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Podcast: From Startup to Localization Powerhouse

18 December 2019

Today’s discussion

In this episode of Globally Speaking recorded live at LocWorld in San Jose, we chat with Patrick McLoughlin, Manager of Localization at Eventbrite, about his localization experience in both a large, global corporation and a growing startup. He talks about how he created order out of a chaotic loc program and how he grew his team using internal resources. Plus, learn how Patrick is getting loc buy-in from other departments such as content and product development and connecting the loc program’s success to their metrics.

Patrick McLoughlin has been in localization at Eventbrite since 2012, where he has taken a proactive role in integrating localization with other departments and centralizing the localization function. Prior to that, he spent five years at Yahoo! as a localization program manager and terminology manager. Patrick has also held positions as a lexicographer, adjunct professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and multilingual researcher and writer. He holds a variety of certifications and degrees from universities in Italy, the UK and California.

Where to listen

The full podcast can be downloaded and listened to on all major podcast platforms, or from the Globally Speaking website. If you prefer to read the full transcript, we have provided that below, as well!

About Globally Speaking

Globally Speaking Radio isn’t just about how we as language professionals can improve our skills. It’s also about building awareness of how important translation and localization services are in helping global brands succeed in foreign markets—no matter where their business takes them. Globally Speaking is an independent podcast that does not necessarily represent the views of Nimdzi Insights or any other sponsors.

Host: Renato Beninatto

Renato is the co-founder and CEO of Nimdzi Insights, one of the language industry’s leading analyst and consulting firms. He has over 28 years of executive-level experience in the localization industry. He has served on executive teams for some of the industry’s most prominent companies, and he co-founded the industry’s first research analyst firm. A dynamic speaker and communicator, Renato is a highly regarded thought leader in the language industry, and is known for creating innovative strategies that drive growth on a global scale. He has also served on the advisory board for Translators Without Borders.

Host: Michael Stevens

Michael has 10 years of experience in the localization and IT industries. He is the Growth Director for Moravia, where his primary role is to assist companies who are inspired to create global software that changes the world. A well-networked entrepreneur, Michael’s main interest is in connecting and bringing people together. He not only enjoys learning about a company’s exciting ideas and developments, he also has a keen ability to add value—and fire—to new and innovative thinking.

This is an episode of the Globally Speaking Radio Podcast. Globally Speaking Radio is sponsored by RWS Moravia and Nimdzi.

