Attending IUC 34 and career longevity


After a few years being away from the internationalization crowd, I’m attending the Internationalization and Unicode Conference again this year. How great to see old friends and to make new ones. Some things are new — some new people. However, many things are old or definitely older.

What’s old? Well, for one, the problems. It’s the same problems, over and over again. It seems like every new tool, application, operating system, whatever… they all struggle with internationalization as if it’s a new problem. And it isn’t. After almost two decades in this industry, I still am surprised that we talk about resource bundles, date and time formats, etc. I keep thinking this stuff is resolved and over. But every year, the IUC reminds me that it is not. Every new platform and tool and application will repeat the mistakes of the past and solve these problems yet again and again and again as if they are new. Why is that?

Some things were very new, mainly products and specific technologies. We have new characters in Unicode. Old languages (JavaScript) are getting more internationalization support in some future version. Windows 7. Twitter. And gray hair. That’s definitely new. Some of my very good colleagues in the industry have aged…and it reminds me about my own age and career in internationalization.

About 15 years ago, my friend Bill Hall and I mused that we might be out of a job one day in the internationalization (i18n) industry. Maybe we thought that we and others like us would solve all the internationalization issues and make everyone aware and create libraries that everyone would use everywhere. We really thought that we could work hard, solve all the problems, and finally make our jobs unnecessary or obsolete. Funny thing is that here we are 15 years later, and it’s clear to me now that we didn’t permanently solve any problem. We provided temporary solutions, but nothing permanent. It’s humbling to think that one’s life-work hasn’t made many reusable solutions, but this knowledge does have a silver lining too.

So, I suppose my rant just boils down to this. Welcome to all the new individuals in this industry! All you people at Twitter, those working on Android or Chrome, all you newer Adobe Flash and Flex folks, and all newer individuals representing a host of other companies …. welcome to the internationalization industry and welcome to IUC! You can be happy to know that despite all your hard work today, you will always have a job in this industry tomorrow. You are in a great, vibrant, long-lived career. Despite your best efforts, you probably will never work yourself out of a job! What you do is needed, necessary today and tomorrow, and most likely always will be!

Bitter-sweet? Definitely. Sigh….


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