Starting Your Localization Career

BlogPersonal & Professional Wisdom

Starting a new career is one of the most challenging and exciting times in your life. Those of us who shift to a new career face all kinds of challenges from “entry-level” jobs that require years of experience, to a whole host of new tools to learn, to adjusting to company culture. It can get overwhelming.

Let’s go back to step one. What are the different positions and expectations within the localization industry? We’ve pulled together the knowledge of our network already in the industry to give you an overview of the field and help you find your fit in localization.

Types of Localization Roles

When you’re thinking of starting a career in localization, one of the first things to think about is what type of role will be a good fit for you. Cultural fit with your organization is important, too, but I’m talking about whether the day-to-day of the job aligns with your skills, goals, and preferred work style. Read on to find out some of the major job categories and what they involve.

Project/Program Manager

The localization industry is very project-focused, and with many collaborators and partners working globally, someone has to coordinate all the moving pieces so projects run smoothly. That’s where project and program managers thrive.

What do they do? Project and program managers are the interface between clients and localization specialists. They help make everyone’s lives easier and connect all the pieces for a seamless finished product. 

Skills: Good project and program managers can anticipate their clients’ and colleagues’ needs and make suggestions or adjustments in response. Project managers need to have strong planning and organizational skills, a client-service mindset, and a flexible approach to problem solving. They also need to be able to toggle between the big picture and the little details and manage teams that are often spread out across time zones.

As clients’ first point of contact, project managers can provide direction and guidance throughout the project, helping clients set realistic goals and achieve them. Good project managers are like excellent waiters–if the waiter also planned the menu, bought the ingredients, and picked your wine.

Industry Voices

Best part of the job…

“I’m able to be in touch with a lot of people from different parts of the world, and even though that sounds like a cliché, as a linguist I feel like that bonding helps me expand my knowledge about other cultures. Also, I love the communication with my clients! Sharing with them what translation and localization is about and for them to understand why we do what we do is a great reward.”

Most challenging part…

“Having to work with people in different time zones. As a personal experience, my team is all around the world and sometimes it is really difficult for us to meet. That combined with multitasking all the time and maybe being by yourself (especially during a pandemic) can be quite challenging. If you don’t organize your work and really learn how to work with a team it can be a disaster.”

Agostina, Project Manager, Argentina

Localization Engineer

If project managers are coordinating the client experience and the product, then localization engineers are building the technical foundation for the entire process to run smoothly.

What do they do? Today’s localization processes are technology-heavy, and localization engineers manage the technical aspects of those processes. From managing data in complex file formats to cleaning up audio for subtitling to building custom tools and platforms that automate common project steps; localization engineers make sure the tech doesn’t get in the way of the content.

Skills: Localization engineers need a wealth of technical knowledge and they need to have familiarity with global data and technology processes too. An eye for optimization is important, as is creativity and continuous learning; you never know when a new solution will change everything or fix a long-standing problem.

Industry Voices

Best part of the job…

“As a localization engineer, I work on very diverse projects and challenges on a daily basis. This pushes me to be alert all the time in order to always provide the best solution to our clients while maintaining competence in the role by never stop learning.”

Most challenging part…

“Ensuring that technical knowledge and processes are consistently shared and followed across all time zones at all times, which is both challenging and invigorating to do in a fast-paced environment.”

Laura, Senior Documentation Engineer, United Kingdom

Supply Chain/Vendor Manager

Supply chain is the backbone that makes the localization industry run. It is dedicated to vendor relations with focus on balancing linguistic quality, capacity, and financial efficiency. Ultimately, aiming for the satisfaction of both clients and end users.

What do they do? Supply chain managers are the glue between translators and companies. They find qualified talent, negotiate rates, and match them with projects.  They work internally with Production, Quality, and Sales teams to understand business needs. Externally they nurture vendor relationships.

Skills: As they are the key people sourcing and onboarding external talent, they must be excellent negotiators, have great people skills, and be able to provide constructive feedback. They also need to stay on top of the changing market needs and be familiar with the online translator ecosystem to know where to find and engage the best talent.

Industry Voices

Best part of the job…

“Getting the opportunity to communicate with different and interesting linguists from all over the world. I get to build long-term relationships with our translation partners and serve as their first point of contact.”

Most challenging part…

“At the same time, it can also be challenging to source good linguists, with the technology required today, for languages that are spoken in less technically advanced regions.”

Maria, Global Supply Chain Director, Malta

Quality Manager

Quality Managers not only make sure that the finished product meets everyone’s applicable standards, but they also identify problems upstream that may affect the final quality. Most Quality Managers have a linguistic background and an intuitive understanding of how languages work. They will spot mistakes in languages they don’t speak! They are strong advocates for the translation profession, bringing a grounded, human-centered perspective to an otherwise efficiency-obsessed industry.

What do they do? Quality Managers manage risk. They work across the production process to ensure that clients get the quality they expect.

Skills: Quality Managers need to balance the technical and production aspects of the job with a focus on the humans involved in localization. They must be able to insist on standards while also looking for ways to make quality easier to achieve. In addition, Quality Managers need to be familiar with the details of the localization process, in order to identify solutions to possible errors that may arise.

Industry Voices

Best part of the job…

“I think being a translation Quality Manager is the second-best thing a person with a linguistic background can do in this industry, after translating. Or maybe the best? It has elements of project management, but it’s still hands-on enough to keep the linguistic side of the brain engaged. So, it is rarely boring!”

Most challenging part…

“Constantly negotiating the line between control and trust, being helpful and firm when needed, positive but impartial. One has to keep an open mind.”

Michal, Senior Translation Quality Manager, Czech Republic

Business Development/Sales

If you love meeting new people and creating connections this might be a good choice for you. Business Developers are the frontline of the company. They are usually the first person a client will meet, and they set the stage for all future interactions.

What do they do? Business developers will identify potential new clients and reach out to them to present how the company can help solve their problems. They also nurture and build relationships with clients to educate them and help them increase their localization maturity. They work closely with internal teams from supply chain, to production, to engineering. They serve as the client’s advocate to receiving the best services for their unique situation.

Skills: They need to be excellent negotiators, be able to listen, and know processes from the inside out.Clients might not know what they need, and it is up to sales to interpret situations and present the most beneficial solutions. 

Industry Voices

Best part of the job…

“Being involved in all of the processes and cooperating with many people, internally and with clients and actually being able to resolve a problem or challenge for a client. No two days are the same in sales!”

Most challenging part…

“Figuring out what is helpful for a client. Really trying to understand what their needs are and what is feasible within their budget and level of maturity. The localization process is a journey and sometimes clients discover that the solution they initially asked for is not the one they choose in the end. It is up to sales to give them options and advice to make the best choice.”

Esmée, International Sales Manager, Netherlands

Do you have to pick one?

Happily, with the localization industry, there is a lot of ability to shift around and try your hand at different sorts of tasks. Keep an open mind, try new things, and learn as you go. Many companies will allow you to move between positions if you have the right skills.

So how do you get started?

We’re an industry of people who love to meet new people and learn new things. You can always find someone happy to talk to you about the specifics of their role and our industry. There are lots of resources available to help you get the right connections to land your job (read this article).

 When you reach out, you can learn more about the job and start to learn what kind of companies might be a good fit for you.

Once you’ve narrowed down the types of roles you’re interested in, you should also research an organization’s culture. Is it a local in-country shop or a global remote workforce? The more data you gather, the more equipped you’ll be to dive into a career in localization!