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 Diana Georgieva, Senior Content Localization Manager at Pleo. Pleo is a centralized business spending solution for forward-thinking teams, and is currently available in 11 languages in 16 locales.
Listen in as Diana shares takeaways from entering 10 new markets in 10 months, her best advice for demonstrating the value of localization, and how to work with an international, remote team. Read the full interview, or watch the videocast below:
Can you start by telling us a little bit about your career path and how you became the Senior Content Localization Manager at Pleo?
Absolutely! For me, joining the localization industry started sort of as a natural career path. I’ve always been, since an early age, very interested in language and translation. My background is in global languages and international business. My first job in the localization industry was as an LQA (localization quality assurance) tester for the Bulgarian language for Nokia phones.
So I did that while studying and working on my degree in Mandarin in Beijing, and then later on I moved to Copenhagen in Denmark where I held different positions within the localization industry. So I started on the agency side, where I learned the ropes in project management and account management in localization. Then about seven years ago, I switched over to the client side. I’ve worked for global tech companies, helping them with their marketing, product and content localization programs, and I have the privilege to be working with Pleo at the moment. We are a global fintech company specializing in spend management.
Every company handles localization slightly differently. What role does localization play at Pleo? And how is your team or department structured?
We are a small, agile team. We have two localization engineers and two localization operations specialists. We work with a trusted language service provider, and we also collaborate with a network of freelance copywriters who are specialists in marketing, SEO optimization, etc. So essentially, we are centralized.
That’s amazing. What do you think is Pleo’s greatest localization strength?
That’s a very good question. I’d say it’s the people, both in the expertise that lies within the folks on the team and with support from leadership. Everyone on the team is very, very experienced in what they do, and then we also get leadership support. I know that a lot of folks struggle with that in the localization function, and we’re privileged and lucky to have a lot of backing from our leadership teams to enable us to work on innovation. Support from leadership for localization varies from company to company. It’s something that is maybe quite overlooked.
One of the backers of success is having that support and investment.
Yes, absolutely. Do you have any advice, maybe for a localization manager that’s struggling to show the value of localization to leadership?
I think that’s always an ongoing topic and an ongoing struggle within the localization industry because of where we are positioned. We’re not at the very forefront, we’re not client facing. So how do we measure that return on investment? And this is something that my team and I are currently working and focusing on. How do we tie what we do to specific business outcomes and demonstrate the value that we bring, the so-called “return on investment” on localization so that we are not just seen as a cost center? And there are different ways to do that.
We are actually based in the product side of the organization, so that helps a lot because we have a lot of metrics that we track. So we track our team metrics and then try to measure how those attribute to the conversion and retention of active users. That would be my advice; work with leaders or experts outside of the team and see what kind of metrics they’re tracking and see how you can collaborate and tie those to the overall business strategy and business metrics.
That’s great advice. Did you find that there were any markets in particular that were challenging to break into so far?
We were on a very ambitious expansion journey last year, so 2022 was a huge growth year for us and we expanded into ten new markets in less than ten months.
That was a journey, it was definitely a learning curve. And I’ll say, looking back, one of the biggest reflections is that originally, we are a Nordic company, so a lot of our philosophy in building products and in the way we communicate is rooted in Nordic values. For example, trust. We have a very, very high level of trust in society in Scandinavia, as well as empowerment.
Then, as we started expanding in other places throughout Europe, there was a learning curve around how those concepts don’t necessarily match the needs of others or the way we communicate doesn’t match. So maybe there are some markets that have a stronger hierarchy than the flat hierarchy we have here. Or there’s a stronger preference for more formal communication in the B2B space because we operate in the B2B space, but at the same time we have a very casual, friendly tone of voice in our brand. So how do we translate that? How do we further adapt that when we go to markets where maybe that’s not expected or applicable? That was kind of a challenging exercise.
Yeah, I’m sure, but that sounds amazing. Ten markets in ten months. That’s a huge accomplishment. You mentioned that you work with your team, an LSP, and freelancers. How do you optimize global team communication? Any tips?
Communication wise, we are all on Slack, that’s our main tool for communication. We also try to reach for conversations beyond Slack messages and emails and prioritize that and have time.
But one of the challenges I think is that my team itself, we’re not co-located, we are all working across different time zones, different cultures. None of us are in the same country, actually. That is fun. We do bring a lot of different perspectives, a lot of diversity to the thought process. So we cover a lot of languages between ourselves already within the team, which is great.
But then what we try to do more of is meet in person even though we have people working from anywhere remotely. I don’t know, maybe it’s nostalgic but when I look back on days where you knew everyone in the office and you had to go to a physical location, building that relationship on a day to day basis was somewhat easier.
So what we do with the team and most teams at Pleo is that we just meet in real life all together in the same location at least once every six months.
We call it “mini team camp.” And the last one that myself and the team did was in Istanbul last year. We had a lot of fun. So besides talking about strategy and objectives, we bonded over things like the local cuisine and just creating those magical moments, exploring a new city together so we have something to keep us together besides the very aspect of the work. I think that’s one of maybe the biggest learnings after the pandemic. It’s just so, so important to exist in the physical world.
Absolutely. To wrap things up, what piece of advice do you have for those working in localization or who want to enter the field?
I think if you enjoy working in this space – the crossover between language, business, and technology – then I think the localization industry is a good fit and it’s an interesting space. There’s a lot of innovation, there’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of complexity and diversity in terms of roles and profiles.
If you’re very, very new and you’re looking into breaking into it, I’d say maybe join some of the many free localization industry events or networking events. Loc Lunch is a good one where folks meet and you can meet people that are already working in the industry and can give you some practical, actionable insight, or you can see for yourself if it’s something for you.
I’d also say a linguistic background is good and it’s helpful, but it’s not a must. I’ve met a lot of fantastic people working in the industry who come from various different backgrounds. Maybe the most important thing is to be proactive and curious about new ways of working, new roles that are emerging.
Yeah, absolutely – great advice. Now, time for our rapid fire questions. What’s your favorite language?
What’s your favorite localization tool?
Favorite place you’ve traveled to?
Best localization advice you’ve received?
Position localization as a global growth enabler and not a cost center.
Most successful market you’ve invested in?
We are tracking quite well in most of the markets, most of our focus markets, but I think the Netherlands at the moment is where we’re growing the fastest.
Your localization nightmare?
Strings with no context.
Who is your localization role model?
Very hard to choose just one. But if I have to name a person, I’d say Anne-Marie Colliander Lind. She is the Marketing Director of Loc World, she’s a business consultant, and she’s one of the biggest names and industry leaders here in Scandinavia.
Lastly, which brand is your localization crush?
Yeah, this also changes over time, but at the moment, my crush is Booking.com because I think they’ve done a fantastic job with using MT to a very high degree of quality.
Awesome! Are there any localization projects you have coming up at Pleo that we should look out for?
Currently, we’re working on further improving our localization quality program, so we’ve come a long way since the beginning, but there are a few key areas that we’re currently focusing on. So one is improving the quality at the source and then also increasing context coverage, fine tuning our LQA scoring, things like that. So stay tuned.
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