The Future Of Localization Project Manager – Gaya Saghatelyan From HubSpot

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What is the future of localization project managers? I got a chance to speak with Gaya Saghatelyan on the intricacies of managing projects at Hubspot.

We talked about the big AND the small picture of project management. You have to understand both if you want to be relevant in the future. We invite you to learn about:

  • Hubspot localization program
  • What’s a “flywheel” and how does localization fit in
  • Scheduling, WBS, and budgets
  • What’s the biggest contribution you can bring in
  • How to manage relationships as a localization project manager
  • Planning vs improvisation
  • The benefits of JIRA
  • Why you need to overcommunicate
  • Overwhelmed by… El Diablo?!

This is episode 35 of my social practice, also known as The Localization Podcast 🙂 #localization​ and #translation​ insight delivered to you by the power of voice, this time with Gaya Saghatelyan.

⏲️ Timestamps:
0:00​ – Intro & Gaya’s background
06:34​ – Hubspot flywheel, localization program
31:00​ – What is project management about
38:30​ – Scheduling, WBS, budgets
57:59​ – Relationship management for PMs
1:14:35​ – Getting organized, priorities
1:24:55​ – Tips for working remotely
1:41:04​ – Final set of questions


Andrej Zito 

Gaya. Welcome to the podcast.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Hi, Andrej, good to be here.

Andrej Zito 

Thank you very much for accepting the invite. Actually, you were recommended to me by Natalie, I reached out to her first because I see her articles everywhere. Everybody’s talking about her articles. She was like, I’m not busy. But my team is so awesome. Pick one of them. And she recommended you because I told her that I haven’t had a chance to speak to someone about project management so far. which is surprising to me, because I’ve been doing project management for most of my career in localization. And that’s when she recommended you. And she said that you’re great at project management. Because you don’t think about project management in the standard way through your project management is more about the relationships. So that’s why I’m happy to have you here. And our episode will be focused mainly on project management, program management, because this was you explained to me that you’re kind of like a mixed roll. But before we get to that, you work at HubSpot. Alert. But how did you get into localization? I know you started in a company that’s also familiar to me as well. So how do you remember your first beginning with localization,

Gaya Saghatelyan 

First of all, Natalie set a very high bar, I hope I can meet that expectation.

Andrej Zito 

No pressure, no pressure.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I’m definitely very excited to be on the podcast. And I hope this will prove to be useful. And I can meet the expectations that Natalie have set already. To answer your question, my journey to localization was a long one. So I actually started in Business Administration. And that’s what I that’s true. I’m glad that I doesn’t feel like that took me some time. Right? Yeah. I actually started in general business administration. And that’s what I studied in my undergraduate degree. Pretty quickly, I noticed that I love languages, and I love translation. And although when I was younger, everybody thought that that would be the natural path for me translation language services. I was really opposed to it at the beginning, I kind of thought, No, that’s the traditional path. I’m not gonna go down that path. I come from a multilingual family. I come from an immigrant background. And we came to the US when I was eight. I grew up speaking multiple languages at home. And everybody kind of pointed me toward the language path. But I resisted for a long time and decided to do something broader Business Administration, but there was no getting away from it.

Andrej Zito 

Did you think that the whole industry is only about translating things? And there’s nothing else?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

That was my impression.

Andrej Zito 

Right?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Yeah. You know, in college, I think, at least at the time, we didn’t have a lot of exposure to localization as a discipline, I think it’s not something that is commonly introduced on the college undergraduate level. So to me, it was really about translation, which of course, it has many merits, and it’s a very important function. But I didn’t see myself in that profile. Because I always thought of myself as someone who’s very outgoing. And I wanted to have that people contact, you don’t really get to have that often as a translator. So I resisted for a long time. But you know, things kind of happened and their own natural way. And I ended up working as a freelance translator for a nonprofit organization at first. And then I was a translator and interpreter for the Swiss development. International Development Organization of back when I was an undergraduate student, I was completely self taught, I had no idea what I was doing, especially at the beginning. But I really enjoyed my experience. And when I left my college and went out into the real world, I thought I’d give this whole business thing a try and actually apply what I learned at university. I worked for a small organization in Los Angeles, so in the for profit world, and I was a sales and marketing manager by the time that I left that organization. So I already had quite a bit of experience in business, but I felt like something was missing. The company was primarily targeting domestic business. So I did not feel like I was applying that international background, which is what really gave me energy and motivated me all along. So I decided to go back to university after just a short year of being out of university. And that’s when I went to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and got my masters They’re you briefly alluded to Autodesk, which I think is what you were referring to. We have that part of our, of our resumes in common. Yes. Autodesk was my first experience after being at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. I really, I learned so much. And I think I took so much away from that experience. Working with Hannah Choi and all the program managers at Autodesk was the first formal, really sophisticated program, localization program that I had seen firsthand. And the stakeholder management aspect of working in such a large program was invaluable and a really great takeaway.

Andrej Zito 

Did they have any form of training for you during your internship, or you just learn observe everyone how they were doing? What were you actually doing there during your internship?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So there was, of course, some structure and my memory is pretty rusty at this point. But there was, of course, some structured training. I remember getting hands on training from the program managers and how the programs look. And I recall at the time that there was also quite a bit of it, infrastructure being developed. And that is also something that I got to have a behind the scenes look at. But a lot of it was learning by doing and that’s what I enjoyed a lot about it, because after having had so much theory, and it was nice to actually apply it.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So now you work at HubSpot. HubSpot is a very famous marketing tool, SAS software. But maybe some people don’t know what exactly HubSpot does. Is it only for marketers and salespeople? Can you give us a brief overview of what HubSpot is and where the localization fits in?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Absolutely. So I’ll probably give you my own interpretation of what HubSpot does. There’s definitely an official

Andrej Zito 

Of course.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

-written definition of what HubSpot does but the way I see HubSpot is a tool. It’s supposed to help companies support the entire customer flywheel and we use the word flywheel a lot. The way we understand a flywheel is contrary to the traditional funnel, where you have prospects going in customers coming out a flywheel is really it’s the customer is at the center and all of the operations so sales, marketing services, and anything beyond just the customer prospect converting to a customer fits into that flywheel. And the purpose is to make sure that the customer is always being serviced and delighted throughout their journey and interaction with with the company. So the way that fits into HubSpot as a tool. Because what I just described, it’s an ideology on which HubSpot is faced it’s as a tool, we look at the customer as being at the center and everything else that is built around it is supporting the customer. And the way HubSpot fits into that as the different hubs that are developed as part of HubSpot support these different functions like marketing sales services, and and beyond, to make sure that sales and marketing and services are all tied together. And you don’t have these disconnected conversations where you call to get your contract renewed, but the contract renewal specialist and actually know what happened from the very beginning of your account, there is an actual connection that gets built around a customer and the tool helps support that.

Andrej Zito 

Mm hmm. Word is localization. Is localization, one of the parts of the wheel, or is it the something that supports all parts of the wheel?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So that’s a great question. I think that you can view it from both aspects. So it is part of the wheel, you’re probably not going to be very delighted customer if you can’t use our tool in your language, but you expect to be able to use our tool in your language. So I think that is part of the flywheel as part of making sure that the customer is actually happy with the tool that they’re using. And also in turn that the customers of our customers are satisfied with the experience that they’re being provided by the companies that use HubSpot as a platform, say, to host our website or to send their customer communication or email communication. So it’s very important that both the customers that interact with us and the customers of our customers have a good experience in their language. So it’s part of that delight aspect, but it’s also part of the flywheel because or it’s also part of the different aspects of the flywheel because the marketing interaction or the sales interaction or services interactions, It needs to happen in the context of the user. And we need to meet our users where they are, if we’re speaking to them in a completely different language that they don’t understand, or if they experience that they see in that language is not fit to their market and is not fit to the expectation that they want to see in their culture, then we’re not meeting the goal of what the flywheel should look like.

Andrej Zito 

Mm hmm. How would you compare your current experience with the internship experience at Autodesk? We briefly talked about this before you were talking about different maturity models. So can you maybe explain to us what was the difference in your opinion.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So at the time of the internship, I think my perspective was very, very fresh, and I still had it, I haven’t had as much experience, of course, as I as I do now. So that’s one very big difference. I look at things with the enrichment of the experience that I’ve had already. But I remember that at the time, when I was at Autodesk, I thought, wow, you know, this theory that we learned in class about the localization Maturity Model, I can really see it brought to life at Autodesk systems, processes. stakeholder relationships, were really on that high end, the higher maturity end of the of the spectrum. And that was my impression at the time. And I think that’s still Autodesk is considered to be one of the most mature localization programs. At HubSpot, I think that we’re also on the higher end of the maturity spectrum. But of course, there are going to be parts of the organization or pockets of their organization that are, say less mature in terms of systems or in terms of processes or in terms of stakeholder engagement. And I’m sure at Autodesk as well, if I had more experience at the time and could dig deeper and had more exposure, I would probably find these pockets of teams that have that are on the the earlier maturity model than than the ones that I had exposure to. So I think having seen the model out in the wild, it is actually very interesting to observe that the organization in itself can be called, you know, very high maturity as a program. But you also have variations amongst different teams. Right. And I just very, it was a very enlightening moment for me to see that it hands on once I got to really dig into a localization program.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, because especially with a company like Autodesk, you always have new teams like the company needs to expand. Right? So there will be people who have no experience with localization whatsoever. They’re just product teams, engineers and the software, just pretty much no maturity, right?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Absolutely. That’s a really good point. And that also led me to think about mergers and acquisitions. Generally, m&a is have a big role to play in the talent that comes in and how, how much localization maturity they themselves have, I think that’s also something you just alluded to Autodesk is has had a lot of mergers and acquisitions. At HubSpot, we, we haven’t had as many mergers and acquisitions. So most of the new stakeholders that we get to work with either are hired through organic growth, or, you know, there are new opportunities that we get to explore as we reach out and to different teams.

