On Finding Ikigai & Being A Project Manager – Zachary Haitkin

In part 2 of our interview with Zachary Haitkin, we talked about finding your Ikigai and transforming that passion to purpose.

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In part 2 of our interview with Zachary Haitkin, we talked about finding your Ikigai and transforming that passion to purpose.

We also discussed what a day in the life of a Netflix Localization Project Manager is like, the importance of relationships, using machine translation in creative content, and how NOT to sell on LinkedIn.


Andrej Zito 

What were your first thoughts or your first action? Like, once you got the news, like, and you came to the office already started working? I don’t know. Like, it’s, it’s so, so weird. I don’t even know like, you know, it’s like, it’s like, COVID, you know, like, one day, you’re just in luck.

Zachary Haitkin 

You really want to know what my first thoughts were?

Andrej Zito 

Yeah

Zachary Haitkin 

Pay me more. And it was met with a little bit of resistance. Because I think what I had thought my impression was, you had three people doing three jobs. Now you want one person to do three jobs. And so I felt like if you were going to ask one person to do three jobs, then you need to compensate me more. And what they quickly said was, “We’re not expecting you to do three jobs. We’re moving the scope of the role back so that you can do a little bit more, but certainly not take over three jobs.” So my initial thought was, you know, “Oh, god, what have I gotten myself into here?” Or more, “What are they going to put on me?”But they quickly set expectations that that’s not what, what they wanted to do. So, and then after that, it was, you know, after the initial shock, it was letting letting our vendors know that this was how we were going to be moving forward. And then just trying to gather as much information and get comfortable as quickly as as I could. So yeah, over the over the next few weeks and months after that, it was you know, definitely a tough transition period. But eventually, I was able to settle in and make it work in a way that didn’t push me too far. But, you know, at the same time, a one person localization program, it was a lot of work. It was it was a lot of work to to oversee what I did, but you know, we still were able to launch and maintain a handful of languages, particularly on the website. And so yeah, you know, it’s one of those things where it was a business decision, but it is what it is. And we made it work.

Andrej Zito 

What was the biggest challenge for you? Let’s say during the first, I don’t know, month? Or three months?

Zachary Haitkin 

Yeah, I would say probably lack of understanding on the technical side, you know, that was something that Brian was very good at. He he could code, he understood the technical aspect of it. And I cannot, I’d say my, my coding experience, goes, as far as basic SQL queries, select from where and that’s, that’s about it. So right, you know, so it was, it was tough for me to then be thrust into the role of talking to engineers, trying to triage issues with the translation pipeline, with GitHub, with the to the back end of the TMS and not knowing very much about it at all. So I’d say that was probably the biggest growing pain that I had. But fortunately for me, we had some pretty great engineers that were still at the company. Because after we after we initially launched the localization program at Lyft, they moved a lot of the engineers to other roles to work on other things. And so even though they were still at the company, they weren’t focusing on localization. But there was one guy in particular who took he had built a lot of the translation pipeline, and even though he was working on something else, still felt ownership over it. So I certainly went to him for a lot of a lot of questions, and he was able to help me along, but that was probably the toughest thing in the beginning, for me just getting familiar with any, any technical, back end issues of the of the TMS, and, and things like that.

Andrej Zito 

Where did you get your, like, further learning? Or how did you educate yourself when you were alone? Because in the beginning, you mentioned that, that Brian was like a mentor to you, when it comes to localization? So So where did you learn like, was it at that point where you started, like reaching outside of Lyft? And you know, like, going to, I don’t know, LocLunches or whatever? Or did you have some meetups? You know, like in Silicon Valley, I assume that there’s quite a bit of people working in localization?

Zachary Haitkin 

Yes. So there’s a globalization SF Meetup group, where I went to a handful events. They’re even helped host that event at Lyft, which was a really, really great event, a great experience. I went to LocWorlds in 2018, actually, and was able to meet some, some, some great people there and attend events. And yeah, I’d say really leveraging LinkedIn and our vendors as well. Our TMS vendor, you know, they, they they had as part of our contract, we had developer resources. So when I had questions about things, I would try and leverage them and ask them to, to give us insight in it. So yeah, a lot of different places, that I was able to slowly gather the information that I needed from a technical side to learn. And, you know, I still would say, I still have a lot to learn. But I certainly know a lot more than than I did at the very beginning.

Andrej Zito 

What I’m curious is, you know, like, once you once you are in position, like you were like, suddenly you were running the whole localization, like you’re exposed to a lot more things that you need to solve. So I think that’s a great way how you can learn just by like, trying to figure things out. So how would you like let’s say balanced, like learning, from your own experience, like trying to troubleshoot your own problems, and actually going out and asking for external help? Like, advisors?

Zachary Haitkin 

Yeah, that’s a good question. Um, so I think there is something to be said, by stumbling through something. And really, at least taking a stab at trying to solve it yourself. With with the resources that you have access to, that’s going to be a lot more painful than that then going to someone externally, going to your vendor or going to someone, you know, someone also in localization that you may know from LinkedIn, or localization Group, a globalization group that, that you can go to events to, that you you’re able to attend events. So I think it’s a balance between the two. I mean, if you really if you if you like pain and discomfort, then do it yourself. And only do it but i think i think if you balance between the two, trying something, seeing if you can solve it, seeing what you can learn off the bat, and if I think you’ll find that people are able to figure things out, like if you give it a shot, and if you really try, you’ll be able to get it. And if you if you end up running into trouble, then then try and, and access your network and get advice from other people. But yeah, I think, give it a shot at first, if you really are having trouble, then really make the connections. And that’s where, you know, again, you know, I want to come back to it is relationship building, like, especially in localization, like the people that I’ve met, that I’ve learned so much from them, I mean, look, where I’m sitting right now, like talking to you like this is this is through hobby, and like, I met hobby through, I don’t even remember, I think it was my manager has been LinkedIn. And like, and here, and here, we are sitting here, you know, sharing stories, sharing information, like, particularly localization as an industry, like those connections and those relationships, they really come around the job at Netflix, like I had done some podcasts, like, with our vendor smartlink and had been on on hobbies, look, look life. And I got reached out to by a recruiter for the localization team in that place. And I really do believe that it’s because of the work and connections that I built and shared publicly that I was able to get this opportunity. So, you know, I just I can’t stress enough, whether it’s from a learning whether it’s from a job search perspective, like having those connections is crucial.