The Transcript

Renato I am Renato Beninatto.
Michael And I am Michael Stevens.
Renato And today on Globally Speaking, we are in San Jose, recording a live episode of our podcast. And we have a special guest with us that has a lot of experience in the industry in several areas. We’ve been, we are colleagues in some of these activities. And, as usual, we’re going to let our guest introduce himself.
Patrick Thank you. I’m Patrick McLoughlin. I am currently managing localization at Eventbrite in San Francisco.
Renato That’s the reason why we invited you. You are a localization manager, but you have been in this industry for a few years and you’ve had other functions in large organizations. But one of the things that we are curious about is the fact of this transition of working in a company that was seen as a startup and now has graduated into a real business and has money…
Michael Did you just say, “Startups aren’t real businesses?“ I think you did.
Renato Uh, some of them.
Michael But I do think people love talking about startups. “Oooh, startups!” Right?
Renato Yeah.
Michael We’ve got Patrick here today who’s been through that stage with a company. We’ve worked with larger companies. And maybe there are some things to be learned from companies that aren’t startups.
Patrick Yeah, definitely. I mean, I’ve been at Eventbrite for seven years now. So, when I started back in 2012, I had just spent five years at Yahoo. Most people here are over the age of 20, so they probably know what Yahoo means. It’s called “Oath” or something now?
Michael Oath.
Patrick Yahoo used to be an internet giant, and I worked there from 2007 to 2012, and that’s where I really became exposed to localization project management, became a localization project manager.
Michael And Patrick, for our listeners who may not be as familiar with Yahoo or the history there, this is a place where I tend to geek out. The team that you were involved with was probably one of the early sort of power localization teams. You had a lot of people who’ve gone on to other very prominent roles in big Silicon Valley companies since then. So, you were the front end of the internet, as a company. Tell me what it was like to be involved with a team that was so productive and on top of their game at that time.
Patrick Yeah, definitely. And when I joined, I hadn’t really been working in localization proper before. I’d worked as a translator, freelance translator, for many years. And before that, I’d worked in machine translation in the late ‘90s, early ‘00s, or whatever you call them, before machine translation was mainstream or sexy. And so, when I got into localization, I didn’t really fully know what it was. I’m really glad it existed, because it allowed me to actually earn a salary, which as a translator was impossible.
I was brought on as a terminology manager because that was some of my background as well. And it was really a phenomenal experience to be somewhere where there were so many people who were subject matter experts and indeed, industry leaders. My manager for many years was Michelle Carlson. She’s now at SurveyMonkey. She’s fantastic. So really, I really cut my teeth with the professionals.
And at the time, Yahoo was still a force to be reckoned with. It isn’t anymore, unfortunately, but I was lucky enough to work on Yahoo Mail, which at the time was the most important property we had.
And so, it was really, as I said, a kind of powerhouse of best practices. And in the localization team, you sat next to and partnered with internationalization experts as well. So, even though I don’t code and I’m not an engineer, I really learned a lot about internationalization as well, and how to, how to partner with those teams. So, it was definitely a good place to start a career as opposed to a startup.
Renato Well, and one of the things that they say is that if you know stuff, you do it. If you don’t know it, you teach it. So, you went to the Middlebury Institute and, uh—
Patrick That’s right. [Laughter] That’s where I learned a lot of stuff. So, yeah. In the last three years, while I’ve been at Eventbrite, I’ve a call manager who allowed me to pursue this little side gig, which was being adjunct professor at the Translation and Localization Management Course down at MIIS, down in Middlebury. And that was an eye-opening experience because I never got formal training in localization. I stumbled across localization because, wow, I randomly live in San Francisco and there’s this thing called Silicon Valley and there are companies that need people with language skills to do stuff for them. So, localization exists. How wonderful, you know, and I found that well into my career. Whereas MIIS is people who had decided at a relatively young age that instead of becoming dentists or having real jobs, that they wanted to do localization. So, the course is called Localization as a Profession. And so, the idea is that these students are going through a very rigorous, technical, linguistic course, but they really don’t understand the ins and outs of business, of soft skills, of how to really work as a localization professional.
Michael It sounded like you were teasing Patrick about teaching. Renato, you actually have taught at MIIS. Isn’t that correct? Well, you had a little stint there.
Renato Well, yeah. So, you need to have some authority to be able to tease other people.
Michael Yes. Okay.
Renato I do. I do.
Michael There’s a little self-deprecating humor in there.
Renato I’m an adjunct professor at the Middlebury Institute in Monterey also. So, we’re colleagues and we have that experience. But let’s go back to this transition from startup to…
Michael Powerhouse.
Renato Powerhouse.
Michael It’s a startup. Because it makes perfect sense as to why Eventbrite would say, “We want to be an international force. Come help us be that.“ What has the growth trajectory been?
