Localization Leaders: Meet LELO’s Petra Petrušić
This month, we spoke with Petra Petrušić, the Translation Project Manager at LELO. LELO is a Stockholm-based luxury pleasure brand that leads the market in design, technology, reputation, and innovation. From a career in art preservation to managing all of the translation and localization efforts for LELO and its sister brands, Petra has had a fascinating career path and now faces the unique challenge of making pleasure look and sound classy in any language. Let’s learn how she does it.
Hi Petra, thanks for joining us! Can you tell us a bit about your career journey and how you ended up in localization and at LELO?
Thanks for having me! I grew up in Croatia, where children are encouraged to learn foreign languages from an early age. By the time I went to college, I was fluent in English and German, and in college I studied French and flirted with Italian. I’ve worn many different hats during my career, mostly because for a long time I was defined by my two degrees. My first degree was in Art History, so for a while I pursued a career in conservation and restoration of artifacts. My second degree was in French language, where I was enrolled in a scientific module focused on translation and linguistics. At the time my bread and butter was in the field of art, but I was satisfying this other side of me by translating and content writing. I was also one of the first bloggers in Croatia when the internet was young. I was always passionate about words and I knew that someday I would make a living out of it.
After seven years in the field of art, during which I worked abroad and began learning new languages – while also forgetting some old ones (oops!) – I knew I wanted to shift my career and try something else. When I landed my first job in the localization field over four years ago, I was standing on the scaffolding a historic construction site, staring down at a fresco painting, when I received a call with the job offer. That was a big moment for me. I had always been on the client side of this job, and what I realized is that there is no right way to do things. A brand is a living organism that is constantly changing and aligning, with shifting procedures, ideas, new products etc. I needed to bring our physical and digital product closer to users and think about how different words resonated with specific audiences.
Word of mouth brought me to LELO. The company was in a situation where they were growing rapidly, and they had a global presence and emerging new markets, but no control over their communication in the many languages they were trying to conquer. My first mission was to streamline and centralize all localization processes, explore the brand’s needs, raise the quality, improve consistency, change the paradigm, and expand the view. LELO also has another brand under its umbrella, which is a beautiful female intimate health brand called INTIMINA, that needed a different kind of treatment altogether. So it was a big role to take on with a lot of different aspects to think about.
How are translation and localization organized within the structure of the company?
I am the only person covering the brands’ needs, so everything lands on my desk – from legal documents to product videos, to Google ads and the management of languages on three different websites. To be able to do that, I have great support from my colleagues in different markets and from my LSP. All translators are outsourced, but I nurture the relationships with them and teach them to be the voice of the brand, which makes my job so much easier. The most challenging part is trying to shift the model of how we do localization from being at the end of the product creation, to making localization an integral part of the product cycle. Localization is a cross-functional growth asset, not just a support or cost center. I am still working on this.
Do you feel like you face any unique challenges in how you present your products within certain markets because of the stigma around women’s pleasure? Do you change the way you market the products in certain languages and markets? Are there any markets where you feel your company wouldn’t be successful?
Always and absolutely! We are a sexual wellness brand, which means that one part of our mission is to drive positive conversations about sexuality and our bodies. We are constantly working to break the taboos; for us sex is a form of self-love and self-discovery. Having that approach doesn’t make it easier for us in terms of censorship. Due to the nature of our products, we are always subject to some form of censorship, so we have different layers of communication depending on the channel and/or market. In practice this would mean that one product goes from being a “vibrating ring” to “love ring” to “intimate ring” to the most family-friendly “couples’ ring”. Sometimes we get creative with certain body parts, like using “center of pleasure” when talking about women’s anatomy. Sometimes we go with completely “flat” copy and all our pleasure objects just become “devices” or “products”. None of these terms are ever used in a disrespectful way, but still, certain algorithms or reviewers prohibit it. It is really a challenge to maintain consistency and glossary with all these different lexical nuances. I definitely wouldn’t try our luck in countries where pleasure objects are prohibited by law.
Finally, any advice for people looking to work in translation and localization and work their way up within the field?
My advice for those in the field is to focus on your users, think like your users – get out of your own heads. Stay playful and curious. If you don’t have an in-house loc team around, invest time and build a relationship with your LSP. For those finding ways to enter the field, don’t worry about your academic background. Instead travel and read, learn languages, meet people, expand your knowledge, write, make mistakes, keep up with the industry, stay flexible, and accept the constant change.