How To Manage A Successful Team – Vera Richards From Akorbi

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From Localization Engineer to Program Director in 5 years. That was the rapid career of Vera Richards after leaving Microsoft. Today she’s the VP of Localization at Akorbi and she’ll share with you how to manage a successful team around the world.

Since we both worked for Moravia, we HAD TO reminisce about the “good old days”. You’ll get to know a few people from that era. (Yes, I’m getting old)

But – the meat of our interview was team management. In this episode you will learn:

  • How to manage teams and gain their trust
  • What motivates people
  • Akorbi’s rockstar system
  • Balancing strengths and weaknesses
  • Why keeping your word matters
  • Becoming a friend with your team – yes or no
  • How to deliver negative feedback
  • Paralyzed by… typos?!

This is episode #28 of my social interaction practice, also known as The Localization Podcast 🙂 #localization​ and #translation​ insight delivered to you by the power of voice, this time with Vera Richards.


Andrej Zito 

Okay. Welcome Vera Richards to the podcast. Hi.

Vera Richards 

Thank you so much.

Andrej Zito 

Well, no, no, you know, it’s funny because like, I don’t know how I should greet you. Because like, at first when I was messaging you, I thought it you’re like, American or something. But then we discovered both of us discovered that you are from Czech Republic, and I’m from Slovakia. So like, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking like, I’m going to say Ahoj Verka, because like, even like your name on LinkedIn, so it’s just Vera, which makes it look a bit more like International. It doesn’t have the the Czech hook right above E. That’s how it should be.

Vera Richards 

Correct. Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I think I’m kind of in a twilight zone between the Czech Republic and the US. I’ve lived most of my life in the US now. So I feel American but deep down or maybe not that deep down and still Czech. So yeah, I understand. And same with with me, I didn’t realize when you contacted me that you are Slovak so when you started talking to me in Slovak, I was also a little shocked. surprised that we’re basically neighbors Really? Yeah. Vancouver and Seattle.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, that’s funny. So you are from the Republic of Slovakia. And we both crossed our paths in Moravia? Well, not physically, but we both work for Moravia. But before we get into that, maybe just briefly tell us how you got into US from Czech Republic? What was the reason?

Vera Richards 

Yes, so actually, my grandmother grew up in United States. So she came to the United States in the 1960s as a child with her family, and lived in Texas, and she stayed there until she was 17, she moved back to the Czech Republic, with her father to sell the house that she ended up meeting my grandpa and, and staying in Czech Republic. So we always had a family in in Texas. So quite a large family in Texas, and my grandmother was really raising myself and my brother and she spoke English to us, and we were quite immersed, and even that culture because she was very much American more so than Chieko her life. And so when I was growing up, I was also very, very much immersed in languages. I studied at UNESCO school and, and English was my favorite language at that time at case. So I was always feeling that that would be a career I would like to pursue language career and in something I will do as you go through my adulthood, however, being the Czech Republic was a communist country at that time. And my my family was not in the Communist Party. We were not very well looked at. Also the connection to the Western country having we had family and United States, we were quite, our phones were listened to and we were actually prosecuted, my father was prosecuted by the communists for his beliefs and so there was really no chance for for me to, to ever think that I would get to the United States so that time so however, I was also runner, I was on the Czech national track team track and field team and I qualified for the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1994. But at that time, the Czech Republic boycotted those Olympic Games. And as an individual, you still have an opportunity to to participate. But the country will not let you leave. If it’s communist. At that time, that’s how it was. So I kind of struck a deal, but with them that they will let me go and visit my family in Texas, after the Olympic Games. So, so they agreed to that, and I was able to travel, travel out out of the Czech Republic, then I stayed. I detect it. So. So that’s how I ended up in the United States.

Andrej Zito 

Did you travel with your parents? Or was it just you?

Vera Richards 

No, I traveled by myself.

Andrej Zito 

Oh, really? How old were you then?

Vera Richards 

Yeah, I was 18.

Andrej Zito 

Okay. So you left your parents in Czech Republic,

Vera Richards 

Right?

Andrej Zito 

Are they still there? Or did they move? Oh,

Vera Richards 

no, unfortunately, both of my parents passed away. My father was quite young, and my mom just died two years ago. So I don’t have immediate family. My brother, unfortunately, as well, passed away when he was quite young. And so I have some nephews, and I have some living there.

Andrej Zito 

So you mentioned that you were studying at a UNESCO school? Which were your favorites. So how did this opportunity opened up for you when you move to US?

Vera Richards 

Yes. So I was studying UNESCO, the UNESCO, UNICEF in particular, had the big interest in the Eastern Bloc countries at that time, they they sponsored by UNESCO schools, and what the mission was to open up the languages to many, many more people, and publish materials in various languages. So in my elementary school, I took five languages, and then in high school and an additional two, so we had seven had seven languages. And we were translating various brochures and magazine articles. So they were using us as translators, that that point is very simple, and was not obviously no, no cat tools at the time, no glossaries, and so on, just making the material accessible, but I really enjoy the languages throughout my life. And one interesting thing is when, when they were selecting children to be in these UNESCO ran schools, we were in grade one when they were screening children. And they basically had a number of various language sentences. They wanted the students to look through my little kids to repeat, and to see if we can hear the different. The different toner, the different pronounciation if we were able to emulate that, so, so that was interesting how they were testing, and then they would select couple children in each class to move into the UNESCO schools. I still remember that that process.

Andrej Zito 

This was all during communism, where these kind of schools even allowed? I’m surprised.

Vera Richards 

Yes, yeah. Yeah, it was. So there were I think each district in the Czech Republic had a UNESCO school or I don’t know how many there were, but in the town where I grew up in Odisha, there was mentary, or the primary education grades one through eight. And then the high school gimnasio High School was also UNESCO.

Andrej Zito 

And after you moved to US, did you still want to pursue the language passion of yours?

Vera Richards 

Yes, definitely. So I did do. So when I was in Czech Republic, I did have one year of university there, the economic University. So that that was the only one I was able to go into because of the communist regime and we didn’t have the participation in a communist country of party from my parents. So I had a year of that and then I landed in Texas. I won to college, they’re just two. It was a community college and in Fort Worth in Texas. And then from there, I started working as a flight attendant for American Airlines. I was based in Chicago. And I lived there for a couple years. And then I moved to Seattle. But all along, I wanted to end up with languages. So I studied translation and localization and Seattle and Bellevue College. And then also, I started translating early on. When I had children, my children were small. So I was translating. Through that I was, I started working for a company, which would be culturally integrating people who came from different countries to Microsoft. So I work for that company called send them mobility at that time. And so I had various students from all over the world for about three years, I did that teaching them English, as well as the cultural immersion program. So, so that was really interesting. I really enjoyed that work, because a lot of the people were quite, quite new. And well, they were very new to the country. And they, they wanted to know everything from how to organize their children’s birthday party to prepare for college career or to, to conduct the business meetings, very varied levels of English, something with absolutely zero English, where we had to start with flashcards and pointing to objects, and it’s very slowly and some came with plexus, sophisticated level of English and they wanted more of a business, English and so so that was a very great experience. For me, I met a lot of interesting people, I’m still friends with many of them. So. So that was a very good, good career. From there, I went to Microsoft to work on the fellers, board breakers for the Office Suite. And I work down there for for a year and a half. And then I applied it. Moraviastarted working there.

Andrej Zito 

So your job in my Microsoft, was it already like localization? I didn’t get it?

Vera Richards 

Yes. Yeah, so it was linguistic testing for the Czech speller word breaker and putera

Andrej Zito 

What is word breaker?

Vera Richards 

Word breaker is that so when you are typing in Word, and you have to go to the print line, you have to break the word, you have to divide the word. So the machine underneath does it automatically it it has to break a certain syllable, or it has to break you know, on at the end of sentence or on a comma, and so on. So, so you teach the machine the rules, the grammar, of the language to be able to break in the right place.

Andrej Zito  

That’s an interesting experience, right? Because it’s something completely different than just translating. It’s more like a computational linguist. Right?

Vera Richards 

It is. Yeah, it’s based on that definitely. So So, but there are a lot of test cases you have to validate and and that’s what that work entail a lot of the validation also you know, when you are creating a lexicon for the spellers for example, the machine the software actually has an algorithm which creates forms of different words. So, so it creates superlatives by putting a prefix and and you have to also validate that output because it tries to make superlatives out of numerals, for example, or, you know, things which makes no sense, which is not necessarily a big problem in speller, because people are not going to use that word. So, because they would not just think of that, you know, making something the most 100 for example, so it Could it be contained in there, but we were trying to eliminate all these nonsensical words out of the lexicon through, you know, different smoke test. Like this process? So yeah, so yeah.

