Expanding Our Scope: Rackspace’s Global Language Initiatives

During my first interview at Rackspace the lingering question was, “Are you going to miss speaking Spanish?” At the time I was transitioning from my role as Executive Assistant at El Pais: Washington DC Bureau, where I had spent the better part of two years speaking only Spanish, and three years prior living in Spain. It was a valid question, and initially there seemed to be limited opportunities for me to incorporate Spanish into my work life here at Rackspace. Lucky for aspiring Rackers, that’s starting to change.

Recently Network World highlighted the rapid globalization of our industry in “The cloud goes global: Amazon, Google, Rackspace, Microsoft, Savvis all expand international footprints”

“To date, the U.S. is an early adopter of public cloud computing, and is generating significant revenue for U.S.-focused vendors,” says Jillian Mirandi, an analyst at Technology Business Research. “Now that public cloud computing is maturing, customers are seeking cloud on a more global level and vendors are looking to monetize this demand.” (Network World).

So why are customers driving global growth? First and foremost, globalizing computing technology means customers can host from strategic locations, creating diverse international footprints spanning multiple data centers. This provides customers the opportunity to locate their facilities as close to the end user as possible, which reduces latency, among other benefits. As the demand for international service continues to expand, Rackspace recently showcased our dedication to the global community with events like the March launch in Mexico City and the debut of Spanish and Portuguese versions of www.rackspace.com. These efforts highlight the importance of these markets, and also indicate a promising future for multilingual Rackers.

Therefore, Rackers and aspiring Rackers would be wise to invest in their language skills now. As the industry continues to grow globally, the ability to speak a foreign language will become a key differentiator for providing Fanatical Support to our customers around the world. Fanatical Rackers know that good business is founded on good relationships, and good relationships require good communication. Yet the U.S. Census Bureau reports that just 20 percent of the population is fluent in more than one language (2009 Census Bureau). In an industry where it is difficult to find qualified candidates, adding a language requirement to recruiting efforts would greatly reduce the available talent pool. “The universe that companies have to draw from is very limited,” Judy Verses, Rosetta Stone’s President of Global Institutions, has said. “When you combine that with the technical or hard skills that employees need to be productive and effective in that role, it’s a really tough combination.”

Though Rackspace does not currently offer official language training, Rackers can take advantage of the Rackspace culture to invest in their language skills. Once a month Racker Tony Kuoha offers a Spanish Workshop at Rackspace’s Castle headquarters where Rackers can practice their basics, and in between sessions participants challenge each other to practice on duolingo.com. For Austin Rackers, an ATX pilot workshop is expected to launch later this summer. And for those who are already proficient in a foreign language, the Social Media Support Team has launched the Language Network, where multilingual Rackers can assist with social media requests from around the globe. This is a great way for Rackers to learn what different regions think about our brand and keep their language skills fresh.

For aspiring Rackers, I encourage you to explore opportunities in your own community.  Language focused meet-ups can easily be coordinated, and there are several free services such as duolingo.com and busuu.com for those interested in improving grammar and vocabulary.  These are small but important steps towards the future, where language skills will be fundamental to our ability to support customers. But remember, globalization isn’t just about speaking the local tongue; it’s also about understanding local culture. We’ll talk about that more in a future blog post.

Thank you! Danke! Grazie! Merci! Dank! Gracias! Obrigado! Natick!

Elizabeth's passion for connecting with people knows no boundaries. In college, she seized the opportunity to intern in Sevilla, Spain with only an elementary level of Spanish. However, the initial language barrier did not stop her from developing lifelong friendships with the people she met and led to an inevitable love affair with Spanish language and culture. In November of 2011 she joined the Rack as an Enterprise Account Manager, and immediately saw the parallel between her experience abroad and immersion into Rackspace culture. Her favorite part of her job is getting to help employees build strong personal brands online and share their expertise via social media. You can find Liz (as she is referred to by friends) in Austin where she does her best to Keep Austin Weird and teaches yoga in her spare time. Connect with her on LinkedIn or @CreatingLiz on Twitter.


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