Moravia has a strong reputation for innovation in approaching client problems, driven by a solutions team that is finely-tuned and highly trained to understand and solve client needs. This entry in our “People in Production” series provides a little more insight into the individual people who drive this goal. I interviewed Jiri Ulip, a Senior Solutions Architect, in order to understand his work, his background, and what he likes about our industry.
Me: Let’s start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself!
Jiri: I come from a rather unremarkable town halfway between Brno and Prague, but I consider myself an assimilated Brno inhabitant. I live here with my wife, no children, and no pets. I have a nice but fortunately not very demanding garden. I grow nice-looking stuff and the stuff you can eat.
Me: It sounds like a nice, quiet life! What did you study in college? Where did you go?
Jiri: I studied Philology, specifically English Language and Literature with a translation specialization, at Masaryk University in Brno. It is the second largest university in the Czech Republic. I originally studied History as well, but I found out that although it’s a nice hobby it’s not something you can live on unless you’re a hermit without material needs!
Lee: Ha ha, I can relate to that! I wanted to study philosophy but my parents talked me out of it. After that, how did you end up in the localization industry?
Jiri: I have been in the industry about 10 years. I started as a freelance translator (Czech, English) and I also briefly worked for Moravia at the time, but soon enough I realized that technical translation isn’t what I like and if you do something you don’t like, you shouldn’t be doing it, because you’re going to suck at it. Which I did, and so I moved to translating fiction, which I liked much better. After some time I achieved my personal translation goals (I did some rather tricky translation of Leoš Janáček’s Nursery Rhymes) and so I decided to move on and I ended up with Moravia again – this time as a Project Manager. After a few years I was given a chance to join our Solutions team where I’ve been a happy camper since.
Me: Like you said, it’s so important to like what you do! What does a Solution Architect do?
Jiri: The job description is kind of tricky. My usual explanation is that I’m a person who helps the sales people to sell services that the production folks will be able to produce. At the same time I help the production teams come up with ways of delivering whatever sales sold. Generally it’s fun since you have lots of freedom when it comes to inventing and, more importantly, delivering solutions.
Me: That sounds like creative work, and probably very rewarding. Could you describe a typical workday?
Jiri: First, I briefly scan emails for urgent items, but truly the day starts when I have coffee with colleagues. I can talk to them about anything they need help with or what is going on in their world. Then comes the rest of emails and talking to other people who need help (both internal and client-side). I spend most of the day working on proposals. I also do some development work myself, like a project management tracking automation or sales-related dashboards and reports.
Me: That sounds like an incredibly busy day! In your role, what are the major challenges?
Jiri: Challenges? There are only opportunities. (Laughs) Honestly though, the tools/platforms I’m using in my daily work could use some improvement, but they still do the job and I’m glad we have them. People-wise, it’s always great to be working with people who know what their goal is. When clients don’t know what they’re aiming for, I help them define their goals.
Me: What do you do when you are not working?
Jiri: When I’m not working or not spending time with my wife or working in my garden, then I’m playing computer games or watching movies. I’m not very keen on sports, but at least my wife made me get Kinect for Windows and after some fiddling I’m able to use my hands and feet to play Skyrim. It’s surprising how much physical activity the game requires you to perform to get from one place to another.
Me: That is so far from my world!!! How many languages do you speak? Which ones?
Jiri: Just Czech, English, some Visual Basic and little SQL. I also briefly tried learning German and Japanese, but with no success.
Me: Computer languages and natural languages, too. What is the most interesting thing you have learned recently?
Jiri: I’m getting more and more involved in Business Intelligence aspects of localization and of business in general. It is fascinating how much data you already have just waiting to be analyzed, and more importantly visualized, and presented to both internal teams and clients in a way that is useful and makes sense.
Me: Yes, big data challenge is beginning to show up large in the localization industry. What do you like best about our industry?
Jiri: I like the relaxed atmosphere and informality. We aren’t a buttoned up company or industry. The focus is on achieving goals, not protocol. Also, it’s nice to see that the industry is open to adopting new technologies early.
Me: Yes, the localization industry is very focused on technology to do things faster, cheaper, better. Last question. What would you say to someone who is just starting to work in the localization industry?
Jiri: First and foremost, learn how to figure out what your client wants and needs. When you have that right, you can be creative. Thinking out of the box gives you good solutions. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to admit failure! It may hurt at first, but it’s not personal. In the long run it’s better not to waste anybody’s time on something that is misguided... Having an affinity for absurd humor (which tends to help too) I’d use Samuel Beckett’s words: Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Has your career taken a wildly different path from your major in college? How did you equip yourself with the skills and experiences to excel in your current role?