Andrej Zito 

When you mentioned the high level of maturity, to meet some like, like, that’s the ideal state that companies want to get get to. But I’m wondering, my thought was, isn’t it also a danger to consider yourself to be on the high level of the maturity? Because maybe then you think like you’re doing the right thing, but you’re less open to new improvements. That’s what I was thinking that maybe if you don’t consider HubSpot to be at the high end of the maturity, that maybe that’s even better, because you are more flexible, and you’re more exploring the opportunities how to do localization.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Yeah, I think that’s a very fair point, it comes down to whether or not you view it as a static state, or whether it’s a constantly evolving state. And I guess in that context, state isn’t the word that I should be using if it’s evolving, but I guess if it’s an evolving and we’re looking at mindset, right, exactly, yes. That’s that’s a very good word for it. So to me, the goal would always to be in that growth mindset. But of course, we can always veer away from that or steer in the wrong direction and nobody is immune to that. But the goal, I think the Northstar should always be to be flexible and to iterate on the experience that you have with the different things that you’ve tried already. And try to always stay in tune with your stakeholders as well, because they’re going to tell you so much about where you are. It’s not when you evaluate the maturity of your program. It’s not something that you can do just on your own. It’s something that your stakeholders have to do very close exercise with you on in order to help you evaluate where you stand on in that maturity model. So I think leaning into that feedback is very important. And yes, ideally, we would all be growth oriented, and we’re constantly evaluate where we are.

Andrej Zito 

So HubSpot is the software for salespeople and marketers. What exactly do you guys localize? What kind of content? Is it? Is it the software? Is it the blog articles? You mentioned? elearning. Before we started recording, what are the different aspects that you localize for HubSpot?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So I’m going to come back to the flywheel again, the flywheel concept, we try to target all of the areas of the flywheel basically all of the interactions that our users or our customers are going to have with us. That would include the UI of the product that gets localized before a customer becomes a customer, and they have certain interactions with us. So our website, which would include block content, landing pages, content offers, you know, I could go on and on and on about all the different content types that are in that part of the flywheel. During the sales interactions, of course, there’s different content that needs to be localized. That’s both part of the nice to have content, that it’s just it would be good to have different types of brochures and infographics and things like that. But it’s also very important to have some of the legally binding contractual content that also gets localized. In short, I mean, I could go on and on, but there’s lots of content that gets localized elearning, or customer education being part of that as well. And if we look at the flywheel and the interactions that customers have with us, anything that fits onto into that flywheel, and has an important impact to non English speaking customers, we would localize.

Andrej Zito 

So maybe my question should have been, how do you decide which, which content doesn’t get localized? Hmm, is it about the money? Is it about the visibility, assume that every part of the flywheel would ideally want to look like everything? But I assume that the reality is that you still have to say no to some things? Where are the things that you say no to? And why?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Of course. Well, we look at what we want to localize, we always look at the impact that it’s going to have the actual business impact, go for HubSpot as a company, but most importantly, what impact is it going to have to customers. If the content that we’re localizing is table stakes, for whatever reason, let’s say that’s legal a binding piece of content that just needs to be localized, but it’s still going to affect a small customer base, we would still localize it. But if it’s content that we see through our analytics doesn’t get a lot of attraction, even in English, we probably wouldn’t decide to localize it. But we do have a lot of subject matter experts. And we’re lucky in that our go to market strategy globally, is very much focused on creating a tailored local strategy. So in the duck market, you would have SEO experts, you would have customer education experts, marketing general marketing experts who know what is important to that particular market.

Andrej Zito 

Maybe we can briefly explain what that means for people who don’t know.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So the higher the German speaking markets, Germany, Austria, Switzerland,

Andrej Zito 

Okay. You can continue.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

For France, we have subject matter experts who inform our go to market strategy and localization is a piece of that. They’re the ones who do the market analysis and they understand based on their analytics, what actually works in their market and localization is a partner at that table, in terms of how we actually execute a localization strategy, but as a company, as a company, we decide that on the local regional level,

Andrej Zito 

So how do the the country people affect You do you mentioned there’s a local localization strategy. I understood this correctly? Do they just, when we talk about the localization strategy, you mean that they pick the content that you guys localized like they are the decision makers? Or do they also affect other processes or decisions that you guys have to do?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So they primarily inform what gets localized, as you said, they are the ones who decide, you know, we have this particular campaign, we’re trying to drive this particular demand generation goal or whatever it may be. And these are the assets that we’re going to need for that. And those assets may be localized, or they may be created natively. So localization is an aspect only one aspect of the go to market strategy and the way we create content locally.

Andrej Zito 

So when a content gets created from scratch, for a local audience, are you responsible for Dennis well, or no?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Our team is not responsible for creating content locally. But when we first set up our native strategy, the localization specialists on our team had a very close partnership with the marketing agencies that we ended up recruiting for native content creation. And that partnership is in the form of reviewing the initial content that they delivered during a certain period of time to give them guidance on how they can best reflect HubSpot tone and voice, product and market positioning and things like that. And then, you know, there’s certain resources that we share with these agencies to make sure that HubSpot is speaking consistently, whether it’s localized, or if it’s created from scratch in that language.

Andrej Zito 

Got it. Okay. So let’s talk about project management. So I’m wondering, you know, we kind of like understand the landscape of HubSpot localization. So how are the projects organized within all the localization that you guys do? And also, you can explain to us the part where you think some of it is already program management?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Sure. So I, I’ll start with the first part of your question on how the projects are organized. So we have certain teams that we have very close partnerships with, and over time they’ve organically developed. So let’s say for as an example, marketing is a team that we have a very close partnership with. And the way projects usually come in is through our request form. And that’s how we receive all the projects from our stakeholders. And then we have dedicated project managers for different regions. Because we have the dedicated Project Manager for each region, they have very close visibility into all the different requests in the pipeline. So on that level, they can have more thorough conversations and more in depth meaningful conversations with the different stakeholders inside, let’s say, friends marketing, to determine what is coming. What How are these requests actually tied together? And are there any commonalities that we can draw from this, it allows us to have some predictability for the entire localization program. And we can have, we can see certain patterns and trends so that we can adjust our resourcing accordingly. And the way This usually happens is the project manager who’s responsible for let’s say, France marketing, if the project manager, she notices that there’s a specific spike in demand for a specific type of content that can allow us to adjust resourcing with our localization agencies, and also internally, because we do have a local internal localization, Linguistic Team. So, as I started saying, you know, we have certain teams that we have very established relationships with and that’s how requests come in. Sometimes those requests can be just for one language to get, you know, a content offer localized in one particular language. In some cases, we have an entire product launch, which will go into multiple languages sold via multilingual simultaneous launch. And in that case, we have multiple dependent assets that compose the entire product launch. And then that is primarily how we the projects are structured, any specific thing that I can focus in on.

Andrej Zito 

I’m still trying to process this. Because to me, from what I understood, you mentioned that project manager is dedicated to a certain region, is that correct? So just in case in the example that you mentioned, when you have a product launch into, let’s say, a lot of languages, does it mean that multiple project managers would be working on it?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

No. So we have the country designation by project manager. But anytime, there’s a global Launch with multiple languages, that takes precedence over the country designation. So like, let’s say, if a product launch includes Spanish, French, German, and Japanese, we would not have three different project managers, we would have one project manager managing all of the languages. And that project manager would be working closely with the project manager responsible for the specific countries to make sure that the pipeline is being kept healthy and that there are no competing requests. If that makes sense.

