Staff Interview

January 2016

Staff Interview: Hiroaki Baba

As Head of Translation & Localization Division, Hiroaki Baba leverages his precise understanding of our customers' needs to provide them with the high quality translations they require. He is also a key figure in the development of new services through his collaborations with our other business departments.

The Foundations of His Current Work Through Software Localization and Creating User Manuals

− Tell us about your background in the IT industry.

I have worked for two companies in the IT industry. One of them handled the localization and sales of American software for the Japanese market. There, in addition to the engineering side of things, I was in charge of putting together user manuals: editing, design, artwork creation, photo shoots, etc. The other company was in the consumer software business, back when the word "multimedia" was all the rage. I took part in studio recordings, in dubbing sessions and such.

− Was it the creation of user manuals that led you to work in the translation industry?

Yes, exactly. During the MS-DOS era - which kind of gives away my age (laughs) - informatization still wasn't very advanced. So there were only a limited number of people who could carry out computer-related translations, the best we could do was to ask one of those people to translate and check the content of his/her translation.
A customer was dissatisfied with the barely understandable Japanese versions and wanted to stick to English instead. So we prepared the revised edition of a 2,000 page long user manual in about six months. The customer was happy with how the revision read, and this may have been the reason why I chose the translation industry.
I also have experience working in a phone-based customer support service. This enabled me to develop a skill for breaking up problems and using my imagination to solve them one by one, which still comes in very handy today.

Understanding the Customer's Quality Requirements and Applying Them to the Translation

− Is there a project that stands out as particularly memorable for you?

Well, there are quite a few, but one project working on a large manufacturer's technical information magazine springs to mind. The PR office had asked me to directly discuss an article with the engineer who wrote it. I must have spent an hour on the telephone, carefully taking in the ideas he had put into writing this piece; then I passed it on to the assigned translator. In the end, we were congratulated on the finished translation which they deemed "easier to understand than the original Japanese." This project really stressed how important it is to listen to what customers have to say.

− You need to grasp the customer's intentions to produce a quality translation, don't you?

Indeed. We need to grasp their intentions or, more precisely, we need to grasp how they intend to use the translated documents. Sometimes, we are asked to translate 50 to 100 pages in one week, a volume that would usually take about a month. When on such a tight schedule, it is necessary to correctly understand elements such as the intended target audience, the purpose and content of the translation, and the quality requirements. Based on this, we also have to make an accurate estimate of deadlines and the possible corrections that may arise. In such cases that require using several translators on one project, we also have to unify the glossary too. All these aspects have to be determined from the beginning, we have to anticipate what to do after the translation is completed and prepare a complete plan of action. Failing to do that has a strong effect on delays and the quality of the translation.

Solving Our Customers' Problems and Beyond: Developing a Service that Exceeds the Scope of Translation

− How do you sound out what is expected by a customer?

Our work at Arc Communications is to translate items received from our customers. But translation itself isn't their final goal, translation is merely a means to achieve a specific goal. For example, the English translation of a corporate website denotes a wish to expand overseas: they want to convey something to their customers abroad, precise information with a report, etc. Our basic approach is to ask about their objectives while keeping all this in mind.

− Is there a secret to discovering the customer's goals?

For example, directly asking what kind of translation they have in mind is one way of doing it. Otherwise, by repeating a variety of questions, we often get a wider perception, which helps to clarify the goals at hand. I honed these interview skills - sounding a situation, sorting it and conveying it - when working in the IT industry.

Aiming for a Problem-solving Service that Adapts to Environment Transformations

− What is the translation team's main objective?

First, increasing customer satisfaction. I want our work to achieve this, as levels and factors of satisfaction vary depending on the customer.
Nevertheless, needs for translation have been changing considerably. We used to primarily deal with translations from English to Japanese, but nowadays the Japanese to English work is on the rise. I also sense that more and more customers are proficient in English. From there on, maybe the need for English to Japanese translation will disappear, which is why I wish to stretch our service range always with these environment changes in mind.

− What would you say is your personal objective working with Arc Communications?

I hope to further develop services that exceed the scope of translation. We make multilingual version of customer websites in collaboration with our Web team, and I would like to go further down this translation-Web collaborative lane.
Problem-solving isn't merely an interesting work, it is rewarding too. So I would like to do more work where my personal touch would be necessary to satisfy a customer's requests.

Hiroaka Baba According to our Staff

"He is the one I go to if I have a problem with the server, backup and cameras!"
"He doesn't drink, but you can always count on him for events!"
"When we go on a company trip abroad, no matter how crowded, souvenir vendors always rush toward him."


Hiroaki Baba
Head of Translation & Localization/Sales Manager. Hobby: photography. Father of one.

My favorite movie

Apollo 13 (1995, USA), directed by Ron Howard
I, of course, like airplanes and spaceships, the kind of things engineers seem to like. I also like human drama films, but I need a bit more than that. I also like The Right Stuff and Top Gun, but I chose this movie because of the large scale at which mechanical items are involved with humans and also because of the depth of the drama. I don't tend to seek movies that penetrate the inner heart, but I think Apollo 13 was a true masterpiece.