Patrick Yeah. So, Eventbrite has been around for about 13 years now, founded in 2006 by three folks, a married couple who were, at the time, having a baby. So, Julia and Kevin Hartz. Julia is our current CEO. And then a third person, Renaud Visage, who’s still around. He’s our CTO. And the idea was Eventbrite was to really democratize event ticketing. So, everybody loves Ticketmaster, right? You know, those 25% hidden fees.
Michael Boo!
Patrick I knew nothing about the ticketing industry when I went in. I had recently become a father of two kids, by the time, so I had no social life. So, for you to use Eventbrite, it pre-supposes you have a social life. But the idea really was the big incumbent in the industry. Just think of how screwed up the airline industry is now. Ticketing, how it’s completely opaque. At least to me it is, anyway. How, you look for a ticket on Tuesday and then your grandmother’s looking at the same ticket with a different IP address and it’s half the price and she gets a free meal.
Event ticketing was like that until Eventbrite came along. So, the idea really was that anyone—it doesn’t matter the size of the event or the size of the venue or the budget—was able to create an event and manage it on a platform that was easy to use.
So, founded in 2006. I think it first started going global around 2010. They dabbled in a few languages, mainly European languages. And then as the company grew a little bit, they started adding more languages. So, to answer Renato’s question about languages, it is still actually a relatively small footprint. We’re in most normal, standard western European languages: FIGS plus Dutch, Portuguese of Portugal, various flavors of South American Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese. We’re not in Asia yet, unfortunately, but hopefully we will be.
And we’ve expanded over time, different flavors of different…we’ve become quite regional in LatAm, for example. We do Chile. We do Colombia, et cetera. So, more specialization there.
There was a localization person running it, but she wasn’t there very long. And then I joined in 2012 and, you know, it was a little bit of a mess. There was a structure in place, there was some internationalization that had been done, there were some languages, there was kind of a TMS. So, it was really just kind of putting things in order.
And so, to answer your question about what might have been some of the challenges or what attracted me, maybe, about the job, was things at Yahoo were not historically going great around 2012. Also, it was the first time that a lot of companies were beginning to think seriously about localization in San Francisco.
I think when Twitter decided to stay in San Francisco in two thousand…whatever it was, 2008, 2009, then suddenly a lot of smaller companies, especially startups, were beginning to pick San Francisco as their headquarters. And so, localization jobs were springing up. So, I kind of jumped on that as well.
And certainly, what excited me about the opportunity was to be able to take the best practices I’d learned at a big, probably more traditional company in terms of globalization like Yahoo, and then just be the guy doing it for the small company. A bit more renegade. A bit more maverick. A bit more cowboy. And being able to do basically what maybe five or six people do at a bigger company, in the sense of wearing the hat of vendor manager, of strategy, of day-to-day tactician, all of that kind of stuff. So, it was exciting, so I was kind of pulling together all these elements. And I wasn’t necessarily good at all of them. But it was definitely a steeper learning curve than if I’d stayed in my current job.
Michael Now, you’ve referred to yourself as a lone wolf during that period of time.
Patrick Yeah.
Michael Is that still the case?
Patrick No. Luckily enough I’m not. I was a lone wolf for about four-and-a-half, five years. So, in other words, I was the localization team. So, I was the only person 100% devoted to localization or had localization in my title. Obviously, there were folks helping on the marketing side. We had engineers versed in internationalization, all that kind of stuff.
And I was beginning to burst as this lone wolf, one-man band. And so, I was lucky enough that two already current employees at the time who were working in different departments wanted to jump ship from where they were and join localization. Which is great because (a) I didn’t have to recruit anyone and (b) they were people I’d already worked with that I had a good relationship [with]. And they both came…well, one of them, Veronica, who’s based in London, is our European project manager. Her background is more in customer support. She was a customer support rep for Italian. And then we have Melissa, in Mendoza in Argentina, and her background is kind of more content.
And so, they were already beginning organically to do what you would describe as localization jobs. So, things like reviewing the help center or correcting Argentine articles. And we just looked at each other and we thought, “Does it really make sense for a company this small to have de-centralized localization?“ So, we centralized and now we’re a mighty team of three.
Michael One question about the people who gathered to your team. Was it an advantage or a disadvantage that they didn’t have a traditional localization background?
Patrick I would say it was mainly an advantage in the sense that they brought a fresher perspective to what I was doing.
I had a lot of things in my head. A lot of processes, a lot of relationships. Oh, if you want to get something done in mobile, you go and ask that engineer. If you’re having problems with marketing, go and speak to that person’s boss. All these different things that are kind of a mixture of soft skills and processes all in my head. So, for me, it was a learning moment of, okay, I need to go through and actually systematize what I’m doing and tweak things and, obviously, welcome feedback because the assumptions I were making weren’t always correct.
Michael That, that’s a lot of personal growth. It’s a lot of work on your part. You mentioned a question that you get asked. What is that question?