Andrej Zito 

So after that you went to Moravia. I can only assume. Are you talking about the Kirkland office?

Vera Richards 

Yes.

Andrej Zito 

Is your work for that? Yeah. I think I already mentioned to you during our intro call that I was the first localization engineer to visit the office from Czech Republic from the HQ of Moravia. Yeah. When Hans, he was setting up the office, right. I think you joined later after that. Yeah. Right. The very first person that we hired was actually also from Microsoft, it was Yuriko. And we hired her as a localization engineer. And I was there to pretty much train her career thing. Yeah, I’m wondering, like, why did you want to move to the vendor site? If you work for Microsoft?

Vera Richards 

Yeah. So Microsoft, I really enjoyed the work there. Yes, Microsoft, compared to a company likeMoravia, at the time, was, it was a corporate corporate environment, there were many levels of, you know, management. And you can be created to a certain extent, but then you’re also limited to some tasks, which are repetitive and creative side is not, not at the level where I was, was not, there was not that much you can, you can explore and be creative. And so for me, I, I enjoyed working with the English language, but I also wanted to explore the others and be involved with localization. On the other side, I had some amazing mentors, throughout my career, from Microsoft, and also just people I met along the way, and they all encouraged me to, to move to the vendor side, because that’s where you can become more creative, you can also see you can become more creative from the respect of working with more varied clients and varied needs and services. So that and also working for Maravi at the time, it was that type of a startup family, which I really enjoyed, you know, a corporate environment could be quite a, you know, I guess, not for everyone, I would say, there is a lot of like, a lot of competition across the career, career, ladder climbing type of environment where I have when I started in Mojave, I was very much collaborative environment, which I really enjoyed. And I think that’s what, what attracted me to, to that.

Andrej Zito 

I just wanted to add one thing, because like, when you said that you didn’t have the creative space at Microsoft, like from my experience, it’s usually the other way. Because most of my most of my career, I worked on the vendor side. And when I finally got to work on the client side, which was for autodisc, I feel that that’s where I had more creativity and more freedom to affect things because you are the client. And usually, the vendors have to listen to you. So when you’re on the vendor side, even if you have many times good ideas, sometimes the client just doesn’t listen or don’t doesn’t want to change.

Vera Richards 

Yeah, and that’s, that’s definitely you know, I guess, it depends on the client. Yeah, and I can see that, for even for Microsoft, they’re definitely teams where you can be creative, and you can go and try to test some ideas. And you know, where I was at the time, there was not that much for pretty strange and processes. Being a tester, you have to be creative in your test cases and how you apply that, you know, your own kind of curiosity when you do the testing. So that was there, but it was only Czech language I was working with at the time. And, and it kind of ran its course basically because we validated the lexicon. We basically finished the product for the years ago released is that that time where every three years or so, so so I wanted a new challenge and it’s probably why most of them by Yeah, I agree with you that sometimes when we are in that vendor relationship with our clients, we just have to follow what they have their processes. There’s not that much room for questioning. Although I feel that some clients, maybe the companies, which don’t have such a set, strict process in their place, they are encouraging the LSP to come in and provide their expertise and, and those are like, the clients, we want to have the ones where the consultancy is a big part of that relationship. Absolutely.

Andrej Zito 

I was also wondering when you mentioned what were the benefits of joining Moravia? I was wondering if one of the things that played a role was actually the fact that it was a Czech based company. So it’s kind of like play to your heart like.

Vera Richards 

Yeah, absolutely. I that that’s definitely what attracted me to, to Moravia. I, I originally wanted to translate for Moravia. So I, when I was translating, I applied at Moravia. And I never heard back. So I’ve always told them that when I worked there, I said, Nobody got I’m so heartbroken. So, you know, then I spoke with someone at Microsoft at that time, I knew and I said, I will do up to work on all of these products in Czech. And we’d like to translate and they told me the time. Well, we work with a company called Moravia. And, and they have all the Czech language there aplly to them. So that’s when I saw that there in Kirkland. I thought well, I’ll try to just see if I could work there.

Andrej Zito 

How old was the Kirkland office when you joined them? Do you remember?

Vera Richards 

Yeah I think it was about two years old. It was quite, there was only one. At that time, there was only one person working, which was Aba Tafford. She was the only employee at the time who was there Hanzi already moved back to the Czech Republic. And then more people came, you know, after.

Andrej Zito 

Maybe for people who are not familiar with Moravia and place we should explain who is hanzi.

Vera Richards 

Hence, you see. That’s right. So that that’s his name. Is Jan Bares, and, and Jan. The surname in the Czech Republic has many different variances. So one is Hamza and then there’s Hanzi. I don’t know how that does. I think it’s pretty specific to Jan Bares.

Andrej Zito 

I think so. Yeah. I think like when I joined Moravia. I didn’t know like, who they were talking about when everybody was talking about hanzi. Because it sounds the thing that it reminds me of is a tree if you like action movies, but the first diehards, there’s Hans Gruber. He’s like, the, like the villain of the movie. So that’s what it reminds me it sounds like German hansy.

Vera Richards 

It does a little bit.

Andrej Zito 

It doesn’t sound Czech like Honza right?

Vera Richards 

No, no, I actually I never questioned where it came from.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, we should ask him.

Vera Richards 

We should ask him. Yeah.

Andrej Zito 

Okay. So I remember I remember from your LinkedIn profile that your career at morava was pretty rapid. And I thought I had a pretty decent career. I know that not sure if you know him, he helped electrical. Yeah. So Miguel joined Moravia, around the same time as me. And he progressed much faster than me. He was project manager long time before I became a project manager. But your career was also super rapid. I think I started as a localization engineer. And then they made it all the way to the program directors. So please tell us like how this is possible.

Yeah. So when I was applying, there was a position of lockington here and a project manager at the time. And so I thought I should apply as an engineer because that’s what I was doing at Microsoft. And I was also C sharp, to sharp programming and so, so I thought that’s probably one of the best. And when I was applying, actually hansy was interviewing me as well as a few others. And after the interview, he said, wouldn’t you rather be a project manager and I said, No, no, no. I feel really strong and engineer, I think that’s where I should start. So I started as an engineer, but within two, two months, they talked me into to becoming a project manager and I work down one of the Microsoft clients.

Andrej Zito 

Why do you think they wanted you to become a project manager?

Vera Richards 

I guess they saw the Kirkland office was a little unique in that we basically had to do everything out of that office, because there were only two of us. So, so I was dabbling in all parts of that localization process, including quality as well as project management and engineering. So it was kind of all in one. And then there were our colleagues. In the Czech Republic in Brno office, we work where we, we basically ended the day and in the US, and they started up overnight in the Czech Republic. So so I was handing over all of the different tasks, regardless of what they’re doing were project management or engineering. And so I decided to make more sense that I was closer to the client, I was in constant communication with the client, whereas the burnout office was more so communicating with their suppliers and partners. So So that’s, like, kind of organically Did you know your Microsoft counterpart before you joined Moravia? Or were you working with a completely different team? Completely different team? Yes, yeah. No, I didn’t. But yeah, that’s actually I started to develop very good relationship with that client. There were two project managers I worked with on the side of Microsoft, and it became a very fruitful partnership with with that team, and Microsoft and kangaroo quite rapidly, and we were able to become the single source supplier. So so then from there, since it was growing, I became a good manager, and project manager for a while I became a group manager, and then the team I work with, combined with another team at Microsoft. So that became a much larger account. And so that’s when I moved to the program director kind of grew with that client. They evolved, my career evolved as well.

Andrej Zito 

Can we share? What kind of product were you working on?

Vera Richards 

Sure, I started with a Windows Phone, I can share that, because that product no longer exists. But, but it was, I think, today been my favorite project, because of the level of creativity we were allowed to come in. And, and the partnership which was developed between the client and the team at more obvious, though, I think that’s why that was such a such an amazing project to work on at the time.

Andrej Zito 

You mentioned that you were able to develop the relationships with the two project managers from the Microsoft side. I’m wondering, how did you do that was like the close proximity, a huge advantage to you, because you could just like meet in person go for lunch, and build like a more personal relationship rather than just sending emails?

Vera Richards 

So partially that Yeah, they were one of them was, was responsible for the software and the other one was responsible for the content side of things. So yes, we had many meetings, many phone calls, we became quite close friends as well. But I think it was the level of trust because they completely trusted the decision, which the recommendations coming from our team and that and mutual mutual respect, you know, they they were very good at collaborating with a team giving us good instructions. So it was it was not a your typical relationship with a client where you do what is prescribed. It was very much planning together. You know, we planned a localization released scheduled together they come in and we sit down, and they really took that consultancy very, very with an open mind, and I think that’s what really led to that type of relationship. And so I would say it was the trust and the transparency and the integrity of that relationship.

