Executive Director Latha Sukumar speaks about the GALA conference, future of interpretation and more

By: Jack Xu

We landed in Amsterdam on the 24th of March to attend the 2017 Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) Language of Business conference.  I was filled with nostalgia for Schiphol airport having been there once 30 years back, en route to Canada as a new immigrant, filled with anticipation and excitement.  A lot has changed in the world, in my life, and in the language services industry over these three decades.The conference kicked off to an elegant start on Sunday, the 25th of March with a welcome reception at Hotel Okura, the conference venue.  We took the tram from our hotel close to Vondelpark and Amsterdam’s famous museums and were fêted with beer, wine and goodies.  There were a few familiar faces but most were from a part of the industry that we were just making quiet inroads into.  The room was packed mostly with technology vendors for translation and localization services and Language Service Providers (LSPs) among whom we were unique in that we provided a full suite of language services, with our core being interpretation, where most others specialized in translation and localization services.  As we networked, we realized that this was strictly a business conference, where people proactively promoted their products and services and actively sought out partners who would help them grow market share.

The conference was well worth attending for the following important reasons: There were 470 language industry folks from across the globe in attendance.  It enabled me to get a snapshot of what was going on in different parts of the world so I could locate MCIS on the evolutionary path to language services nirvana if there is such a thing.  Alas, there is not, I realized, and the cause for all the pain and suffering that is impeding the attainment of transcendence is technology.  I found this oddly reassuring given we are constantly second guessing our technology solutions at MCIS and their fit with our business processes.  So we were not badly off, landing somewhere in the middle among the medium sized LSPs.

The key highlights of the conference were the amazing workshops and food and the wonderful networking sessions.  There was one-speed networking event through which you got to know at least 36 other companies and them you.  There were table discussions on topical issues over lunch and then on the last day a longer one where we offered suggestions on what else the conference could offer.  One that came out of our table was a networking session to discuss practical business problems over and above the “getting to know” networking ones.

My colleagues and I were warmly received since MCIS is a GALA veteran.  We made a lot of connections and came back excited about the prospect of partnering and growing with some of them.  The sessions were of high calibre, and several of them were hands-on and interactive.  There were several takeaways.  But key among them were the following:

  • The future of interpretation may see technology platforms that integrate both Interpretation Delivery Systems (IDS) and Interpretation Management Systems (IMS) becoming ubiquitous
  • Localization is the name of the game as more and more content gets translated to serve companies that have a global online presence
  • Machine learning is the future and all LSPs have to incorporate it as a vital part of their business process or be left in the dust
  • Language companies double up as technology companies and have teams of coders making Continuous Delivery possible (code for just in time services)
  • To be successful we either need razor sharp focus in terms of what we do or to partner with companies offering complementary services

After returning from Amsterdam, my colleagues and I are busy setting up meetings with the folks we met. We look forward to learning and growing as we chart our course to grow MCIS sustainably over the next three years!  And we are already looking forward to GALA 2018 in Boston next spring!

For more information on GALA, go to https://www.gala-global.org/

Latha Sukumar, Executive Director | Toronto, Ontario | April 12, 2017