Anna Navarro Schlegel: The Global Renaissance Woman

Anna Navarro Schlegel

For businesses, going global is no simple feat. It is not only about expanding to international markets; Globalization entails all aspects of any company. To be successful, company executives need to clearly understand their company’s global business goals, believes a truly global expert, Anna Navarro Schlegel, who has driven global market growth of many large Fortune companies. She asserts, “Wherever I lead a globalization, a content team or an engineering group, I see it and treat it as a business, with funding, values, goals, an executive team, metrics, trainings and support to drive that global growth we are after.”

An embodiment of proficient leadership, Anna leads by example. Her journey to becoming probably one of the best globalization experts in the world started in 1992, when she was living in San Francisco and founded her first startup. Her goal was to aid local Silicon Valley companies in their quest to go global.

One of Anna’s first clients needed translations and technical reviews of their products before they were able to enter the Brazilian and Russian markets. Another client was Silicon Graphics, who recommended that Cisco Systems approach her to start their first localization team, globalization was not even a word back then. Anna was in her mid-20s and it was a true crash course in product and enterprise globalization. That rotation in strategy teams, product groups, marketing and engineering has made her a sough after leader to consult with for anything related to global innovation.

Since then, Anna has helped Xerox, VeriSign, VMware, and NetApp develop and execute their very first global strategies to enter international markets, hundreds of times!  Over the past 30 years, she has presented for hundreds of institutions, including the Haas Institute at UC Berkeley and the Think Global Forum. She has consulted for Google, Stanford University, and the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Anna has contributed to countless books and courses on the subject and even helped develop the industry-standard Localization Certificate. She has also spent time testing speech technologies and training some of the first Machine Learning tools for translation. Anna is a member of the Global Council for Common Sense Advisory and is one of the 3 founders of Women in Localization. The list could go on.

It is this unique combination of experience that has enabled Anna to become both a businesswoman and one of the world’s leading executives in the globalization field. When you ask her colleagues, who comes to mind when you need a globalizer, Anna’s name comes up, all the time.

CIO Look recently caught up with Anna to discuss her entrepreneurial journey and her book, Truly Global.

Below are a few highlights from the interview:

What are your thoughts on the necessity of a positive work culture? How do you implement it at your organization?

I have hired organizational psychologists, corporate strategists, and a number of professional firms to advise me on all kinds of strengths and gaps. One of the main components was teaching me how to become a valuesbased leader. And always go back to how I grew up in Olot, and Girona in Catalunya, and what I owe to my parents and my family. My strategy is to take it from the top before moving down into the organization. As a leader you must work to create the environment you want.

In any venture or organization, I have founded, we have always spent time up front thinking about the values we want to live by. We never start with our goals. Instead, we start with who we want to be, what we will and will not allow, and how we will work together.

It’s not enough just to set your values, print them out, and stick them on the wall. You have to put in the hard work. Make time periodically to review your values and to understand how you’re upholding them. Without doing so, it is impossible to progress.

A key value for me is trust, which isn’t something that comes easily. Spend time listening, understanding, and collaborating. I try to celebrate big achievements and small progress alike.

We need to make it a priority to lift each other up and to stay mentally healthy. In order to do that, we must rethink the way we work. For example, my team does not schedule meetings on Fridays. I am a huge believer of having a day to read, do research, respond to emails, clean up your inbox, and work on long-term projects. Having a “quiet day” enables my team to catch up.

Another way to promote a positive work culture is to engage in mentoring. I see more people doing this now than ever. My own calendar is filled with people who just want me to listen to them. They don’t really want my opinion, they just want me to feel their pain, or mirror their ideas, and from there we dialogue if that is what they need.

Folks feel positive when they know they are growing, can speak openly, take time off when they need it, and feel that they are contributing to the success of the organization. Positivity, transparency, trust, clarity, and open-door policies are key to healthy teams. Take the time to celebrate and elevate people. Schedule meetings to check in on people’s personal lives or thoughts. Take 5 minutes to ask somehow how they are before diving into work.

Anyone can lead with this mentality inside a positive work environment. It’s not only up to the managers or leaders. We are all in this together!

How do you focus on global growth to reach higher global revenues by adapting products?

In order to focus on global growth, you need executive alignment starting at the very top of an organization. Having agreement between Product, Sales, and Finance leaders is key and is the very first step to achieving higher global revenue. For example, you cannot create a product and then fail to train the sales team. To succeed, all company leaders must be working together. It is a team sport. Companies or product teams who understand that win big!