Andrej Zito 

Did the Kirkland office grew

Vera Richards 

Yeah, it has grown quite a bit over a year, then we grew about 60%. So if there were two of us there, then within the next couple years, I think what I remember we were when we were moving from Kirkland to Bellevue, there were eight people at the time eight or nine. And then in Bellevue, that office grew to about 13. And then from Bellevue, that office moved to Seattle.

Andrej Zito 

So it doesn’t mean that the Kirkland office doesn’t exist anymore.

Vera Richards 

It doesn’t.

Andrej Zito 

You broke my heart.

Vera Richards 

I know.

Andrej Zito 

My next question is, we’re starting to get into the team management, which will be the main theme of our conversation. So I’m wondering, if you were the person in Kirkland office, how do you cope with managing the big the growing team that was split in different offices around the world?

Vera Richards 

Okay, that’s so that’s a good question. So that was something I really set out to set up and more Avia in a way that that we are not overlapping, as far as duplicating any kind of work and any kind of process and making it seamless transition between the teams. So we can provide that for the sun models. So, so working not only working craft, the global timezone. But also, you have to consider the cultural differences when you manage a global team. And I think that was one thing very early on. When I started in Latvia, and started working with the Czech office, the cultural side of things really bubbled up because I was already quite American at the time, and had a American style of management. And so when I first started, I called the whole team in Czech Republic, and we had a meeting to kind of get to know each other. And so I told them all about myself and about the processes and how we are going to do this. And then I asked them for questions, and there was just silence them, they didn’t speak at all. So I was thinking this was gonna be really tough, because they, they are not really talking to me. So, so just understanding how that team works and how they will open up. Again, I think that was based on trust, because you’re I flew in and started all this great cheerleading, I didn’t, they really needed to understand who I was, and that I, you know, I am checked to and then they started to open up, then then it actually got to the other extreme when they start telling me how bad their day is, every day, when I asked them how they’re doing. So I was getting too much information after that point. But, but I think that that’s the key is really building that trust with your team. And understanding that silence maybe is not a bad thing sometimes that they are listening and they are going to speak only when they feel is relevant and just tell me a bunch of stuff by the miners know what to do what so so I believe that that was the key to understanding. Same with working with the teams and China or working with themes in Argentina, for example, there’s all different challenges. Not just as I said, the culture plays a big role, because I did notice something, you know, the teams in China were very agreeable to everything, but might not always follow through on what they said that can be done. So that’s also sometimes cultural because they are supposed to accept all the challenges you know, so so On the other hand, the detective, you know, has a lot of strong opinions on why not to do something. So, so it’s, it’s a balance. And, again, I think making sure that the team is, is it’s balanced, and that they all know that they are all individually contributing, equally contributing to the project. And they all matter and give them that that space an opportunity to, to be creative, and to come up with their unique idea. So I think that that is, that is important.

Andrej Zito 

I’m so curious about the first example that you gave, that you just organize your big cuddle with the new team, and you started talking, and then you expected other people to talk is that what would actually happen if you had to huddle with American people? Because I think if I think about, like my past career, I wasn’t exposed to like purely American teams most of the time. So that’s why I’m curious, like, if that’s the expectation that you had is that your experience working with purely like North American people, that they would always start talking.

Vera Richards 

Um, I would think that it depends on the, again, the, perhaps the subject matter you’re working with. So if you are in a group of engineers, I don’t want to say geek, because I don’t want to do that. But if you are, you know, in with that team with that group, they want to talk strictly sharp, they don’t want to talk about the weather and the nickel game and all that. So you, you might not get as much of that type of atmosphere within the American team, if it’s strictly focused on technical, technical expertise. But on the south side of things, sales in Europe and sales in America are very different. We know that sales in Europe, again, you you are, the social part is not as prominent, or a lot of deals get closed, in the US on the golf course, or, or the restaurant and a dinner and so on, not as much in our industry. It’s not as prominent in power industries and others, but, but it definitely seeps through in into our industry as well. If you compare the sales and in Europe, and compared to you know, or even in, in Asia, it’s it’s quite different. So, so I would expect it in localization, that that people would be a little more open and a little more social. In the US, but again, you know, our industry and I know, I’m kind of contradicting myself, but in our industry, we have people from all over the world. And that’s the beauty of our industry. That’s the cultural phone route is just so vast, so. So if Americans are, I guess managing conversation, then I think you can, you can expect that they encourage people to be more engaged and be more vocal and be more talkative, then if it’s coming from European more than academia, then you. There’s this aura of respect, where people are quiet. They’re taking things in, and they only speak when they’re asked to speak. So. So I see that that is the difference.

Andrej Zito 

So let’s get very practical, because you mentioned that your first experience with the team was pure silence. And then at some point, it ended up people talking too much. So how did you actually get to that point, like how did you gain their trust? How did you make them to open up?

Vera Richards 

Yeah, I think I think that to gaining the trust is to be completely therapy or team to listen to them to, to be interested in what they have to say not just kind of give them an opportunity to talk about them. Listen to what they have to say. So it took time to build That, they understood that what I was saying is what I’m going to follow through on on. And I expected to stay away from them as well, you know, and I, I think, to this day, when I work with the teams, I always tell them, you can come to me with your problems, but be ready to have a solution already in mind, we can discuss, and then let’s do it, let’s, you know, let’s try to solve your problem, let’s try to solve our problem. And also, I don’t, I’m not a believer in finding blame on an individual, if something goes wrong, it’s all of our problems, we all have to fix it. And we all have to make sure we prevent it. So I have never singled out anyone in front of the team. They knew that it was we were all one. And they also knew that, that if something was really they were trying to maybe cut corners or something like that, that they liked me now, first, because they knew I was going in front of the client. And I needed to have the facts, if something was going wrong, I, we always told the client, the client was always notified. And to this day, that’s what I tell the team, we’re not hiding anything where we want to have a partnership with our client, they have to trust us. But we have to trust each other within the team as well. And we just need to, you know, find ways to fix things and to, to give everyone the picture so that I can through this type of that trust building, the team knew that that there is really no games we’re playing. It’s, it’s, it’s work, and it’s our professional relationship. And we just have to be one one team and, and so it wasn’t really that difficult to build that trust, because staff, because I think with this type of approach, you do get people quite dedicated, and they all also got recognized for for all the good things they’ve done. So and that that kept them challenge has kept them feel validated as a team member. And so we were able to get to that sweet spot where we trusted each other and we could we could work together well.

Andrej Zito 

I mentioned one important thing, which is following through, which in my opinion leads to trust. Because if I know that people follow through, if I can trust their word that is like very, very important to me. But unfortunately, like recently, in my experience, whether it’s professionally or even outside of work environment, my experience is that people just forget about what they told you, they don’t keep an honor their word. So like the trust is like very broken for me. And I like in my experience, I think it’s like, super difficult for me to find people that I can just trust the word like when they say that they will do something, whether it’s tomorrow or in like six months, that on the day, they will actually remember and they will deliver. So I’m wondering, and I’m pretty sure you had this experience as well. So I’m wondering how you teach people to to be more disciplined, and to deliver on their word.

Vera Richards 

Yeah, so I’d work I get we have to rely on we have to deliver we have to deliver on time and we have to deliver on the quality we set to be delivered. So So there has to be checks. Regardless, you know, I, I am not want to micromanage ever. But sometimes, if we don’t have that trust, or in the beginning, when you’re building the trust, you do have to check the work, which is being done to make sure that it’s happening. So, so for that we have tools we have we do that manually. We know how we see the results, and we kind of make sure that that that happens. But yeah, I mean, certainly we have had cases and I’ve had cases in my career when people were tasked with certain task and then they didn’t deliver and I had to remind them I had to go back and then it goes down to ownership. I think that if people feel that they have ownership of something and they step up and they accept that ownership, that they are more likely to deliver than if they feel like they’re delivering something to you and you aren’t gonna take it and use it. So it’s, I think partially, it’s a recognition. And partially it’s that feeling of ownership where you, you, yourself want to stand behind what you are doing, you are delivering. So I think that that is a good tool to if we want to call it a tool to use to get people to step up to own. And that has been something I’ve observed in teams, in teams when you tap them and assign them and recognize them, that they are more likely to keep working in this manner.

Andrej Zito 

I’m not sure if Moravia still had this strategy when you weren’t there. But I know when I was there, they started implementing management by objectives. So people kind of knew their goals. And they were incentivized to deliver on those goals, which kind of like ties into the ownership because they knew that they own this thing, and they deliver, they maybe get a bonus. So I’m wondering, what do you think about this approach?

