The Global Operations Team—creating value that goes above and beyond!

One of the most unique aspects of Mercari Group is our emphasis on Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace; we want to be a place where the top talent from across the globe can feel included and welcome. It is our belief that, in order for Mercari Group to achieve its mission and deliver services that are welcoming of all the diverse societies and cultures around the world, we must first reflect that vision internally.

The Global Operations Team, known simply as “GOT” within Mercari, is one of the teams that supports Mercari’s ever-diversifying members. It primarily functions as an in-house translation and interpretation team, but its actual impact and contribution to the organization and business far surpasses that description. In this short series, “The Global Operations Team: Using language to support Mercari’s business, D&I, and more!”, we take a deep dive on GOT and their important role in the company.

This first article has two parts. In the first part, we will hear from Gabe Beckerman (@gabe) and Lisa Amano (@Lisa) of GOT, who will walk us through the specifics of GOT’s work and how those things support Mercari’s D&I and more. In the second half, we will hear from Engineering Manager at Merpay, Tim Tosi (@Tim), who will be speaking from the perspective of a frequent user of GOT’s services. We hope that this series will make it clear why GOT is an essential part of Mercari Group!

Featured in this article

  • Gabe Beckerman

    GOT2 Manager
    Gabe was born and raised in the US and first came to Japan at the age of 16. He has lived in Kyoto and Toyama and is now based in Tokyo. After graduating from Tufts University, he worked as a Coordinator for International Relations on the JET Program and then at Sojitz Corporation as an in-house translator. He joined Mercari in September 2018. In addition to his work as in-house interpreter and translator, he is also lead for the Unconscious Bias Workshop.

  • Lisa Amano

    GOT1 Translator and Interpreter
    Lisa was born and raised in the US. After finishing her degree at the University of California, San Diego, she moved to Japan in 2014 as an English teacher. Having always been interested in translation and languages, she then spent about six years at a language services provider as a project manager and in-house translator/editor. In January 2022, Lisa joined Mercari as a translator and interpreter in GOT. Outside of work, Lisa enjoys being outdoors, going to see her favorite artists, and rooting on her hometown team, the Lakers.

Touch-points across the entire company allow GOT to step in and offer advice from a uniquely broad perspective

——Let’s start off with a very basic question, what is GOT and what is its role in the company?

@Lisa: GOT can be broadly broken down into two basic functions: translation and interpretation. Our team is made up of bilingual members (Japanese and English) of various backgrounds, and we work with the goal of trying to remove any cultural and communication barriers that might exist within the Group. We want to make sure all materials, events, and meetings are inclusive for everyone within the company, and bridge any communication gaps.

Speaking on the translation aspect of GOT, we translate all kinds of materials for the company, both internal and external facing. With that said, I think what we do goes beyond just a direct translation of the source text. It’s more like localization.

Lisa Amano (@Lisa)

——What is localization? Is that different from translation?

@Lisa:Yeah, localization is a more comprehensive process than translation. Rather than just converting one language to another, localization requires us to consider whether the content looks and feels right for the target audience. For example, if GOT gets a request to translate a policy change or an internal announcement from Japanese into English, we take into consideration the culture, the background, and the target audience. It’s not about just translating the Japanese into English word-for-word, but making sure that the language and the messaging is clear for English-speaking audiences.

——Interesting! I can see how that kind of perspective requires more than “just” translation, and I can also see how localization would be so valuable to a diverse workplace like Mercari where there are so many people from different cultures and backgrounds. Gabe, how about the interpretation side of GOT?

@gabe:So, interpreting tries to make language as little a barrier as possible for the work that people are trying to do. There are some positions where an individual would be required to have those language skills themselves, but we essentially just try to make the language barrier as irrelevant as possible to what people can actually do and the information they can access overall at Mercari.
So, anything that isn’t already available in both languages—open door sessions or company-wide All Hands meetings—we try our best to jump in to make sure that it is.

Also, for cross-team projects or situations where it wouldn’t normally be possible for people to collaborate because the members of the teams involved don’t share a common language, we can come in to bridge that gap and make that collaboration possible.

Without interpretation support, things would definitely be harder and a lot less efficient. Also, individuals would probably be less motivated to pursue those sorts of collaborations if they thought language was going to be such a high barrier.

——Are there ever requests where GOT interpreters and translators collaborate?

@gabe:There are a lot of events or meetings that require both translation and interpretation work. In other words, GOT translators and interpreters work together toward the same purpose, just focusing on different parts of the same whole.

————What does an average “day in the life of GOT” look like?

@Lisa:For translation, we kick off each day with a stand-up meeting where we look over our online board of requests as a team. We see what new requests have come in, discuss, and then assign each request to the individual GOT translator who is best-suited to handle it. Then, we start translating!

As I mentioned earlier, the actual requests themselves range pretty broadly. There are one-off requests, and then there are also the requests that come in regularly, like presentation materials for each company’s All Hands, internal announcements, e-Learnings, press releases, social media posts—the list goes on! Actually, we work on the English articles that are on Mercan, too. Those are one of my favorite things to translate!

