Localization Leaders: Meet Debora Cohen
Meet Debora Cohen, Head of Localization for the Marketing Department at AppsFlyer, the global attribution leader. With a fascinating multicultural background, localization was a natural career move for the Spanish native. We sat down with Debora to talk about the professional path she took to get to where she is today, how she overcame some of the hurdles she encountered along the way, and get her advice for those trying to find their way in their localization careers.
Great to meet you! Can you tell us a bit about your professional background, and how you got to your current position?
First, I would like to tell you a little bit about my personal journey, because it has a lot to do with where I am today. I was born in a Spanish colony in the north of Africa called Melilla, a very multicultural city where I was exposed to different languages and cultures: Spanish, French, and Arabic. From there, my family moved to a very touristic area of Málaga in southern Spain, where I grew up. At the age of 18, I moved to the UK, where l lived between Manchester and London for 8 years, also spending a year in Italy, while I studied translation and interpreting.
From a young age, living in these very diverse and international places, I was always exposed to different cultures and became very passionate about people and translation. When I graduated from university, I started leveraging the languages I know to help technology companies scale their global operations successfully. Up until today, my professional career focused on managing translators’ teams and tools, project management, cross-regional customer service, and international event management. When I moved to Israel 10 years ago, I was introduced to the hi-tech world, which is one of my passions. So, I would say that my professional background comes from a combination of my passion for translation, people, different cultures, and traveling – which is why this type of role is a very good fit for me.
Before AppsFlyer, I worked at Wix for over 5 years. I started off in a Spanish customer support role and ended up doing a lot of the translation and localization work for LATAM and Spain. It was a great experience and company to work for, but eventually, I wanted to try something new. So, when a friend who worked at AppsFlyer told me about a maternity cover position, I decided to apply – and the rest is history!
You mention how you arrived at the company on a maternity cover position, yet just three years later, you manage a team of 8! How did you come to grow the team internally?
I must admit, it wasn’t easy. But at the same time, I can say it’s been the most rewarding job that I’ve ever had. I think I’ve been really lucky because the company I work for really listens to their employees, takes our ideas into account, and encourages us to step out of our comfort zone and grow. So, they were open to my ideas about expanding the team.
The journey was challenging. We didn’t have an in-house marketing localization team, so I had to build everything from scratch. First, I had to do a lot of research to understand what the needs of the company were, then I needed to present a lot of information and really show what the benefits of bringing in-house localization specialists to the company would be. It took a lot of convincing and educating, but once I got the CMO to see the huge value localization could bring, I was able to start building my team. One of our biggest client bases is in APAC, so we started by hiring localization specialists in Japan, China, and Korea. Then we added Russian, followed by Spanish and Portuguese in LATAM, and more recently, French and German in EMEA.
Localization management is a fairly new company role, and many employees in these types of positions struggle with gaining budget, resources, and recognition of localization’s importance. Can you share any personal anecdote of how you overcame those issues? What tips do you have for l10n managers looking to gain additional company resources and prove that localization is worth the investment?
As I said, it was definitely a long and challenging process – I had to put in a lot of effort and work to make that recognition happen and earn the resources I needed. I knew that with great localization, we had the potential to introduce AppsFlyer to a larger audience and familiarize regions with the company. Effective and well-managed localization can increase brand awareness and customer satisfaction. When we first started localizing marketing content, I began monitoring the impact of our localized content in Google Analytics and looking at how many people downloaded gated content, and every day I saw the metrics improving – our content was reaching more people and getting more engagement.
It was an ongoing process of doing this research, presenting it to my managers, and showing the impact it was making. While working with external agencies was great, I also realized AppsFlyer’s content is quite technical, so agencies could not properly understand our tone and voice. Additionally, localization is not just about language, it’s also about the cultural elements that external agencies can sometimes miss. In order to reach our localization goals, we needed to hire in-house.
As for what I would say to those who are in the same position I was in back then, trying to prove the value of your position and of localization – just hold onto your passion. My biggest piece of advice is that if you are passionate and believe in what you’re doing, don’t give up! You might not get immediate buy-in for every region or every language, but the more you understand the value of what you are doing, the easier it is to present that value to decision makers. Be patient – it might take some time, but believe in what you do, and everything will fall into place.
You mention hiring in-house managers In China, Japan and Korea. For other localization managers looking to hire in APAC, can you describe some of the cultural and logistic challenges faced and resources used to address them?
International businesses are used to working across borders and cultures, but it’s without a doubt a challenge, especially at first. In terms of culture and what’s considered the norm, Israel and Asia couldn’t be more different. And aside from that, we also have different working days and a big time difference, meaning our overlapping hours are limited. Every company and every manager are different.
Learn your own managerial style and what tools work best for you to keep communication open. For example, if I need something from my employees in a different time zone during the day, I’ll write it down and set a reminder to send them a message on Slack at a time I know they’ll be working, or I’ll schedule an email to send later. That way, I don’t forget, and I make sure they see it at a time when I know they’ll engage and respond.
Your current team resides in 4 different time zones and many cultures – what are some other tips you have for optimizing global team communication?
Over-communicate! The time differences can be difficult sometimes, but there are ways to make it easier. I’ve read a lot about the different cultures I work with and how to communicate across cultures, so I recommend doing that. AppsFlyer also provides a lot of general managerial training and workshops, so check if your company does too; because it’s not just the cross-cultural interaction, it’s learning how to manage people in general, and then that makes everything else easier.
As a manager, I find being in constant communication helps my team work better together. I’m very proactive about communicating, but I also respect my team’s time and the need for work-life balance – which is why I set those reminders to send messages in their time zone, I don’t want to bother them outside of their working hours. Because we have great open communication, I trust they’ll see my messages and take care of what needs to be done on their own time. So, find what works for you and go with it. If you respect your employees’ time, they’ll respect you and help you out when you do need something from them. Communication builds a strong team, and a strong team is the key to strong localization.