Patrick Yeah. Get used to being at lunch and people asking you, “What is it you do again?“
Yeah. Nobody ever, at Eventbrite or any other internet company I can think of, is gonna go up to a front-end engineer or a designer or a marketing person and say, “What is it you do, exactly? You do code and then that bit goes on a screen? Oh, wow.” We get that all the time.
Renato It’s like translation is only news when it’s bad, or that translation is like toilet paper: it’s only important when it’s not there. It’s a challenge because when you want to help companies grow, localization is something that is crucial in making organizations grow.
What is the percentage of the revenue at Eventbrite that comes from non-English-speaking clients?
Patrick It’s not as high as it could be. It’s around 30%.
Renato Well, 30%, still, and you’re only doing…
Patrick Not bad, yeah.
Renato …European languages and Latin America, right? So, this is 30% of the revenue that wouldn’t be coming into the company if you weren’t there. But nobody thinks about it.
Patrick Right.
Renato Right? So, when you are talking to C-level executives, you’re talking about strategic stuff. When you’re talking to VP-level executives, you’re talking about organizational stuff. When you’re talking to director-level people, you’re talking about process stuff. But when you get to the manager, to the localization people, you’re talking about words and cents and TMS and quality that has absolutely no value for the process, no value for the organization, no value for the strategy, unless it goes wrong.
Patrick Right. Right.
Renato So, it’s very hard for you to create that value inside your organization unless you learn how to speak the process language, the organizational language and the strategy language. And how have you done that?
Patrick Definitely. Well, it’s an ongoing process. There is a lot of discussion within the localization industry of how do we go from being a cost center to a revenue generator?
And some people are there already. Some people are doing that. And, to be honest, I think most people aren’t. We’re certainly not quite there. We’re on a journey. So, I think one of the things that we realized fairly early on as a team was, okay, we have all our internal metrics. You know, the usual standard localization metrics of ‘was the glossary used’ and scorecards and all this kind of stuff and translation memory leveraging, blah, blah, blah. And that’s our language. It’s only our language.
Renato Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Patrick Nobody else cares about it. Nobody else cares about it whatsoever.
Then what metrics are we looking at? What are the marketing team’s metrics this year? What are the product team’s metrics this year? What are some of the international office team’s metrics? And hooking into those. And then, we may not necessarily fully own every single dial on those metrics. But at the same time, it’s much more powerful for us to say, “We were instrumental in helping the Berlin team achieve their sales results this year,” than saying, “Well, we onboarded three vendors and we saved 20% on translation.”
Renato Who cares?
Patrick Yeah. Who cares? Exactly. Right.
Michael So, Patrick, dig in a little bit to one of the success stories you’ve had that you can share with us. What’s gone well and why did it happen?
Patrick It was around actually kind of an evangelization process we’ve been going through with product managers and engineers. So, we’ve gone from, basically, a situation where we were very much downstream in everything, as is typical with all localization teams, where we’re always being called in last minute and we weren’t really getting a seat at [the] table and a lot of the discussions that were going on in the company. New releases going out, features, et cetera.
So, we took a step back and we realized it’s not up to the product managers or the product marketing managers or the engineers to think about us all the time. We need to be there reminding them. So, we put together some training programs that we’ve finally managed to make mandatory for training for engineers on, you know, how to check in strings and all that good stuff. Training for product managers on how to bring us in if your features are going to be localized. Same for product marketing managers around linguistic review. And we’re putting together a program now where we’re going to be training customer support staff to become localization experts and kind of a badge system where they go through a certification, we give them a certificate and they help us.
So, I say that’s a success, because it may seem like it’s a little bit spread out, but it’s really a mixture of us showing our value to the company while also getting people to help us.
Michael You mean these people are doing it?
Patrick They’re getting there. We, we—
Michael That’s amazing!
Patrick …well, yeah. I mean, with different success rates…
Renato You’re building awareness.
Michael Yeah.
Patrick Yeah. Exactly, it’s building awareness and empowering people, and what we’ve found that is really cool is that people, the first time they go through it, they kinda might be a bit bothered by it. It’s like, “Why are we doing this?” But when we show them the results or when we show them, maybe, feedback from an international user, they love it. So, for me, one of my favorite things about my job is—and anyone who’s done localization project management for more than a year has had this—is that one engineer, it’s normally a dude, who just doesn’t like you, doesn’t get what you do. And then you have that moment where you make them realize the power of what they’re doing, they’re maybe bringing joy to international users, and then suddenly, they, they want to have lunch with you. It’s like, “Yes!“ That’s the Holy Grail for me. Happy engineers—that’s 90% of my job.
Michael Just make sure the engineers want to have lunch with you.
Patrick Yeah. Exactly.
Michael That is fabulous.
[Applause]
Renato Thank you, Patrick. This was fun.
Patrick Thank you. Thank you, guys.
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