Andrej Zito 

Do you think it’s important for people to have a public presence?

Zachary Haitkin 

Absolutely, absolutely. I really do. Especially in localization, because it’s such a niche industry. It’s, it’s it’s small, you know, I feel like I see the same people like a lot, because it’s not very large. And so I think, being public and participating in events like this, sharing the information, sharing the knowledge, getting to know people is going to lead to growth on a personal and professional level. So absolutely, I think I think really, having that public presence is is key if you want to move forward and move up.

Andrej Zito 

So you’ve been to quite a few of these, you know, events, podcast shows, what do you think is the most valuable information that you shared so far? Or was it was there anything that you shared? Or people were like, Aw, Zack, thank you for saying that. Like, did you get any feedback? Or like, in your own perspective, what is the most valuable thing?

Zachary Haitkin 

Honestly, I think probably just the fact that I hadn’t worked in tech at all, I had no experience in tech. And yet, somehow I was able to get my foot in the door, and move into the role that I wanted to do. And so maybe someone looking from an outside perspective, saying, Well, I don’t have the skills, or I don’t have the ability to do something like I was, I was making cocktails and pouring beer and driving for Lyft. I thought I was doing. And then I, through a series of events, I was able to get my foot in the door and get hired. But I didn’t start in globalization, I started as an entry level, I was an entry level employee. And then just just being there, seeing my surroundings, understanding and learning from people around me, was able to push my way and move into the role I wanted to date. So, you know, I think that’s probably the the most valuable thing is like no matter what your background is, no matter where you’re coming from, if you’re passionate about something, you put yourself in the right situations, and you continue to learn and push forward. You’re going to get there. It’s going to take a while, you know, like I said it took me four and a half years to get into localization at Lyft. Like it wasn’t something that happened overnight. But I never stopped I never stopped advocating and never stopped pushing. So I think probably the the most valuable thing that I’ve shared is like you can do it no matter no matter what you’re doing, no matter where you’re coming from, like if you if you want to learn and you have the passion for it, you will make it happen. And so that I think is is is key no matter what you’re trying to do localization or otherwise is just keep pushing forward and you can make it happen.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, I think people can push forward you They know what they want. And this reminds me that at the beginning, you were saying when we’re talking about your education that you finished the Spanish translations, but you didn’t know what you wanted to do. So so then now you were talking that for four years, like it took you to get into localization. So did you at that time, like, before you got into localization four years back, were you already thinking like, Hey, this is what I want to be doing? Like, were you pursuing it? Or was it more like a? I don’t know, like, life accident that got you into localization? Or both?

Zachary Haitkin 

Probably both. I think it’s definitely a combination of the two. Again, I didn’t fully understand that localization was a thing. When I first started working at Lyft. I knew that I wanted to do something with with language and localization, the way I like to describe it is this. It’s the beat this beautiful intersection between language and technology. And so I was working at a tech company, but I wanted to do language, how was I going to make that happen. And so when I started on the support team, answering Spanish language, emails and phone calls, working on operations, managing Chicago, Miami Atlanta, building, trying to communicate with Spanish speaking drivers. I remember for for Miami, we did a pilot, where we translated an email every week about like a driver email, and sent it out and measured engagement on it. This was very, very early on. So trying to find language projects within the role that I was working on. That’s what really drove me eventually, to understand that. Okay, this is what localization is this is offering an experience in another language. So it was very much a planned accident. I don’t know if you, if that makes sense at all, which it sounds like it doesn’t. Now that I say it out loud, but no, I think it was, it was continuing to do language and translation projects, here and there. And then eventually, it got to the point where why don’t we just translate everything? And that that’s what localization is? So, you know, I think that’s, that’s how it ended up, at least in my perspective, how, how ended up happening for me?

Andrej Zito 

Do you think that the future starts earlier in Silicon Valley?

Zachary Haitkin 

The future? Does the future start earlier? That’s a really good question. I liked I liked the phrasing on that. That’s good. That’s good. Yes, that’s it? No, No, I’m just kidding. I think with all the tech companies that are based in Silicon Valley, there’s going to be innovation that starts there before other places can happen in other in other places, of course, but because of the concentration of companies that are focusing on things like self driving on AI, and machine learning, that are based in the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, you’re going to see a lot more innovation come out of here. And I think because of those, those companies, you’re you’re getting a lot of talent that is drawn here, from other parts of the country from other parts of the world. So that’s going to drive different projects, different ideas to be developed more quickly here in Silicon Valley. So yes, the future the future is now and the future is here.

Andrej Zito 

But would you would you have moved to Silicon Valley if you were not from California?

