By Shelley Lau, MIT Sloan ‘08
In this insightful article, Shelley shares with us her observations and experiences post-MIT and some of the remarkable steps she has taken to create opportunity from obstacles. Have your own stories to tell? Share them with us, at techlink-officers at mit dot edu.
In today’s environment, businesses must think about globalization in order to sustain growth and stay competitive. It’s especially true with the recent rise of Asia, which has recovered rapidly from the global financial crisis and outperformed other parts of the world in many aspects. Yet, outsourcing can only be applied so far. To succeed in expanding internationally, the management team needs to be localized. That is, executives and others who work in any international capacity should be equipped with knowledge of local languages and culture to effectively manage teams, execute plans, and drive success.
Many US companies, whether they are big conglomerates or tiny startups created by entrepreneurial MIT alums, recognize the tremendous potential of the overseas market. They pour in enormous investment to expanding internationally, only to have their dreams fail. This is because they too often neglect the importance of adapting to the business model, organization, culture, and most importantly management style of local environment. Localization is as important as globalization. Many supposedly global companies including Amazon, Ebay, and mostly recently Google have struggled to penetrate into the market in China. On the small scale, successful entrepreneurs who want to apply their know-how and repeat their successes overseas after selling a business often find that what they did in the US simply doesn’t work as well aboard.
But everybody speaks English – right?
Although many working professionals in large organizations abroad are now better educated and have basic knowledge in English or other languages, the truth is that it remains difficult for the local staff to communicate and engage in complex business and technical conversations. Arguably of more importance, local employees might be highly trained in English relevant to their trade, but may find it difficult to use English in social situations.
High level executives are no exception. They might expect local staff to be available for day-to-day translation and communication services, but what about the challenges of adjusting to life and taking care of personal matters in a foreign country? For example, I know of one senior business executive at Priceline, who travels frequently to Asia but always encounters communication barriers with taxi drivers. So he’s late a lot. In another case study, several MIT grads and a senior advertising executive with over 20 years of experience with Hearst decided to start ventures in China. When they arrived, they found that the translators that had worked for the companies they used before were gone after a management change. They were left to navigate treacherous business waters alone.
When in Rome, do Business as the Romans do
It’s not rocket science (though many of you can probably handle that too), but does it take discipline and time to learn new languages and acquire knowledge of buy cialis local cultures. In my time at and away from MIT, I recognized the needs of travelers and business executives who need to learn foreign languages and culture quickly. I have been spearheading the development of practical and effective language learning applications for the web and mobile platforms. My team at LangLearner has developed state-of-the-art and complex language learning, speech recognition, text-to-speech and translation technologies to enable rapid learning of 90 language pairs in
a fun and interactive environment.
a fun and interactive environment.
Business executives and professionals no longer need to spend many hours in the classroom or thousands of dollars on outdated desktop software and old methodologies (like Rosetta Stone). Technologies and Invention have always been the MIT’s strengths. Innovative and clever applications and solutions solve problems in impactful ways that make members of the MIT community the change agents of the world. The tools LangLearner is developing are accessible on the web without download/installation or via the iPhone or Windows Smartphone. We’ve been busy – some of our latest achievements include winning the Samsung Mobile Application Competition, and we were finalists in various contests including the Olin Cup Competition, JCI’s Socially Responsible Business Competition, and the Cyberport Creative Micro Fund Program.
Giving back to MIT
I really credit a lot LangLearners’ success to my time at MIT. To give back to the MIT TechLink community, members can claim an exclusive free trial by sending an email to “hello at langlearner dot com” with subject line: “[MIT TechLink] Exclusive LangLearner Free Trial” or by joining the email list at http://www.langlearner.com
If you are connected to email 24/7 and run into a communication emergency in a foreign place occasionally, you can get instant help with LL Translation HelpMail (free for you) – it works everywhere from laptop, blackberry and any cell phone with email access. The address is “translate at langlearner dot com”
Email to: translate at langlearner dot com
Subject: “French, voice”
Body: [text to translate]
** Note: It supports many languages, e.g. replace “French” with “Japanese”; check out http://www.langlearner.com for the updated list of language supports.
We hope you will give our software a try and let us know your thoughts. Thanks so much!
What do you think about the need for localization as a complement to globalization? Leave a comment for Shelley!
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