A Global Learning Ecosystem for the Localization Industry

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The Localization Industry is a young, vibrant, and growing industry, which I have been privileged to be part of for over 25 years in various roles, both as a manager and an individual contributor. During my time as Localization Manager at Cisco Systems in the early 2000s, one of the biggest challenges I faced was finding suitable and affordable training for my staff. Sending people to industry conferences has been desirable and popular with my staff, but not always feasible because of the cost involved. Hiring trainers and coaches to come onsite for training was generally too expensive. Budget for training and training-related travel is usually hard to come by in companies of all sizes. This limits a manager’s ability to train people properly.

Our industry has evolved and matured in regard to technology and operational efficiency in the past two decades, but it is behind the curve when it comes to education and training. There are simply very few affordable training options available to a global audience. Different organizations have provided conferences, webinars, online training, and certification programs for many years. In academia, a number of colleges and universities offer localization-related certification and degree programs. However, in my research I found that a majority of those programs are broadly language-related and not localization-focused. Some of the few exceptions are the MSc in Multilingual Computing and Localisation at the University of Limerick, which covers a wide range of non-linguistic topics from mobile device internationalization to advanced language engineering, the MA in Translation & Localization Management and MBA in Localization Management offered by the Monterrey Institute of International Studies, and the other programs described in this issue.

The need for a global training ecosystem

Despite these ongoing resources and new programs, our multi-billion dollar localization industry still lacks a scalable, diverse, affordable, and global training offering. People interested in our industry don’t know where to go to find training to learn the basics. Companies of all sizes, both on the supplier and buyer side, struggle to find quality training for their staff. Because there are very few colleges in the world that offer degree or certification programs, only a very small number of college grads enter our growing industry every year. New hires have to be trained on the job, which is expensive and leads to productivity loss as staffers, who could be working on billable localization tasks, have to provide the training. Experienced localization professionals have insufficient options to further their education and advance in their localization careers.

We are facing an education crisis. As our industry continues to grow at record speed, we may not be able to provide enough trained resources to the industry. To keep up, we need to rectify the lack of training and formal education quickly and decisively. If we don’t, our growth may be stifled by a reduction in new professionals entering the localization industry, and an increase in the attrition of experienced professionals looking elsewhere for career advancement.

The solution is a global training ecosystem; an industry-wide, formal, structured and global approach to training. As an industry, we need to come together and address this learning crisis, quickly. There is no competition among educators; there is a lot more demand for training than we can collectively meet. We need to explore how we can improve on the status quo by forming an industry board, consisting of educators, buyers and suppliers to explore our options. Only collectively will we be able to tackle the short-term challenges and map out the future of education in localization.

To help address the lack of depth of training in our industry, I started exploring how the Internet could be used as a global platform to deliver affordable training to a worldwide audience. Trainers and content providers in other industries deliver their content in person, host it on their personal websites for interactive training, or use YouTube and Vimeo for their non-interactive training. I was very impressed with the lynda.com e-learning site, which offers self-paced online training for popular software products from Adobe, Microsoft, and more as a subscription service. I decided to start mapping out an e-learning strategy for the translation and localization industry. My idea was to create a similar, but more global online training marketplace that would connect content providers with people seeking training. I reached out to industry peers and experts to share my thoughts and ideas of a global e-learning marketplace to get feedback. Initially, I was met with a lot of skepticism about the feasibility and marketability of such a venture, but I was determined that this could be a game-changer and pursued the idea relentlessly. My determination paid off when I found three fantastic partners who shared my excitement about the idea and my love for teaching others in localization related subjects. In March of 2012, we formed Localization Training in San Jose, California, with subsidiaries in Germany and England and are now poised to launch the e-learning management system at the beginning of June 2014.

The value add of e-learning in the global training ecosystem

So, what is the value add of e-learning in the global training ecosystem? Most importantly, it helps address the ever-growing demand for affordable training. Content can be delivered instantly and simultaneously to a worldwide audience. It can be edited and updated with a simple gesture, such as the click of a mouse. It saves everybody money and reduces the carbon footprint as students and content providers do not need to travel anywhere to receive or provide training. They can work, learn, and play from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. Trainers and content providers are empowered to reach customers worldwide, while protecting their intellectual property with advanced video security features. Trainers can earn money like never before, because they are reaching a truly global audience.

I believe that the delivery of training will shift steadily from a physical classroom environment to a virtual classroom, and within the next ten to twenty years, a “bricks-and-mortar” localization education will be a distant memory. Part of the journey from classroom to virtual delivery will be to guide traditional educators towards the best practices in delivering online training. Unlike the traditional classroom setting, where a trainer interacts with students during a session, online training has wildly different requirements. So, to make a course interesting and captivating, a trainer has to use a variety of multimedia elements to emulate the classroom setting, which means many educators will need to adjust their teaching style for e-learning courses.

We are all part of one of the most exciting industries in the world. We have achieved amazing things in the past thirty years, and together we can achieve more in the years to come. I invite you to become part of the education evolution in localization. I invite you to consider participating in the industry board on education in localization.