Vera Richards 

Yeah, definitely. It’s, you know, motivation by monetary motivation is, is a motivation. But in my opinion, it’s not that it’s not a really what motivates people. I’ve, you know, I’ve seen it in my current role as well, as well as seen on more Avia. It’s great to have. But once you get that reward them what’s kind of done. And for people who are, I think most people are not motivated by money, but rather the recognition. So if, if their manager or even someone higher up in a company recognizes them, or mentioned them, that’s much more powerful than giving them an extra $100. You know, so. So to me, and that’s, you know, that’s kind of my my belief, but there’s certainly people who are motivated by money. And that, that is the goal to motivate people by money, you do have to make sure that those objectives are, are meaningful objectives. Because I’ve seen in the past that the objective being said is, you know, we want the client to be happy is objective? Well, I would rather make the objective if what, what would be something new, you can come up with some new process where we can be more efficient or new tool or script you can write to to make something, work faster and automate portion of your workflow, things like that something to challenge you to go outside of your own comfort zone to actually do something up and over and above. And then if you motivate that by monetary, then that’s, that’s fitting, in my opinion, but I think if you want to have to engage team members, and if you, you do need to recognize them. And, yeah, at that time in Moravia, there would be monthly or quarterly I forget now, I believe quarterly letter from the CEO, who would, who would recognize certain individuals and different teams within the whole company. And I know people would be waiting to look if their name would be in there. And, and I saw that that was really the motivation they were they were really looking for. So.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, let’s talk about feedback, because it’s related to recognition, because recognition is basically type of feedback, right? So I want to read that when you have a positive feedback, you should share it in front of everyone. When you have a negative feedback. It should be one on one. Do you agree with this?

Vera Richards 

I agree with that. Yeah, I agree with that. I think most definitely, I as I mentioned before, I’m not one to single someone out and blame for anything. If there are improvements, which we could make, even individually can make I think that that’s for a private conversation, for sure. Between the manager and the person they manage. So most definitely I mean, we came, I don’t know if you remember, or you’re younger than me. But when I was going to school, in the Czech Republic, when we were getting grades for test, or even final grade, the teacher was very publicly in front of the whole class, say, oh, my goodness, you are gonna fail. And you are a terrible student. To get that improved, or, oh, look at you, again, an A, you’re such a great student. So that was this public shame. I remember from school, which was terrifying. And it started in grade one. This doesn’t happen in American schools. So no to hearing or maybe invest in schools, but but that’s the public shame was horrible. And once a person was tagged in as a troublemaker, forever a troublemaker. So that has a big impact on people’s psyche.

Andrej Zito 

Now, they probably have a successful business, right? I think it’s usually the troublemakers that become entrepreneurs. Straight a students giving feedback, I’m wondering how you deliver negative feedback to people? How do you structure it? How do you think about it? Like if somebody messes up?

Vera Richards 

Right, so, um, I guess that’s the toughest part. The toughest part of our job is when we have to let people go, I think that’s the toughest thing, and you don’t want to that’s what I consider a failure when we have to let someone go, it’s my failure to you know, so, so delivering negative feedback, good defense, you know, if it is someone doing intentionally, something, something wrong, we just need to talk about it and bring it up understand what happened and why. If that person is, you know, doing something malicious Lee, I think I don’t have much patience for that. If it’s malicious, unintentional, I can just go straight to the point and show the facts. I always like to have the data ready. If that’s the case, if someone is just struggling and maybe not focused, then I try to understand you know, what, what is going on and how we can help maybe get some time off or, or for help or need mentoring, need training, you know? How maybe wrong wrong position for that person with cows, can we better match you with with what you like to do and what where you can be more effective and more efficient. So it’s definitely a conversation never never is it black and white, but you know, only in the cases of malicious conduct it so you know, much more to the point and there’s probably not much which can be

Andrej Zito 

I would like to see you get straight to the point because you looked to me like like the sweetest person ever is like, like you can’t hurt a flower

Vera Richards 

I’m not very good with confrontation let’s let’s put it that way. It’s not my strong suit. But I have had to have those kind of conversations before and I still don’t you know, I am not Yeah, of course, I’m not really don’t get angry and, and crazy, but rather looked at the fact and, you know, I’ve had to let go of several people and sometimes it surprises me Because in the end, they are like, they totally agree. And that’s right.

Andrej Zito 

Finally,

Vera Richards 

They think me like I Iliberated them. So so I have not fired at with people on bathrooms. I may be few times in my career, but if it does come to it, it’s usually the person is really not in bright place. And they feel it themselves but either it’s over their head, they would much rather be doing something completely different. And they gray. So I tend to give a lot of chances are people are, if there’s we suspect that something is going wrong and that person is not really performing then I tend to give Got a lot of months of change improvement plans and working together and trying to get get you in better place. But if it doesn’t work, you know, we pardoned and I think, everybody, really,

Andrej Zito 

That’s an interesting point, because I’m wondering if you have any, I don’t know, like a timeline, like, Okay, I’m going to give this person this amount of time. And I want to see a change. Before that, like, how do you know like, how much time you want to give to individuals for a change, because I know that with some people, you can try, like, in my experience, I had one person. And like, immediately, like, when you deliver the feedback, and you ask them to improve, that’s like, they wake up, and they start doing things better, but slowly, they just degrade back to their normal, which is not acceptable for you. So I’m wondering, like, how you think about, like, the timeframe for someone to improve?

Vera Richards  

Yeah, so we have some HR guidelines for that, you know, for the improvement plan and, and how that should be applied and monitored, and so on. So, so that’s, that’s one guide, but like you said, there’s some people who will fix what needs to be done, and then they might flip back to there, they’re saying the same process and same way of doing things. So it could be individual Also, sometimes you deliver that feedback, and that person loses, completely loses motivation, because they now feel like, Oh, now I am, you know, I’m singled out, and I’m already not going to get better. And that person just got it out for me, perhaps so. So they have a different reaction, they themselves lose any kind of motivation, they want to leave, because some people feel feel when you do an improvement plan, now, suddenly, you are micromanaging them, you are going to now watch everything they do. And they have to justify their day, and they have to give you all the tests they do. And so you you lose motivation. And you also feel that by giving that improvement plan, that the person feels once they receive that improvement plan that audit that they have to now report on how many minutes It took me and that you are setting them up for having, you know, having something in your hands to fire them. So it does not count. So I think again, it has to be the honesty with which you are working with that person, you either tell them straight, you know, I have to come to your position. And it’s not gonna give you a list of things you now have to justify, so I can use it against you. So if that’s the case, and you’re using it, you know, just to, to let people go, then that’s wrong motivation. But if you are really truly trying to get that improvement, also be very honest, I want to keep you You are very valuable. Here are your strong suit. And this is what do you need to improve. And if we can do this together, I mean, I can tell you that in my current job with my one of my team members. And this, this, I feel was just an amazing thing, which happened. We had a lead when I joined akorbi. And that lead was not as experienced, although she was with the company for a long time, but she wasn’t that experienced because she was doing things a certain way for years. And I knew that that’s not the right direction for that particular functional department. And I needed to get that experience in. So I tried to challenge her to, to help her to bring her more references, bring her talk to her coach her, but she herself realized it was kind of above her head and she could not get to that challenge or get to that place. So you know, it came time where I told her I have to hire someone else to lead your department and but I you know, I still would like you to know she actually knew that I was started to look for that way then she came to me and she said you know I know this is not what I can do. So I’m going to give notice, and I said well I’m you know I’m sorry that you feel that you have to give notice because I do feel that you are bringing in a lot to the company and I am bringing someone in Leave your department, would you be willing to stay and she was so relieved, she said, Oh, I, I would love that I would love to learn. And I would love to grow. And, and, and that’s very hard for a person to do to admit that, you know, I’m in a certain position and I think I have things under control, but somebody is going to come above me because my manager feels that I’m not where I should be. Right. So, so for her to kind of take that. And she just Boston, she now is leading one of our biggest clients. And she has done an incredible job learning and I met with her she’s in our Argentina office when I traveled to Argentina last year, and and I told her, I have to tell you that I have an amazing respect for you for actually being able to step down a position and to you know, learn and to grow and to become you know, this great expert at what you do right now. So, so you you have a way, you know, different people say that not I wouldn’t call it criticism, but that input that feedback a different way. And so this was just a great, great win. For for us for that akorbi to have her kept stay on the team.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, I feel like when you first delivered the news, maybe she felt like she she failed you or like she couldn’t live up to your expectations. But then when you said that we value you for other things. She’s like, okay, yeah, I can do that.

