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Certificate in Software Localization: A Practical Approach to Localization Education and Training

By: Dr. Lalitha Subramanian (University of Washington)

16 May 2014

In response to current trends in the marketplace and the evolving needs of localization companies, the University of Washington has begun offering an innovative online certificate program in software localization, taught by industry experts and academics alike. 

Owing to contributing factors such as emerging open markets in developing countries, higher computer literacy, easy access to computers, diminishing global trade borders, and less stringent industry regulations, it is safe to say that global online trade is here to stay. In keeping with this global trend and based on the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ forecast, many localization companies and vendors are compelled to provide their employees with relevant training in order to establish significant market share. While most employers require their employees to be acquainted with the evolving tools and technologies available in the localization space, many localization novices have sought additional educational opportunities for career advancement. Given the increasing demand for these niche offerings the University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education’s (UW PCE) Certificate in Software Localization is very timely.

The Software Localization certificate program at the University of Washington has been in existence since 2010. The mandate of this affordable certificate is to equip the localization workforce with the skills necessary to make a meaningful contribution to their workplace. An oft-cited highlight of the program is the online course option, which allows for the certificate’s geographically diverse participants.  Participants also have diverse incoming backgrounds; graphical representation of technical background of incoming certificate participants is visualized in Figure 1.

Figure 1. A graphical representation of the background of the graduates of the University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education’s Software Localization certificate program in 2012-13.

The structure and curriculum of the certificate has been designed and developed by an active advisory board comprised of industry professionals and academic elites to focus on the ever-changing market needs of the industry.

This certificate program draws heavily from three complementary knowledge areas to fulfill today’s localization industry needs. Each of these three areas is offered in modules that equally rely on didactic engagement as well hands-on training with industry-standard software. The three areas with their key components are:

Introduction to Localization

This course is designed to introduce students to the basic concepts of localization. Primary topics covered in this course include history, workflow and scenarios, roles, technology tools, and industry trends and outlook. Other topics taught in this course incorporate concepts of Internationalization, translation vs. localization, and terminology differences.

Localization Engineering

The goal of this course is to provide students with an understanding of the root causes of engineering issues and the practical methods to solve these problems. The course promotes hands-on experience with localization and terminology management tools.

Localization Project Management

The third module builds upon these fundamentals with incremental exposure to the nuances of localization project management. In addition to building on the required technical skills, heavy emphasis is placed on "soft skills" like effective communication and optimal workflow strategies that drive localization projects to completion. Desirable supporting expertise in creating and maintaining budgets and time management are also taught in this course.

Both analysis of exit survey data and anecdotal information support the goals and interdisciplinary thrusts of this certificate in addition to revealing a rich diversity of graduates’ educational and career achievements.

“After two and a half years at Amazon, and six years in big corporations, I decided to move to a startup. I joined Squarespace in New York City during the summer of 2013.  I wanted to play an important role in the company by taking on more responsibilities. In a couple of months we have scaled the infrastructure to handle the traffic during our SuperBowl advertisement, migrated from legacy dependencies to more robust dependencies…have seen our customer base grow exponentially. My responsibility now is to make Squarespace international. This certificate program has enabled me with the tools and techniques I need to carry out this process. Particularly, the Localization Project Management course has not only helped in define my project charter, outline the scope, and minimize creeps, it has helped me identify vendors and translating companies that suited our customized needs. ” ~ Angulo Franklin, Squarespace

“Throughout my academic and professional career I have embraced two passions; learning about other cultures and developing mechanisms for local businesses to successfully market themselves. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, I pursued these passions through dual degrees in Spanish and International Studies as well as extensive coursework through the Foster School of Business. Today, I am part of a large corporation that allows small, often family-owned businesses, to leverage national advertising on a local level. As a Digital Advertising Analyst at the Cobalt Group, I work with Volkswagen dealerships across the country to develop appropriate digital advertising budgets and strategies. While I find my work with small businesses within the United States very rewarding, my interests have always and continue to lie in a more global field. In recent months, my organization has begun to deliver our current product suite of digital advertising, account advocacy, and OEM creative alignment to customers in Australia. This expansion abroad has presented challenges and learning opportunities and is laying the groundwork for continued international growth. By furthering my education through a Certificate in “Localization: Customizing Software for the World” (2012), I have realized my dream of tying my two passions together and becoming a guiding voice in Cobalt's international product development.” ~ Laura Clapp, Cobalt Group

A steady increase in enrollment numbers and a robust graduate career placement trend are strong indicators of  the high quality of the University of Washington’s certificate curriculum standards.  

In May 2014, the University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education’s Software Localization certificate program along with industry partners Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), adaQuest, and Moravia convened an inaugural Seattle-area Localization Meet-up event for localization professionals and students. This networking event was hosted at the University of Washington and attracted over 80 participants. Industry-academia collaboration is just one more feature that enhances the value of the UW PCE’s Certificate in Software Localization program.

Key Program Features

  • Classroom or online format (for remote participants)
  • Hands-on engineering course lab work
  • Frequent guest speakers by subject matter experts
  • Free access to industry-relevant software and publications
  • Numerous networking channels via local meet-ups
  • Limited Internship opportunities

Who Should Apply

  • Linguists and translators
  • Software developers, testers and program managers
  • Technical writers
  • Individuals interested in entering the IT industry
  • Individuals with an international background

Dr. Lalitha Subramanian is an Assistant Director, UW Professional and Continuing Education at the University of Washington who manages the Certificate in Software Localization.