Managing Your Localization Career: Positions in the Localization Industry

This blog post is part of a series on managing a career in localization.

“If you don't know where you are going,
you'll end up someplace else.”
― Yogi Berra

In May 2019 I had the privilege of delivering a webinar to GALA members around the time an article I wrote for Multilingual Magazine called “Managing Your Localization Career” came out. They explore the topic of career planning with a focus on the language and localization industry. In this blog series I will build on these ideas in more detail in support of GALA's Global Talent Initiative which aims to offer helpful resources to the industry related to career development and management.


Why do career planning?


Most of us would agree that our professional life is important. We think a lot about it and spend the majority of our waking hours working while we balance other parts of our lives like family, friends, personal interests, and hobbies. When our professional life is thriving, everything is better. We have work we love, we make plenty of money, and we feel good about what we do. Ideally, we will work in a position that suits our personality, takes advantage of our strengths, and holds our interest. We hope our profession will provide opportunities for growth and change to keep learning and trying new things, while making us feel secure and stable.

Planning for professional life is – strangely - not that common. Many of us start out with a general idea of what we like and what we might want to do… and sort of give it a go. We try this or that and see where things lead. In some cases, that is the extent of formal career planning.

That is an okay approach - if it works out. It is frustrating and confusing if it doesn’t.

Most of us who find our way to the localization industry have a few key interests in common: we like to learn languages, we like to travel and experience global cultures, and we like to be around people who like and do those same things as well. Ideally speaking, it’d be great to have a career where language and cross-cultural expertise are front and center. And the localization industry offers that. But what does that mean – from a practical perspective? What kinds of jobs are there? What career paths might they offer? What kinds of skills and experience will we gain by pursuing these professions?

Let’s get into it.


Finding work in the language industry seems simple. But is it?


I think of people in college who are studying global cultures and foreign languages and I feel inclined to scoot up next to them in class and ask… “So…what are your plans after your graduate?” Many foreign language students are up-to-here in language learning (because it is not simple) and there are seemingly endless topics on history, culture, art, literature, and other specializations that are also may be coupled with topics like global business, foreign government and policy making, diplomacy, human rights initiatives and the like. Each of these topic areas are rich and take a long time to master.  By the time the students graduate they should have expert level language and cultural skills. Some may have even studied abroad. But … where does that lead them? What kinds of jobs can they get with that type of study and training? Had they even taken time to think about the possibilities?

I plan to go into new grad topics specifically in later posts. But what I wanted to highlight is this: just because you have a talent for foreign languages and want to put your multilingual and multicultural skills to work – do you know where you could go and what you could do with those skills? And if you are in mid-to-late career… are you in a role that is right for you?

Let’s take a look at some of the options in the localization industry.


What are the jobs in the industry?


In the webinar I highlighted the major job categories in the language industry, and I framed them into seven major categories at a high-level considering that positions – largely speaking – are either at a LSP or a client company. In future blog entries my intention is to dive into each position category in detail as well as discuss viable and common career paths and highlight opportunities across different industry sectors.

It is worth noting that I focus on jobs that people need to apply for in a traditional sense (like researching companies and submitting resumes), so I left out entrepreneurial positions like business owners and start up founders. Those roles are different and traditional career planning advice hence wouldn’t apply.

Here are the position categories with a summary of their major related responsibilities:


Position Category Responsibilities
Language & Linguistics Use multilingual capabilities to provide linguistic services. May include translating, editing, proofreading, interpretation, linguistic QA and other tasks as required.
Project Management Manage teams of people to get projects done. Create timelines, recruit and manage teams, manage budgets, track and resolve issues and problems along the way.
L10n Engineering Take charge of technical aspects of projects and programs. Process files, use language industry tools, manage TMs and other technical resources, check / fix bugs and errors.
I18n Engineering Responsible for identifying in advance any issues that could impede the localization process. May work on a technical level or focus on content.
QA, Compliance & Testing Ensure quality and check for errors.
Make sure deliverables are flawless from a linguistic, technical and compliance point of view.
Sales & Account Management Bring in new customers and business to the company. Develop new customers and cultivate existing accounts. Drive revenue.
Operations & Vendor Management Search for and qualify candidates for employment or contract positions.
Hire people, onboard and handle personnel issues.


Please look for additional posts where I explore these positions in more detail.

If you would like to see the webinar I mentioned, please visit the GALA website to view Managing Your Localization Career.