We Sent a Photographer to Profile the Lives of Translators Around the World, Here’s What We Learned

Today, we tend to take advantage of the way software moves our lives forward. Whether we’re using it to take a Lime scooter across Paris, binge watch our favorite shows on Netflix, or communicate with family, friends, and colleagues around the globe with WhatsApp– technology is at the center. But, what we also forget about are the people behind the software we use every day.

Here at Smartling, our Marketing team was on a mission to humanize our company and the industry. We realized the best way to do it was to peel back the curtain and take a look at some of the people who make our company tick – our translators. These are the individuals who play a critical role in global commerce, and the growth experienced by not only our company but our customers’ businesses.

Thus, we created and launched, “Move the World with Words” a campaign showcasing the human translators behind our technology. To create the campaign, we sent a photographer to cities including Berlin, Germany, Istanbul, Turkey and Mie–gun, Japan to document translator stories first–hand.

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How Smartling Humanized Its Brand

We worked internally as a team to discuss translators who should be featured in the campaign. Those that have historically been very engaged with Smartling – people with families and children; people who were younger and therefore newer to the industry; people with decades of experience; people who had diverse talents and interests. We sent Elisabeth Brentano – a gifted photojournalist – around the world to profile them.

Our team worked diligently to coordinate Elisabeth’s travel, carefully planning every detail of her rigorous schedule. Every step of the way, she managed this project with grace. Once Elisabeth reached each translator’s home towns, she fully immersed herself in their lives, sitting with them while they worked.

Early on the project, we realized that Teresa – a vibrant young woman living in Berlin – is the childhood friend of Ani, the Vice President of Marketing at Smartling, a fun connection and reminder that it is a small world indeed. And after she met with Elisabeth, we decided to incorporate Teresa into the Global Ready Conference London, where I interviewed her about her experience as a translator. This was the first time Smartling ever had one of our translators at an event. Teresa’s attendance and the interview was so impactful that having a linguist will be a part of all of our event experiences moving forward.

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A Continuing Commitment to Recognizing the People Behind the Technology

Some of the lessons we learned from this immersive experience include:

  • Companies care about translators far more than they realized – It’s not that most companies don’t care about their translators, they just didn’t know how to express it (or they simply don’t know their translators because of proximity, and industry norms). Smartling has emerged as this voice, helping to bridge the gap between translators and translation technology. Jon Ferm, Localization Program Manager at Pinterest recounted, “We often focus on technology in the localization industry. Translators are the true rockstars, and belong in the spotlight as they are in Move the World with Words.”
  • You can fly around the world for far less money than most people would expect – So many of us think that global travel is out of reach, but this experience showed us that it’s more attainable than you’d think. For example, one round-trip itinerary was as low as $1,500. You probably spend more than that on a trip to Disney World, so why not see the seven wonders? (True story, I was tempted to leave my job and travel the world!)
  • This amazing story turned out better than we could have expected – So much so, that we turned it into an inspiring coffee table book, highlighting the lives of our translators through Elisabeth’s vivid words and pictures. Through the book, we’re redefining how the world thinks about translators and just how valuable they are to global commerce.

This project is just one example of our lasting commitment to translators, as well as to our customers and employees. It’s a symbol of our commitment to continue doing our finest work while recognizing the people behind the solution and elevating the profile of our entire industry.

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