——That sounds like a lot of requests!

@Lisa:Yes, and I would say that having those touch points all over the company allows us to sometimes step in and offer a perspective that the requester may not have seen or been aware of. This comes from our uniquely broad perspective of the company.

For example, Person A from one team might ask us to translate a presentation for a new project. When we get that request, we remember that Person B from another team had asked us to translate something for a very similar project in the past. We would then reach out to Person A so that they can get in touch with Person B and sync if necessary to share knowledge or experience.

Once you get used to Mercari’s culture with GOT, it becomes difficult to imagine a workplace without it

——It sounds to me like GOT covers basically the entire company. Does that mean that anyone at Mercari Group can request to use GOT’s services?

@gabe:Yep! I think that’s probably the biggest difference between GOT at Mercari and most other in-house language service teams. If a company even has in-house language services, for interpretation especially but also translation to a certain extent, they are often for executives and C-suite people.

At Mercari, anybody of any seniority level can use GOT, and they do! Actually, this kind of service being available to anyone at all is so rare that sometimes it’s almost like people are shocked that they are allowed to ask for our help! (laughs)

Gabe Beckerman(@gabe)

@Lisa: We also have an open channel on Slack that is specifically meant for other members to reach out to GOT with any questions at all, no matter how small. When Mercari was revamping the Mercari Base Tokyo office space, the people in charge of naming new parts of the office and creating new bilingual signage were posting there asking “Does this sound okay in English?” or “Is there a better way to phrase this?”I think we’re very approachable to anyone!

@gabe:To add on to that, something else that’s unique about us is that we still have our hands and eyes on the requests after they’ve been completed. In general, for translation and interpretation as a job, you will never do anything beyond simply turning one language into another—but GOT does. You could call it “language consultation” if you like, or “internal communications support” even.

Most of the time, if you hire a freelancer, they’re not going to provide their opinion on, for example, how you ran a meeting. That would be far beyond their scope. But we do it all the time, don’t we? (laughs)

@Lisa:(Laughs) Yeah, I think that the benefit of an in-house team is that, because we are also employees of the company, we have our own opinions on the different policies or announcements that we get requested to translate. So naturally, we care more and have more to say. I think that enables us to put more care into our work compared to an external agency, which also improves quality.

@gabe:Being able to offer a third-party opinion to the team that requested translation/interpretation is always helpful, I think. But on top of that, we are also able to see both the Japanese and English sides of each thing more clearly than almost anyone else—GOT has that extra level of context and depth. So, of course we provide the same type of interpretation and translation services that an agency or freelancer might, but on top of that we are able to add value because of our unique position, which in turn facilitates better communication throughout the company.

——From our conversation so far, it seems like GOT’s work extends far beyond what many people would expect from an “in-house translation and interpretation team.” Is that really the case? In this sense, what do you think is the biggest issue GOT solves?

@Lisa:Well, the language barrier for sure is the biggest and most obvious. Beyond that, I think we definitely make the company more inclusive by the nature of what we do—making sure that critical information and meetings are available in both languages. Even for things like meeting minutes, it’s important to have these kinds of documents available for everyone, regardless of the language they speak, in a timely manner. We make sure that information is open and available, so it makes for a more inclusive and fair environment.

@gabe:At other companies where there is no in-house team, the goal of communication is just to make it happen somehow, meaning that the important nuances of the communication become almost a secondary priority. But at Mercari, having your message translated or interpreted creates a culture where people are more careful with their use of language and communication overall, not just during a meeting with GOT interpretation support. It’s like, “Oh, someone is going to translate this, so I’d better take the time to make sure that the original language is as clear as possible.” That attitude cascades into situations where maybe GOT support hasn’t been requested. I think GOT also helps avoid siloing by language preference, which is something that other workplaces without a GOT might have.

@Lisa: I agree. To add onto that last point, I think that having GOT also makes it so that Mercari does not have to limit its own talent pool based on language ability. We can seek out any candidate, even if the manager speaks a different language than that candidate, and I think that’s very unique to Mercari—I don’t think all companies can do that. So that’s a big plus for Mercari, but also for people looking to join!

——So does that mean that GOT is also involved with onboarding and hiring? Do you think that GOT’s involvement makes it easier for anyone to join and integrate into the company?

@gabe:Yes, there is interpretation and translation support in these situations, too. Having all of the necessary documents and information already available in both languages definitely makes things easier.

@Lisa:Like Gabe said, for the standard onboarding process, I believe all of the necessary materials are already available in both Japanese and English. Our goal as GOT is to make sure the most important information, documents, and communications—including those related to onboarding—are available to members. This really helps with the onboarding process.

At the same time, our team alone cannot cover the language support needs of the entire Mercari Group. We have to accurately prioritize requests and encourage the use of our machine translation AI bot, Hisashi, to bridge the communication gap when GOT is unavailable.

——This is a somewhat abstract question, but what do you think Mercari would look like without GOT?