Vera Richards 

Yeah,

Andrej Zito 

So it’s actually my question. And it’s something that I’m struggling with, and I think I’ve been struggling with in all my companies. And I want to talk about strengths and weaknesses. Because what I feel from pretty much all the companies that I’ve worked with before, is that most of the managers, they try to focus on your weaknesses, rather than doubling down on your strengths. And focusing on that part. So I’m wondering how you how you feel about strengths and weaknesses in people? Should you spend time trying to improve on the weaknesses? Or do you read or focus on the strengths?

Vera Richards 

So, that’s a very good question. And you’re right, people tend to get focused on the negatives. And I think that’s one thing I tried to think of every day of the positive, rather than the negative. So I feel and I said this earlier, the recognition is super important. We at akorbi have a rock star system where we recognize people across across the whole company, within our teams, you know, it’s fear, it’s not fear, it’s kind of 360. And we encourage people to, to always stop and think of, you know, the people we want to recognize, daily or monthly, not monetary, not just monetary, but specially posted. And so we have, we have for my team in particular, because akorbi is a conglomerate of various businesses. So for my team for localization, we have a newsletter, monthly newsletter we internally put out every month, and each month, someone else is the editor in chief of that newsletter. And we we try to not focus just on work. Certainly we put in the interesting things from the industry, we put in, we put in work related articles, but we also focus on people and what makes them who they are, but what are their interests, and we recognize the rock stars, we posted rock stars in that newsletter on monthly basis as well. So people are enabling us to their name there, they want to be recognized again for certain values we have in the company and they live up to so. So that’s one way but as far as the you know, the negative form, I wouldn’t say negative but more of the constructive feedback on the different practices. That’s definitely part of it. And when I say that there’s some some shortcomings in the team. I like to encourage trainings cross functional training, trainings within the team. So, so we do that also on almost every week, there’s a training coming from a different department within localization, whether it’s on tools, whether it’s in process, and you can do processes introduced, we also ask that functional team to give that training to the rest of the team. So there is a lot of opportunities for people to get improvement to learn from each other. And I think that’s one thing which I saw, which, which attracted me so much to morava, when I started working, there was this, this type of collaboration between the teams, people were not competing with each other, they were trying to help one another. And I saw that being very powerful in, in building strong teams. So So I took that with me, throughout my career to, to build those strong teams, where they are friends, that they are colleagues, and they are there for each other. And now it’s you know, it’s not dependent on me at all. It’s, it’s, it’s just a methodology I believe in and I, it makes my heart sing. When I see the teams doing that on their own, they have, you know, that they are themselves just making, they have barbecues, and they get together, they work in each other’s homes, one in Argentina, in the Czech Republic, or different places, and, you know, they they trust each other. So

Andrej Zito 

Can you maybe describe the rock star system a little bit more? Like, how does it work? Like, how, how does the process work? Like? Does everybody get to vote?

Vera Richards 

Yeah, no, no, necessarily. So if you see someone who helped you, or who did came up with a new process, new tool, or, or they weren’t just following the values of being compassionate being partners, you write out a lot of rock star, which is just PDF forms, we fill that out, and we check off the values which that person demonstrated and write up a little bit of, you know, why do you think that person is a rock star, and then it gets posted on the internal rehab, you know, in the office, these get posted out every, every week, or whenever somebody posts a rock star. And then they get published in the newsletter, and they get published in the company newsletter as well. So, so it’s pretty simple recognition.

Andrej Zito 

You mentioned, that it’s good that the team builds the friendship on their own. My question is, how do you feel about you becoming a friend with your team from the position of a manager? Is it a good thing? Or is it a bad thing?

Vera Richards 

So I, I think it’s basically mutual respect, there has to be that mutual respect, and it’s not. I feel that all of my team members are my peers and my colleagues, I don’t really believe in being too prescriptive. You know, how they perceive it. Some of them do, do like that Management Authority, and they kind of want to preserve that. And that’s absolutely fine. And I don’t need to know I don’t need to be a friend in the sense where I need to know everything which happens around the office, quite the opposite. I really don’t like to be part of the company gossip or gossip, but all I find that being more toxic for the environment, because sooner or later someone will pull out of that relationship and so, so now I like to keep it as professional as possible, which does not so that I would rule the fact that I want to meet up with them and go for beer and, you know, go and, and have fun, and we all can have that. That type of relationship. So yeah, I would call it a friendship early. But you know, there’s certain certain levels are where I don’t want to take it too, too personal because that could be a problem.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, I would say that the friendship happens organically, but friendship is not your strategy, as a team manager

Vera Richards 

No, no actually.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, we already talked a little bit about these things. But I want to zoom in on talent, how you identify and how you retain talent. By talent, I really mean, consistent rockstars if I can put it in your corporate system, right, so someone who truly like shines, I’m pretty sure, I hope you can agree with me that it’s a nice idea to have like a company Full of Stars. But maybe it’s a little bit naive idea, especially as the company grows. So I’m wondering if like, what is like your opinion on or like how you personally identify talent? Like how someone who stands out? Like, what are the criterias? Like, do they fit the culture of the company? Do they always exceed expectations? Do they keep learning keep growing? What is the talent for you?

Vera Richards 

Yeah, oh, I think all of the above. I think when we are interviewing, we’re selecting team members. I’ve told my team many times that person needs to fit into the team, they need to be of a certain fiber to be able to fit in, but that’s the way we operate and we work. So person who is kind of a rock star is the person who, who you can see are energized by the work they do. They try to understand what they’re doing. They’re not just shuffling files, and you know, handing off and handing back without ever opening a file, right? They they are actually they know what’s in the file day. And just they open it up and they say, Oh, this is interesting, I’d love to learn a little bit about that product and spot some things which could be problematic for localization and try to bring that up to the rest of the team and bring solutions in place. So this is maybe too nitty gritty into the practice of a PM, for example, but but I just want to spark some interest, and then have them fully take ownership of it. And I have several of such rock stars on my team. And they are like a mile ahead of me. But you know which way they’re thinking and they are. So we can also offer these services. And I say, I’ve heard that from the client. So you see, those are people who like what they do. And they also bring in that extra to the team. And they have their own team, they have people who they manage, and they’re creating that atmosphere within their team, which is that atmosphere of trust, that fear of, you know, we all have certain parts to deliver here, and how can I improve my process the most? So I run for not once I’ve met several engineers, for example, who, who told me, I am the laziest person you will ever find. Because I don’t like to do much. So I automate everything. And so, you know, those are great kind of people who because, you know, hey, they’re gonna make it fun for them. Yet, they’re going to also find them the most efficient system and practice and we can replicate that now.

Andrej Zito 

I think I think this is a great example, because this is where you turn your weakness into a strength because they’re lazy. But you know, and the reason why pointed out and said like, yeah, yeah, I know, because I think I was reading. It was an interview in the Czech Forbes, I think it was with the CEO and founder of good data, a tree, if you know about it, it’s a check based company that does big data. And they have, of course, their development team in Czech Republic. But he said the same thing that Czech people are generally lazy. And because they’re lazy, and they still have to deliver on the work, they try to find the shortcuts, which usually leads to automation, or like scripting or things like this. So

Vera Richards 

Right? Yes, that’s true. If the text will give me the scale, for sure. Yeah.

Andrej Zito 

How about retaining the talent? So let’s say you identify these talented people, how do you make sure that they stay within your company? So this kind of like, let’s tie it to the whole Akorbi culture?

Vera Richards 

Right. Yeah. And that’s a good point. I think retaining the talent. Again, it’s not about the money most of the time. In some cases, it is sure, but not not mostly. It’s how that person feels challenged at work. Do I have Are they bored with what they’re doing are they still doing one task over and over and nothing really new on the horizon for them. So being able to kind of switch it up a little bit change teams give them the opportunity to, to apply for jobs, they would like to try or do or they feel that they have to stress for for those jobs to be able to give them that opportunity is important and, and recognize them give them feeling like when they come to work, people notice that they are there that they are part of a big MC thing and we are we are working for some very, very large important clients and, and they take pride in being part of that being part of that product or being part of that particular company, you know, localized material. So, so that that is definitely something we have to consciously do, you know, sometimes you forget about all these parts. But it is a conscious process to recognize people and to challenge them. And always provide trainings, keep them, keep them current on what’s new in our industry, and let them attend conferences, or often times an idea keep encouraging my team to listen in on the Gallup webinars, for example, those are, those are, you know, they’re not very long, and they are, they’re quite frequent. So when I see something which is applicable to us, I encourage the team to to sign up for them.

Andrej Zito 

You should encourage them to listen to my podcast.

Vera Richards 

And your podcasts, which, which definitely, I am going to.

Andrej Zito 

I like that you touched on the training because that was my next question. And this Akorbi have some some general structure of how you train people how you support their growth. Is it methodical or is it like based on like, you see somebody needs to improve on something or you wait until they come? And they talk to you like, Hey, I wanna learn something.