Once you have clarity and alignment, the real work can begin. It is often helpful for companies to have multiple transparent models to follow that will indicate the level of corporate involvement as the process of going global and earning international revenue requires everyone to be on board. For example, a company can’t have a Product Manager who wants to take their product global and fails to localize the product’s user interface. That happens often, as many product managers who are not globally savvy will not be “global customer” obsessed. Globalization requires seamless orchestration. Every department in an organization must understand which products will be sold where in order to support that roadmap to the best of their abilities.

What is your opinion on the necessity for businesses to align their offerings with newer technological developments, especially when it comes Digital Transformation?

My experience is largely in the world of high-tech, so I cannot speak on behalf of other industries. However, I can tell you that if you want to engage with a Fortune 500 company then you need to have a rock-solid digital platform, alignment among content teams, a shared vison, and constant communication. When you talk about digital transformation you must consider concepts like data capacity, product simplification, enterprise content strategy, and the simplification of the buyer’s journey. Customers do not have a long attention span, nor the time to guess how to interact with your services, solutions, or offerings, especially for products that are not necessarily something that brings them joy!

Businesses also need an impeccable digital presentation of their offerings and services. You do not want to simply satisfy the customer; you want to delight the customer with anticipated moves to make it easy for them. You want to simplify the experience, and at the same time you need to give that customer trust that your site will not go down, or that a confirmation email will indeed make it into their inbox. Or you will confirm the service via text or resolve their potential issue overnight.  My advice is to always think backwards, to start by creating a customer empathy map. Find out who your customer is and what they want, where is this person? Why are they coming to your site? How can you give them the best experience possible?

How do you bring Information Management in establishing strategic direction and delivering results globally?

Information Management is key. I like to call it “Enterprise Content Strategy”. Companies produce daily vast amounts of content, from tag lines to demand generation campaigns, support websites, training materials, emails, SEO strategies, online help, upgrade guides, data sheets, the list goes on and on. This proliferation of content needs to be proactively managed. To do so, companies need a team or a guiding coalition to administrate and align all their content. Without one it is impossible to provide a simplified experience for the customer. A complex experience will cause customers to drop out mid-cycle and the company will end up losing revenue.

I encourage any organization that I consult with to create a steering committee to decide some very basic frameworks. Ask yourselves: How many websites do we really need? How do we train all the content authors inside our organization to align on authoring and brand? What languages are we going to be localizing into? How will we go about making old content obsolete? What are the typical paths our customer will go through, etc.

A great information management team will know what to promote, where to apply search engines, how to get old content out the way, and how to launch all that information around the world on the very same day. Another way to think about information management is by mapping potential customer scenarios. Take a look at what that customer may need in various situations. Do they want to return the product? Where does this client go to report a product defect, or to get a new quote? Always begin from the customer’s perspective. I am not into “customer delight” or “customer centric”; I am into customer obsessed. To be the best you must start from the global customer’s perspective. If it doesn’t answer to what the customer needs, it has to go!

In what ways have you contributed to the community? If given a chance, what change would you bring in providing growth opportunities to women?

When I was a young girl living in Catalunya, my father founded his first non-profit. His goal was to unite 1,000 community members once a month to go and clean up rivers, mountain areas, and marginalized areas of the city. Giving back to the community was a huge part of how I was raised and is something I try to instill in my own children. And he met his goal… it was so fun!

When I was 24 years old, I joined my very first Board, which was for the Northern California Translators Association. It has been one organization after the other ever since!

One of the organizations that I am most proud of is NetApp’s Women in Technology (WIT) association. I was trusted to restructure the organization at a key moment in its development and went on to serve as Chair for over 5 years and add about 1000 new members. I continue to be an active member of several WIT organizations and I am a proud to act as the organization’s Global Executive Sponsor.

Several years ago, I co-founded a non-profit called STEM Mentors Silicon Valley to support underrepresented kids in the Bay Area by exposing them to STEM. In order to do so, we put together yearly events with doctors, scientists, dentists, and various high-tech corporations to show them what they could be when they grow up. It was wonderful to see so many people giving back to our community during the events. We are hoping to continue the program after the pandemic. I co-founded that organization with Karl Welch, Lori Silverman and Duaine Pryor.

