Kaimeng Huang Does Global Acrobatics

By Anna Schlegel

Kaimeng Huang is a Senior Program Manager at Adobe Systems Inc. in San Jose, where she manages the enterprise-level internationalization and localization program of Adobe’s Intelligent Document Business Unit – the developer of Adobe’s flagship product, Adobe Acrobat. A native of the People’s Republic of China, Kaimeng speaks Mandarin and English and is a United Nations-certified conference interpreter.

Where did you grow up? How did your background influence you to enter the field of language and translation?
KAIMENG HUANG: I grew up in Beijing, China. In this wonderfully aesthetic and symmetric city which has been the cultural and political center of China for over 500 years, I acquired all my formal education from kindergarten to university. My father is a nuclear physicist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an editor-in-chief with the Standards Press of China; my mother is a physician with a local hospital. Both learned Russian in college.

Because of my father’s passion for foreign languages, I started to learn Japanese and English when I was about five years old. Since China was closed to the rest of the world in the early 1970s, I got my first Japanese and English lessons from listening to the radio. I began to take language more seriously when I entered Beijing University in 1988.

In 1992, I applied for the United Nations-sponsored Training Program for Translators and Interpreters at Beijing Foreign Studies University, and received my Master’s in Translation and Interpretation the following year. As one of the first dozen professional conference interpreters in China, I took on an extensive range of assignments, working as an interpreter for many world leaders visiting China, as well as for international organizations including political, economic, and educational institutions. This eye-opening experience made me believe in the need for communication and understanding among different cultures, countries, and peoples.

How did you get started in the globalization business?
By accident. In 1995, I applied for and was awarded the prestigious Stilwell Scholarship at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS). The timing couldn’t have made a bigger difference in my choice of a career and life, as when I received my Master’s from MIIS in May, 1997, Silicon Valley was just booming, and the MIIS campus was swamped with IT companies looking for new graduates to fill an explosion of openings. Within a month, I got four offers because of my business, technical, and language degrees although I knew almost nothing about working for American companies! I even declined an offer from a San Diego company called Qualcomm because I thought it was too “far away.”

I took an offer with Adaptec Inc., of Milpitas, as localization coordinator, and six months later, through the referral of a fellow alumni, I joined Adobe Systems. Little did I know then what a tremendously rich and rewarding experience working for Adobe would mean to me over the next seven years; and that I would be going through so many ups and downs as the IT industry went from boom to bust, and from depression to recovery again.

What type of translation and localization agencies do you look for and like to work with in your projects?
Because of my passion for language, technology, and culture, I like to work with agencies that share this passion and are willing to invest in tools and processes; with knowledgeable people who know how to strike a balance between these influences and deliver a high-quality localized product. Companies that neglect to capitalize on the emerging global potential will be blindsided, while those who find ways around obstacles and prepare for next stages will win out.

Can you describe what is happening in China as far as the translation business goes?
The translation business is going through a transition in China, becoming more integrated with the rest of the world as China strives to maintain its extremely strong, 8% economic growth over the past two decades. In spite of this, most locally based translation companies are either workshops that are outgrowths of the publishing business or small-scale software companies. Despite the enormous talent pool and low labor cost, they lack process maturity, professional human capital, and cross-disciplinary expertise, as well as exposure to international communication. The more promising ones are those that have been injected with foreign capital, with direct links to U.S. software clients, as well as to vertical industry domain knowledge.

Corporations have a CEO, and CFO; would you like to see a CGO (Chief Globalization Officer?)
Sure, why not? The CGO should be the one to define globalization’s full potential for his company. To realize it, organizational change is required. The bottom line is, globalization should be part of any company’s corporate strategy if it is to become a truly global company.