How to build a localization team (from real loc team leaders)

Our second localization “Alignment” was every bit as good as the first, with expertise from different kinds of businesses:

  • Alexnandru Dochian, Senior Project Manager at Global App Testing
  • Zach Duncan, Head of Localization at Stripe
  • Brian McConnell, Head of Localization at Notion
  • Yngvild Troan, Head of Localization at Deliveroo
  • Sofia Lindblad, Senior CS Manager at Phrase 

If you’re not familiar with #thealignment, it’s a webinar which looks at how to achieve success in localization through a variety of lenses. This week's was "How To Build a Localization Team". And I've summarised what our guests said below:



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1/ Here’s where you should put a localization team within a business 


Where is localization going to live within the company? Our panellists identified this as the most important question in localization effectiveness.

Generally, panellists agreed that localization should be housed “somewhere responsible for growth” rather than among engineering teams, which tend to regard localization as something  which should be automated away rather than a growth channel.

In our interview with HubSpot’s Robert Bauch earlier this year, he pointed out that as an internationalization program manager, he preferred being managed by engineering (rather than the product team, in his case.) 


2/ You should orientate your team towards delivering growth 

Alex, the speaker for Global App Testing, talked about the differences in team incentives between teams which treat teams operationally (and are tasked with localizing everything as quickly as possible to tick a box) and teams which localize as a lever for global growth. 

What was particularly interesting about this one is the way that testing can help – by helping to define the opportunities for localization with maximum effectiveness.


3/ Ask whether you need a team or a program 

Zach, the Head of Localization at Stipe, suggested that you should think about localization as a function rather than a team.

The main ingredient in loc team success, argued Zach, is “finding the balance between four things… internal versus external resources, and it’s your infrastructure versus human capital, and just being able to ensure that they blend and mix in a way that is advantageous.”

Brian had similar experiences, but has slowly become more in favour of bringing more in-house over his time working for different localization companies.  


4/ Cross-functional collaboration is hard, but can be improved

Connectivity – the right kinds of connectors between teams and bits of software infrastructure – is the way that they have tried to solve the collaboration problem at Phrase. Every team can focus on what they do best 

Brian from Notion felt that the issues with cross-functional collaboration were a problem which mainly affected startups, where roles were more poorly defined and the way to solve it was an open and collaborative culture rather than a particular technical fix. “At Lyft” his previous employer, “there was ample cross-team communication; it’s just that the priorities could change on a dime.” 


5/ Tell a clear story about localization

One theme throughout the webinar is that it’s important to tell a clear story about localization and what it’s for. Communicating clearly upwards, outwards, and inwards about why you’re doing what you’re doing; will help situate you where you want to be in a business – in the place where you can communicate maximum effectiveness.

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