Zachary Haitkin 

That’s a good question. Yeah. I don’t know. That’s really tough because I’ve lived my whole life in California. So I’m definitely a California born and raised. I’ve lived all up and down the California coast. I don’t know I’ve spent almost my entire life on the California coast. So it’s tough to say I like I out of all the places I’ve lived. I like the Bay Area the most. I like it more than Los Angeles. It’s very different, very different vibe. But I really do enjoy San Francisco much more than Los Angeles, Los Angeles is massive. There’s, you know, the city of Los Angeles is 3 million people. LA County is 10 million people. The Bay Area itself is about 10 million spread out, but San Francisco is less than a million people in the city. And it’s this tiny little seven mile by seven mile, Pinkie nail of the pivot of this peninsula so everything’s really close. So I like it a lot more than then Los Angeles because everything is so spread out down there. But here in San Francisco, everything is very, very close together.

Andrej Zito 

Mm hmm. Okay, so speaking about self driving cars and older future, what are you curious about right now?

Zachary Haitkin 

Hmm. I’m definitely still, even though I’ve moved away into the entertainment tech industry from from rideshare, I’m still very curious to see the developments on the on on the self driving. You know, on the streets of San Francisco, I see several different companies that are have cars on the street crews, which is a self driving company owned by GM. I see their cars all the time, Waymo, which is owned by Google, I see them all the time. So I think I think over the next few years, we’re definitely going to see a lot of interesting developments. In terms of cars driving around without people behind the wheel. Now they have safety drivers that that can take over. But I believe Waymo has a license to drive to operate cars without a driver in the driver’s seat. So I think we’ll start to see that a little bit and a limited, limited capacity. So I think that’s something in the next five years, you’re really gonna see a few jumps there. What I’m really interested in getting back to localization is machine translation. Now machine translation has been around for a long time. But it has gotten so much better in the last five, six years, I mean, leaps and bounds better engines that can be trained engines that can be improved, and that get better as time goes on. So I think I’m really curious to see and there’s a handful of companies that are doing this already of being able to utilize multiple engines, and and able to use that, that machine translation to really drive down costs, and drive up quality or at the very least have equal quality to humans. On a first pass was still having a human review, but having different engines for different types of content. So you have one engine for legal content, you have one engine for marketing content, and then you really start to understand how you can run a massive program with with a lot of content very easily because a lot of it’s automated. So, you know, I’m really curious to see what kind of developments come out of there. And just what what machine translation has in store for for all of us as it as it gets better and better.

Andrej Zito 

I think, especially for where you are right now. That’s where the machine translation is not, let’s say favorite right now, for like creative content, right? Yeah. But do you see eventually getting there?

Zachary Haitkin 

I do. I don’t think that’s gonna be very soon. I think that’ll definitely be quite a few years down the line. And I do think that humans will be involved at some points for for quite a while, you know, I don’t think that’s in the in the near term. But what you’re gonna start to see is for larger pieces of content, you’ll be able to have a really fast, quick, dirty, not dirty, but just a really fast first pass, that will be almost usable, and that you could almost immediately go to market with with this like, first pass translation, because it’ll get to a point that’s, that’s pretty good. And then you have a human come in and over the next, you know, 4872 hours, clean everything up. But in terms of speed, I think you’re gonna see speed, move really fast. The way Netflix does it is they sort of split localization into content and product. So you’ve got subtitles, dubbing title, localization on one side, and then the product experience the app, the websites, TV, like if you have a smart TV, you know, things like that. So I think on the content side, it won’t be as it won’t be implemented as quickly. But on the product side, I think you’ll start to see more first pass machine translation in the next few years. Right?

Andrej Zito 

This This might be a stupid question is for two, okay, to give you a context, like for tech companies, where you have, let’s say, knowledgebase articles, like very boring things. For some markets, the companies might just opt to just machine translate the content because they’re not that many people. And even if it’s like, sort of understandable, it still helps the people. Do you think something like this could be used for Netflix? Does Netflix let’s say prioritize certain markets based on the quality or do they try to treat everyone with the same quality because it’s Netflix?

Zachary Haitkin 

Well, I think for your first question there, I do think that it’s tough because is, is having a piece of localized content in that person’s language that’s not well localized, is that more valuable than having something that is good quality, but is in a language that they don’t understand as well. So I think it’s going to be really important to to weigh the trade offs between the two. Now, as far as choosing which languages to offer, you know, I don’t think Yeah, I don’t want to be careful with what I say here. Because I have to, you know, yeah, of course, I think that there’s a lot of metrics that, that Netflix uses for picking which language to go into, you know, Netflix is offered in over 30 languages. But in terms of choosing which subtitles to offer, which dubs to offer, you know, there’s there’s a method to the madness. So, you know, not every single title is subtitled in every single language. Not, not every single title is, is has dubs for every single language. So yeah, I think there’s just a lot of metrics that that are taken into account to choose which languages to do. You know, using my my crystal ball, which is just my my opinion and my thoughts on it. I think down the line, there could be some value in offering a lot more languages, if machine translation was there, particularly for knowledgebase articles, like you said, very dry information, educational type articles, where the materials, very straightforward, and doesn’t have a lot of idioms, or marketing type language. I think there definitely can be a benefit there to do that in some of the longer tail languages that aren’t as prevalent. So will they do it? Who knows? Is it something that I think would be beneficial? If the quality is there? Why not?

Andrej Zito 

Okay, another stupid question. I’m wondering what you can say here. How do I say this?

Zachary Haitkin 

When is the next season of La Casa de Papel coming out now? That I definitely cannot tell you.

Andrej Zito 

Not a fan. Not a fan. Oh, boy.

Zachary Haitkin 

Oh, boy. We’re done. Here. We’re done. Yeah. You see the background? See this?

Andrej Zito 

Oh, yeah, I see. What? What is that? What is that how you call it? Popeye? No.

