Leaders can make or break an organization. Strong leadership has the power to set a shared vision, boost morale, and create transformational change. Leadership gaps, on the other hand, can leave a company floundering.
In 2022 the LocLife™ event series examined the all-important theme of leadership from five different angles. Our panels of localization leaders shared their experiences and insights, offering tips to help fellow localization professionals take their careers to the next level as they drive success for their organizations.
Here are some key takeaways from the five LocLife™ episodes in 2022 to inspire you for the year ahead:
Emotional intelligence in leadership
- Salvatore Giammarresi, head of localization at Airbnb
- Anna N. Schlegel, VP product, international and globalization at Procore
- Ora Solomon, VP international product at 1stDibs
- Sophie Solomon, director at Accenture
Empathy is a powerful force in the workplace. In a recent survey, 61% of employees with a highly empathetic senior leader reported being innovative at work versus 13% of people with less empathetic senior leaders.
The February LocLife™ episode brought together a panel of localization professionals who all consider empathy the key to their leadership success.
According to Salvatore Giammarresi, “There are always going to be different viewpoints. Everyone comes with their own ideas. I connect to people through empathy. It helps me within my team and with other teams.”
“There’s a lot to be understood in what people aren’t telling you,” noted Ora Solomon, who underscored how emotional intelligence and empathy can help bring out the best in employees. “If you really understand someone and what makes them motivated to do well, you enable them for success. You enable your whole team for success.”
The panel agreed that helping to create an emotionally safe work environment is an important role for empathetic leaders. “The job of a leader is like the coach of a soccer team,” explained Anna Schlegel. “You’re watching who is playing well together. If I see something I don’t like, it’s immediate feedback that day. And my team knows this.”
Sophie Solomon added, “We need to embrace and accommodate the realities of the people who are working on our teams. Then they have a great opportunity to contribute in a way that makes sense to them.”
Giammarresi summed it up, “People and their well-being come first. Work comes after that.”
Where are the women leaders?
- Silvia Avary, head of localization, Rivian
- Lucie Bovyn, senior localization product manager, Hootsuite
- Paula Hunter, senior manager, localization & tech documentation, Motorola
- Eva Klaudinyova, co-founder, Women in Localization and assistant professor of localization practice, MIIS
- Giulia Tarditi, head of global experience, Qualtrics
A recent CSA Research survey of the localization industry found that women are underrepresented in leadership: 70% of employees are women, but they make up only half of upper management.
What can organizations do to foster women in leadership? How can these localization professionals take the next step to becoming the leaders they want to be? A panel of women localization leaders helped to answer these questions, offering insights from their own professional journeys.
Paula Hunter shared, “I saw all of these opportunities within our organization where we could do better. That’s how I started to build out that team, looking for opportunities and driving positive change.”
This was a common theme among the panelists: the need for women to create their own paths to leadership.
“I saw an opportunity and I took it,” said Eva Klaudinyova. “But you can’t wait for other people to hand you those opportunities on a silver platter. You have to prove that you can do it, and the right people will recognize that.”
Another theme that emerged during the discussion was the way the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequities in leadership.
“80% of the workforce that left during the worst part of the pandemic were women,” explained Silvia Avary. “Women in localization had seen gains in leadership over the past 14 years or so, but the pandemic has threatened to wipe out some of that progress.”
The panelists agreed that women leaders can help to open up opportunities for others within their organizations. “We need to create a united front and voice asking our companies to create more opportunities for women to lead,” said Giulia Tarditi. “We need to set an example and ensure there are no barriers and instill confidence in other women.”
Lucie Bovyn added, “Mentor, train, coach, give space for women to shine and demonstrate their skills.”
Organizations like Women in Localization help women in their professional development. Said Klaudinyova, “It’s a place where women can come and learn. We have mentoring and education programs to really help women grow in their careers.”
But women leaders aren’t the only ones who have a role to play. “It’s also the responsibility of the company. Leadership and mentorship programs can help ensure fair and equal access to leadership opportunities,” said Bovyn. “The learners of today become the leaders of tomorrow.”
Take the lead, shape the culture
- Wayne Bourland, director of translation, Dell
- Julia Cassidy, head of localization, Momentive
- Giulia Greco, localization leader, Shopify
- Patrick McLoughlin, manager of localization, Eventbrite
An inclusive, engaging company culture isn’t a nice-to-have. Culture has a direct impact on business outcomes—including attracting top-quality talent and boosting revenues by 33%. While leaders can’t singlehandedly create a company’s culture, they can help to shape and nurture it in positive ways.
“Be brave and speak out when something isn’t working,” urged Giulia Greco. “If everyone is unhappy, it needs to be said.”
Julia Cassidy added, “If we have an open and transparent culture where people can be honest and say what they think, that’s a really good start.”
Leaders can help to shape culture by setting an example and living the organization’s values. “Try to embody that humanity,” suggested Patrick McLoughlin. “Show your employees that you’re human, as well. Let them know when you’re struggling. So, when your team needs to ask for a break, there’s a precedent set there.”