Andrej Zito 

Yes, yes, it does. In order to plan properly, do you get the requests in advance? Like, let’s say, Do you have something like a quarterly forecast? Or is it just like, Hey, we created this, can you please start localizing right now, which is actually a common scenario many times that the localization team doesn’t have any visibility into what’s in the pipeline? And I think this is what you guys solved. So how far ahead? Do you get information? Some will, something will need to be localized?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I wouldn’t say we’ve solved it. I think-

Andrej Zito 

it’s a work in progress, right?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

We’ve come pretty far, we used to get a lot more ad hoc requests, we also used to get requests that were not vetted for business impact. So we might get a request from an individual contributor inside the company who thinks it would be a good idea to localize this website page. But that individual contributor may have not consulted with the regional marketer to see, is there actual demand to have this localized? Do we have analytics to back up while we’re going to localize this website pages may be a very simple example, because the cost of localizing a single website page is not that high. But if we look at something bigger, like an elearning certification, that is a pretty significant investment. And as a localization team, we can sign off on these types of projects without having analyzed the business impact. So we used to have scenarios where we would get these types of disconnected requests. But what we’ve tried to do is consolidate and make sure that we have responsible individuals in each function and in each market who are responsible for evaluating the business impact of a request before it comes to localization. So it needs to have that sign off, before we even consider localizing it. And that’s helped a lot, because now we have, and we’ve done a lot of marketing and communication internally. So the wiki for us is sacred, and we have a lot of information on our internal wiki. we’ve, we’ve created a lot of resources for a stakeholders across the organization to to help them understand how we view localization and how the sign off on projects happens. So one of the, one of the processes that we describe is, before you bring something before you submit a localization request, because anybody can, the forum is on the wiki, it’s openly available, you can submit a request. But before you do that, make sure that you speak to the regional subject matter expert, and confirm with them that there actually is a business impact. Or maybe that project is already in the pipeline. And it’s being forecasted in a different quarter, and you might not be aware of it. So the important thing is to just communicate between individual contributors and subject matter experts in Region.

Andrej Zito 

You mentioned that, for these requests to be signed off, it’s always good to have it backed up by data, that it’s something that the users will actually want. So what I’m thinking is, are we talking about, let’s say, past performance of elearning in a certain region, so then you have kind of like this idea that okay, people in this region, like to consume elearning. So we can create a new one, or are we talking about having the analytics of English version first, and then you start localizing so it would mean that the people in different regions would get the content later, after the English users?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

There in both scenarios. So for instance, we might take customer support data and see what kind of topics our customers most interested in or perhaps having trouble with in terms of tool adoption. And we might analyze that data for keywords or specific trends. That might be one in order to understand what the regional cutouts look like. And not just, you know, we wouldn’t be looking at English we would be looking at the regional trends as well. Sometimes we, if we don’t have those analytics on a regional level, we might look at English and we might try to map that to our regional goal to market strategy and understand Okay, which tools are we focusing on developing adoption of industries specific markets? And what is the demand for that content in English? Do we see some patterns? So let’s say the context segment context, segmentation strategy is a big topic that the English speaking audience likes to view elearning content in. It also happens to be the adoption that we’re trying to drive in the French market, we should select that content specifically to get localized or to recreate it natively.

Andrej Zito 

So project management, yes. What What is project management for you? I’ve mentioned that several times, whenever I have the chance that, to me, many people still think that project management is about moving files, here and there and left and right file management and sending emails. Hopefully, that’s not your case. So what is project management for you?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So I think project management, of course, is composed of the technical aspects of project management and file moving, it is part of the technical aspects of being able to carry out certain project management processes, project, file moving can be part of that. But I, alongside those technical skills that you have, as a project manager, I also feel that the biggest contribution you can have as a project manager is bringing in the big picture view and displaying leadership skills that are going to bring seemingly disconnected projects together. And to show the big picture to multiple stakeholders, especially if you’re working in a large organization where there are different teams working on different things at the same time. In localization, we have the huge advantage that we interface with all of these teams, this is a localization project manager, the biggest value you can bring is to see those patterns and to connect the dots. So, you know, say one, say the marketing team is working on particular, a particular tool. And you see that there’s also something being developed in the product that could be complementary to that bringing these different stakeholders to the to the table, and helping them work together is a very important contribution that you can have as a localization project manager. And that’s how I view my role. So the technical aspect, of course, I’m always going to be the project manager who’s responsible for creating a schedule, who’s responsible for creating the work breakdown structure and all those things that must happen. But what’s important to me is making sure that the work that I’m doing is in line with the greater company vision, and this is a little bit idealistic as well. But that’s just me, I do see a greater purpose in the work that I do, or at least I like to see a greater purpose in it. So to me that, that that big picture I’m bringing that to the table is very important.

Andrej Zito 

Before you join today, I was going over my notes and the questions that I prepared for you. And one of the bullet points was, what is your superpower? And I asked you this during our intro call last week or two weeks before, and I couldn’t remember what it was what you said, because for some reason, I didn’t take a note of that. But now I remember that this is exactly what you said is your superpower connecting the dots. I think I also mentioned to you that I also think this is something that I’m good at. So I don’t know how we’re going to explain this to other people. But let’s just start debating this. Do you think it’s something that you get from the mother nature? Or is this something you can develop yourself into, to be able to connect the dots?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I wish I had a scientific response to that. I wish I had more than-

Andrej Zito 

I even thought about this before. Like, my typical problem is that I usually expect other people to be good at what I’m good at, which is just not going to happen. So is this something that you had? Like maybe since you were a child that you were able to you know, connect the dots? Do you think it sounds it’s a skill that people can learn or is it just like you need to have it?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I think it’s a little bit of both. And the reason I say this is because I’m by nature an optimist, I think you can always and in this case, I also like to be an optimist. I don’t know if I’ve had it since I was little or if I was born with it for per se I do know that I that I try very hard to develop it as a skill and to always ask why that helps. So much curiosity Right, the curiosity, I think really helps. And I think that, I mean, there’s probably research on this, I’m sure there’s research on this, learning multiple languages, activates parts of your brain that just naturally find patterns. To learn a language, you need to find patterns. So I think that’s something that, to me, seems like almost a subconscious activity that happens in your brain. But it’s definitely something you can train. And even if you’re born with a little bit of a predisposition to it, you’re going to have to train yourself and you’re going to have to, you just basically can’t be lazy. You have to, you have to ask the question why? something seems off against you sometimes just have to ask the question, why to connect the dots.

Andrej Zito 

I think another thing the Curiosity helps a lot. Because if you’re curious, then you know more things. And then you have basically more dots to connect. So.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

That’s how that’s a very good way of putting things. Thank you.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah. So that was the the project management for you. But he also mentioned that for some of the things that you do, it’s more about program management. And many people including me, like, I used to be confused by that, because I didn’t know what is the difference between project and program management? So what do you think is the difference? To me, it was always like program management is just the high level project management. What is it for you?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So my book definition of it is dormant. And I don’t remember what the quick definition of it is. But I can, I can try to compile it from observational experience. Project Management, if you look at a project, a project has a definitive start and end it has a specific product that you’re trying to achieve. A program is composed of multiple projects, but a program is long lasting, there’s there’s not really a definitive end to it, although there may have been a start when that program was established, but there’s no definitive end to it. And there’s multiple outcomes from a program. And the purpose of a program is to combine multiple projects that drive a similar business impact that drive toward, you know, the same business impact, and manage those projects in an effective and efficient way. consolidate the resources and consolidate the knowledge under one specific umbrella. That way, you’re driving toward a specific goal. Is that, is that a good definition? What do you think?

Andrej Zito 

It is. Yeah, yeah, when I was working at Autodesk, and you know, how the programs are, are organized, you work on a similar products that have a certain similar strategy, or, you know, the products are very similar, or they serve the certain the very similar audience or customer base. So yeah, I think I think it makes sense. So now, I think let’s, let’s, let’s go fully on the ground. And let’s start talking about very practical aspects of project management. So you mentioned that schedule, we will not talk about file management, because that will probably be too boring. But let’s talk about you mentioned about the the requests that come in. So how do you think about scheduling? Like, let’s say, you get a new request? What exactly do you do to create a schedule, you create a schedule for everything? And I could go on with more questions, but that would just confuse you. So

Gaya Saghatelyan 

How do I think of scheduling? So I like to think of scheduling on a macro level and a micro level on a macro level, I think of it on the entire localization program scale. What are the different priorities for the company within the given quarter, the given year? And where does the project fit into that? The reason I like to point that out is because if within, you know, a given month or given quarter, you have a big product launch, and somebody approaches you from the company and asks you to localize a content offer, we’re going to want to know on a macro level, what is the priority, the urgency and the importance of that specific request compared to that big product launch. And we need to have that macro 360 view of what’s going on on the company level in order to be able to prioritize things. We like to tell our stakeholders all the time, please just let us know as far in advance as possible, what you’re working on. We plan on a quarterly basis at least. So we plan at least one quarter ahead, what we’re how we’re going to allocate our resources, preferably even further ahead. But basically, that’s the guideline that we give our stakeholders if something has a very big impact On the business, the customer, or if it’s just table stakes content that needs to be done, and you’re aware of it, and you have just even the slightest indication that this is something that’s going to be very important. And it’s going to need localization resources, flag it as far in advance as possible. So that’s kind of the macro level.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, that’s great. Just one quick question. You mentioned table stakes two times, and I have absolutely no idea what it means.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So table stakes content is something that you just it needs to be localized, it’s a must have, if it’s the GDPR compliance guidelines that the EU mandates you have localized into the languages that you operate in, or the countries that you operate in, then you kind of can’t really say, well, we’re not going to localize that you have to localize it into those languages, because the the regulation mandates that you do, or if the customer is just not going to be able to use what you’re offering without that. Being localized. That is also something that we would consider table stakes. So basically, it’s a must have, you can’t really decide not to localize it.