Zachary Haitkin 

Oh, the. Yeah. That’s a it’s a baseball player for the Dodgers. That’s Cody Ballenger. Gosh, what are those called? They’re called pop up, pop, pop some

Andrej Zito 

Funko Pop? Funko Pop. Okay. Yeah, yeah. So what I what I wanted to speculate on was, I’m not sure if you know, like about the voice synthesis, like AI that can actually based on some samples, create your voice as if you spoke it, but it just like based on text?

Zachary Haitkin 

Oh, interesting. Have you heard it? I think I’ve heard of that. Yeah, I think there’s a Yeah, my specific role in that place is on the product side. So I don’t do very much with the subtitles or dub or dubbing. But I think it would be it would be really interesting. If there was a way to take a transcript or a transfer or a translation, and then be able to turn it into dubbing really easily. But that to me sounds really difficult. And to be able to capture I mean, every piece of content. How would you capture the tone that an actor’s speaking in just from a piece of text? I don’t think it’s impossible. I think there’s certainly inputs if you if you train a machine with with different tones, like angry or sad or crying or surprised to be able to mimic that tone. I think it’s possible. I don’t think that’s coming anytime soon, though, but that’s a really interesting idea. I think that’d be really cool.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, and it’s funny because I even already tried it. There was like one platform for podcast recording, where it automatically generates transcript for you. And you can actually edit it as a text and it actually inserts the voice for the text based Send your edits, which is super crazy.

Zachary Haitkin 

Interesting. So it like it hears your voice. Yes. And then is able to insert other words based on what it heard from your voice?

Andrej Zito 

Exactly.

Zachary Haitkin 

Wow. That’s pretty cool.

Andrej Zito 

It’s sort of like, you know, like when they already made make these movies with, with with actors who already passed away. Right? So that’s sort of like a thing, you know, like maybe at some point, you would just I don’t know, let’s say, do like a SaaS service on your let’s say voice or, or your model and all the studios would just rent it out and create something artificially.

Zachary Haitkin 

Why not? I mean, that’s, you know, things like that, that we don’t have too much knowledge into, or we think are impossible. I mean, look at look at Lyft. And Uber, 10 years ago, they basically didn’t exist. And now, can you imagine a system or a world without, without those services, like, there’s so ingrained in people’s daily lives that, you know, it’s just, it’s a way of life now. So 10 years from now, that could be the way things are going. So you know, nothing is impossible.

Andrej Zito 

It’s good that you went back to Lyft. And Uber, because I was trying to find a way how to go back to that, because I like when you were mentioning the self driving cars. So how do you actually think like this would affect their business? At some point? Like, do you think they would own the self driving cars, and just provide the service without the drivers

Zachary Haitkin 

Lyft has a whole branch of their company, and this is all public, they have a public website, it’s called level five. And they’re developing the self driving software. So the software that goes in the car that the car uses in order to get around. So I think left Lyft is definitely hedging their bet, and trying to move towards a world where they have an open source solution that multiple companies that want to use, or have, like companies that manufacturer cars that want to have self driving, self driving service, they’re able to use lifts, open platform, self driving software, is interesting, Uber just sold off or spun off its self driving unit. I think I think they might have sold it. I think they did, actually to to another self driving company. So you know, I think there’s gonna be hardware and software, I think there’s not going to be a lot of overlap. Although you look at Tesla, they’re trying to do both. So so I think they’re going to be one, one company that does both, but I think the vast majority of players are going to see hardware and software be separate. And then and then come together with with partnerships.

Andrej Zito 

Going back to your role and a little bit of localization, although we kind of like left it behind. How do you think like, like AI will affect project management? That’s what you’re doing. And a lot of, I don’t know what maybe you can even like, briefly tell us what exactly is that you do, let’s say on a day to day basis, because like a lot of the people are saying, especially the people who are pushing for internationalization, and continuous localization, you know, that there’s, once you have the process figured out, there’s not that much space for project managers, or at least the the way that people think about project management in the old way. Like, you get files, and you send them to translators, and you write a lot of emails like all of this can be automated.

Zachary Haitkin 

Yeah. So a little bit more specifically about about what I do. I sit on the product side. So I focus. Specifically, there’s a lot of different components. But the components that I focus on are mobile, and web for the most part. So any strings that have to do with Netflix.com, the web experience or the Android or iOS, mobile apps, so most of what I do is facilitating QC. So making sure there aren’t any issues with tests that engineers are running. So let’s say an engineer wants to test the new feature, they have a lot of different cells, they’re called different experiences. So like cell number one is control cell number two has the button on the right side, cell number three has the button on the left side cell number four, the button says a different piece of text here, and then they want to see which one performs the best to drive different metrics. Now, not only are they testing this in English, they need to make sure that these are localized in our testing and other languages as well. So once the feature is ready to be tested, then they’ll send it to me with with visual context to be able to send that out to localization testers to flag linguistic or non linguistic issues. So linguistic could be mistranslation, something’s not translated, or it’s a glossary. It’s not following the glossary, or the or the translation memory, or nonlinguistic, where the button is on the it’s aligned incorrectly, like, let’s say it’s Arabic or something like the arrow is on the right side, instead of the left side. And for a right to left language, you know, things like that. So that’s up to me to take the tickets that are filed by the testers and work with the engineers or the linguist to resolve all the all the issues. And because Netflix does a lot of testing, there’s there’s quite a few issues that get filed for these tests. So getting back to automation, I think, from a layout standpoint, and the nonlinguistic issues, for example, truncation, things like that, I do think a lot of that could be automated from the flagging standpoint, you know, I think it’d be very easy. If some machine saw that a string was truncated, you could tell it, okay, if there’s truncation file a ticket, snap a screenshot, and send it back over to me. So I think a lot of that could be automated. From a linguistic standpoint, I think some things could be automated, Miss translations, if something’s not translated, I think that’s pretty easy. Because you say, if it’s expecting it to be this, that it’s if it’s not this, or if it matches the English source, then it could flag it automatically. But where you start to get into the more nuanced is, if it’s a an uncommon translation, or if the translation feels weird, where like, it’s not necessarily the wrong translation, but it’s not the best translation, that to me doesn’t feel like something that could be automated very easily. So I think from from a standpoint, from project management, there’s still going to be that need unless you want engineers to actually start dealing with the tickets directly, which they really don’t want to, they’d rather just work on what they’re working on, code the feature, and if there’s problems, I tell them, and then they fix it, I still think there’s going to be need for a human to manage that process. So have you ever seen the movie office space? Are you familiar with that? But that would be okay. Anyways, not to get into it too much. But it’s, there’s a scene where there’s a guy, and he’s very much talking about how he takes issues from the customers and brings them to the engineers. And the person interviewing him says, well, what’s, what’s the stop, the customer is just bringing their issues straight to the engineers. And he gets very flustered and very upset. Because he’s, he’s kind of a middle person. But he’s, he’s emphasizing that there needs to be someone in the middle there in order to handle it. And so I very much feel like I’m on the middle person here, trying to prioritize different tickets, different issues, localization issues that get flagged and making sure they get resolved in a timely manner. So anyways, really long winded answer automation for project management. Yes. For some tasks. No, for others. linguistic, yes. For some No, for others. I think that’s that’s probably the answer that you could give to anything.