Vera Richards 

Yeah, so we have both we have, we have kind of annual trainings or, or throughout the year, we offer some like tm training and training for for sales and you know, different parts of our company. But we certainly have trainings, which are ad hoc and training based on the need. So we have structured training for anyone who is being on boarded, can we have a big portfolio of trainings they have to go through, we provide that not only for our employees, but also for suppliers and the language, the different partners we work with. We also the company provide compliance training, because a lot of our clients are healthcare clients. So we have a suite sweet off compliance training, which all of our linguists have to undertake. And so so those are mandatory, and they’re mandatory for the entire team, for our internal team as well. But for the skilled training, as I said, Our engineering gives us the weekly training on tools. And they also provided for our supplier. When we realize that we have a group of suppliers who can use that training we offer it, we ask them to join a webinar or interactive webinar. So we provide those and the least each of our leads within the CMO team, they provide trainings on you know various types of project management tasks, and even project management in general. So there are teams of PM, there are teams of coding leaders and engineers. So we do have those trainings, which are monthly and they are organized, when we do our reviews, but still reviews, which happened quarterly. Then we also identify the trainings which certain people need which and they they oftentimes ask for themselves, you know, they would like to get a refresher on something or they would like to get a training even outside of their function. So they’re perhaps pm and they want to learn about Some quality management, training they want to take, they we identified during those reviews. And then we also announced the schedule for that. So that’s how it happened.

Andrej Zito 

You mentioned quite a lot of processes that you have for team management, I’m wondering if there’s any special software, or tools to use for team management.

Vera Richards 

So we use Plunet at Akorbi. That’s our project management system, in general, so. So we use that we also have a lot of materials on SharePoint. So we have pages per team for a client teams, which we generate there. So those are just, you know, just the basic tools we use day in and day out. As far as to what I like to use this OneNote for. I am a big one. user and we use Microsoft team, as our main communication, and also our file management for for our internal team management.

Andrej Zito 

Do you keep like a file for each of your team members in OneNote? Because, you know, like, when we were talking about giving feedback, I think one of the main things that people don’t do is that they just give feedback at certain point. And then like, in six months, they forgot that they gave certain feedback, right? So like, do you have like a systematic way how you track like the development of the people or the feedback that you gave them?

Vera Richards 

Yes, we do. Because we have, we do our evaluation. So we do the quarterly but we also do a yearly evaluation of the team member. And yeah, we keep all that feedback in one place,

Andrej Zito 

How are the quarterly and yearly different? Is the yearly one, the broader,

Vera Richards 

The yearly one is very broad. It’s, I forget now how many areas we are reviewing, but it’s anything from soft skills, soft skills to, you know, any kind of technical skills. And it’s, it’s quite comprehensive. So we’re actually going through right now, I still have a bunch of people to review. But But, you know, I personally don’t have a file on everyone. That would be too many files. But on my direct reports, I do and yes, they are the quarter that valuated. And it’s part of a bonus system. But on the yearly It is, it is quite comprehensive. And it’s not tied to, to anything having to do with their salary.

Andrej Zito 

My last question that I want to make more generic about Akorbi. Before we focus entirely on you, that will be like the final 30 minutes for our interview. We already touched on certain things, is there anything else that you want to highlight about the akorbi? culture? Maybe if you want to compare it with morale vs. culture? Or maybe if you want to compare it, like, like, what would you change as a corporate culture, because like, in my experience is usually that people on the top, they usually say, Okay, these are our values. This is our culture, culture. But many times, especially as the company gets bigger, every manager within the company interprets it differently. They kind of like add their own sauce, right? So it changes. So I’m wondering, like, how do you go about the whole corporate picture? Are you fully identified with it? would you change something? What is different with Moravia?

Vera Richards 

So I would compare Akorbi to Moravia 10 years ago, or maybe 13 years ago. It’s a privately owned company. And at that time, Moravia was privately owned company. There was that very much family feel at Moravia at that time. And that sense of collaboration. So it was at that level of it was high enterpreneurship, I would say is what I feel at Akorbi it’s very much. I would say it’s a feel of a startup although it’s really not a startup $50 million company so it’s, it’s mid sized for sure. But that feel of the family is definitely there. The owners know pretty much everyone by name. I know there are children and it’s it’s they they are very engaged and very involved and very supportive of the growth of the company. So that is what I very much enjoyed. And that’s what attracted me to akorbi when I made the move from RBS So, so I think that is really what what helps the organic growth of a company, as companies get bigger, and there is more, you know, their stakeholders, which, which have more say, into how their company develops and evolves and what type of what type of rules and policies are being put in place. Sometimes that ties the hands of that enterpreneurship and on top of that spirit, so that’s what I feel at akorbi. That’s the big strength of akorbi. Is that, that support of the owners into growing the company and thinking outside the box every day. That’s what makes me happy and challenge.

Andrej Zito 

How big is the company? And how big is your department within the company?

Vera Richards 

Yes, so the company itself has over 200 employees. Globally, we have rehab office in Colombia, because the owner is Colombian and she’s Colombian and her husband is from India. So so we have the location in Colombia on my team. I have part of the team there as well. team in the Czech Republic I have came in, in the US, the offices, main offices are in Plano, Texas, so we’re headquartered there. And we also have a large presence in Argentina. So, so we’re quite, quite spread out. We also have some offices in Africa. So in Cape Verde, and we also have a Dominican Republic. So, so we were very spread out. And most of us are remote, even on the executive team. We’re all remote, but the exception of few who are in Plano, Texas. And the company itself, as I mentioned earlier, is consist of staffing BPO, which is call centers. We also have interpretation and translation departments. So it’s.

Andrej Zito 

Is interpretation separate from your division?

Vera Richards 

Yes, it is.

Andrej Zito 

And how big is your team? So that’s translation and localization. Right?

Vera Richards 

Right. So we have around 80 team members.

Andrej Zito 

Did Akorbi have the Czech office before you or did you decide on that?

Vera Richards 

Yeah, I decided. So yeah, no, we didn’t have a presence there.

Andrej Zito 

Were exactly as it is in Brno.

Vera Richards 

Brno. Yeah, it’s in Brno. It’s not an office. We have team members there. So it’s more of a freelance. Some are, some are, no, not all.

Andrej Zito 

Okay. So let’s focus on you entirely. We were talking about learning and supporting the growth of the team. I’m wondering how you personally learn new things.

Vera Richards 

Yes, so I am an avid reader. So I read anything and everything which I can find daily on localization and on. So I tried to self educate in that area quite a bit, attending conferences, attending different webinars. So that’s also it’s important being part of organizations like women in localization, being part of gala, you know, just having conversations with my peers. Learning from the even learning from my team members, just learning from from the new talent and what’s out there. So, so nothing I would say nothing organized, as far as you know, attending university courses or anything like that at the moment, but going to trainings and whenever they’re offered, whether it’s through the company or whether it’s online, but reading a lot, I’d say A multilingual magazine for example, and others where I can learn.

Andrej Zito 

Not sure if you know. But my first 20 episodes were just about me, going over hashtag localization on social media. So I was checking Twitter and LinkedIn, and picking up the interesting posts that people publish, and giving insight on that. And I think like, there were like a lot of good insights that you can find on social media. So just a tip for you.

Vera Richards 

Yeah, that’s good. That’s true. That’s how I search on LinkedIn. For articles, there are some really good articles. So yeah, definitely.

Andrej Zito 

We talked about strengths and weaknesses. You also mentioned one of your weakness that your two nights. Wondering what other weaknesses do you think your team would say that you have?

Vera Richards 

Maybe, let’s see what they could say. That’s a good question. I haven’t

Andrej Zito 

It doesn’t actually come up like in the 360 reviews in your company, that don’t your direct reports are like your team members actually give a feedback about you, hopefully, anonymously.

Vera Richards 

Yeah. Yeah. So so at Akorbi, we did not do the 360. Yet, with the entire team, I’ve been part of that at Moravia. It’s due time. And I think that it did come up that I do not like conflict, I really don’t do well and not do well. I shy away from it. So it is a weakness, because you do have to confront those things, you know, whether you like it or not. And I think it’s a skill which I am working on to, to, to get right. Because, yeah, it’s not always rosy gardens, and you do have to be able to, to, to be able to respond to without getting yourself emotionally involved, you know, and I would say, you know, in the past, if I could do some self reflection, criticism was really hard to take when it came from a client or when came from a peer, even if it was maybe a misunderstanding, and it was a criticism. So it was hard to take, I’m getting much better. You know what, I figured? That’s fine. Not everybody is gonna like what I have to say or how I do things. So. So just being at peace with that is, is a step forward? I would say so. So I say in the professional life,

Andrej Zito 

How did you actually progress in that area, like accepting feedback, it’s also something that I’ve been struggling with us, I usually get always immediately, like, pissed off. Somebody said something bad to me. But I think I’m getting better at it as well. But I’m just wondering how you got better at it? Is it just like, the time is just like you as a person? Or you just distance yourself from it? Or is it that the people give you the feedback in a better way?