Andrej Zito 

So going back to the schedule, you mentioned the micro schedule. How does it look like in reality for you? Do you really have some sort of a master schedule? And what kind of format is it? Do you have your own tool? Is it spreadsheet? How does it look like?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

We absolutely have our own schedule, and we’re very religious about updating it. And it’s, it’s very scrappy, we just at one point decided we’re going to create a PowerPoint presentation with a timeline with the different milestones on that PowerPoint presentation. And now I managed that presentation and keep it up to date and use it also for our external stakeholder communication. So we’ll, every quarter, I export that presentation and put it on the wiki into a separate quarterly priorities. wiki page, that way anybody at the company can see, okay, this is what the localization team is going to be focusing on. If I want to get something localized, I’d better not send it in August, when there’s this huge thing happening. I better send it earlier later. That’s how we hope it works. It doesn’t always work that way, of course, but.

Andrej Zito 

How can you fit the whole schedule in in a presentation? Are we talking about just one slide?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

No multiple slides. So it is a pretty, it’s a pretty complex presentation, I’ll say. And we also just indicate the biggest priorities we don’t put in anything that is more linear, let’s say that is not as complex as a product launch, or any type of really complex content, we wouldn’t put on that schedule. But anything that is very complex and nonlinear would go on that schedule. Otherwise, we also have different dashboards that indicate how much capacity we have on the team based on word count. That’s kind of a proxy that we use to evaluate how much linguistic capacity we have both externally through our localization agencies and internally through our internal Linguistic Team. So there’s that combination of the presentation, which gives us the high level milestones for what the company’s priorities are. And then on an ongoing basis, we do have a dashboard that indicates where we are with our capacity.

Andrej Zito 

So where does the dashboard exist? Is it in one of the TMS tools? Or is it something else?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

We use a we use Looker, which is a data analytics tool that the company that HubSpot uses. Globally, most of our teams have access to Looker. So it’s something that is globally adopted. And it’s easy for us to also give this to our stakeholders. And we speak the same language and they’re used to seeing the same data depiction and analytics approach.

Andrej Zito 

But if you were talking about the word counts, how do the data fly into the dashboard? Do you have it connected? Or is it the manual punching?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Through the magic of JIRA integration?

Andrej Zito 

Okay,

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So we have, we do all of our project management through JIRA. And in JIRA, we have some custom fields, where the word count gets pulled in from our cap tool, and then that gets carried over into the Looker dashboard.

Andrej Zito 

Mm hmm. That’s great. Now, this reminds me because you mentioned the request form. I noticed I was setting up something in JIRA for one of our customers Well, in my last job, but you mentioned the request form is in the wiki. So it’s another doesn’t create a ticket in JIRA, or does it?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

It does. It does. So we we have the request form which is just a very plain Google request form but There are some automation on the back end that auto generates a JIRA ticket with the information that was entered by the user into the Google Form.

Andrej Zito 

And when we’re talking about the dashboards, are you also utilizing the Kanban boards of JIRA? To manage where the tickets are?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

We do for certain activities? We do use a Kanban board, but not, not across the board.

Andrej Zito 

And one thing you mentioned before also was the word work breakdown structure, which is, which is a terrible word. And I don’t think that people actually think about doing WPS when they do their projects, but they maybe do it instinctively. How does it work for you, the work breakdown structure,

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I absolutely have a schedule with every project, it just depends on the complexity of the project, whether or not I go into a lot of detail. So if it’s a linear project, that I know, the project team is has a lot of experience carrying out already there are no curveballs. Let’s say like a content offer that contains a very standard structure and a strength standard workflow, I won’t bother creating a super detailed schedule and a work breakdown structure, it will be pretty much standard every single time, you know, it’ll go to translation, it turned over review, perhaps desktop publishing, or formatting or something like that. QA and then delivery, that will be like the boiled down version of it. So I wouldn’t go into a lot of detail, I would still create a schedule to make sure that everybody involved has visibility into when their respective steps need to happen. But that would probably be the level of detail that I would go into. Now, for something more complex, the conversation is much more detailed, especially if we’re working cross functionally, for Obrist, an example that comes to mind is when we localized a completely new part of our website and had to do a lot of technical setup, when you’re working cross functionally with the web team, and you’re working with the team that actually authors the content, but they use a different way of offering the content than you’re normally used to, you’re gonna have to have a much more detailed conversation around what other dependent assets or dependent steps need to happen before we can even get to localization? How do those teams need to be tagged in to do their part of the work? And that’s when I would do a much more detailed work breakdown structure, probably not by the classic definition of the Project Management Institute, or PMI. But a variation of it. And that’s where I think you have to be a little bit flexible with the different types of projects that you encounter. And there’s no reason why you should just go for the overkill and do a super detailed work breakdown structure every single time. But after working as a project manager for a little while, it becomes intuitive. And you understand, okay, so there is more complexity here because of either the stakeholders, the content, the technical setup, or something like that. It becomes almost muscle memory and very, very intuitive.

Andrej Zito 

Yes, yeah, exactly. That’s what I was thinking. Because I know when I was reading called the guides about project management, when I was starting out, or when I just wanted to become a project manager. It was like, there’s a project and then you drop boxes below, like what is part of the project? And then what is part of that part? And then you go on, but I assume this is not what you do. When you say you make a work breakdown structure, do you combine it with creating the schedule, kind of like a Gantt chart that you just break down the project, and, at the same time, assign timeline to it for each individual task of a project?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

That’s usually how I do it. I, the one you mentioned earlier, that exercise is very useful, you know, during the different dependencies, it’s very useful. I wouldn’t even call it a mind map, really, if you’re trying to make sense of complex of a complex process for yourself by using these different tools. And I call on parts of that technique and parts of those tools of mapping out the work breakdown structure and creating the schedule. But selectively, I don’t always use all of these things. And some things I may have even forgotten from my formal project management training because I never really used it in practice. Let’s just say that a lot of the formal project management, training and tools that are out there are geared toward very complex projects. I like to think like, if you were to take a man to the moon, that’s what you would definitely need, you definitely need to apply all of these things for projects, construction projects. Yeah. But for, for the context in which we work, or at least in my experience, there’s only selectively things that you’re going to need to use in project management. And I absolutely, like, boil it down to the things that I need. And I don’t go for the overkill. I feel like sometimes we tend to veer in that direction, when there’s just too much complexity. And we haven’t made sense of things for ourselves that go toward even more complexity.

Andrej Zito 

Mm hmm. Absolutely. So very closely related to schedule, is the budget, wondering how do you estimate the cost of the requests that come in? Do you have it somehow automated, or is there a human involved?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Parts of it are automated, for parts of it are automated depending on the content type. So without going into too much technical detail, parts of the content that live inside our CMS can be evaluated automatically. But then there are certain asset types that we have not reached that level of automation with yet. So for instance, video imagery, things that are gonna require human evaluation and human intervention to scope, you know, and to evaluate for localization, those things we haven’t been able to automate. And I don’t know, many good examples that have been able to automate or companies that have been able to automate this just because that is a human process. So what happens usually as part of it is automated. So anything that is text based that lives in the CMS that can be easily quoted, estimated. And then, part of it, we rely a lot on our translation agencies to be transparent with us on their cost structure, we did a lot of work. And we truly appreciate the partnership of our localization agencies. on that front, we’ve done a lot of work together to bring the predictability of the costs to a level where I can plug in the runtime of a video and get an approximate quote. And of course, the translation agency is going to do further analysis, but at least I know with like a 5% Mark margin of error, how much a 100 minute video is going to cost to subtitle or to voiceover?

Andrej Zito 

Where do the numbers all the projections and actual cost live? Do you have something like going back to audit Risk and Audit audit risk had its own dedicated tool for financial planning and reporting? How does it work for for HubSpot, if you can share.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So we use JIRA for financial projections as well, we have a bunch of custom fields that we’ve been able to program into JIRA, so that helps a lot. That’s the data collection source. And then we have a custom reporting structure that allows us to export for our different stakeholders be that finance or budgetary owners, or even ourselves to be able to predict demand for certain services over time so that we can adjust our resourcing. So basically, the data collection takes place in JIRA. And then we can manipulate that data outside of JIRA.