Andrej Zito 

Right. Right. Right. That’s true. Okay, um, let’s say 1010 minutes, 1015 minutes. I’m interested in this one, like, What’s something that people seem to misunderstand about you?

Zachary Haitkin 

Misunderstand about me? Um, I think sometimes, because I’m kind of outgoing. That I don’t that I have all the answers, and that I’m not anxious about things. And I’m actually pretty anxious person in general. I worry a lot about things. But I think outwardly, my demeanor is is pretty confident. But I’m not always confident. So I think I think sometimes people can not really understand that, that I’m actually worried about lots and lots of things all the time. But it’s, you know, that’s something that I have to deal with. And, but I’ll be all right, I’ll survive. But yeah, I think that’s probably something that people might not understand about me.

Andrej Zito 

Is that something you learned on the job or through experience to give this impression that you’re not anxious and that you’re confident or where does it come from? If you ever thought of it

Zachary Haitkin 

It’s kind of a spot. It’s kind of a spiral, actually, because it’s, you know, you’re anxious about lots of things, but you don’t want to let people know that you’re anxious, so you get more anxious about not letting people know that you’re anxious, that it’s this, it’s this circle that goes around and around. So you know, I think I feel less anxious, less concerned and more confident when I’m knowledgeable about something. So I think I have a tendency to over over prepare, and get really ready for something and really know what I’m talking about. And that and that helps me overall. And I think, just doing something over and over again, just being more familiar with it, that that really helps. But yeah, I think just practice makes perfect. And the more I do something, the better I feel about it.

Andrej Zito 

How much time did you spend preparing for this interview?

Zachary Haitkin 

Not a lot.

Andrej Zito 

I mean, I was just, I was just thinking about it. When we started, like, I’m pretty sure that like you told the story that I asked you about, like 100 times, I was thinking like, what would be the one question that nobody has ever asked him? So maybe you can help me? So you’ve been on a lot of shows? So what is the one thing that people didn’t ask you, but you wanted to actually share with the world? Whether it’s localization or personal?

Zachary Haitkin 

Yeah, um, boy, that is a really that is a really interesting question. Um, finally, yeah, no, no, you know, you got me getting really anxious or really anxious over here. Um, wanted to share, you know, I think I’ve probably touched on this a little bit, here and there. In times that I’ve talked, but there’s this really great. I’m not exactly sure what to call it. But it’s this. I’m pretty sure it’s from Japan. But it’s this. It’s called Ikigai, and I apologize if I’m mispronouncing it. Have you heard of that? before?

Andrej Zito 

Ikigai? Yes. Yes

Zachary Haitkin 

Ikigai. Thank you, um, where it’s, you know, what are you passionate about? What are you good at? What can you get paid for and what’s good for the world. And so, I don’t always get a chance to bring this up. But I feel like the work that I do, and particularly localization, in general, really does fulfill all those things for me. And I think a lot of people that work in the industry, it does, it does fit into to all four of those tenants of BK guy. And so I don’t really get a chance to bring that up a lot. But I do think that the localization in general, if you’re, if you’re passionate about it, can really be something that can that can fit in with that. So yeah, I’d say, you know, I’ve talked about that every now and then, but but not as much as I’d like to.

Andrej Zito 

So the important part about Ikigai, and the one that I think is missing, for a lot of people, when they think about their job is actually the purpose, like, does what I’m doing make the world a better place. So how do you think localization makes the world a better place?

Zachary Haitkin 

Because you’re reaching more people, you’re you’re giving access, you’re giving access to whatever you’re working on to a larger base, you’re, you know, we’re here in the the information age, the age of the internet, where people have access to information at their, at their fingertips more easily than they ever have in the past. So, localization fits right into that if you make it easier for people to access that information, to learn and to grow. localization, like that’s, that’s what it is, it’s making it more accessible. And I really view a localization as an as, as accessibility. Being able to have something in in your, in your preferred language is is key in order to to learn and grow. So yeah, I think I think that’s where the purpose piece fits in, and it’s good for the world. If more people are able to learn more about whatever they want than then that’s a good thing.

Andrej Zito 

So if this is your, your Ikigai, does it mean that you like see yourself doing this for the rest of your life? Or do you think like, people can have multiple things which check all the four parts of it.

