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 Carrie Fischer, Globalization Services Manager at Subway and President of Women in Localization. Subway is an American multinational fast-food restaurant franchise and the largest quick-serve restaurant chain in the world with 37,000 restaurants in over 100 countries worldwide.
Join us as Carrie shares her best tactics for gaining recognition from upper management, takeaways from serving as Subway’s centralized localization department, and localization’s important role in Subway’s global success. Read the full interview, or watch the videocast below:
Can you start by telling us about your career path and how you ended up in your current position as Subway’s Globalization Services Manager?
Like many of us in the industry, the opportunity to localize wasn’t really planned. My first job out of college was at Transparent Language in New Hampshire. We sold language learning software and decided to take that product global for people who wanted to learn English. The question of who’s going to get the UI, box, and docs translated was asked, and I raised my hand. That was 30 years ago.
I went from Transparent Language to Hyperion Solutions in Connecticut, which was bought by Oracle in California, so I moved to California. Then I went to Bodybuilding.com here in Idaho and then to my current position at Subway. Each company gave me a very different localization experience.
So were you dealing with the technical aspects of localization in each role, or did you get to touch every side of localization?
Yeah, well, that’s a good question. We had an engineering department, so I didn’t touch that side of it for the first few career moves. But here at Subway, it’s a bit of everything.
What role does localization play at Subway? And how is your team or department?
Localization is essential at Subway. Being the largest quick-serve restaurant chain in the world, we’ve got 37,000 restaurants worldwide in over 100 countries. I couldn’t imagine it not being essential.
I’m one of the few localization departments that is an army of one. Even though I report through the operations department, I’m a centralized function within Subway, which means I work with all departments in every region to help them get their content translated. I’m the one that helps them create their localization strategy. I help them get their content translated. If there’s anything that needs to be done before translation starts, the true localization piece, I help with that too. So I wear all the hats.
That’s so impressive for such a big operation! As you mentioned, localization roles didn’t always exist. To this day, many localization employees tend to struggle with gaining budget and recognition of localization’s importance. Especially in difficult economic times, localization tends to take cuts.
Do you have any tips for localization managers who are looking to demonstrate the value of localization?
Yeah, I remember those days very well. I think even today’s localization managers have the additional burden of explaining to upper management why we can’t just use MT or generative AI and be done with it. I’ve employed a few tactics and I know others have as well.
The first one I did was at my second job at Hyperion. I gathered upper management in one room to explain the importance of localization, but I spoke a different language. This was in ’98 and I have a degree in French. I gathered the gang and I started my presentation off in French. Luckily, there was one native speaker of French in that room who just started laughing at the confusion of his fellow coworkers. I didn’t say a lot, but enough to get their attention.
Then I stopped and I said, “Now, how do you think our customers in France, Germany, and Japan feel when we give them our software and user guide in English and expect them to get by?”
It worked. But the tactic is tricky. You have to know your audience. You don’t want to come off as a smart ass.
I think maybe a more practical approach, which I also did later on, is to really be open and transparent with costs versus benefits. Do your homework, and do your calculation of ROI (return on investment).
I partnered with the finance department and the CFO to show localization’s value. You’re given this big budget or what looks like a big budget, but when you look at how much money you’re getting in all these different markets, you tend to come to the attention of upper management.
The CFO called me into his office one day and said, “What are you spending the money on?” He was open and honest, and I was too. Once we started that relationship, it was a yearly get-together of how we’re doing in each market, and how much I was expecting to spend. It was a great partnership.
Once you have that ally, they can really communicate the importance to the other executives and all the teams.
Great advice. Do you have another piece of advice for those working in localization or someone who is interested in entering the field?
I think it’s a difficult industry to enter because we put up a lot of barriers for new people. We always insist, I think, on having 2-3 years of experience. But how is a student or someone new to localization supposed to get that?
Until we as an industry change that attitude, I would point people to internships that are hopefully paid; getting a mentor, which is free; and of course, I’m going to plug Women in Localizations’ website. We have mentees. Or check out one of our partners like GlobalSaké; they have a good mentorship program.
A mentor is going to get you connected to the right people, as well as help you figure out how to navigate your career.
Women in Localization put on an event very recently, October 26th, titled “Marketing for Freelance Translators.” It was for both new and experienced people. Allison Tune put together a list of excellent resources – a gold mine for people trying to enter the field. I don’t know if it’s up on our website yet, but if you’re a member, you can download it for free or watch it for free and get all those resources.
But I also encourage attending webinars that LSPs put on, they’re free. Even if you don’t understand everything that’s happening or going on, you have to get yourself immersed in the industry.
Jumping back to Subway, what would you say is Subway’s greatest localization strength?
Well, if I could take this down to the true definition of localization, which is adapting a product to a local market to make it feel like it was created for that market, Subway does that very well.
The international teams that decide what countries and regions to open restaurants in also have to think about the products that resonate with that target market.
If you look at our website in Japan, for example, we show prawn and avocado sandwiches, tandoori chicken subs, and potato bites, which we don’t have here in the States. I mean, all these great things that I would love. We have a raclette sub in France, which I would love to try. It’s whatever resonates with that market.
We’re constantly innovating in each market, testing products to see what our customers want. But they’re very different between the markets because not everyone wants to eat a turkey sandwich like here in the States.
The cool thing is that when you go somewhere else, you can go and try the Subway there and see what they have to offer.
In every country I’ve been to, I try their Subway. I was in China and Subway had just opened in China, so I ate there. This was a long time ago before I even worked there. I mean, Canada is just to the north of us, and they have completely different sandwiches than we do. They have panini melts. They put cheese on it and put it in the panini press, it’s so good.
Wow, delicious! That brings us to our rapid-fire round. What’s your favorite language?
And your favorite localization tool?
People. People create the tools that make us successful.
Your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
Greece. Beautiful, nothing like it.
Best localization advice you’ve received?
Make sure to keep track of your successes because no one else will.
What’s the most successful market you’ve invested in?
I mean, if we’re talking about Subway, all of them.
What’s your localization nightmare?
It already happened. It’s called COVID. Working the crazy hours, 14-hour days plus weekends pretty much put me over the edge. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.
Who’s your localization role model?
I admire anyone who continues their education, either formally through certifications, taking on projects or roles they don’t think they’re ready for, or anyone who volunteers in any organization – those people are my role models.
Which brand is your localization crush? It can be any company’s localization you admire.
It’s a company I worked for, and that’s Oracle. When they acquired us [Hyperion Solutions] in 2007, I was in absolute awe of how they operated their Worldwide Product Translation Group or WPTG. We were unofficially called “The Factory” within Oracle. Because the processes that they had to put in place to manage the sheer volume were truly impressive.
Before we go, are there any localization projects that you have coming up the Subway that we should look out for?
If you live in North America, Puerto Rico, or Finland, you’ve already experienced Subway’s awesome new rewards program, translated. We’re launching new markets next year, so the UK, Ireland, and Germany. So if you’re a Subway fan, it’s worth signing up.
That’s awesome, Carrie. It was so lovely speaking with you. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your experience, from Subway and beyond. It’s great to hear more about localization from your perspective after years in the industry!