Andrej Zito 

One of the I think one of the most important things, in my opinion for a project manager is being organized being self organized. Because if you cannot organize yourself, how can you organize other people in the project? And this very closely ties to emails emailed to me is like a synonym for Project Manager, because all the information typically flows through email. So I’m wondering, are you guys still in this in the same level of communication that most of it happens through email? Or do you use different tools like slack? Or maybe just commenting on the JIRA tickets? And how do you deal with all the email overload? What are your tips?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Yeah, I would say, as a project manager, I don’t have a lot of concerns around being over flooded with emails, because our source of truth is JIRA. And I will get a notification from from JIRA, and it’ll land in my inbox, and it’s, you know, it’s good that I get the notification. But I know that I’ll never miss anything because I have my JIRA dashboard and I can go in at any time and check my projects and see where things stand and you know, from managing projects that are part of a program, I can go in to the dashboard of the colleague who’s managing that other project, and I can retrieve the information that I need. So in terms of email, I feel like overall the load, when it comes to inbox management for me, now is not that high, it used to be much higher, especially when I used to work on the vendor side. And I used to work for a localization agency myself. That was a lot higher volumes, we’re talking like in the several hundreds of emails a day, times in the 300. And it’s very difficult for you to disconnect and actually not check those emails after work. But I think it really depends on how you structure your communication channels. And we’re fortunate that JIRA is there, and we have that one source single source of truth. We also have other communication channels with our localization agencies. We use Asana for that, and of course, we use slack as well. But at HubSpot, what I truly appreciate is that nobody expects you to be reactive to every single piece of communication that that you receive. People do expect a certain response time from you and a certain courtesy to, for you to let them know if you’re going to be late and responding to them. But there’s never that pressure that you have to get back to your colleague within, let’s say, five and a five hour window or an eight hour window, something like that. And there’s a lot of respect for personal time. And that I feel is so important. I never feel that somebody is going to keep badgering me because I haven’t gotten back to them. And they’ll understand if my slack status says, Hey, I’m focusing right now please Don’t slack me or something like that. So I appreciate that respect for personal time. And overall, I would have to say my inboxes not really a big concern for me, I log in every day, go through my inbox, get down to inbox zero, which is important for me. But sometimes I can even feel okay, I’m falling behind on checking my emails. But that’s all right. I’ve checked for the things that are most important by seeing who the sender is and what the subject line says. And if anything in there is not as high priority, I can get back to people later.

Andrej Zito 

One thing that I noted down, rightnow because you mentioned that you have a different communication channel with defenders, the agencies that use Asana. So how do you how do you manage JIRA and Asana together?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

They’re actually connected.

Andrej Zito 

They’re connected. Okay.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

They’re connected? Yes. So for security reasons, we don’t give access to any external parties to our JIRA, and the two are connected. So they speak to each other and pass information between each other. But our vendors see everything in Asana.

Andrej Zito 

Mm hmm. And that’s where they do their reporting. Yeah, so let’s talk about the relationships. No, no expectations, no pressure. I’m wondering, maybe we can we can split this into two categories. Let’s say when you’re working with a new team, that you don’t know, how do you establish that relationship? versus? The second question will be about someone that you’ve been working with for a long time, if there’s any specific action that you still take when it comes to the relationship with someone that you already know, and you’re familiar with? So let’s start with someone that’s a new team. So a new team comes to you. They send a request form, how do you go about building the relationship with them?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So I start with a little bit of research, I like to, I like to go in and understand who does the requester report to in terms of the organization? And how, how are they connected to the overall company structure that already allows me to understand which organ which functional organization they’re from? Are they under a product marketing, sales services, etc. And then I can, I can frame the conversation in a better way when I know what part of the organization they belong to, and bring in some of my past experiences with working with similar stakeholders, from that organization, even just to inform myself, if I’m working with someone from product, let’s say, I already know that, hey, our product team has an annual plan that they follow, should I check to see if the request relates to parts of that annual plan to put this into context for myself. So before I go into the conversation, and have any type of communication with the person, I want to understand how the requests that they have submitted fits into into the bigger picture. So that’s a little bit of that background research. And then of course, I’ll reach out and introduce myself. And say, you know, I’ll be supporting you with this request, I wanted to put some time on to you on your calendar, to better understand what you’re trying to accomplish. If it’s something really straightforward, like, please localize this paragraph to put on on our German jobs page, then probably not worth initiating such a detailed discussion. So up to your discretion what you do there. But if it’s something that I sense as part of a larger initiative, and it comes with the whole connecting the dots approach of project management, then I’ll schedule a separate meeting to try to understand what the stakeholder is trying to accomplish. And if perhaps, the stakeholder has been delegated to in order to submit the localization project, but they’re not the decision maker or the driver of the request themselves. I’ve made mistakes in the past where I’ve just assumed that I have all the information and I know that this is what they want us to do. And then I realized that Oh, behind the scenes, there’s a wider strategy, and there’s things that they have overlooked themselves. And I could have helped point those things out If I had known that there was a stakeholder driving the initiative. So I tried to do a little bit of that probing and understanding, okay, how does this fit into your greater strategy? I see that, for instance, you’re the project manager, and you work with this product manager, should we have this discussion together is, is this the only isolated thing that you need localized there? Is there perhaps a wider part of the experience that we should be looking at? And so having these types of probing conversations and balancing the consultative approach with a little bit of the prescriptive approach is very important. So telling people what you think would be useful to have versus actually saying that, hey, this is this, this looks disconnected? Let’s not do it this way. Let’s do it this other way?

Andrej Zito 

Mm hmm. This might be a stupid question. But you probably deal with a lot of people who have different experience with localization. Is it always easy for you to explain to them, what is it that we do and what is the value that we bring? Do? Or is it if they already come to you with requests that they already understand what localization is do you have to be the in that position of an educator of localization or do this everyone at HubSpot read that Elise articles?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I wish they did. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say unfortunately, actually, it just is the way it is similarly to how probably localization professionals don’t always read the latest and greatest from the Unicode Consortium, I’m sure. Non localization people also don’t read all the localization insider material and educational resources. So I never assumed that the stakeholder knows what localization is, when it’s a new stakeholder. Most often I assume the opposite by default, that I need to do a little bit of information sharing. In order to help the stakeholder have a sense of how we’re going to work together and what we’re going to what we will be able to do, what our scope of work is, what our mandate is, and then where they will need to meet us halfway and support us. So when I go into these conversations, I will, I usually have a boiled down version of what localization, what we do as a team, and what we are going to be able to do for the project, I go in using some common vernacular that we can both understand so I always avoid right terminology. That’s just a good practice. And if I do have to use terminology, I’m not gonna use the word translation memory without explaining what it is in a very basic way. Of course, this is common sense, I think, to most people, but my default assumption is that I will need to do a little bit of information sharing and I have a boiled down version of it. As we progress in our relationship building, I reveal more and more information about the localization process, I try not to overload because, yes, they are our partner, of course, but at the same time, we are trying to solve for a multi market need and localization is just an aspect of that. And we shouldn’t assume that just because they’ve come and reached out to us for help, that that gives us the opportunity to dump all of our wisdom on to them. People don’t want to be overwhelmed with take the waste of information Exactly. So my approach is to come I have a measured approach. And I don’t like to go into the conversation, which just here’s everything I know about localization.

Andrej Zito 

Right, right, of course. And how does it work with the relationship that you have already established? Do you think like, it’s kinda like related to the maturity level that we were speaking about before? If you already know someone well, and the program is working well with them, do you think it means there’s less need to work on the relationships?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I think once you’ve established a certain level of understanding and a way of working together, that provides a good basis, you’ve kind of done the upfront work of setting up expectations and information sharing and meeting each other, where, where each of you is, but the work is not done there. Because any organization is constantly evolving. And the functional teams that you work with are also going to be evolving all the time. So that means they’re going to have new priorities, they’re going to have new impact that they want to make with multimarket customers. And it’s important to continue to support them and have regular check ins. So for me, if I get down to really the practical elements of maintaining relationships, it’s about having some sort of regular sync up, let that be, and you should come up with a cadence with your stakeholder and say, you know, it seems like you have a quarterly priorities roadmap, what if we met at the beginning of each quarter, once a quarter, and reviewed those priorities and saw where localization fits into that, and if you’re going to need any support from us. So having that kind of regular cadence meeting, I find is very important. With established relationships.

Andrej Zito 

We’re talking about the schedule and the budget. So you, we typically create this assets before we start a project, but then, in many cases, the reality happens. So I’m wondering, how do you feel about planning and preparation for a project versus the ability to be able to improvise and fix things on the go?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So I think improvisation is a given if you’re not thinking, if you’re not being flexible, you’re just not being realistic, because life is gonna happen. And things are gonna change. You can have the most well crafted plan with a risk mitigation strategy and everything and there’s gonna, there’s bound to be something that you overlook at one point or another, maybe you get through tons of projects, and then you know, the 21st project that you handle, there’s one aspect that you didn’t foresee. So to me, I think it’s part of project management, you have to be flexible, you also have to try to plan as much as possible and create a risk mitigation strategy. It’s also not an isolated process, it’s not something that the project manager does by themselves. I know I don’t do that by myself, I consult the different stakeholders who are involved in the project, especially if it’s a complex one, I consult them to see what concerns or what risks they anticipate, and we work together to come up with a risk mitigation strategy. There are of course, things that we’re not going to be able for C to foresee. And at that point, you have to sit down and analyze the situation, do some fact finding and just recognize what happened, do a good old fashioned risk cause root cause analysis and a corrective action at a preventative action? So I think it’s it’s a very elemental part of the localization process, or the project management process.