My real pride and joy is Women in Localization, an organization that I co-founded with Silvia Avary Silveira and Eva Klaudinyova. Our mission is to serve as a global community for the advancement of women and the localization industry. Growing this organization has been a been a daily project for the 3 of us for the past 13 years. Today, we are proud to have over 6,000 members worldwide across 30 sites. It is also the largest platform of content around all aspects of globalization and its full orchestration. If you would like to learn more, please go to www.womeninlocalization.com

Anna Schlegel | Truly Global Business

My latest adventure is serving as the President of the Advisory Board for Aula Magna Business School. Aula Magna is Catalan company that offers executive training programs for professionally active women to companies that believe in diversity as a strategic line to meet their objectives. Many women stop learning after college, but in order to remain competitive you need to keep educating yourself! Taking classes also enables you to network and form your own support community.

Every single one of the organizations I have founded or joined have focused on supporting women and children. One of the major issues that I see in large corporations is the lack of diversity, especially at the top. The organizations that I am part of are working to address this inequality through models, frameworks, and strategies that women and underrepresented children can use for upward mobility.

I encourage everyone to get involved in a cause that is important to them. Imagine the impact we could have if everyone were committed to at least one cause! I am very proud to have spent the past four decades of my life in service and look forward to continuing to do so. I do have to spend a good amount of my day saying no to wonderful opportunities, not enough hours in the day and my family is a huge priority!

As an established global business leader, what would be your advice to the budding women entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into IT & Services Industry?

You need to remain healthy, centered, and rested. Especially if you are a mom! Prioritize sleeping and finding time to exercise. Take time to be out in nature. If you need to rest, rest. If you are not feeling your best, talk to your health care provider. Never place your health in the backseat.

Take the time to make an informed decision about which industry you want to join. Interview people who already work in industries that interest you. Do you see yourself there for days, months or even years? Do you feel the passion?

Making the decision to work your way up inside a Fortune 500 company is tough for everyone, men and women included. However, women tend to bear the majority of the household and childcare responsibilities, we take care of our parents in higher percentages, we have miscarriages, we go through fertility treatments, we give birth, we fall behind our work if we decide to stay home to raise our kids when they are so young.  It’s so very important to sit down and talk to your partner about equity, how are the two of you going to be a team?  The further you progress in your career the more support you will need inside your partnership. Whether you are single or in a relationship, you will need support from friends and family, or any help you can get! There are no super-sheroes.

Choose a few great leaders to follow and work for a long time, that is precious. Interview your boss and take the time to understand who they are. Ask around to ensure you are entering a high-functioning, collaborative team where you can be your best and they will respect you.

Continue to develop your skills and never stop learning! In the world of high-tech, the landscape is constantly changing. Create a learning map to help guide yourself, and your team. Another thing you can do is to become a savvy business reader. Read The Economist, HBR, you get the gist!

Tell us more about your book, Truly Global. Why did you write it?

I published the first edition of Truly Global: The Theory and Practice of Bringing Your Company to International Markets in 2016, and the second edition just released in April 2021 with more chapters and learnings. When I decided to write the book, I had already led globalization teams at multiple companies and continued to learn more and more about the practice with each subsequent move to a new enterprise. However, I could not find a book that adequately explained the globalization profession. Most executives have the title “global’ in their title, yet there is no book to make you think how to prepare your org to go global. This is not for globalizers. This is for any leader who has the title international or global.

I was approached literally weekly to speak on panels and give keynotes explaining all aspects of the field, but I would google “globalization”, and all sorts of different explanations would pop up. I decided to simplify the profession and provide people with all of the content a great globalizer needs to know in one place.

You can learn more about the book at my website: www.trulyglobalbusiness.com

A few words about Truly Global: We know that today’s economy is increasingly borderless. Every company that seeks to grow beyond its national boundaries needs a globalization team to help develop, translate, adapt, and promote products to international markets. This team is vital to ensuring that customers receive product information and support in their own language in a personalized and seamless way. From a company’s website to product interfaces and documentation, to telephone and online support, providing this culturally specific experience is essential to building a brand across international borders with a solid enterprise approach.

Ideal for global corporate leaders, board members, employees, and senior managers, Truly Global provides an insider’s look at how large companies move into international markets to successfully deliver their product to customers across different cultures and languages. It covers everything you need to know, to globalize your company from start to finish, including who to recruit as members of a globalization team, how to integrate globalization in each department, and how to use the team’s research to build your brand’s presence in new markets.

This book will help your company succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy and lay the foundation for your growth from national company to international household brand. If your title has the word “global” in it, this book is for you!

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