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November 2010

A Recap of Dr. Linda Myers' Exclusive Interview on Korea Business Central - "Working at the Top in SK Group: An Insider's Story"

Author_lm Dr. Linda Myers was "inpatriated" to Seoul to raise global mindsets, lead global talent management, develop global policies and practices, and help accelerate globalization of the SK Group. She previously earned her masters and doctoral degrees from Harvard University.

To listen to the interview, download the .mp3, subscribe in iTunes, read the transcript and or discuss this interview and this topic with other members of Korea Business Central visit the English-language discussion link (http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/forum/topics/korea-business-central-394) or Korean-language discussion link (http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/forum/topics/hankug-bijeuniseu-nginteobyu). 

The full list of interviews in the Korea Business Interview Series is maintained here: http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/page/interviews-2

Main Points of the Interview

Topic #1 - Dr. Myers' Background Leading To Her Position at SK Group

  • Factors leading to her global career: 1) Oldest child of deaf parents, 2) Mother's family immigrated to US during World War II, 3) Early international experiences
  • First contacted by a Korean executive recruiter in July 2007 for position in a Korean company. However, he was not able to refer Dr. Myers to anyone who had worked in South Korea before. This opportunity to be a trailblazer was an attractive challenge and Dr. Myers headed to Korea shortly thereafter without a clear job description, orientation or other preparation.

Topic #2 - Early Experiences in SK Group

  • Figuring out the corporate structure of SK Group was an early challenge, leading to a determination that others Dr. Myers came in professional contact with not be confused as she had been. She made sure every presentation about SK that she gave include an explanation that SK Group is the holding company owned by the Chey family and begun in 1953 which today has about 35,000 employees in over a dozen subsidiaries, all of which operate under instructions from the holding company, which also owns the most valuable business assets.
  • One of the most unsettling aspects of the job was realizing how unprepared SK was for helping a foreigner transition into a new post, and especially the Group's inexperience with global human resources concepts and language issues.
  • Learning about the company was a slow painful process, as Dr. Myers' questions were often perceived as critical. Fortunately, she was able to locate her own resources in the Seoul business community, which helped the adjustment immensely.
  • The three major factors governing the cultural and gender challenges Dr. Myers faced include 1) that Koreans adhere to the traditional collectivist Confusion cultural traits of harmony, hierarchy, in-group/out-group, school ties, favoritism, status and rank, 2) that her base of support was very powerful (at least at the beginning) because her position had been created by Chairman Chey himself and 3) that this base of support changed rapidly when the senior vice president was moved to a different position.
  • Dr. Myer's early achievements included being SK's best public relations effort through interviews, serving on commissions and travelling the world giving presentations to global MBA programs. Dr. Myers also championed a career website for the SK Group.

Topic #3 - Later Experiences in SK Group

  • The annual evaluation and reassignment of Korean executives between November and December of each year leads to a lot of uncertainty and upheaval. In Dr. Myers' case, the reassignment of the Senior Vice President of Corporate Culture to a different operating company changed the dynamics of Dr. Myers' position dramatically as she lost her sponsor and new personnel were less interested in her role.

Topic #3 - Lessons Learned During the Experience

  • Korean corporate talk about globalization leads Dr. Myers to react with skepticism, having lived and head stories of life as a foreigner in a Korean company, as well as cautious optimism, seeing the success that LG Electronics is having. [Note: Even LG Electronics' experience is called into doubt with the very recent departure of the expat team there.]
  • The apparent lip-service that Korean firms pay to globalization may be due to the fact that Koreans are still pretty isolated socially and adhere to Confucian traditions and customs. However, with the hosting of the G20 in 2010 and other achievements, perhaps this is a critical moment in Korean business history where Korea begins to open itself up in a bigger way.
  • For firms like SK to truly embrace globalization and change, the laws under which foreign talent is brought in must be clarified so that it's not as easy for contracted employees to be let go. Many foreign employees don't realize that they are expected to stay just two years. This is wasteful for the Korean company too, to take such short-term views. Korean firms needs to also figure out what they expect from foreign employees before bringing them over, and they need to provide the foreign talent with clear and measurable objectives for change that are supported and made accountable at the highest ranks of the organization. This includes providing each foreigner with a mentor and clearly established career path.
  • To properly compete on the world stage, Korean companies need to provide a level playing field with the rest of the world and remove the barriers they've put up to outsiders.
  • As for SK Group, a stronger customer focus and understanding of the distribution system in the US would have helped with recent businesses, and going forward, the Group needs to market its businesses in Asia, as well as in E. Europe, for betting understanding its customers and meeting their needs. This applies to China, too.
  • The top three issues Korean companies must deal with for globalization include 1) improving marketing so that Korean companies get the credit they deserve, 2) strengthening the knowledge sharing system across the company and 3) finding ways to reward employees for taking the initiative.