Andrej Zito 

You talked about the risk mitigation plan. I’m wondering, how do you approach the thing? I know when I was thought about this, it was very simple. You just basically, think about all the risks that can happen on a project. And you give them a score based on how likely they are to occur, and what is the impact, and then you try to work it from the end, you multiply two scores, and then you just work from the top to the bottom. How do you go about risk mitigation? Because to me, especially when we’re talking about projects that happen, let’s say within an established program, that people just keep sending your request and everything feels more like a production rather than each project being unique. I think in these cases, many times you don’t need to have any risk plan. So how do you think about this risk mitigation for which projects do you think they are effective?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I think that there needs to be a risk analysis on the project level. But sometimes you need to do risk analysis on the program level. And when it comes to the program level, it’s really trying to consider those macro factors that surround the company. And that the company itself might create factors that mean that the company might itself creed. On the program level, when you do this type of risk mitigation analysis, you might consider things like new market regulations, or the specific compliance rules that the company decides to put in place that might affect headcount allocation, or budget or several different things to do with resourcing or stakeholders who are involved or technology. So there’s that program level risk analysis, and that’s something that the program manager usually does. On the project level. When I do a risk analysis. It Again, depends on the complexity of the project. If it’s a complex project, I’ll dedicate more time to it if if it’s a less complex project, as you said, I’ll probably, you know, just do a quick pass up things to make sure I haven’t overlooked anything, but I’m not going to spend too much time on a risk analysis there. For the more complex projects, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a collaborative effort. I’m not going to put together a risk analysis plan all on my own, and then kind of keep it in my pocket and never show it to anyone. Preferably, when you’re putting together a risk analysis plan, whether or not you’re doing it for the program, or for the project, you’re doing this collaboratively with your stakeholders and the project team. That way, you have the most comprehensive input from all different sides.

Andrej Zito 

How are you guys? HubSpot is a tech company, how are you guys utilizing? If you are AI, especially when it comes to project management, you mentioned a lot of the connections between the different tools that help you automate you out you don’t have to move the data manually. But I’m wondering if there’s any way how you guys are thinking about utilizing AI in project management? Because so far, I have actually, to be honest, I haven’t heard anything.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I haven’t either. And I would just make a clarification, the automation that is done on the back end, I wouldn’t consider AI I think it’s considered a just, you know,

Andrej Zito 

it’s just connecting the tools with API.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Exactly typical API connection. It’s not something that the tool learns on itself, or adjusts in some sort of smart way. So, so far, yeah, we haven’t really experimented much with AI and project management. And I myself also haven’t, like, like you said, I haven’t seen any trends in this area. I would say that, for the most part, project management can be automated, but AI maybe can support certain steps. But I don’t see project management, being heavily automated through artificial intelligence, just because it is such a it’s a human process. And there’s humans involved from so many different sides that can impact how a project goes that I think that it’s not realistic to think of AI in the context of project management, at least not to the extent that it’s going to have a significant impact. There might be some areas that could be enhanced through AI, but I think we’re gonna, we’re gonna need to wait quite a bit to see that happen.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, especially for the relationship part, right? Probably one of the key areas where Michelle,

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Well, that’s true. Well, sometimes automation actually helps avoid having to even spend time creating these relationships. If you can automate, if you can automate detecting content creation, for instance, in some cases, you would have need to interface with another human to ask, Hey, When are you planning to update your knowledgebase articles, you can just auto detect that with some automation. So it kind of it’s a little bit counter to what we’re trying to do with relationship building, and it has its place, but at the same time, we shouldn’t try to compensate for things that can be automated by leaning so heavily into relationship building, in my opinion.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, absolutely. So I would like you, especially since you are the your project manager slash Program Manager. If you could share with us, how does your day look like? We’ve talked about getting organized, so I’m wondering if you have any structure to how you like to start your day.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So my days really vary. Some days I start some days I start with meetings, some days. I Start with inbox cleanup. And those are the two, those are usually the two activities that I start with, it’s basically catching up or having meetings. And, as I said, my work structure, my day structure really varies from day to day. And I think the reason for that is because I work across many different time zones. And I have to kind of adjust my work schedule based on that. And also, because in localization, we are always working with so many different teams cross functionally, that new things can surface from one day to the next, I might be working on my regular cadence projects one day, and then the next day, I might find out that there’s this big tool being worked on. And I need to consult on that and get a budget together and get estimates together and, and provide direction on how that tool needs to be configured. So sometimes it’s a little bit of, you have to be somewhat reactive some days. And then other days, you can plan your work more intentionally. So it’s a it’s a fine balance between the two, being reactive and being more proactive and more balanced and working on a regular cadence.

Andrej Zito 

But if you could pick starting your day with cleaning the mailbox or doing meetings, which one would you actually prefer, if you, if you were in charge of that.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I would pick getting organized as the way to start the day. And whether that’s cleaning up the inbox or catching up on things in general. Or maybe even working on a training, taking a training in the morning, just to start the day very productively, I would take that whatever, whatever is going to make me feel productive. And maybe that’s a very productive meeting, that is going to help resolve or unblock things for the project team. I would be happy to do that, as well as for me, and the the actual activity is not as important. The important thing is getting organized and getting things done early in the morning. And then I feel I feel charged for the rest of the day.

Andrej Zito 

Oh, yeah, totally. Yeah, I’m just you can see in the background, I bought myself a whiteboard. And I’m developing this new habit for myself. And that habit is to start every morning with the most important thing. For a long time, I’ve been doing the you know, in book zero, like, first, I’ll get rid of the smaller things, so that I can have a peace in my mind. And then finally, that beautiful peaceful mind can work on the big thing. But in most cases, it’s like in the afternoon, or like, people still keep bothering you with more small things. And you’re like, Okay, I, I dealt with 80% of the small things. Now I’ll deal with the 20% more, and then I’ll start working on the big thing. And then usually, it’s the end of the day, and I don’t get done anything. So now I reversed it. And I try to at least for one hour for two hours, I work on the other important thing that I actually selected the day before. So I end my night by selecting what I’m going to work on the next morning. So this is something that I’m learning. And like you said, it’s really, it’s really empowering. Because first of all, it feels like you get the big thing out of out of your backlog, right? And then then the small things they feel like they’re like easier to do. Like you can do them more efficiently. I feel like is this what you were referring to?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Yes, you’re definitely way ahead of me on that one. But I don’t have I don’t always manage to get such a well structured and planned morning. I think sometimes that what impacts the way we plan our day is expectations from colleagues and the environment that you work in. And then also the circumstances of the day, it may be that that day specifically, you have to put out fires and that’s your mission for the day. You have to just be reactive and your colleagues are expecting a response from you. And you can kind of already gauged from the previous day when you wrap up your work. Should I expect something the next morning that is going to need my immediate action am I waiting for something and if there is something that needs to be actioned immediately, and the expectation from your team is that you will do that, I think unless you are very rigid with yourself and say, I’m actually going to get up an hour earlier that day and start my workday earlier and do that really important thing and not check my inbox. And then during my regular work hours, I’m going to start checking my inbox. For example, like let’s say you’re used to starting your day At nine, you’ll start your day at eight or seven and do that really important thing that you want to do. And then at nine, when everybody expects you to already respond to the, to the, to the fires from the previous day, then you’ll start responding to that. But yeah, I think it really varies from day to day and the expectations of that specific situation that you’re working in from the previous day, or even from the weeks before, the culture in which you operate is also very important. lucky enough that I don’t get badgered, if I don’t respond within like, you know, a couple of hours or something that was very important, that is very important to me. But at the same time, as a project manager, you do feel a certain sense of responsibility for the overall fluidity of communication. And if you’re not living by that by that fluidity of communication, then you can hold others accountable for it. And as well, that’s kind of how I like to look at it.

Andrej Zito 

One of the things that you just reminded me of was what I was trying to tell people because I like to, I like to do these things, where I just like close everything, I’ll leave a status that I’m working on something, something, you know, important, I want to focus. So I’m not reading your messages. And if there’s something really, really urgent, come to my desk and just poke me. And now that you were talking about the fires, I think like in many cases, people exaggerate what a fire actually is. And what is the priority because I’m sure you know that many of your requests, just say and come to you and say, This is priority for me. But everybody’s comes to you with priorities. And in the end, they’re not priorities. Or like when people ask you something on glip. And they say, I need it immediately. When you ask more like why they need it immediately. Then you find out it’s more so like, they were working on something and then just want to get unblocked by getting an answer from you or something like this, you know, so what do you think about this? Like, how do you actually know if the fire is a real fire? Or if it just the smoke, you know,

Gaya Saghatelyan 

This reminded me of something that a close colleague of mine calls El Diablo, the devil, basically the devil that’s on your back. We love it. And we kind of we refer to it very often on our project management team at HubSpot when there’s these different priorities that you’re being torn between. You kind of want to slow down and ask yourself is your is the other person’s priority? Make it my priority? Mm hmm. Is it is it El Diablo basically, is that the devil that is that is kind of behind the scenes and trying to control everybody and giving everybody grief because not so many things came together all at once. And there’s just a general feeling of being overwhelmed. So he calls it LDL blue, and we all call it LDL blue. And we love that and it triggers us every time we hear LDL bloat, we think okay, should I just like slow down and question why this is actually a priority? This might be just an insider thing. I hope I explained it the way my colleague Juan would have explained it. But yeah.

