Localization, Perspective

Jorden Woods: New Paradigms

By Anna Schlegel

Jorden Woods is the founder and principal of Paradigms Consulting Group. He is recognized in the industry as a pioneer and leading authority on enterprise-class globalization strategy, content and application globalization technology, and multilingual issues. Jorden is also a successful Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur who has founded three IT-focused companies in the last decade, including GlobalSight Corporation, a company that pioneered the development of globalization management systems (GMS) for the Fortune 500. Jorden has consulted with companies including Apple, Cisco, GE/Global Exchange Services, HP, Mercury Interactive, Palm, PeopleSoft, Redback Networks, Samsung, VeriSign, and the World Bank.

How did you become involved in the globalization industry?
Interestingly, I became involved in the world of globalization when I moved overseas in 1993. It was at that time that I joined a British consulting company in Hong Kong. As Hong Kong was a bridge between the East and the West, the consulting staff was quite international, and in addition to various forms of English I also spoke a mix of Mandarin and Cantonese with my co-workers.

While at the company it became commonplace for me to collaborate on projects simultaneously with people from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, the UK, the U.S., Germany, and Scandinavia. Working with these cross-cultural teams across many time zones was amazingly exciting!

As the firm entered the China market, we began to actively localize our marketing materials, both for printed collateral as well as for the website we put up in 1995.

What was the vision that led you to found GlobalSight? What did people know about Global Content Management Systems?
My experiences in Hong Kong provided me in part with the inspiration to found GlobalSight. Being both entrepreneurial and international, Hong Kong was a perfect environment for nurturing a desire to start an internationally focused business.

When I returned to the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1996, my wife and I saw the web as a great opportunity for starting our own business. My vision for GlobalSight was to create a company that would provide the world with the best solutions to minimize costs and maximize the benefits of web globalization. Initially we were more service oriented, but over time we became focused wholly on core infrastructure and processes and less on the actual websites and web applications themselves.

In the early days, 1996-97, companies did not really understand the concept of purchasing software for websites. They tended to believe that they could do everything themselves using scripts and inhouse tools coded by their own IT people. The idea of global content management, let alone content management, was considered very sophisticated by all but the most advanced sites.

In 1997-98 there were raging debates about the ultimate importance of the web, the need for multiple languages in international web sites, and the benefits of centralized versus decentralized development. It was not until 1999 and afterward that content management began to penetrate the corporate world.

Today, most companies are familiar with content management, and so now when they hear about global content management they tend to see it as the next evolution of a system they already have.

What do corporations not understand about globalization?
Unfortunately, though corporations understand that globalization is important, they do not understand that globalization is very complex and demands strategic initiatives that involve the entire company in order to be successful. Too often, globalization is seen as either a tactical initiative or something that can be delegated to a group to perform.

Successful globalization requires a finely tuned plan that simultaneously integrates the entire organization, its technological infrastructure, and its processes. Globalization by its very nature must touch and penetrate every aspect of the corporation in order for it to reach its true potential.

As corporations rarely provide their employees with education and training in globalization best practices, most globalization initiatives do not meet their stated goals.

What is your advice for freelance translators?
My advice for freelance translators would be twofold. First, stay abreast of the latest technology and second, find an area of specialization that can create a differentiator. In short, develop an edge that can increase both your chance of gaining quality opportunities as well as guaranteeing higher pay.

What are you reading these days?
I tend to read quite a mix of books, but I love history, cross-cultural relations, and science, and so gravitate towards books that incorporate these elements. Recently I have read Robinson Crusoe, The Da Vinci Code, Don Quixote, The Three Musketeers, and The Commanding Heights.