Adolfo Hernandez reflects on his first 100 days as chief executive of SDL

Adolfo Hernandez
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"Entering a new role meant learning about a new industry, and understanding the business inside out."

When it comes to choosing an industry to work in, finding one that’s evolving, growing, and connects people can be hugely rewarding.

Having spent most of my career in software and services as the chief executive of a startup, and then a private equity firm – I was ready for a new challenge.

With the rise of emerging markets, we need to start taking note of the different languages that drive business and deepen customer relationships. I firmly believe that at the very heart of being human is a desire to be understood, not just heard, anywhere and in any language.

It is therefore very exciting to be playing a part in an industry, international translation, which is the intersection of communication for businesses and strives to remove barriers.

Building From Scratch

Entering a new role meant learning about a new industry, and understanding the business inside out. This means acknowledging the good and the bad, and building trust in my new team.

I believe that each team member should know not only what they are responsible for, but how this fits into the company’s wider strategy.

The insights I have gained from meeting employees and customers is playing a crucial role in formulating this year’s business plan – and has also been one of the most rewarding experiences so far.

In my first 100 days as chief executive, the top priority I’ve made is to meet with people. Whether it’s customers, partners, employees, analysts, or competitors, it is so important to get out there and understand your audiences. If you don’t connect with your stakeholders and what their needs are, success will be that much harder to achieve.

Towards the end of last year I tasked myself with being on the road, visiting different countries, offices, and team members every week to immerse myself into SDL’s business. From sitting down with translators to diving into the deep tech of our machine translation technology, to hearing first-hand how global brands use our content management software to manage hundreds of websites, I’ve endeavoured to understand what is core to our business so that we can help companies to go global faster.

Defining Moments

Having ticked off over 20 countries, and met with 70 per cent of our workforce, the last few months have been a whirlwind to say the least. In an ideal world, I would have met with everyone, but of course that is next to impossible.

What I did want to do was to give everyone the opportunity to tell me what they thought of the company so far, so I launched a survey for employees on my first day.

This was my chance to understand and hear feedback from our staff on what we are doing well, not so well, our strengths, weaknesses and how we can improve our services to embolden the industry.

Communicating on a global level is crucial for so many businesses, and we’re becoming increasingly international in the way we work.

As chief executive I’m striving to convey the importance and power of language, as it is integral to how we conduct business daily. Making sure it’s front of mind for any business, large or small, and that the translated version isn’t an afterthought is a challenge I’ve now taken on.

I’m very excited to see where my journey with SDL will take me!

Adolfo Hernandez is chief executive of SDL, the leading provider of language translation technology, services and content management solutions