Andrej Zito 

Okay. So when you think about El Diablo? What is the conclusion? Like? Do you actually stop and analyze? Like, is this a real priority? Or what is the actual action that you take?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I think there’s a step a few steps even before that, that need to happen, you need to understand for yourself that you are in control of the situation. And the colleagues that you work with are just that they’re your colleagues. And then when you when you come from a understanding that you yourself also have control over your day and your work that determines a lot how you’re going to react to these these types of situations. And then from from there, my thought process is usually Who is this request coming from? What is the wider context? What is the timing? Have I asked all the questions that I could have asked to determine if this is a real priority? And then finally, is there a tiebreaker? Who can tell me? Is this a real priority? Can I go to my manager? Can I go to my managers manager? Can I go to someone who I know is a decision maker on this topic to help me understand if it’s a real priority? So it’s, um, I think once you just don’t take it for a given that somebody tells you it’s important, then you have to do it and it’s urgent and you just you just have to do it. Then you can have that kind of thought process and determined for your own based on the context that you operate in and the company that you operate in, what a priority is for you.

Andrej Zito 

Mm hmm. Thinking about the day in your life, you wrote an article about working remotely on LinkedIn, I think it was your first article. So this is very relevant during these times when most of the people had to work from home. So did you have experience working from home? before? COVID? I assume you wrote the article before, right?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Yes.

Andrej Zito 

So what were some of the insights, we will see what were some of your tips that you shared?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So yeah, I work. I worked remotely before the pandemic. And my first experience working remotely was when I was on the working on the vendor side. At the time, after I finished my master’s degree in Monterey, I moved to San Jose to work for an agency there, and I moved for three months to San Jose. And if you know a little bit about Monterey, and compared to San Jose, there’s such different cities in the quality of life that they offer San Jose is this really, to me after Monterey felt like this really big city, and it was just super hot, and everything was far apart from each other. And you had to drive everywhere. I didn’t like that at all. I, after Monterey, I just wanted to be in a city where I could walk places. And for me, that was so important. So at the time, I was fortunate enough that the company allowed me to work part time from home. So I could do two days, or three days out of out of the week from home. And then the other days, I would work from the office. And that was kind of my first taste of working remotely. But the problem was that the commute between Monterey and San Jose was very long. So it was at least one and a half, two hours each way. And that was like four hours out of my day, each time I had to commute. And I truly felt that the physical office and the restriction of the physical office is so limiting to companies and the talent that they can acquire. Monterey is a tiny city with 20,000 people. And the only industry is that you can really work for there are real estate tourism restoration. If I’m a young person living in Monterey, I have to commute out to the Silicon Valley if I want to continue living there. And that is very counter to the modern trade trends of diversity and inclusion and things I really believe in. I think you can get a lot of really great talent if you make it location agnostic. Obviously, I couldn’t continue commuting for four hours. And I was lucky enough to get a full time remote position with HubSpot. So I started at HubSpot in Monterey, I guess I got to stay in the in the city that I loved, worked from there remotely. In localization, We are so fortunate that we work globally already, we work across many different time zones. So if we really reflect on the experience of working with different offices, it’s almost the same you’re when you’re working with across different time zones in different offices and not physically together in one office experience is similar to working remotely with with different colleagues. So the remote switch was not that difficult. I felt like I already had some of the muscle built from having worked in localization with multiple different offices and working with them across different time zones. One of the things that as I started reflecting on what the different habits were, when I was going full time remote, one of the key things that I think make, make or break remote work is communication. If you don’t have a healthy culture of communication, as a foundation for your team, or your company, remote work can just crumble, or what I sensed what I noticed, during the pandemic, because our team is actually a hybrid, we have many people who are working remotely like myself. And then we also have people who used to work up until now in a physical office. What I noticed is that the communication strengthened after we all went remote. It’s probably because we were all a little bit worried that if we don’t over communicate, something might slip through the cracks. You can’t just go to a colleague sitting at the other end of the room and say, Hey, did you look at that thing? No, you’re you now have to communicate it very clearly. Through JIRA through slack or email or through something, some means of written communication. That way, there’s a written record of everything that is going on, or you know, let’s say it’s a zoom call. But it’s a lot more intentional, even if it is just because we’re all worried that we’re going to miss something. I think it’s a really good trend. And to answer your question, I went on a very long tangent here, but I wanted to make sure that I voiced the importance of diversity inclusion in the context of remote work. So bringing back coming back to your question Originally, I think the underlying tip, if you want to call it that is practice over communication and build that foundation in your team in your company to make sure that the company, if it really is a priority for you, if you’re a leader at the company, a full remote work is priority for you make that very clear, dubious messages are what really veer us in the wrong direction. So if you tell people, hey, you can work remotely, but I’m going to put a time tracker on your laptop, I don’t know if that really sends the same message of trust of trust to your employees. So I don’t want to be overly critical of any specific remote work management style. But I think it’s very important for the people that work for a company to have clear, consistent communication on what remote work means for that company.

Andrej Zito 

When we’re talking about the communication, are we talking about mostly communication related to work? Or how do you transfer the office chitchat and the watercooler conversations? When you’re working from home? Like do you have a dedicated time to just catch up with your colleagues remotely like, I don’t know some people have lunch together or resume or just like a dedicated time where they just talk about nothing but work. I mean, everything button work, that’s what I mean.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So our localization manager actually did set up water coolers for all of the different time zones. So there’s one for Japan, One for me and one for for one for North America, our Massachusetts office in Cambridge. So we do have these water coolers. But one of my favorite things so far has been kind of like a game night, if you want to call it that. One of our team members organized an online game that we could all play together, I think it was Pictionary, or something like that, where we had to, we had the word only you had the word in front of you. And then you had to draw what the word was and the others had to guess.

Andrej Zito 

Right? Right, right.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I had such a ball playing that game was so much fun. And we laugh together. And I thought that was a very, very nice way to spend some time together. That was not work related, at all. And yeah, I think these types of things, they’re hard to replace I, by all means, I think it’s very important that we all goes back to being able to see each other in person, hopefully sometime soon. But making the best out of a bad situation, so to speak. These types of games and just less standard mediums of interacting with each other are so important these days.

Andrej Zito 

Is that what you would prefer going back to the office? I know, for some people, it’s they actually prefer staying at home and working from home.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So I actually don’t really have the option of going back to an office because there’s no office in the city that I live in. But

Andrej Zito 

It’s Hamburg, right?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Yes, in Hamburg, we don’t have an office, but we do have one in Berlin, and I used to love going to Berlin once or twice a quarter. I think having at least some elements of that human interaction with your colleague colleagues is important. Perhaps working full time out of an office is not so necessary for myself personally. But having the opportunity to at least travel and see them occasionally would be great.

Andrej Zito 

I think there are two important things when it comes to working from home. One of the things that I people struggle with is staying focused, especially the the parents, not sure if you’re a parent already know. So but even regardless of that, you know, like for many people, when they come to the work, they just start working, because what else can you do at work, but when you’re at home, you can do so many other things. You can clean the dishes, do your laundry, how do you feel about focus? How do you stay focus yourself?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

It’s hard to say really, at this point, because it’s become so easy to

Andrej Zito 

I know.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

It’s so ingrained in my-

Andrej Zito 

That’s good, that’s good.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

It’s become ingrained in my way of working by now. But I guess what I found useful at the beginning when I was just transitioning to working remotely is having specific blocks on your calendar. And it doesn’t have to be the standard nine to six workday or nine to five workday, depending on how long you work. In some cases, when I used to be based in California I had earlier starts in the day. So I would start maybe around seven and work with emia. And then I’d have a longer break in the afternoon and then work with Japan. But I always had blocks on my calendar saying that, you know, these are my meeting blocks. And these are my focus time blocks and so on. So, I would try to cluster things as much as possible and give myself some structure And then the benefit of working remotely is that in an office, you can’t just slot your colleague away if they tap you on the shoulder and be like, please go away now. But you can mute slack.

Andrej Zito 

I do that sometimes. People actually actually I think this is a this is a strength when you can say no to people, sometimes when I’m like really focusing on something when I used to work from the office, and I’m really doing something and like my colleague next to me, asked, like, Andrej, can I have a question? I’m like, No, or like, in five minutes. Because it’s like, like, when you start getting into the conversation, it like completely takes you out of what you were doing. Especially when I’m close to completing something like let’s say, I’m working on a task I’m writing, like, let’s say, a long, important email for half an hour. And if I just need to finalize the final, let’s say paragraph, then, like, you cannot do anything about it. Like, I’ll tell no to everyone, like even the President can tell say no, like, let me just finish this. Like, I hate it so much when people interrupt me during work so. So it is there is a possibility to say no to people even in the office. Sorry for the interruption.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

No, not at all. I think it’s evident, first of all, good on you that you can do that. I don’t know if all people can do that.

