Corinne is the Social Media and Content Lead at BLEND. She is dedicated to keeping global business professionals up to date on all things localization, translation, language and culture.
This month, we sat down with Dean Seeley, Localization Strategy Lead at Google. What started as an online search engine, Google now offers over 50 online services and products, including YouTube, Dean’s main wheelhouse. YouTube is localized in over 100 countries and is available in 80 languages.
Listen in as Dean shares how the localization strategy team plays a key role at Google*, his global communication tips, and how his team navigated YouTube’s localization challenges abroad. Read the full interview, or watch the videocast below:
Thank you so much for joining us, Dean. Can you tell us about your background, your career path, and how you ended up where you are as the Localization Strategy Lead at Google?
I’m originally from the UK, and I went to university and graduated with a degree in Languages and International Studies.
I knew I wanted a career that involved language and culture. I started my career journey at a consumer insights agency, and I was localizing client research materials, as well as consulting with them on the languages that they should consider, and giving them cultural advice and consultancy. That’s how I got my feet wet in the localization industry.
From there, I shifted into the tech industry and worked at Amazon and Netflix. I was involved in both vendor management and localization program management, and I really developed my passion for localization. In 2020, I got my role here at Google and have been here for just over three years now.
Wow, awesome. Now that we’re caught up to the present day, what role would you say localization plays at Google? How is your team or department structured?
Yeah, it’s interesting. I’d say here at Google, we are very much structured around the products that we support, so we are very much a product-aligned team. In my case, the area of focus that I am very much aligned with is YouTube.
We align ourselves around YouTube’s go-to-market strategy and consider how we can help them unlock new opportunities around the world, understand the value-add that localization can bring for them, and any barriers or obstacles that they may be encountering.
We help new stakeholders understand what localization is and help them go along the journey to understanding and championing the value-add that localization provides. I think we often hear that people who don’t know what localization is think it’s just translation. And so a lot of what we do is help champion the value-add of localization to provide that cultural competency.
We can help them understand the languages that they should consider when they’re thinking about a new market to enter, and provide that upstream consultancy and partnership; really just being that thought partner for all of our stakeholders around the world.
You asked how our team is structured. I’d say like most localization teams, we’re structured in a comparable way. We have a language strategy team, localization program managers, and innovations. We have sibling teams as well in vendor management and engineering, who we really closely partner with. I think in typical ways, we’re dispersed around the world as well.
The localization program managers are all here on the West Coast and then our language team is dispersed around the world. The rest of the team is dispersed throughout North America.
As someone who’s been in the localization industry and understands cultural differences, what are your tips for optimizing global team communication?
That’s a good question. I think flexibility and adaptability are key. We have this “follow the sun” model. Taking that collaborative mindset, being available off hours is always important. I think that helps solidify the relationships you have with your colleagues and with your stakeholders.
Having meetings early in the day, late in the day, checking your emails at off hours – that makes sure that you have that fluidity of communications with people, makes sure that your projects continue to flow well.
If your partner agencies need an answer, you can quickly provide it to them. Checking your instant messages really helps make sure that things continue to flow, and that there aren’t barriers to those communications. And it makes sure that you continue to make sure those relationships stay solid.
Absolutely. Do you ever find that there are cultural differences when you’re working with a really diverse team, having to learn how you communicate differently?
Yeah, I think there are some markets where there are obstacles or laws that preclude people from working off hours. That’s something we have to build in. We know that in certain countries, like France, they can’t check their emails at certain times of the day.
In Nordic countries, in the summertime, the availability of resources is less as people take their summers off. So we have to bear that in mind. I think that’s something to keep top of mind as you work with a global team – that’s something we always keep top of mind.
Speaking of global challenges, are there any markets that you found particularly challenging to break into?
Yes. Throughout my career and most recently, expanding into Africa has been challenging. The parts that we had to really pay close attention to were the socio-political issues and sensitivities around language, particularly in countries that had perhaps a dozen or more official languages and dialects. I think that we had to really partner closely with our local stakeholders and our legal team to make sure that we were not potentially causing any socio-political issues with the languages that we were considering.
We also partnered closely with the insights team to make sure that any languages that were being considered were the correct languages for the market and for the products that our stakeholders were considering.
Knowing that it was a new market that our stakeholders were considering, it was extremely important to conduct a lot of pre-work with insights and data to make sure that we were considering the right languages for the right territories, and that we were partnering with local experts, rather than just deciding from the outside.
We made sure to reach out to in-country experts to make sure that we could provide and glean from them their expertise rather than making the decisions from North America.
At the end of the day, no one knows it better than a local. With all your experience in the industry, what piece of advice would you leave for anyone who wants to enter the localization field or someone who’s new to the field?
I’d say consider some of the industry events. There are lots of free networking events, so network. We’re a bunch of friendly people – most of us will always be happy to network, to have a conversation.
Also, think about the different roles that are available within the industry. There are a diverse set of roles, whether it’s a program manager, a language manager, a vendor manager, or an internationalization engineer. Think about the roles available and what type of role really resonates with you.
Ask questions. That’s really important and will help you to understand what it is that we do. The industry continuously evolves.
There are so many innovations that are taking place, and I’d say that no day is the same within localization. And I think that people considering joining would have a really fun career in localization.
Well said, that’s great advice. So before we wrap things up, let’s do a quick round of rapid-fire questions.
So what’s your favorite language?
Hebrew. I think from my background, I’ve really had a passion for Hebrew.
And your favorite localization tool?
I have enjoyed working with Smartling.
Best place you’ve traveled to?
Myanmar. I think for me, because my grandmother was born there, I really enjoyed visiting.
The best localization advice you’ve received?
Never assume and ask as many questions as possible.
What’s the most successful market you’ve invested in?
What’s your localization nightmare?
You know what? Again, it was Hebrew. I think a few years ago, we localized some initial content and conducted tests, and it was functioning correctly. Then before it launched live, it appeared upside down and left to right instead of right to left.
Who is your localization role model?
One of my former colleagues whom I worked with for a few years, his name is Martiño Prada Diaz. He’s at Spotify now.
And lastly, which brand is your localization crush?
Also Spotify, I really enjoy how they localize. I would say they’re really, really innovative and good at how they approach localization.
Thank you so much, Dean, for joining us on BLEND’s Localization Leader Series. It’s been really great to hear your perspective, and I’m sure our localization community will appreciate hearing everything you’ve shared.
*Disclaimer: All views expressed are Dean Seeley’s and do not represent Google or YouTube in an official capacity.