Wayne Bourland agreed, “At Dell, we’ve stopped saying ‘work-life balance’ and just say life balance, to do the things that you need to do, whether that’s picking up your kid at school, running to the store, or whatever the case may be.”
The panel identified hiring as another important way leaders can help to create an appealing workplace culture. “We have a saying at Eventbrite: we don’t hire jerks,” said McLoughlin. “Of course, there are always going to be politics and egos, but our organization has a real cultural drive to reduce that.”
Greco shared that her company also pays careful attention to how new hires will impact the culture. “At Shopify, we say that every time we hire one person, the company culture changes because we’re bringing in new thoughts, feelings, and ways of being and working.”
In the end, culture is more than just free food, bean bags, and ping-pong tables, according to Cassidy. “Fun stuff that the company does for us is important and an opportunity to connect, but that’s not culture,” she said. “The culture is much more ingrained in the day-to-day. It’s getting everybody behind a common, shared goal that you will work toward with openness and transparency.”
Business as usual? A new era for leaders
- Jeff Beatty, head of localization at Disney+
- Yoko Drain, senior director, product globalization at Zendesk
- Bridget O’Brien, director, enterprise globalization at Procore Technologies, Inc.
- Lyena Solomon, director of globalization at ServiceNow
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed business as we know it. While there have been challenges in the sudden switch to remote work, 78% of people currently working from home would like to continue to do so. How can leaders drive success in this new reality?
According to Bridget O’Brien, “The pandemic has reemphasized that you have to lead from a people-first mentality. It really made leaders practice empathy, and I think that was a good outcome. I hope it continues.”
Lyena Solomon noted that the pandemic disrupted everybody’s life. This has made it more important than ever for leaders to listen and find ways to ease the burden on their employees. “You have to trust your team to do their job. They’re there for a reason. We can all be more flexible to allow people to continue their lives as normal.”
The panelists agreed that leaders need to make sure to take care of themselves, as well as their teams. “When you’re working remotely, there’s a tendency to start feeling isolated,” O’Brien observed. “You have to set aside the time to not work. Whatever your thing is, find it and nurture it.”
Jeff Beatty noted that building supportive networks is crucial for leaders, even in non-pandemic times. “Leadership is lonely. Your team has you, but you don’t have as many resources. It’s really important to establish a peer group of leaders in your industry.”
As much as the pandemic has created challenges, for some leaders and teams it has also opened up new opportunities. Yoko Drain noted that her company has invested in digital-first practices. “My team is distributed globally, so standardizing more time-zone-friendly meetings and documentation access means our people don’t have to chase down what they need.”
There was consensus among the panelists that as disruptive as the pandemic has been the localization industry was better equipped than some to take it in stride. “The world changed but people did not,” said Lyena. “Everything that was important to us before the pandemic is still important to us now. And for localization professionals, it wasn’t a big difference because of our follow-the-sun model.”
The road to impactful leadership
- Valeria Balitsky, head of localization at Fiverr
- Christiane Bark, head of localisation at Busuu
- Hristina Racheva, head of localization at Skyscanner
- Richard Varga, head of localization at Expandeco
How can someone break into leadership? What does it take to head up a team? In the last LocLife™ episode of 2022, our panelists shared their own journeys to leadership to help inspire others who want to take their careers to the next level.
“Maybe you see an opportunity for something to be done differently. Maybe you see that nobody is taking ownership of something, or you have an idea for how to do things better,” said Hristina Racheva. “I started identifying opportunities, and when a more senior person left, I was seen as someone who could start owning and leading the space.”
The panelists agreed that managing a team and being a leader are not necessarily the same thing. “Leading is supporting the people who work for you and motivating them,” explained Valeria Balitsky. “Managing is more like, you’re the boss, so people have to do what you say.”
Richard Varga agreed, “I realized I needed to be more than a manager. I needed to start learning and leading and motivating others. Being passionate about what you’re doing really helps.”
Paying attention to how other managers lead their teams can help you decide what kind of leader you want to be, Christiane Bark noted. “When I see what bad managers do, I never want to do that,” she said. “When I see good managers, I want to take on those qualities.”
When the conversation turned to managing up, the panelists agreed that it’s critical for localization leaders to speak up and position themselves as the experts. “I’ve had many difficult conversations where localization wasn’t prioritized, wasn’t factored in, was added on after everything else,” said Bark.
Racheva added, “I didn’t want the decisions about localization to be made by people who don’t know anything about localization. I wanted to make myself heard, so I could help influence those decisions.”
From a professional development standpoint, the panel observed that it’s crucial for leaders to continually learn and grow. “To be a better leader, you must become a bigger human being,” Racheva shared. “We need to understand our blind spots, our triggers, our biases, because inevitably they come up when we’re managing.”
“Always be on the lookout for how you can learn new things,” advised Varga. “Have an open mind and an open heart.”
Looking ahead to the new year
We’re excited to kick off another year of LocLife™ in 2023, and we look forward to seeing you there! In the meantime, join us over at LocLife™ Community to engage with other LocLifers and weigh in on what topics you’d like to hear about during future episodes.