One year ago I decided to go all-in on the idea of fixing the education system and officially started Localization Academy.
In this article, I’ll share with you 5 things that went well for us in 2021. There will be two more articles published soon about what didn’t go so well and what are the plans for this year.
Heads-up: the article contains inappropriate language. Proceed at your own risk.
We actually started
Let’s get something clear. The reason why you’re reading this article is that some time ago I put the first words in a Google Doc. Pretty obvious, right?
All great things are possible because there’s always that first step. Without it, there’s nothing.
I remember my first post on LinkedIn, sharing the first podcast episode, recording the first interview, publishing the first video. And I remember the first time I announced the foundation of Localization Academy.
What do they all have in common besides being first?
“What will other people say?”
“What if I fail (and what will others think of me then)?”
Do you ever feel like taking the first step is the most difficult one? Although it can be quite simple, you get easily f**ked by your thoughts and never take an action?
Starting a company and failing was not entirely new to me. In 2013, I tried to “play entrepreneur” for the first time. After 3 years of working on it, I had to shut it down. Nobody was interested in the platform, I made zero money and burned through most of my savings.
Not a great start. The “good thing” (depending on your view) was that I worked on the first company quite secretly. I tried to pitch it only to a few people I knew and most of you probably didn’t know I existed back then.
With Localization Academy, I was more public about it. It was an open invitation for people to come and point fingers at me when I fail. The stakes were higher… at least in my head.
But I did it anyway. Why?
Even though my first venture into startups failed, I discovered one thing — that entrepreneurship is for me. The need to work on something bigger and do it on my own terms was stronger than the fear I had.
This time I was (hopefully) smarter about it. Localization Academy came to life in January 2021, but I started thinking about the problem one year before. While still working a job and making content on the side, I began talking to some people from our industry about how f**ed up education is.
And more importantly — what I think we could do about it.
I had a lot of chats where people basically agreed with me, but it wasn’t until I ran into Tucker that words turned into action. He offered help and introduced me to 3 LSPs to see who “bites”.
One of the LSPs was called Creative Words. That’s how I met Daniela.
At first, she didn’t quite get how one guy wants to fix the education system. After a few longer emails, it started to make sense and she said “yes” to doing a test bootcamp when they’ll need a new PM.
Fortunately, the need came rather sooner than later (while I was fresh on her mind). In December 2020 we announced the very first bootcamp where selected students can learn project management for free and even get to practice managing simulated projects from start to finish.
Tip: Having fear is natural. If you really want something, do it anyway.
I get it now
Doing bootcamps is fun. But you won’t last long without getting paid.
If you’ve ever heard my interview with Véronique Özkaya, you may know my opinion on salespeople — slimy fake bastards that would do anything just to get your money. At least that’s how I used to view sales.
I worked pretty much my whole career in production and always thought that salespeople just travel around the world, go to boring conferences to shake hands, and tell clients sweet lies about how amazing their companies are. And then we—the poor production people—have to do the real work!
The reality? If you have no sales, there are no clients. There are no projects for you to work on, no revenue to pay for your salary. You’re not needed. Goodbye!
Someone has to bring in the clients and with them the money so that you can pay for your mortgage. The production team is the one that makes the client stay or even grow, but sales bring the client in the first place.
One of the main reasons why my first startup failed was that I didn’t know how to sell. I still don’t think I know how to do it. The notion that selling is something evil is still there for me.
Instead, I learned to share thanks to Landmark. I just share my vision, what we do, and how we do it. Some people click, some people don’t. And that’s fine. We’re not here for everyone.
Five months went by until we did the second bootcamp. Nimdzi came to the rescue again. This time it was Josef who referred me to Vasso from Commit Global. It was time for me to take another first step — put a price on my work.
After doing numerous calculations, I submitted my quote.
And it got accepted.
We did the second bootcamp and I got paid. For the first time in my life, I created something on my own and sold it. It felt great… for a few moments. Then it was back to “production” and delivering on the promise.
I didn’t give myself any goals for 2021. It was all just an experiment. But one thought crossed my mind – it would be nice if I could at least make money to cover my personal expenses. If I managed to break even, I give myself more time to do something I believe in, without the stress of running out of money (which happened to me before).
Looking at our P&L for the last year, we kind of hit this “goal”. Our top-line for 2021 was $21k CAD. This includes doing bootcamps with companies, selling courses directly to students, creating custom courses, and YouTube ad revenue.
Tip: Don’t sell. Create value, share, and ask for your price.
