Global Career Roadmap: The Career Entrepreneur

Localization is just one of the many areas where Brian McConnell puts his entrepreneurial nature to work. As the Localization Program Manager at LYFT, McConnell is tasked with expanding the global footprint of the popular ride-sharing company, Lyft. Taking a look back at his long history of expanding markets for small and mid-sized companies through technology and innovation, we can see where an entrepreneurial spirit can help forge a successful career in this field.

Brian got his start in the telecom industry back in the mid-90s, working with startups providing business telephones and systems, which were hard to procure at the time. With the consolidation and innovation in the industry, Brian ended up working in an enterprise email company called Radio Handy which gave him his first opportunity to work with content on the screen. He noticed companies were beginning to go international and decided to make the shift himself, bringing software engineering and design to a team that was more focused on linguists and project managers. They added languages and used his technical expertise to open source TMS Worldwide Lexicon and early machine translation to support a mix of volunteer and paid linguists. This early experience later offered him the opportunity to work with small, bootstrapping localization teams and grow his experience.

Now at Lyft, Brian spends his days working with a team planning and developing new international markets. Starting in the US with English as the core language, Lyft first localized into Spanish to make ride-sharing more accessible in the US. Localizing for Canada was the next step to making Lyft available throughout North America. Brian’s vision is to have all Lyft content and tools available globally, including apps, websites and support. His entrepreneurial background motivates him to teach organizations how to use localization to expand their business, increase ROI in international markets, and have a bigger impact on the effectiveness of marketing.

With his experience consulting startups, he has noticed that growth reaches a certain point and until it becomes clear that a company must provide content or services in the local languages. Since this takes time and planning, while the customers are ready for a launch, the companies lose market share and opportunities. Years of consulting experience has taught McConnell that companies must provide content and services in the local languages if they want to have any hope in growing internationally.

What kind of advice does Brian have for individuals looking into localization? “It’s a hard industry to get into and jobs are rarely advertised. Everything is via introduction or personal connection because jobs are not listed on recruiting sites. If you want to work in small startups, identify a company that might need localization at some point, educate yourself about vendors, service providers, and different technology partners. Get to know the supply chain and when you get asked to help with localization, you will know what to do.” Another option, he says, is to go to an established company and an established localization team and take a junior PM, linguist, or QA role. This way you can build your skills and learn about how the company does things so you can create a more senior position for yourself. In other words, be entrepreneurial in your career and carve a role for yourself where you see an opportunity.