Zachary Haitkin 

Um, I foresee myself working in localization for the rest of my life, or in language and in some aspects I’ve been trying to, I haven’t done so much lately, but for a while, I was trying to get certified as a Spanish, the English translator, by the ATA, the American translators Association. That test is really hard. I took I took a few practice tests. That test is really, really hard and I didn’t I didn’t pass any of the practice that I got close, but I didn’t pass any So I foresee myself working in language and localization for the rest of my life, as long as I’m able to, I would say for for other people in localization if, if your passion is language, which I know a lot of people who work in this industry are, then keep following that, don’t, don’t give up on it. Because you’ll find a place that works, whether it’s a linguist, whether it’s a project manager on the vendor side, or on the client side, there, there is a lot of different roles that can fit different skill sets, depending on what you’re more passionate about. So I think there’s, there’s quite a few ways to fit in here to follow your passion in localization.

Andrej Zito 

Do you think that the, the current education system is set in a way for people to find their Ikigai or no?

Zachary Haitkin 

No, no, I think I mean, not, I’m sure there’s certain places where that type of learning is encouraged. But I think particularly here in the United States, there’s a lot of people are forced to learn in a certain way, and they don’t have a chance to really follow that particularly early on, you know, in college, you can pick your major, and decide what you want to do. But But before that, in high school, and in middle school, you really are pretty much everyone learns the same thing. And they’re there, they’re forced to fit in the, the the same box as everybody else. When really, we should be more flexible, like some people are better at math and science, and some people are better at literature and writing. And on down the line, some people are not good at any of those, but have other skills. So I don’t think we encourage that nearly enough, early on in life, to really get to get people I know, I know, for me, I went to college and did not succeed out of high school, because I had no idea what I wanted to do. Even though I took Spanish all through high school. You know, I didn’t, I didn’t really understand that that was something that I could continue on. Because it wasn’t really talked to me that way. So, yeah, I think there could be a lot better job, particularly here in the United States. I can’t speak for other places in the world. But here in the United States, I think there could be a lot better way a lot more attention paid on our early education to really understand or help people understand what they want to be doing in life.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, so that’s, that’s the, that’s the education system. But let’s say people are listening to us. So what would be your advice? How can they find their Ikigai. Do you think it’s, it’s about finding it, or it’s more about realizing what you’re doing right now and trying to fit it into those things. Because, you know, like, let’s say people who work in localization, I don’t think that a lot of them are like, super passionate about it. And like many people, like just end up in the role. And a lot of people actually like, even outside of localization, they just end up in the role straight out of college. And because they have some experience, because they have a certain routine life, they just stick into that industry and stop exploring something else, because it would be a risk for them, you know, to try to find what they’re really passionate about.

Zachary Haitkin 

Right? Well, I think of the four major pieces of Ikagai, I think it’s, I would not say that they’re created equal, I would say in order to find what, in order to find exactly where that fits into meet all four, I think you first need to look at your passion. I think if you can find what your passion is first and understand that, then that’s going to be what’s going to lead you down the road because you’re going to have to really understand what that is. And then try a lot of different ways to implement that. I mean, I remember I remember early on trying to understand what what my passions were like, you know, I mentioned this to you like, I’m a huge baseball fan. So I really love baseball. I am a fan of Spanish language. I’m passionate about Spanish language. And I also I am not great, but I’m not half bad at doing voice impressions. Really. And so for a while I was like, well, let’s see. I like baseball. I like doing voices and I like Spanish maybe I should be like a Spanish baseball commentator broadcaster, right. You know, and and, you know, I tried that. doing it myself just like watching a baseball game and commentating it myself. And I’m like, Nah, that’s not really, that’s not really fun. I even took, I even took like a class, were at a voice School, where they gave us like, sample assignments to, like, pretend to do voices and like, actually do auditions and stuff, and you get feedback. And it wasn’t really for me. But you know, trying to see like, what those what you enjoy and what you’re passionate about. Because I think you’ll, you’ll see, like, what you enjoy, and what you are passionate about are two separate things. You know, you might enjoy doing a lot of things, but you really have maybe just a handful of things, if not just one thing that you’re really passionate about. So being able to discover that, and then move on to the rest. That’s what’s really gonna lead to enlightenment fulfillment, as the as the model puts forth.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, and how do you go from from passion to purpose?

Zachary Haitkin 

That’s not always easy. It’s, you know, I think not all passions are created equal. I think, from a language and localization standpoint, I think it’s an easy and easy bridge to make. To say that I’m passionate about language, I, if I can make content accessible in other languages in that language, then that’s going to benefit people and help people. So I think it’s, it takes work, it takes work to try and understand how to how to do that. But no, I don’t really have a great answer other than just to be persistent. To stay at it. But yeah, I don’t I don’t have all the answers. I’m sorry. I wish I did. Life would be a lot easier if I had all the answers.

Andrej Zito 

Please don’t get anxious. So speaking about industry, my notorious question, what do you think is wrong with our industry?

Zachary Haitkin 

That’s a good one. Maybe not wrong with with with it within the industry. But I still feel like and I mentioned this a little bit before, where people conflate internationalization with translation and localization, where you can’t have one without the other and they automatically go together. And you shouldn’t be thinking about localization or translation without without being international or having an international presence. I think you very much can see growth and and drive new business by having a multilingual experience within any given country. So that’s something that I came up with against a lot at Lyft, when trying to convince higher ups that that it was it was something we needed to do. So I think that’s, it’s not always clear, it’s not always clear that there is value in in just localizing as opposed to launching internationally. I think there’s way way too many translation vendors, I don’t know. I feel like, I don’t know, I get these messages from lots of people. And there’s just so many, there’s so many of them. Like, can’t they just like, I don’t know, like group together and make it like everyone worked together? I know. That’s a terrible thing. I shouldn’t I should not say that. Maybe you can just cut that out.