Andrej Zito 

No, they cannot. It’s very difficult to say no to people, to your colleagues, to your bosses and to the people that you like, yes, it’s not easy.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Yeah. Because we are we try to be nice. And yeah, that’s kind of the default, for us most of the time. But I would say that if you’re not as comfortable telling someone, hey, please come back later, it’s easier when you’re working remotely to just mute slack. As you said earlier, just put a status on slack or whatever instant messaging service you use in your company that says, I’m focusing right now not answering any messages, come back to me later, the world is not going to crumble in the one hour or 90 minutes that you’re gonna focus on your work. Exactly. So it’s much easier to do that remotely. And I find that for me, in terms of focus has actually been an added benefit. I can more intentionally structure my day, and I just have to hold myself accountable to that structure. Now that’s the hard part. holding yourself accountable to it.

Andrej Zito 

Mm hmm. Yeah, because like all of us can put a block in our calendar that okay, from here, I’ll do focused work. But then when the time comes, how do we actually put your mind to it? Is it just because you already developed a habit that you can really stick to it? Or do sometimes struggle? Let’s say for example, you take a lunch, like typically, after we take a meal, people are usually a little bit you know, sleepy, tired, they need the coffee, and they they can taking out of that work momentum? Do you struggle with this as well? Or can you just instantly go back into the full work mode?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Some days? I can. And some days, I can’t, it varies. And so what I would say is, whenever I find myself having trouble concentrating, then there’s usually an underlying reason. It’s maybe because I’m just avoiding getting that thing done, because I don’t enjoy working on that specific task. You know, that might be the reason it might be because I’m just overstimulated and have too many things going on in my mind. And I can make order in my own mind to focus. And there are different things that you can do once you identify that and accept that you are not focusing what I like to do sometimes if I have too many things on my mind, and I feel overstimulated as I’ll just take a pen and paper and write out all the things that are on my mind. And I don’t know it has this magical effect of at least pacifying and soothing my worries that I might forget to do something or that thing is going to somehow pop up and yeah.

Andrej Zito 

Because you’re basically dumping your thoughts from your mind to paper. So absolutely.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

That’s exactly what I like to do. And it has a magical effect. I don’t know there’s maybe something meditative about it and it helps you clear your mind but I find that it helps me so much.

Andrej Zito 

Have you tried meditation or?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I, not meditation per se, but breathing exercises I like to and I actually recently picked this up at HubSpot. We have people fuel workshops, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the energy project, but it’s it’s an organization that has come up with a theory and a practical application of different ways of managing our energies or mental physical, emotional and Physical, I say physical already physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy. There we go. There were four pillars. And I attended this workshop recently, one of the things that they helped us identify as ways we can relax and renew our energy in shorts for short periods of time. And one of the suggested techniques was a breathing exercise. You breathe in for three seconds, hold your breath for two and breathe out for six. And do that a couple times for maybe a minute or two minutes. I like to go out on the balcony and do that every now and then between meetings or something that or a slot of time where I only have just a few minutes. It’s new still. So it hasn’t taken root. It’s not really become a habit. But it does help.

Andrej Zito 

That that’s, by the way, how I started my meditation. It’s basically just breathing, like you said, like a deep inhale, hold it and then slowly exhale. Okay. We we are running out of time. So I had my final set of question. What are you curious about right now?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I’m curious about how the pandemic is going to shift and how our world is going to change? Quite honestly, I don’t have an original answer to this at all. I think it’s on everybody’s minds. I’m just wondering what our world is going to look like, post pandemic, or even with pandemic might be an option, in which case, you know, we just have this for a long period of time, and it is what it is.

Andrej Zito 

Has the news impacted you in any way? Or are you at this point, like, okay, there’s COVID, people are talking about COVID, but I just live my life.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

There were periods of anxiety, because of the news, especially at the beginning, when it sank, in that this is here to stay. And this is a lot of uncertainty, I have family living abroad. And I’m an expat living in Germany. And I don’t even know when I’m going to be able to visit my family in the US. When that kind of sunk in, and I understood that our reality is changing, that has definitely affected me. I’m fortunate enough to live in a country where the situation is relatively stable in Germany, really, it’s been impressive how quickly things got under control. But my own situation is just part of the picture. Of course, I am in a completely, I’m not really affected by the pandemic in a way that many other people are many other people in my life are. So knowing that my family in the US is in an unstable situation, knowing that I have friends and close ones all over the world who live in different countries and don’t have that same type of stability. It does impact you in a way. And you always try to follow the news and see outside of your own country that you live in what is going on? You know, so yeah, in a sense, it has impacted me and in another sense, living in Germany, you don’t feel the impact directly on your day to day because things have gotten more or less to normal state.

Andrej Zito 

What are the things you changed your mind about? something fundamental, maybe just one hint, I mean, that the hint, something that I’ve been talking about recently with some of my peers, is introvert versus extrovert, like if it’s something that you think it’s genetically given to us, and then over time, we can change introversion or extroversion based on the outside factors.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Yeah, I have, I never believed in introversion and extraversion as a concept to begin with. I think that we all it’s a sliding scale, we, in different environments behave differently. There are some predispositions. I also don’t think that it’s something genetic, or something that you’re necessarily born with, it can change so much over time. So to me, haven’t really even changed my mind about it, because I never believed in introversion, extroversion, or the concept being defined in the classic, classic sense.

Andrej Zito 

So this question is about us. What do you think is wrong with our industry?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with our industry per se. I think that sometimes what gets misinterpreted or mis communicated is what local how localization is viewed in the greater picture. I think sometimes we think of ourselves in the localization industry. As you know, we are the experts in localization. And we know what we’re talking about. And everybody else should just get with the program and then understand what we’re saying. Anything that has shifted over time quite a bit, but what I think needs to change and would really help us have more meaningful conversations with people that we work with. We’re not in the localization industry is how we view localization and IV localization as a part of the go to market strategy, it is not localization. As the end goal, it is just a part that then gets built on top of there are so many things that come on top of localization that create the overall experience that our customers have with our company with our brand. So viewing localization as this isolated, and goal, I think is what is sometimes miss conceived by those of us who are very close to the industry. And we sometimes forget that localization is just part of a greater ecosystem of what happens. And we drive a certain impact through localization and through translation and through language and accessibility. But that’s not the end goal.

Andrej Zito 

Another tricky question for you, what are the absurd or stupid things that you do?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

So there’s this one absurd thing that I think is absurd, but it has been passed down to me by my partner, he’s very obsessive about making sure that after using the sink, everything is super dry and clean afterwards. And I didn’t used to be that obsessed about it. But now I have this funny, funny ritual that after after every single time I use the sink, I actually like wipe it down and make sure that it’s super dry.

Andrej Zito 

Brings memories. I know, when I still used to live with my mom, when I was a teenager, we build a new house. And in the bathroom, we had, there was a wooden sink, there was a sink, but around it there was wood. And she was always coming to check after me after I use the sink that I made sure that it was dry because it was corrupting the woods. I was like, Oh my God, why did we even build a bathroom like this, because it just adds extra work. For me. It’s crazy. And now actually, it’s funny that you brought this up talking about the same. I’m doing this leadership program right now as part of my self development. And they give us these tasks that we need to do assignments. And one of the assignments is that whenever we use a public washroom, we give, and we have to leave it in a better condition than when we entered it. So what I’m doing is I’m actually doing what you’re doing as your home, but I’m doing it in public washrooms. When I go to a restaurant, I dry the water around the around the sink, and I clean the the sink as well, as part of the assignment, and I just do it and you know, doing something.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Do I think I can assume what the purpose is of the exercise. But what is the explanation that is given to you and why this is-

Andrej Zito 

There was no explanation given, it’s just assignment. And that’s it. But my assumption is that it’s that we do something that doesn’t benefit us at all, because I just leave the washroom. And maybe I’ll never come back. But it will be there for the benefit of others, which, especially in my case, and I’m someone who’s very selfish and egoistic, and usually just only does things for his own benefit. That is a huge progress for me to clean the washroom for other people, you know. But then also, I’ll also take it as just like a challenge. And I like challenges, unlike tasks, and I like, you know, marking things as complete. That’s what the whiteboard is for. So I’m like, the benefit for me is that I did the assignment as it was requested. Okay. Yeah, this was lovely interview. So final words from you. This is the this is the last part of the interview. This is your opportunity to speak to the minds of everyone in the industry. What would you What would you tell everyone?

Gaya Saghatelyan 

I would say, try to learn as much as possible about things there are outside of your direct responsibility. The biggest impact you can have is by connecting the dots. And you’re likely working in an organization where localization is only a part of the business, especially if you’re working on the client side. So the biggest value you can drive is by understanding what the company is doing. What the different teams of the company are doing and connecting the dots. So even if you’re learning something that is seemingly unrelated to what you do day to day, you’re going to be able to apply that in one way or another. So try as much as possible to go out there and make connections. Learn about what others are doing, and make an impact by connecting the dots.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, connecting the dots. That’s the theme of our interview. Thank you very much Gaya for the interview. It was a pleasure.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Thank you, Andrej. Likewise, it was great to chat with you.

Andrej Zito 

All right. Thank you. Talk to you next time. Bye bye.

Gaya Saghatelyan 

Bye bye.

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