Topic #4 - Going Forward

  • Dr. Myers is currently writing an article about her time and experiences in Korea, scheduled for publication in January 2011. She is also preparing a case study geared toward MBAs with interest in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • In closing, Dr. Myers expressed her very deepest thanks and appreciation to all the Koreans who befriended her and taught her the many important lessons she learned during her years in Seoul.

 


Thoughts on Transitioning from Trados to Another CAT Software

11-18-2010 8-10-19 PM The following is my email discussion with Duncan Shaw of DTS Language Services, Inc. regarding his agency's transition to memoQ. Duncan kindly gave me permission to share these emails. It's a little (well, a lot!) long, but if you use Trados or are considering using it or are just looking at options for your computer-aided translation tool, the information here is very relevant and worth reading through.

------------

November 12, 2010

Hi Steven,

... If possible I would like to receive your segmented-file back so that we can build a TM over time.  This isn’t a huge issue for this job, as I’d rather get it going than lose any further time now, but in general I am interested in building Korean TMs (we have migrated to memoQ, which I am told supports Korean).  It just makes it much easier for future version updates...

Duncan

 

November 13, 2010

Duncan,

...Your comment about memoQ has me very interested as I’m totally sick of Trados and paying for software that’s ridiculously complicated and doesn’t work right in Korean. What is your experience in Korean with memoQ? I just quit my PSMA with SDL, so eventually I’m going to have to switch software or shell out more money to them when my old version doesn’t run the latest software anymore...

Steven

 

November 15, 2010

Hi Steven,

Ah yes, Trados.  The bane of translators and agencies everywhere, yet perhaps one of the most deeply interwoven words in our business.  Back in the late ‘90s, we invested about $15K with Trados because we had a very large FrameMaker project.  Over the years, it has easily returned hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I commend them from being the vanguard as far as market penetration (if not quasi-brainwashing) and a leader in technology development.  But the main problem I have always had with Trados (with increasing pain every year) came down to these issues:

  1. Many translators and translation agencies forget that SDL is itself a competitor, not some independent software developer.  Every time we bought a Trados license, paid for a workshop, or otherwise did business with them, to me it felt like we were writing a check directly to a competitor.  Sometimes people think I’m making a bigger deal out of it than is reality, but I know better:  We lost a key, multi-decades long account with a household name Fortune 100 company to SDL.  They swooped into Singapore and other locations we had contacts with their pitch of low pricing, “supply chain” MBA gobble-de-gook, and the usual promises of “never having to pay twice for the same translation”.  I am fine with competition, but as you might imagine, I became much less of an SDL Trados fan after that (especially since I had personally managed some 200+ projects worldwide with that client since I started in the business).
  2. The service & support were horrendous.  Installing network upgrades, getting product patches to work, activating license keys, downloading mysterious zip files with codes embedded in them, were many times several-day long adventures and IT disasters, costing us an arm and a leg just to get set up, never mind profit from.  No matter how many product demos and webinars I sat through, I always found the culture to be very slow-moving, laborious, heavy-handed, and out of touch with small to medium size agencies, who need to be agile, responsive, and non-Dilbert like in how we do business.  Half the time the poor phone reps on the front lines (who I don’t wholly blame) had never heard about issues and problems we were reporting, and we had to go to places like proz.com to find answers and then report their own fixes back to them!  And the GUI screens, Help and Manuals were always written in this non-intuitive, quicksand, you-are-now-feeling-very-sleepy kind of way.  It was the little things that continually irritated me, like not being able to access Workbench via Remote Desktop Connection except in demo mode (I was told that there was a patch for that, to that, if you submitted a trouble ticket into the Great Maw.  Good luck there).

So it was a love/hate kind of a thing, because overall I do credit Trados for being the market leader and benefiting us in many ways through the years.  But I knew other smaller players were coming out who more responsive and better partners.  My resolve in this was strengthened when I repeatedly heard industry veterans, such as Renato Beninato, echo similar thoughts.  I thought we had found the solution in JiveFusion Technologies, a Canadian company (you may or may not know them).  They are among the “new crop” of 25 or so solution providers we looked at, in addition to across, Heartsome, XTM, and memoQ.   But JiveFusion proved to be a very costly mistake and not the right fit for us either after much trial-and-error grief.

