The Localization industry has undergone an incredible transformation in the past 20 years. Technology has evolved significantly in many areas, machine translation being a prime example.

Localization Service Providers have widened the scope and reach of their support becoming hubs for multiple and varied services.

Overall, the field itself is finally becoming more mature, with some of us having a voice at the table when international strategic decisions are made. That’s an incredible evolution from where we first started.

Technology nowadays plays an important role in our daily lives and in helping companies develop. GoPro is a great example. Can you give us an example of how technology assists in achieving globalization success?

Success is hard to imagine without the help of technology. Efficiency, cost effectiveness, quality and so many other aspects of the localization industry are dependent on tools and technology.

Back to your current role — you joined GoPro in March 2016 as a Senior Director — Globalization. Tell us about the company and the role.

At that time, the Executive team decided that investing in establishing a Localization Center of Excellence at GoPro was the right thing to do. For the first time, the company’s international revenue had surpassed the US and it was a perfect time to join. 2016 was the first time we had the actual camera and software UI localized, and we saw growth specifically in Asia for that reason. It was one of those holy grail moments when you can clearly connect localization to business results. The ever so elusive ROI was tangible, and it was absolutely exciting to be leading that effort. Fast forward almost three years and we have made great progress in maturing the organization.

Can you tell us a little more about the role of the globalization team at GoPro?

Our team is responsible for the entire ecosystem including products, web, media and everything in between. We also have a seat at the table for all international strategic decisions. We work as a conduit to ensure alignment between regional offices and headquarters and we are involved in all aspects of international growth.

In an interview last year, you said that “Our reach is incredibly diverse and multilingual. It is important for us that our messaging be localized into multiple languages, so we can communicate most effectively with our audience. We have seen significant growth in Asia last quarter (specifically Japan and China) for example following the release of localized products in those markets highlighting the importance of localization to our business.”

How many countries/languages does GoPro operate in currently?

GoPro ships products in over 150 countries. We support a truly global business and our language set is ever evolving.

Are you planning to add any others?

As the business needs evolve, we are prepared to expand and augment our language support reach.

Machine translation nowadays plays an important role in helping global companies produce a significant amount of translated content.

Are you utilizing machine translation and how do you see this type of technology progressing in the future?

Machine translation quality has evolved significantly, and it is here to stay. The key is to know where and how to deploy it. For discourse that is colloquial or for Marketing language that is more nuanced, machine translation as it currently stands is not adequate. We do use it in targeted scenarios, for example, Customer Support articles, blog posts and other internal communication. Neural MT will continue to evolve and as a consequence, it will continue to increase reach and use in multiple areas.

Speaking of languages. You are a polyglot yourself, speaking English, French, Portuguese and Spanish and you hold a certification in Teaching English as a Second Language. What is it that attracts you about learning languages?

I have always been interested in foreign languages. I am originally from Brazil, but I am the granddaughter of immigrants. Both sides of the family came from Europe so perhaps that sparked my early curiosity about places far away — distinct, interesting and with different languages and cultures.

How important is learning languages in your opinion?

It’s a necessity in this globalized era we are living in: a requirement if you want to progress in almost any career these days, but it’s also a privilege. To me, it’s always been fascinating to see words on a page or hear sounds that were foreign to my native language. When you are exposed to different languages and you can learn them, you gain more than linguistic knowledge: you acquire a deeper understanding of how different cultures perceive the world and themselves. Language is identity and culture all in one. Learning a language to me is like wearing a pair of magic glasses and earphones which give you superpowers to transport yourself elsewhere and experience the world in a slightly different way.

You are a Forum Executive with the Think Global Forum Technology, a member of Women in Localization and you have spoken at a number of leading industry events such as GALA and LocWorld. How important are these kinds of events to the localization industry?

I think these events are extremely important to help advance the field and foster the exchange of ideas and knowledge. They are catalysts to creating virtual cycles where we share and learn from each other.

Any other area or project that you are working on and would like to share with our readers?

GoPro keeps me quite busy, and there are initiatives as you might imagine which I can’t share just yet. I do participate in multiple industry events and serve as a Board Member for Women in Localization. Between now and the end of the year, there is a lot going on and I love it. I would not have it any other way.

This article first appeared in VTQ Magazine. 
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