For those of us who are in mid-career, we often see others at their high points and wonder what the steps were to get there. For Marie Hanabusa, a mix of following passion, taking risks and building on her drive for international collaboration helped her shape a career that has been both gratifying and successful.
Marie got her start the way many do in the localization industry, as a translator. Born in the United States and raised in Japan, she grew up bilingual. Although her language skills set her up nicely in the translation field early on, she wanted something more: a team where she could work with others on larger projects. She found this at Lionbridge as a tester and a linguistic engineer. On the supplier side, she worked across languages and became an essential partner in the delivery of localized software and content. Here, she was able to get a more thorough understanding of how teams work together and create processes that lead to successful localization projects in multiple languages. While this gave her a taste for working in larger teams, she still longed for something more - a deeper knowledge of the products and a closer relationship with product teams where she would see the impact of her work.
In many successful careers, there is a moment that represents a turning point. For Marie, it was the opportunity to move into a role where she could become a linchpin, bringing together international stakeholders at an eBook company called NetLibrary. Rather than sticking to the comfortable path of localization, she took a risk, joining a company that was growing and that needed someone to bring them together with their Japanese distribution partners in a way that minimized cultural differences and enabled better business outcomes. When this company was acquired by EBSCO, a database aggregator, she was able to grow her technical abilities, while continuing to support partnerships with localization providers and SEO marketers supporting multilingual search.
When the opportunity presented itself to start and manage a more traditional localization team at Blackboard, she developed a localization strategy that was flexible and global. She helped evangelize the ideas of Andy Jacobson, the Senior Director of User Experience at Blackboard at the time, that one should “Forget English” and put the international User Experience at the core of all products. She supported a novel approach for translators to think outside of the typical translation box and add insights for a truly localized experience. At Blackboard, where the challenge was to align and integrate 10 separate products and develop a localization strategy, Marie was able to draw on her prior experiences in localization, technical development and international partnerships to help this company succeed.
Henry Ford is quoted as saying “if everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself." For Marie, this was certainly the case. After successfully laying the groundwork in localization and international partnerships and building relationships throughout her career, she was asked to join Amazon, working on the global rollout of Alexa AI. In this, her largest, most collaborative and visible work, Marie was able to reach a high point in her career.
Localization is an industry that relies on people working together to get things done. The individuals that make up the industry collaborate both internally and externally every day to make sure that audiences around the world get the content when and how they need it. This is why people who have an innate collaborative approach do well in the field and are able to get big things done. They can spot opportunities to contribute and challenge themselves and those around them to affect change. Marie Hanabusa, over her 25 years working in localization, is a great example of how someone can develop a career with international collaboration at its core.