Vera Richards 

No, I it’s not people giving it in better way. I think I think it’s the time i think is with age, you kind of become confident in your own skin, who you are. And you figure Well, if you don’t like me, then that’s okay. You don’t have to like me, maybe I’m not gonna like you. So, you know, just, just, I think accepting that we are all different people certainly have different way of living and different way of processing things and information. So, so giving them that, that right to be different. They don’t all have to be like me, and like what I have to say so. So I think that’s where I think I grew up a little bit. And even with my kids, you know, I I felt when my kids were growing up if they did something wrong, or something I wouldn’t agree with, I felt it was a reflection of me. And you can little bit say that about your team to you know, like, if they’re doing things, then I don’t care. You know, it’s like I feel embarrassed and I tried to somehow fix it, be able to give them the right to be different and to do things differently. I think that’s part of, you know, kind of realizing and maturing in In the role of the mother and the role of a manager to is, it’s okay that they’re doing things differently. And one, one thing which stood out in my career A long time ago, Mr. Avia was that I knew that the team actually respected me. And then, you know, then kind of work with me because I am disappointed there manager is that we had a meeting once and I was full of ideas. And so let’s do, let’s do it this way. And let’s try to use this, you know, this automation, let’s try to one of the engineers looked at me and said, You know, that’s, that’s just nonsense. I was like, I stopped for a minute. And I thought, Oh, my God, you’re right. You are right, you know, and, and I said, I’m so glad that he wasn’t afraid to say that to me, you know, that he was thinking, Oh, shoot, just coming in here. And now we’re gonna have to do things like this. And that’s completely stupid. So. So I, that’s the moment I look forward with my team that they actually come and say, No, I think what you’re saying is not right. Let’s try this way. And then I’m, I’m so proud. Because I think glad that you know, yeah.

Andrej Zito 

It’s like, people challenge you, right? I’m like,

Vera Richards 

Yeah, Yeah, I am. That’s what I look for. I mean, not that I want to give them the feeling that I don’t know what I’m doing. And I need them to, for God’s sake, come up with a good process. But but to not be afraid to, you know, I also am not afraid to say no, I don’t think that’s gonna work. I don’t think I would say, that’s, you know, bunch of nonsense. But that was a tech guy who, you know, had no filter. So

Andrej Zito 

We already got a few hints about your leadership style. I’m wondering if it has evolved over the years, if you approach things differently, because like, like, in the beginning, we’re talking about your rapid career at Moravia? So I’m pretty sure did you have to like learn the leadership and management pretty fast, and you probably made a lot of mistakes. And probably, when you look at it now, after so many years, you would be like questioning, like, why you did those things. So I’m wondering, like, if your leadership style evolved over the years?

Vera Richards 

Yeah, I definitely did. I think when I started, I was also learning different methodologies. You know, the thing I started with the silver bullet methodology, the PMO,

Andrej Zito 

What does that mean?

Vera Richards 

It’s called silver bullet, a pm. methodology. I think that that was, that was kind of prescribed Moravia to, to, to learn, follow that. So, and it was very common sense base, which worked well for me. But I did follow pretty strictly and follow the processes pretty quickly. I think as, as I evolved, I learned to relax and customize my approach a little, like we tried to tell the customers or we tried to do with the customers, we’ve customized our process for them. I think I customized to how I manage the team and, and I tried to be always present when I’m with my team, try to really listen and hear and, and feel if there is discord happening, you know, try to make sure that that people when when I see people are perhaps some happy or there’s there’s some concern, you know, having to do with changes within the company or changes in policies and stuff. Be aware that that’s happening and address it before it happens. And also, you know, having different locations and dealing with different cultures, like I mentioned before, there’s some teams which could be sensitive to feeling that one team is being favored over the other because because perhaps we spend more time on certain projects being being worked on from a different location, they might perceive it as Oh, we like that location better. So we’re not as important. So making sure that that feeling is not there. So being being sensitive to people and to understanding how they work. Of course we cannot be babysitting. We cannot be overly sensitive either, but just kind of treating, treating the team equally and being there for all of them, not just for some of them. So, so making myself available for the team, regardless of the position they have. And anyway they are. So I think that’s important. So one of the human side of things, you know, of course, we’re looking at the spreadsheets that the financials and the goals and that’s important, but kind of not not having that overshadow everything else. Whether listening to people

Andrej Zito 

I want to get very practical right now, I’m wondering how does a day in your life look like being the VP of translation and localization for Akorbi? Like, when do you wake up? Are you an early persons? No?

Vera Richards 

Yes. So yes, I have to be I have to be unfortunately. So since the office is the headquarter is in Texas, so they’re two hours ahead of us. So I get up around six o’clock, and I started with meetings. My first meeting is seven. And

Andrej Zito 

What do you do between six and seven? Right, do you have a breakfast, you just do coffee? Do you start checking emails?

Vera Richards 

Yeah, so usually, I set my alarm at six, but I don’t get out of bed at 630. So I give myself a buffer there, and then I have a choice. Because most of my days, I start and I don’t get a break. So because I work from home, I make a decision, if I’m going to take a shower at 630. Or if I’m gonna have to try to fit it in in between the meeting somewhere down the road. So so that I have to make that choice. And then I am definitely have to start with coffee if you want me fashionable and ready to absorb something. So. So I do that. And then I jump into the meetings and my morning usually till about noon is non stop meetings. We have a production meeting every day. So So with the team, and it’s the functional leads, team, we meet up every day to kind of go over red flags and things like that. And from then on. I also meet with my my director of ops every day, so so we meet up before we start the day. And then we go into the meetings and I have client meetings, I have a lot of functional meetings, I have executive meeting once a week, which is a couple hours on Mondays. And then they’re just these regular meetings with the different functions, different teams are doing developing new, new services, we have those meetings, so kind of in and out of meetings till noon, and then afterwards, I go through what’s on my, within my I guess my queue of things to do. So I I go through my finance, my financing, planning different different types of clients solutions, we work on, work on RFPs as well work on caviar, some you know, things like that. So So

Andrej Zito 

do you block a time for just your own work in your calendar so that people don’t bother you? Or how do you focus on your own stuff?

Vera Richards 

Not Not every day, I do block off times when I have to prepare a proposal or do you know things like that. But I tried to be available to the team pretty much all day. So so they ping me and I am available and certainly get back to them right away. So So yeah, only blocking the time when I need to really hunker down and do something for a couple hours.

Andrej Zito 

How do you organize and plan the things that you personally have to do? Do you have a to do list or?

Vera Richards 

Yeah, yeah. I have a to do list in my OneNote. So so I do that. I mean, I also write things down and my things to do on paper, but I tried to keep things in OneNote for works because then I can go back and I can check it out. I love checking out.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, exactly. Okay, so you have a lot of meetings. And what I’m curious about, you mentioned that you have these meetings to production meetings every day. This is something that I’m not familiar with, I don’t think I have seen it in other companies. It’s kind of like a to me the most, the best comparison will probably stand up meetings that development teams have, so that every day they’re kind of like sync, is that the purpose of that? Do you think like these meetings need to happen every day?

Vera Richards 

I think they’re very helpful. Because we typically have good mechanisms for assigning tasks, like between the functional teams, or if it’s someone from PMO needs some engineering, or they need some quality management intervention, outside of the regular tasks, then they have a mechanism for that, you know, we use JIRA, for example, for task assignment, and then we follow up on tickets and stuff like that. But the production meetings in the morning are two, and they’re not long, they’re 20 minutes, sometimes we’re done in 15 minutes, and we kind of go over red flags from the different large client teams. So if there’s something burning something, which we need to do right away, then that’s what what is brought up on these meetings. And let’s say, engineering has died on 100 tickets they have to go through, but we need to prioritize one out of out of all that, you know, daily, what goes in there, then that’s brought up on that early meeting, or early morning meeting, so, so the they can go back and you might end up with I don’t know, 15? high priority. So out of that, we need to say, Okay, let’s just do this one first, because it’s really important to get softer anyway. So. So that’s what we do on that. And we also see anything being delayed, or any escalation from a client or that gets brought up.

Andrej Zito 

Do the client escalations end up also in JIRA as a ticket? Or do you have a system for it?

Vera Richards 

Yeah, we have a system for a scholarship positive negative feedback gets gets registered there. And we have a process for.

Andrej Zito 

What are you curious about right now?

