A Q&A with Yuri Ivanov of Ivannovation Language Management

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Photo by Will Crooks / Upstate Business Journal

The economic and political chaos caused by the collapse of the former Soviet Union prompted Yuri Ivanov in 1997 to follow a job opportunity in software localization to Greenville.

Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, the 51-year-old Ivanov observed a need for foreign translation services in the Upstate.

He launched his company, Ivannovation Language Management, in 1998.

The company specializes in localizing, or translating, technical documents, user guides, proposals, and marketing materials for the software, construction, and manufacturing industries, as well as the user interface for websites, apps, and software programs.

Since its inception, Ivannovation has translated in more than 100 languages and built a translator network of more than 400 people across the globe. The company serves more than 100 customers ranging from small local firms to large global companies.

Ivanov and his wife, Galina Ivanov, who is also a native of Russia, have one daughter, Dasha, who is 6.

What led you to the Upstate?

I served in the Russian air force from 1988 through 1993, climbing to the rank of senior lieutenant. I have been everywhere except Australia and South America. … Dating back to the 1850s, every man in my family was an officer in the [Russian] air force or navy. … When I retired from the air force, I found a job in Greenville as a software localization professional.

How did you become interested in software localization?

I had majored in Chinese and English. In the early 1990s, I became interested in the products that were showing up. I actually worked on the localization of some early products. That got me on the path of learning to code a little bit. I don’t really have a formal software development education. I guess you could say I’m self-taught. … After the Soviet Union collapsed, the situation became bad in terms of economics. Things were unstable. There was no country. I just didn’t want to live under those circumstances. I wanted something better for my family. I have been a [U.S.] citizen for 11 years.

How did Ivannovation come to be?

I recognized there was a need. There were companies that really didn’t know what to do, how it works, or where to go. So I gathered a few software engineers and a number of very qualified translators and started the company.

Has Ivannovation ever come across a language that it could not translate?

I can’t say that we’ve translated in every language, but I can say it has not happened that we have not found a qualified translator. The way it works is that you need to find a translator in the country for which you are translating. If someone’s asking me to translate in Spanish and they want to do it in Mexico, we find a qualified, highly trained person in Mexico.

What is it that excited you about your job?

There is always something new. No matter how many times we have translated in a language, there’s always something new. … So there’s always learning. We are very proud to promote connectivity and conversation between different cultures. We help eliminate frustration that comes from communication problems. I meet a lot of people from a lot of different businesses in a lot of different industries. I learn a lot from all of them.

What does your customer base look like?

We serve some major automotive manufacturers, not just in the Upstate, but across the country, as well as major aircraft manufacturers, engine manufacturers, and some major software companies around the world. We have more than 100 customers of all sizes, from teeny tiny to very big corporations. We have four employees, but our subcontractor network includes more than 400 people all over the world. Then we also partner with software engineers and desktop publishing professionals. … We don’t currently have an office. We are completely online. It’s really an advantage because we can work from anywhere out of the cloud.

Are there any languages Ivannovation is seeing emerge in the Upstate?

I can’t say we’re getting more requests for any certain language. Chinese and Japanese have both been popular historically. There’s also German, Spanish, and French.

What is the strangest language your company has ever translated?

We had a request for Wolof, which is a language in Senegal. It took us about a week or so, but we found a translator. The job did not go through, but that would have been interesting.

How does the future look for Ivannovation?

The future looks great. I’ve been asked in recent years, ‘How do the internet and technology affect your business?’ The simple truth is that things like Google Translate have no effect on our business. As soon as you step through the door of a factory or office, you can no longer speak the general language. We are working very seriously to provide technology that is customized to our clients’ needs. It’s kind of like this: You and I can talk about bees and how they make honey all day. But if I want to learn how to breed them, I need to go to a specialist. That’s really where I see our company going. We will be that specialist and will help you translate your technical, legal, or software terminology. … I see our future in quality control. … We are very professional in every step. Linguistic nuances in the professional arena are extremely important.

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