Andrej Zito 

No, that’s actually a good point. Because I went to my very first LocLunch. I don’t know, maybe more than a month ago, the San Diego one. And one of the guys I think he works for Transperfect. He asked the question like, no, like, because recently, like, there’s a lot of mergers and acquisitions. So he was asking, like, will there eventually be just like a few big players and all the small pills will die? So that would work for you.

Zachary Haitkin 

I mean, it’s it’s more just having to sift through at all. And, you know, I,

Andrej Zito 

But do you actually have to? Like why?

Zachary Haitkin 

I don’t know. Yeah, I personally don’t. You know, there’s, there’s a separate team for that at Netflix, that just deals with vendor management. And there’s several different vendors that Netflix works with, depending on the content in the in the language, and in quality measures. They’re constantly rotating in and out so no, I don’t have to deal with that. I just, it’s more just I see the amount of people that contact me and it’s just it’s, it’s a little overwhelming at times. So maybe if everybody just just grouped together and And, and made one not not one, but you know, like a handful of big ones. But I think it’s a valid question to ask, you know, eventually Are there going to be? Is it just going to be a handful of players? And it might be, but it might not.

Andrej Zito 

I didn’t respond during the LocLunch, because it was my first launch. And maybe I was a little bit anxious, like, like you, you know, because I’m a little bit anxious, maybe around a lot of strangers that I don’t know, especially if I think that they know each other very well. And they’re like a tight group. And I’m like, No, like an outsider. But to me, from my experience, I’m not sure what is your experience. I’m not saying this is a rule. But like a lot of the big players they lose on the innovation. To me like that is like where the smaller players could maybe give you like a more personal touch, and may be driving innovation, because the big players are more about economies of scale. And they just keep doing the same things over and over again. I don’t know.

Zachary Haitkin 

Yeah, I would say if you’re looking for a more personal face to face type interaction, then I do think a smaller player would be the way to go, because they’re going to have fewer clients and be able to focus more time on on you. If you’ve got a such a large program, or that’s just not possible, then, then the larger players is going to be right. But you know, I think if you if you really want to get the voice right, and and that’s not to say that the larger players can do this, but I think it’s it’s a lot more work to do. It’s at a at a scale like, like an Uber or a Netflix, you know, you know, once you’re that size, how do you maintain that? So I don’t think a small a small player could could do that. So, you know, I take it back. I think both i think i think they both can serve a purpose. It really depends on what, what the client wants and needs and at what scale they that they’re currently at. So

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Oh, yeah, I had this question. So you know, like, when all these people contact you, and to me look like it’s kind of annoying to you?

Zachary Haitkin 

A little a little.

Andrej Zito 

What do you think would be like a strategy that would work on you? Like, how would how, how, yeah, like, how would they stand out? How would they capture your attention?

Zachary Haitkin 

Um, let’s see. Because there are quite a few people, you know, I think looking for doing the research, and not just because I feel like a lot of the messages are pretty generic, copy, paste. Yeah. I’m like, Hey, I do like our company, or I do this and this, and this, how can we work together? It might be better to like, personalize those messages a little bit. Or at the very least, instead of saying, Hey, can we meet together? Or can we meet and try and figure out how to work together? Say, just Are you the right person? I just feel like a lot of people just assume that like, I’m the person. And I think that comes from the copy paste. So I think if you’re, you know, don’t don’t make assumptions, just because someone works for a certain company, that they’re the right person to ask. So being being more curious and asking more questions, instead of saying, All right, hire me say like, Hey, are you the right person to even talk to, to get hired? Because I’m not. So I’m not the right person. But I certainly have public resources that I can point people to. There’s, there’s a couple of public sites where translation vendors and linguists can apply to to be considered. And I’m happy to share that information. And I want to pass that along. So and I do on a regular basis,

Andrej Zito 

I know what we’re going to do, like, I’m going to cut the part where you say, I’m not the one. And we’re just going to post it on LinkedIn. Like to all localization vendors, this is a message from Zach.

Zachary Haitkin 

Don’t you dare.

Andrej Zito 

Well, I’m doing it as a service for you. Right.

Zachary Haitkin 

Okay. All right, whatever, whatever you say.

Andrej Zito 

Um, yeah, what I wanted to make a point was that, you know, like when they contact you with this information, to me, like shows that they don’t know what they’re doing, because like, they they can pretty much like either imagine that a company of Netflix and the size of the program would have a vendor management team, which would be better to contact which then tells me that okay, if you cannot Do this research and how can you I don’t know, let’s say, research, how we communicate to our customers as Netflix or something like that. So

Zachary Haitkin 

Exactly right. You nailed it.

Andrej Zito 

I’m pretty sure you will. I don’t mind naming because we already named them when I was doing interview with Jan Hinrichs, you know, the Yeah. Yeah. So we were mentioning that he was complaining about one particular agency in Asia, CCJK, or something like that. And they also contact me like, an all of the people, they just add me and immediately they just do copy, paste. And even the project managers, the vendors, managers, all the same things. So I’m pretty sure they must have reached us. Well,

Zachary Haitkin 

They have. And I, I don’t know if I responded, but I that those those letters sound very familiar. So I’m pretty sure they’ve, they’ve contacted me at some point.

