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Like fish in a pond – Employee churn in localization

(guest blog) 

Working in the language business is very much like being a fish swimming in a pond of murky water. On most days, we cannot see past the end of our nose. You see, we’ve no idea how big our pond is. We heard it’s big, yes. Yet it’s kind of difficult to take in from our angle. What we do know however, is that it’s teeming with life. There’s all varieties of fish (ahem, language professionals) out there. One thing we’re certain of though – in this damn pond, we all know each other.

And that’s another (of many) interesting quirks of our industry we’ll look at today. Indeed, you can be reasonably certain everyone has worked with – or for – pretty much everyone else at one point or another in their careers.

Localization for life, bro

So, let’s get the first fact out of the way. People stick around this business for a long time for a variety of reasons. Once you’re in, you’re very much in for the long haul. This is by no means a rule, but it happens frequently enough that we can afford to generalize a bit.

You see that fish over there? The kick-ass project manager (PM)? You bet he’s going to send a CV to his client once she has an opening for a localization manager position. If not, he’s likely going to be looking for opportunities from your competitors or the competitors of his own client like the good soldier of fortune that he is. 

Employee churn is indeed quite important in localization. And it happens from the top to the bottom of the ladder. Even individual translators change gigs every so often. We’ve known translators to work in in-house teams at big video game publishers, then go freelance before integrating a regional multiple language service provider (RMLSP). 

So, inevitably you come across a lot of familiar faces and in different positions perhaps. Still, they’re people you’ve likely known for a while and worked with too. Familiarity breeds contempt you say? While some of it holds true, believe us when we say – familiarity helps when you want something done in this business. It helps A LOT. It saves you a lot of effort and money. And that’s all you need to know.

Being bros is a good thing. You see, people in the language business like to escape their dreary office habitats. The bigwigs from language services buyers (LSBs) or language services providers (LSPs), and all the legions of sales reps in between love to go to industry confabs. There’s a whole bunch of them every year. They discuss anything and everything from industry trends to the latest bit of innovation. Point is, they interact. They cut deals while wining and dining. Or they get drunk together. Yes, it happens.

You scratch my back, I scratch yours

Which leads us to another point. It pays to keep good relationships with industry folks.

Why is that?, you may ask. Well, let’s talk about industry conferences. All sorts of people usually attend – from LSBs and massive multiple language services providers (MMLSPs), to folks from comparatively small single language service providers (SLSPs) who operate in a niche market. Now, you may very well end up speaking at the same panel as your nemesis. While the urge to go berserk at the mere sight of him may be overpowering, we’d advise against it. You see, your existing (and potentially future) clients might just happen to be sitting in the audience listening to both of you.

You can argue there’s a certain hypocrisy to it. We won’t fault the logic. But that’s just the way it is. Despite the industry being highly fragmented with thousands of individual players, this remains a small town. And you really don’t want to end up being painted as the guy dissing your rivals, now do you?

So, play nice. Eyes on the prize which is that multi-million-dollar contract further down the road that everyone dreams of.

Do I know the right fish?

Really, the question you’ll ultimately be asking yourself is not whether you want to be a big fish or a small one in this pond. There’s plenty of those already. What you will want to know is, whether you’re pals with the right fish for you. Your success and/or failure in this business may just entirely depend on that.

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