@Lisa:To be honest, it’s a bit hard to imagine, considering how diverse the organization has become!

I think that there’s something like 50 or more nationalities represented at Mercari, right? I think there would probably be more risks of miscommunication happening, teams not being on the same page, that sort of thing—especially because so many of us are working remotely now with Your Choice.

@gabe:I agree. Just in terms of culture, there is a lot of value placed on autonomy—to a certain extent, individuals on any team and at any seniority level are expected to be able to go and find the information they need for themselves. Having GOT makes a lot of that easier. I think without GOT, individuals would likely be discouraged from branching out and trying things on their own because it isn’t worth the extra effort to deal with the language barrier, or they might just see the whole endeavor as impossible to begin with. So, for Mercari to have this culture of autonomy makes having a team like GOT all the more important.

Compared to other companies, Mercari is much more advanced when it comes to integrating new employees

As we mentioned at the beginning, this is where we get to hear from a non-GOT member of Mercari who is a frequent user of GOT’s services. Tim Tosi (@Tim) is an Engineering Manager (“EM”) at Merpay and cites the existence of GOT within Mercari Group as one of the reasons why he decided to join the company. Read on to find out more!

——Hello Tim! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today!

@Tim:No problem at all, it’s my pleasure.

Tim Tosi(@Tim)

——I want to start off by asking a couple of basic background questions. When did you join Mercari?

@Tim:Ha! That’s actually an interesting story. I joined Mercari around three years ago in 2020, but I was originally in Japan just to visit my sister, taking a break from the freelance work that I was doing at the time.

——You were already living in Japan when you joined Mercari?

@Tim:Yes, that’s right. But I was based in the UK with my freelance work. So, around the time when I was updating my visa, I was contacted by a recruiter and asked if I would like to interview for a position at Merpay. At the time, I thought, “You know, I’m probably going to live in Japan for six months or something, so why not have a job while I’m here and see what happens?” Well, of course in the end I decided to stay longer than six months (laughs).

——Interesting! So when the recruiter reached out to you, what about the company made you think that it might be a good option for you?

@Tim:So, two things initially. The first is that I was already working in tech, and the second is that the tech stack at Merpay was a great match with my experience.

——Did you have any concerns about joining a Japanese company without being fluent in Japanese yourself?

@Tim:Well, before I joined, I knew that Mercari had an in-house team of translators to help with communication—that’s all I knew.

——Did knowing that make you think that it would be easier to join?

@Tim:More like it was a mandatory requirement for me (laughs). If there was no GOT, I probably would not have joined Mercari. It was actually one of the first questions I asked at the interview.

——Do you think that the language barrier is a common concern among potential candidates for Mercari?

@Tim:I think so. Communication is just as important for engineers as it is for corporate or back office or any other position, without it we cannot do our work. You always need to discuss with someone—it could be with your EM or your PM, communication is necessary for everyone, so I think it’s a common concern.

Also, if you have never been to or worked in Japan, you might not know that the use of foreign languages is not as wide-spread as it is in Europe, for instance. So it might not be obvious to everyone that communication could be an issue if you want to live or work in Japan.

—— How often would you say you use GOT services in your own work?

@Tim:All the time. Everyday. Multiple times per day (laughs). Mostly I am using interpretation support for my meetings. I have to do a lot of meetings as an EM and most of these meetings are still Japanese based, which means that if I want to express myself or understand the context, I have to rely on GOT. Basically I could not perform this job at Mercari without GOT, and that “trickles down,” meaning that so many others are able to do their jobs because GOT enables me to do mine.

Other people on my team also make use of GOT, Japanese members too. In the same way that I need to be able to communicate with my team, they need to be able to communicate with me. But it’s not only communication between my team members and myself, it’s communication between the members as well. I have both Japanese and non-Japanese members on my team, so GOT services are a necessity for my team to be able to communicate so seamlessly.

——When I spoke with Gabe and Lisa,they talked about the unique perspective that GOT has within the company and how that allows them to offer helpful feedback that isn’t strictly related to translation or interpretation. Have you ever experienced this?

@Tim:Yes, absolutely. Everyone has a different style of communication based on their background and the culture in which they grew up. Sometimes there are cultures that have a much more aggressive style of communication, like mine—I’m French (laughs). We can be very direct and it can come off as very aggressive. But in Japan, communication is much more passive, you know? And this can cause miscommunication issues. This is where GOT can step in, read the situation, and maybe tone down the message when they interpret in order to prevent unnecessary misunderstandings from occurring.

——Lastly, do you have a message or something that you would want engineers or others who are thinking about joining Mercari Group to know?

@Tim:It’s not as scary as you think! Especially compared to many other companies of similar size in Japan, Mercari is much more advanced when it comes to integrating new people. I can give you one simple example: I’ve been able to become an EM even without high proficiency in Japanese. In other words, if you don’t speak Japanese well it’s not a huge blocker, but of course it’s always a good idea to keep studying and trying to improve!

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