How to Promote Localization

Speak the Language of Your Stakeholder Teams

By Karen Loughrey, Localization Manager at Optimizely

karen3klIn this blog, Karen Loughrey from Optimizely shares her experience in taking part as a panelist at the Welocalize LocLeaders 2015 Forum: Elevate Results in Berlin.  She offers valuable advice on how to promote the localization function internally to all company stakeholders.

I have been working in localization for around seven years now, yet this was my first time at a Welocalize LocLeaders Forum and also attending the Localization World Conference. I was honored to be invited to be part of the panel at LocLeaders and share my experience on how to secure buy-in from all stakeholders and raise the profile of the localization function.

Optimizely was certainly the new kid on the block in the room at LocLeaders. The localization function was only established at Optimizely when I started a year ago. It was great to be amongst experts from such a diverse range of businesses.

Optimizely is the world’s leading optimization platform, providing A/B testing, multivariate testing and personalization for websites and mobile apps. The company was founded in 2010 and has seen triple-digit year-over-year growth ever since then. This fast growth means that we need to be able to scale our localization efforts quickly and adapt to the ever-changing needs of the business. Our headquarters, where all of our product development and content creation takes place, is in San Francisco, California. We opened our EMEA headquarters in Amsterdam in 2013, which is where I work.

optimizely_logo_BLUEAs Localization Manager at Optimizely, I am the localization team in its entirety. It’s the first time I’ve been a team of one and the first time that I’ve been responsible for setting up the localization function from scratch. After a year in the role, it’s been quite a journey!

The theme of this year’s LocLeaders was Elevating Results. It was a lively and engaging day and focused on the strategic issues that we all face in our everyday roles in localization. How do you develop your sphere of influence? How do you secure buy-in at all levels for your initiatives?

I recognize that I am very lucky. Not only for the opportunity to build out the localization function at one of the fastest-growing software start-ups of all time, but also because of the energy and support that exists around our global expansion. We have clear and ambitious global revenue targets. In order to get budget and buy-in for my localization strategy, it was essential to ensure that the localization function was positioned as a revenue driver that enables this expansion, rather than as a cost center. Setting up multi-channel initiatives to evangelize the localization function has been an essential part of making progress.

As with all the operational processes that I’m introducing, I’ve tried to fit localization updates into all established communication channels. One example is “Show & Tell.”At the end of each week, we have a session with the entire office where each team gives an update on what they’ve been up to that week. I regularly present at this showcase to highlight localization projects, news, and successes.

Another example is our fortnightly update email. The ‘International’ team (Internationalization and Localization) also sends out a fortnightly email to the whole business. In this email we report key metrics and trends, as well as news about our projects and plans. As a company, we use our wiki a lot, so we have created a page for ‘International’, which includes Internationalization and Localization. This web page covers everything from how to request a translation, the wider international strategy, coding best practices for developers and a team directory.

It’s hard to believe, though it seems that most non-localization people aren’t too excited about glossary updates, TM reviews, and linguist training and onboarding – the very things that get me out of bed in the morning. In my updates, I try to focus on results, impact and opportunities.

Yes, we’ve trained and on-boarded a new linguist team that’s fully reviewed our website TM based on our new glossary, but what does this mean to those outside of the localization function?

For the sales team, it means they can finally feel comfortable directing prospects to a translated website (something I discovered they weren’t doing before the review – they were often sending them to the main .com site). Having a new team ready to go also means that we can get critical sales enablement collateral turned around quickly.

For marketers, we’re speaking our prospects’ language and establishing a global brand. We have created the framework that means we can quickly deliver localized top-of-funnel and nurture content that will have a direct impact on leads.

Ultimately, it’s about speaking the language of your stakeholder teams – communicating the alignment between your efforts and the key business goals.

Another great tool, in my experience, for elevating awareness and ensuring support is recognition. At Optimizely, we have a ‘Peer Bonus’’ system where we can award cash bonuses to team members for going above and beyond. I regularly give peer bonuses to team members who help to smooth the localization process, and demonstrate what it means to “think global”. The bonuses are viewable by the whole company and are sent around in a weekly email. Although the cash is nice, I think that simply the recognition of effort has a huge impact on motivating the wider team and raising the profile of localization in general.

Finally, with a large team across multiple offices and just one person managing localization (did I mention that?), and another managing internationalization, it’s impossible to be everywhere at once. To combat this, we created a core International team, comprising representatives from all of the teams that we collaborate with regularly. When recruiting members for this team, we made it clear that it was an active role and we clearly outlined the expectations including to attend regular meetings, be an evangelist for localization and internationalization, collect feedback from team members on new processes and initiatives and more. This helps us to scale our reach across oceans and time zones.

We still have a long way to go at Optimizely. These initiatives are certainly helping us to keep the wider business informed and engaged.

I got some great ideas from fellow LocLeader panelists and the attendees in the room for other initiatives that might work for us here – for example, branding the department. It was truly great to be amongst peers who understand the challenges that I face each day and to discuss the different approaches they take to promote localization to their stakeholders.

I returned to my desk the following week feeling energized and inspired. I can’t wait for next year!


Karen Loughrey is Localization Manager at Optimizely.

At this year’s LocWorld28 in Berlin, Karen delivered a joint presentation with Welocalize’s Steve Maule, “Structuring Localization at a Tech Start-up”.  You can read more about this presenation at