This made me feel “once-bitten twice shy”, so I considered memoQ extremely warily and with a huge amount of diligence.  I probably asked 50 other translation companies and colleagues about this, at least half of whom  took the plunge before we had.  Over and over, they heaped praise on Kilgray, the functionality of the product, and the excellent support.  I must say that although we are still in our infancy using it, I have come away very impressed with my overall experience.  memoQ was originally written by translators, for translators, which I like.  The three original founders have all contacted me with answers to questions I’ve had (very speedily, I might add), encouragement and support.  In fact, back in May we very nearly landed a 5.3 million word project that I was only able to analyze with their help, literally night and day, using only a trial version of memoQ.  So they really showed me something as far as their drive and culture.  They are a small company and understand our mindset MUCH better than Trados ever did, and have been a friendly group to work and interact with.  The U.S.-based sales rep has been superb and has been anything but a “salesperson” if that makes sense.  So in a nutshell, while we’re still learning, but we use memoQ every day now as our main tool and are shedding Workbench at the same time for good.  I will still keep our old 2007 version online as a backup, but the whole thing about memoQ is its “interoperability”.  Trados users can work with it; Wordfast users can work with it; translators without any tools can work with it, since you can export dual-column RTF files (no more contending with ridiculous purple codes & brackets).  About the only tool that might be in conflict is across, but then again, across is a totally different paradigm and way of working anyway, so that doesn’t surprise me.

Now, to actually answer your question, the short answer is:  I don’t know yet.  We haven’t used memoQ for anything other than English < > FIGS projects.  I am told that it supports Korean and other Asian languages, but I haven’t spoken with linguists who use it (only because there are only so many hours in a day, and Asian languages just aren’t our strongest market, although I do want to grow there).  My wife and I are going to attend memoQfest in April 2011 (I wanted to this year, but had a conflict).  I just like how they walk the talk based on my own buying and using experience.  Projects go much faster and with greater ease than when we used Workbench in-house, and I have greater trust in the engine behind the memoQ translation memories.  Like anything else, I’m sure there will be some headaches and “I only wish it did this” kind of thing, but so far, not.

Let me know if I can help out any further, but here is Patricia’s info. as an initial point of contact at least, if you’re curious to explore more (I believe she is based in Austin but not 100% sure):

Kilgray Translation Technologies
Patricia Bown
Director of Sales, Americas
patricia.bown@kilgray.com
(512) 820-4925

Duncan

 

November 15, 2010

Duncan,

Wow, that is very interesting, indeed! Yeah, SDL’s unwillingness to properly deal with the conflicts in their dual roles as a supplier and as a competitor shows a great deal of arrogance, if you ask me. The way they continue to develop their programs and their customer support only reinforce this view. I actually posted this last year to my weblog: http://nojeokhill.koreanconsulting.com/2009/12/warning-about-the-sdl-trados-psma-premium-software-maintenance-agreement.html

Just curious. Did you test Wordfast? We had used that for awhile when I used to work with Transperfect but my team didn’t like it. I haven’t even opened up the latest version of Trados, thinking it’s just going to be a nightmare to learn the entirely new approach for something that probably doesn’t work properly with Korean.

Steven

 

November 15, 2010

Steven, your blog post about said it all!  My main beef is that they always seemed WAY out of touch with the majority of the translation industry, which is not the Transperfects, Lionbridges, etc., of the world, but rather than small-to-medium sized players.  Sure, it is great to be able to sell enterprise volume accounts and licenses to the top largest 25 translation companies, but that’s a rather narrow market if you ask me.  I’m glad that competition eventually (finally) caught up and there are many desirable alternatives today.  We never went beyond trying a demo version of Wordfast.  I like that it is simple and I’ve generally heard positive things about it from translators.  But I had always heard that while it was considered a generally decent product, it was comparatively limited in what it could do compared to some other tools.  Plus we wanted a server-based tool for online collaborations, and memoQ’s solution was by far the most affordable and easiest to implement.

We have never been an agency that “requires” our suppliers to use X software or whatever, nor do we believe in necessarily trying to put every single translation into a TM.  There is a middle ground balance between fluidity and the art of the written word (which sometimes does not jibe well with a data base-driven mentality), versus embracing technology and being open-minded to learning.  That’s how I see it, anyhow.

By way of illustration, I’m attaching the current ICF file your team is working on as an exported memoQ RTF file, as well as an exported Trados-style segmented .doc file (since I didn’t actually pretranslate it, the target segments are empty in the .doc file, but that’s easy; this is what we use for those translators who don’t have any tools (or in the case of the .doc file, for Trados die-hards).  In my mind, the RTF dual-column approach is a very straightforward and simple approach for translators who don’t want to deal with segments or an interface that requires training, etc.  That’s why I like memoQ, because they’ve developed an environment for excellent flexibility.  But there’s lots of good ones out there, no doubt, and every day I hear about some new advent somewhere.

Duncan