Vera Richards 

What am I curious about? So you had these kind of meetings with other VPS and directors, some salon? What other companies how the management of the company differ, you know, like, do you do you see that being done differently? Not the tooling or not the process of localization but just the methodology of how the company culture is very different from company to company or do you feel it’s very similar for localization?

Andrej Zito 

It’s not very similar. I think it may depend on the size and and the founders and where they are because my last company before I came to Canada was lion bridge. And as you can imagine, it’s like a giant old slow behemoth that is just like rotten inside I still don’t get like why are the clients are sticking with them. Like they were like I was working on like a major account and that account was done the production was done using Excel macros. It was a huge account million multimillion dollar account for prominent client but like internally it was done using Excel sheets so to me it’s more like like some companies they just like, like to throw people at stuff cheap people at the same time try to find and they like their like innovation. Maybe they can put it on their websites that it’s like one of our values but they don’t live by that you usually see these things once you are inside because like I had so many things that I would like to change probably the same way with you didn’t wear it like we should change was changed this. But yeah, like it was very difficult. Like I was fighting with the management because I was really like fighting like for what I felt was best for the client. But in order like a lot of politics, a lot of bureaucracy, you know, like the people care about different things other than clients or like having like a very efficient production. To me that is like the beauty like if you can Serve like big clients, but in like a very lean efficient way. That’s the beauty to me, like to me like for people that just copy paste, that’s like very little value added like you are, like a target to be replaced soon. Because to me who was saying this? Was it veronik veronik, by the way, says hi to, you

Vera Richards 

I know,

Andrej Zito 

We were talking about like, I think it was with veronik that, you know, like translation language companies, they will have to become technology companies. Because that’s where things are moving, right, like with AI and with everything. So the value is not that you can confirm a request from a client and then forward it to a translator, it’s it’s that those things should be automated.

Vera Richards 

It’s exactly. Yeah, no, I completely agree. And I agree with you with not throwing more people on the problem, rather than think about what it is and how you can be efficient. Yeah.

Andrej Zito 

So um, next question, we get a little bit of interruption here. What are you excited about in 2020? You personally,

Vera Richards 

I think 2020 has been a crazy year for all of us know, you know, no matter what industry we’re in. So I am excited. I mean, one thing we didn’t talk about is travel, right, that came to a halt. And we have less than last time in 2020 to make up for it, who knows if we ever will for travel. So I’m excited that the opportunities this can bring to ask you to localization, sometimes that if adversity comes from something beautiful, so. So that’s what I’m excited to see. And just today, I was talking to our CEO, actually about, I received an email yesterday from TripAdvisor saying, Would you be interested in virtual travel? Right, and I was, took a double take, like, what this this sounds like out of, you know, one of the sci fi movies. And basically, what they’re doing is they’re creating these, these packages where you can learn to cook Greek, and you can learn a Greek dance and history of Greece, right. And I was thinking, what a great way to reinvent yourself, right? You’re, you’re trying to you cannot send people to Greece, but you’re going to try to do Greece to them. Right. So. So I’m looking forward to something like that coming out of localization, we’re certainly have not been impacted negatively as maybe some other companies, which are, because we’ve already we’ve we’ve been working from home, in this industry for forever. So we’ve practiced for this day for a long time now. And so so that is not hindering us, obviously, our clients budgets for localizations are impacted. So so we’re seeing less work. But we’re seeing more how each of those industries and companies are reacting to the times and how are they including the world in their message. So we are pulled into that sometimes we have to be very agile with that communication. But we also have to think of those cultures they’re targeting. And that is not all of them are reacting the same way people in America are and that that needs to be customized for for those cultures and for those clients. So so I think that’s one and also making best use of our video conferencing to keep in touch and stay in touch. And busier to be a scratch here where we say 2020 never happened. And we just jump over it. See how we can we can stay relevant and keep improving and keep integrating AI into more processes like you just mentioned, because that that is big, and it’s gonna be big. And so yeah, I think there’s lots for us to still be excited about. And I’m always excited to see what others are doing with the situation. We can work together and learn from one another. So So yeah, I think that’s that’s, that’s good. I am a big data person. I didn’t talk about that at all, but I’m a big data person. So I’m one of those who is watching all of those. john hopkins, you know Coronavirus, daily numbers and drawing my own charts here in Washington State. So, so I think data will continue to be big for localization in general, not just for this time for me where I’m tracking my crazy numbers, making my predictions. So you’re one notes in my Vanna. Yeah. In my Excel spreadsheet, but yeah, definitely, I think, I think we should, we should look at it as a challenge. I have great confidence in scientists out there, because there’s so many smart people out there. So hopefully, they’ll find the cure and the vaccine so we can start moving around without, without, you know, our banded outfits.

Andrej Zito 

And what do you think is wrong with our industry?

Vera Richards  

I guess the lack of standardization, and, you know, in the source documentation we all have to tackle. And so I think that is given, you know, because each client has a different, different product, they need to localize So, so I think finding more common ground would be beneficial for us all, to get to more standardization. Down the road, I’d say,

Andrej Zito 

Are there any absurd or stupid things that you do? That would be perceived by others that’s stupid,

Vera Richards 

I don’t know, it’s stupid. But you know, I have a real problem with when I find a typo, anywhere, like, not I don’t mean, but within what we do in translation and work. But if I find a typo in a book, which does happen, and I don’t know how it can happen, but it happens. I just stopped, like, I come to that typo. And then I stop, and then I read it again. And then I read it again. And then I, and I’m stuck at that point, and I cannot move forward. So So yeah, it’s really weird. I’ve noticed that, you know, I’ve noticed that at work a long time ago, that when I was kind of reviewing something from somebody in in Czech, and I saw a typo, I just froze. And I was thinking, How can it be? What can we do? It’s already published, nobody is going to move forward from that point on. So I think that’s, that’s just something stupid, I’m stuck to this day fighting with. And to the point where I’m reading a book, and it’s a good book, and there’s a typo. And I stop, and then I stop, and then I have to put the book back. And then I opened it up the next day. And I started reading from that point, not noticing that typo. And then something happens in my mind. And I go back a couple of pages, and I find it in like it’s there

Andrej Zito 

Still there, right?

Vera Richards 

This is crazy. So

Andrej Zito 

Did you ever try to? Did you try to contact the publisher and tell them? Hey, you guys have a typo here. You should maybe do something about it.

Vera Richards 

No, I don’t think to that extent, I thought you were gonna ask me if I’ve ever tried to go to counseling for that. So

Andrej Zito 

Maybe that would give you a relief, right? If you tell them that, hey, you need to fix it. Maybe they will tell you Oh, thank you, Vera, we will fix it in the next edition.

Vera Richards 

Yeah, I’ve done that at work, though. If I found that, you know, if I found a typo, which was in the source, I did go to the client and say, Hey, hey, and our linguists are doing that our linguists are submitting all the source errors to our clients all the time. But I have had those discussions with the clients how much it bothers me and, and I wondered how much it bothers their users? Because because often times the client is so focused on the English source, that that’s, that’s where the money is really all the money is put on creating context for the source and, and then they say, oh, and machine translate the rest and then I say Oh, but you know, you’re spending all this money on your stars. What do you think of that person? In Russia, they have a typo in there. Maybe they’re like me and they will stop and say I’m not going to use that product. It’s got a typo. So, so I’ve had those discussions with the client about that and about the need for quality.

Andrej Zito 

Do you use Grammarly. Grammarly. I just started using it.

Vera Richards 

Yeah, I do I have all sorts of, even obscure websites I check to do even the nerds like me.

Andrej Zito 

Are there any questions that I should have asked you, but I didn’t?

Vera Richards 

Well, you know, I don’t know, I think it was, we had a really nice chat about localization and management of teams and and you’ve been very time to listen to my opinion. So, no, I can think of anything else.

Andrej Zito 

What would be your final parting words? If there’s like one thing that you want to drill into the minds of all the people working localization? What would it be?

Vera Richards 

What would it be? I think, I think have fun with bridging the gap. You know, I think it brings us closer, closer. And if, you know, if you enjoy this job as much as I do, then you must, my voice is going you must, you must, I guess. See what’s really fun about learning about each other’s culture and how much the language is part of who we are. What makes a different culture, different culture, it comes actually from the language or maybe it’s the other way around the culture impacted the words and how they, how they evolved. So, so, you know, have fun with it, and try to try to understand each other from that culture perspective through the language here, practicing everyday so. So maybe that’s, that’s what I’d like to say at the end.

Andrej Zito 

All right, awesome. Thank you very much for the interview of Vera.

Vera Richards 

Thank you, Andrej

Andrej Zito 

Bye bye.

Vera Richards 

Sounds good. Bye. Take care.

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