It kinda works
The hypothesis for improving education was based on a simple fact. Although our early life is shaped by a one-size-fits-all system, we eventually end up on a free market and in the hands of companies.
That’s the ultimate goal of education — to prepare young people for real life. But the system does a pretty poor job at this.
It’s stuck in the past.
I’d compare it to how software and businesses used to be built before. You plan, build, test for years. Then you go out and get hit by a reality check.
The education system is simply not lean. It doesn’t give students the opportunity to discover what real jobs are like fast enough.
So I thought we would give it a try. Teach students the minimum required theory, regardless of their age and background, and give them a taste of what the job is about.
One thing that was still missing in our proposition was the end goal. Can we teach someone project management in our own lean way and also help them get their first real job?
That’s how the idea of company bootcamps came to be. We provide training that’s validated by the company and the selected students get to learn and experience a new role. If we find any superstars, they get hired right away.
And we also get paid. By the company. This way we transferred the cost of the training to companies (that typically have money) and we can offer free training to students (who typically don’t have the money). Student loans are f**cked up.
Does this make some sense? It did to me (duh). Yeah, I’d like to think that my ideas are somewhat anchored in reality.
But you never know until the market proves it.
Out of the first test bootcamp, Creative Words hired 2 talented PMs who are still with them to this day. This experience sort of validated the value of a bootcamp as an alternative way to finding, training, and assessing talent.
Our company bootcamps have a selection process in place because we want to increase the odds of finding a good fit for the company. But I wanted to make the training available to everyone.
After the second bootcamp with Commit Global, it was time for me to hit record. In July 2021 I opened the training to everyone as a mix of a video course and live sessions. No application process — simply pay for the course, learn on your own, and discover if project management is for you in a few weeks.
(You don’t need 2 years to learn project management. Wake up!)
This is where I want to give big thanks to Memsource and Filip who have been supporting me on my journey from the start. Not only by providing licenses to all our students but also by promoting Localization Academy and helping me find new students.
The feedback for the course was mostly positive, with students praising it for being concise and highly practical. While it’s nowhere near perfect and I have a huge backlog full of improvements, we again learned that there’s value even for individual students who pay for the course themselves.
Towards the end of last year, I removed daily sessions with me and cut the price of the course in half. You can now go through the course at your own pace and use our community platform to get support. This is a more scalable solution and the lower price makes the training accessible to more people.
The first students are going through it right now. Whether we’ll be able to keep the value and experience the same remains to be discovered…
Tip: Good ideas still need to be validated by real customers.
Free like a bird
How the curriculum looks like.
What’s the price of the course.
Where we put our profit.
What color represents Localization Academy.
What we do next.
I can change all of this in a heartbeat. Working on my own thing allows me to have full control over everything. While it’s not for everyone, I love it.
If you’ve ever heard of Ikigai, then maybe this is it for me.
(at least for the time being)
Even though I sometimes don’t appreciate where I am right now, I should be quite happy with my current life. I work on something impactful, it does make some money, I like doing it (not everything), and I think I’m good at it.
Another important aspect is that the people I work with, whether companies or students, seem to be OK with who I am. And I’m the guy who talks about localization while having the word F**K on his wall.
“How dare you?!“
The best thing? There are people who like it and know me for more than the occasional F-bombs.
The whole career I’ve been a black sheep. Sooner or later I would find something in each company that didn’t make sense to me and I’d start rebelling. And naturally, that didn’t go well with my managers.
I can’t even describe how refreshing it is to just be myself and have others work with me because of who I am, not because of who they want me to be. I wish everyone had this.
Tip: Be yourself. Pretending is not a viable long-term strategy.
The best education
When you’re tight on money and you lack the charisma to convince others to join you for free, you have to learn to do many things on your own.
OK, let’s see.
- I put together a training program and taught people over zoom.
- I designed the website and finalized the copy.
- I recorded and edited videos almost every week.
- I pitched to a few companies and sold some bootcamps.
- I created a video course, one for my own course and one for a client.
- I set up a simple customer funnel and tied multiple systems together with API.
- I created the pricing and tested it.
- I tried PPC advertising.
- I started hiring, interviewing, delegating, and firing people.
All in the span of one year.
Was this one of the most rapid learning opportunities of my life? Probably.
We talk a lot about “connecting the dots” on the podcast. This is one way how you can potentially learn this skill and understand the bigger picture. Go out and try to start a company and experience all aspects of it.
Localization projects are just a small cog in big machinery. If you ever want to be an equal partner for your clients, you need to learn what they’re all about.
One day… one day, maybe, I’ll come up with an advanced program to teach this.
Tip: To understand a client, become one.