Andrej Zito 

So one more question, and maybe I’ll let you pick. So because usually people struggle with this questions. So there’s the question, things I changed my mind about? Something, let’s, let’s say for a long time, you thought that this is how it’s supposed to be done. And then something happened, like you talk to someone or you had an experience, or you read something, and then you’re like, Oh, I was wrong all the time. Or the second thing is absurd, or stupid things that you do. Absurd or stupid things that I do, which means that most of the people on the earth would say, like, Dude, are you serious? But for you, it’s normal.

Zachary Haitkin 

I can probably answer both of those pretty quickly. Things that I changed my mind about. I think I definitely when I first got into localization, I felt like a more centralized approach was the only way to do things. And I think that was something that I I got from being an part of a small team at the beginning at Lyft. And then even smaller team of being just me was that everything needed to run through me, or the localization team in order to be successful. And I think some centralization is is important, but building tools and processes to empower other people at the company to handle it on their own. And yes, setting up checks and balances along the way is fine, but I think in the beginning, I was like, No, I have to do everything, everything has to go through me, when in reality, that’s just not not possible. It’s not feasible. So I really had to change my perspective to say, no, it’s okay to let people engage with with me for localization requests, but set them up for success, and then let them run with it, as opposed to doing everything myself. So that was something that I had to, I had to kind of change my perspective on something absurd. I watch the show the office, which used to be on Netflix, not anymore in the United States, the US, the US one, I have probably watched that show, from beginning to end. hundreds of times, maybe, maybe 1000s. It’s tough, I don’t know. And I haven’t counted, but I literally used to just watch it like as background, like white noise, go to sleep if I was going to sleep and just have it on constantly. And so I probably watched that, that show more than the vast majority of the population. I know, it’s a very popular show. So I’m sure there’s someone out there that’s watched it more than me, but I wouldn’t like to meet them because they’re probably crazy, like I am. So that’s something that that I do, and I still watch it. I still watch it, even though it’s not on Netflix. I bought it on iTunes before it went off of sale. So and I can I can still watch it whenever I want. So, you know, probably quote, most of the show all the way through. I’ve played a handful of office trivia I’ve done done pretty well on that. But that’s, that’s a show that I’ve watched way more than the normal person. But to me, it’s just just how I roll.

Andrej Zito 

Do you have Funko Pop of someone from The Office?

Zachary Haitkin 

I don’t, you know, I’m not big into Funko Pops. The reason why I got the one behind me was the Dodgers won the World Series this year, or last year, and it was the first time they had won since 1988. So it’s been quite a long time. So I bought quite a few Dodger pieces of memorabilia and this was one that was I got it for a good price. So I figured i’d i’d snag it. But no, this is the only Funko Pop that that I have

Andrej Zito 

Who was your favorite person from The Office?

Zachary Haitkin 

Favorite character from The Office? That’s that’s an interesting one. Um, I think maybe, you know, he’s he’s more of a bit role player. But most Dwight’s Dwight’s cousin is always a weird cousin. And mainly because, I mean, the scenes that he was in, he’s just so weird, but also that that actor, Michael Schur, was a writer and a producer on the show, and did a lot of the a lot of the jokes and a lot of the success that the office had was because of Michael Schur. I mean, he also did Brooklyn Nine Nine, he was a producer and writer on that show as well. And a few other ones that I can’t remember right now. But I think just the fact that he was he was so talented to be able to be that weird character Dwight’s cousin and be such a brilliant writer, I think definitely makes him probably probably one of my favorites, for sure.

Andrej Zito 

Was there anyone who made you angry or irritated?

Zachary Haitkin 

Oh, I hate Angela. I hate her. I mean, and that and that says, that says something because I think you know, Angela, Angela Kinsey. Who, who’s the actress, that’s something that she’s really good. Like, the fact that I had this reaction about her, like, tells me that she’s a really good actress. And in real life, you know, she’s a total sweetheart. But you know, I always like she just always kind of graded on me, and I just wasn’t, I wasn’t a huge fan of her. And that was her character. And that was really what she was supposed to do. And she succeeded. So I think, you know, from from an acting standpoint, she was she was great, but no, I did not, did not enjoy her character at all.

Andrej Zito 

For me, it was the the reception that she wasn’t there all the seasons. You know, the, the very naive one.

Zachary Haitkin 

Aaron? Yeah, Baron. Yeah. Yeah. She had the show on Netflix. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Yeah.

Andrej Zito 

That’s even worse.

Zachary Haitkin 

You know, I wasn’t I wasn’t a huge, huge fan of that. I’ll be uh, you know, I didn’t I didn’t watch a ton of episodes. Why can’t I remember her name right now? Ellie Kemper was the name of the actress. Yeah. She had her moments. But But yeah, yeah. I thought she was pretty good. I was a bit.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. Okay, Zach. So I think that will be it for this interview now? Not yet. I’m almost almost their final words, if you could speak to the minds of everyone in the localization industry? What would you tell them?

Zachary Haitkin 

Yeah, I think I already said this. But just to wrap it all up in in a few sentences is, no matter what you’re doing, or what what the skill set you have is, if you’re passionate about it, no matter what your background, no matter what job you’re working, if you want to break into tech, if you want to break into localization, and you have the passion, you you, you can do it. There are avenues and opportunities. And I think that really comes from building connections and building relationships with people. And every single person I’ve met for the most part in localization is willing and receptive to help people along the way. So I would say don’t be afraid to reach out. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Because you might not always succeed. But if you continue to do it, then you will be successful. So don’t be afraid to to really move forward. If this is something you’re passionate about.

Andrej Zito 

Yes. Be confident. Don’t be anxious.

Zachary Haitkin 

That’s right.

Andrej Zito 

Right. Thanks, Zach.

Zachary Haitkin 

Awesome. Speak to you next time. Thank you. Thank you.

Andrej Zito 

Bye bye.

Zachary Haitkin 

See ya.

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