A hitchhike to success — meet Sälli, our Localisation Programme Manager

March 14, 2023

Meet Sälli Silm, Localisation Programme Manager

Bolt operates in over 500 cities in more than 45 countries across Europe and Africa. Since we’re an international company, we need to localise all written content to bring maximum value to each user. 

Localising content means translating it from one language to another and addressing cultural and non-textual components.

Sälli Silm joined Bolt as a Localisation Programme Manager to help ensure our content is localised in the best way possible. 

In this article, Sälli talks about her early life and career path. This is her story.

The strongest girl in the world

Since early childhood, Sälli was a massive fan of Pippi Longstocking — a fictional book character created by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. 

“When I was about two years old, a lady who lived next door would always call me a ‘princess’ — that’s what my name means in Hebrew. And then she would add that even though I’m a princess, I’m still more like Pippi because I can handle whatever comes my way,” Sälli recalls. 

“This comparison between Pippi and me has stuck with me my whole life. When it gets tough, or I get pressured by tight deadlines, I remember that I’m like Pippi — I can handle anything,” says Sälli.

Hitchhiking around the world

Sälli studied Education Sciences at the University of Tartu, hoping to become a teacher of Estonian language and literature. In her final year, she travelled to Helsinki to write her thesis.

After juggling the demands of two universities and graduating, she planned to pursue her teaching career, but then life happened. Sälli instead found herself hitchhiking around Europe and ended up in the Netherlands. 

“There, I grew vegetables, walked barefoot, and learned Dutch — I was a modern-day hippy,” Sälli laughs.

Getting started in the world of localisation

Though not actively looking for a full-time gig, one day, Sälli stumbled upon a company looking for an Estonian-speaking language specialist. She applied without hesitation. 

That’s when she entered the world of localisation. 

“My career path isn’t traditional. It’s a successful chain of events rather than well-planned steps. Somehow life was happening, and I got to where I am now,” says Sälli. 

“I’ve worked in several different companies, large and small. I started as a Language Specialist, translating commercial and creative copy from English into Estonian. I was gaining experience and knowledge step by step and did localisation and copywriting for several big brands on the side. Within a few years, I found myself in a management position,” says Sälli. 

Imposter syndrome 

After ending her journey at Booking.com, Sälli joined Bugaboo as Localisation Programme Manager — her first-ever manager position. 

“Before sending my CV, I thought that becoming a manager after being a Language Specialist was too big of a jump and way out of my league,” Sälli recalls. “I didn’t feel ready, but I still applied.” 

Sälli took the preparations for the interview seriously — she was reading the book “How to ace an interview” in bed with a head torch while breastfeeding her first child. 

“Eventually, I got the position, but started to experience imposter syndrome — it was a lot of responsibility all at once.” 

“Even though I had confidence in my skills and got positive feedback, I kept thinking that people would at some point find out that I’m a fraud or that I don’t know how to do my job properly.” 

That’s when Sälli’s favourite character helped her again: “I thought — what would Pippi do? Since she’s always courageous and can battle her fears, that helped me get my confidence back.”

Twelve years away from her homeland

Sälli was born and raised in Estonia. But after finding herself in the Netherlands, she’d never considered returning. 

“I’d been working, had my two kids and got my driving licence — all in the Netherlands. Honestly, I never considered moving back to Estonia,” says Sälli.

But never say never, right?

One day, Sälli spotted an opening for a Localisation Manager at Bolt. Ten minutes later, she applied. 

“I didn’t even have a moment to discuss it with my partner. When I did, he was very surprised — neither of us had considered moving to another country!”

Sälli asked her family not to get too worried: “Worrying about something that may happen takes the joy away.”

After completing a challenging home task and three weeks of successful interviews, Sälli received an offer to join Bolt and relocate to Estonia.

She accepted! 

The relocation process

It wasn’t just Sälli who needed to move back to Tallinn — her partner, their two children, and their dog and cat were coming along, too.  

Relocation is always challenging, especially after many years in a foreign country. And as a cherry on top, the Netherlands had strict Covid restrictions at the time . 

Luckily, Bolt’s Relocation team made this process as smooth as possible. 

“The company paid for plane tickets and helped with finding a temporary apartment in Tallinn,” says Sälli, “They covered part of the relocation costs and two months’ rent.” The Relocation team also helped with the least enjoyable part — the paperwork.

Shortly after receiving the offer, Sälli and her family safely arrived in Tallinn to start a new chapter in their lives.

Sälli and Mopsu at the office

Working at Bolt — the honest before and after

When Sälli joined Bolt, she didn’t get to work right away. 

“My manager gave me time to settle in during the first weeks. I audited existing processes, ran surveys, talked to loads of people, and dived into the data.” 

New joiners tend to find it easier to spot potential inefficiencies or areas of improvement. So, taking this time to observe is essential. 

“At the time, copy was being translated, but the process was very start-up style — where everyone voluntarily helped with localisations,” Sälli recalls. 

“I had to find native speakers inside the company. Yet, since localisation wasn’t their primary responsibility, some tasks could take time. We also didn’t have the chance to focus heavily on the quality of those localisations due to a lack of resources,” says Sälli.  

There were many eureka moments during the first months!

Some ideas took longer to implement, but it was worth it: “I’m proud to say that now we have a team of 15 language specialists who cover the primary languages, and we’ve also implemented well-structured processes,” says Sälli.

Sälli now spends most of her time optimising and testing copywriting in local languages to enhance user experience.

Growing the team

One of Sälli’s key responsibilities is to support and mentor the team.

“Our Language Specialists are world-class experts who are talented and driven. I’m so happy we have them!” says Sälli. 

Since each language specialist works from a different country, it was a blast when everyone got together during the 2022 Summer Summit.

Sälli needed extra help to cope with increasing content volumes. Gabrielė Vlasova was promoted to the Localisation Project Coordinator position, following five months as a language specialist.

“Gabi jumped headfirst into her new role and made things happen right away. She has helped to automate a large part of our process which saves us a lot of time,” says Sälli.

Sälli and Gabi

Career highlights

As Mark Twain once said: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” 

That’s what happened to Sälli.

“I found my true passion! Now looking back at my career path, I’m grateful for all those opportunities that I didn’t miss that eventually led me to where I am now. I can’t imagine myself working in any other area,” says Sälli. 

It’s incredible when you find that one thing you enjoy doing. The feeling is even sweeter when you can see that work getting recognised.

Sälli received the Bravo Zulu award for a project she completed at FedEx — exactly a month before leaving the company. “It was a proud moment,” shares Sälli.

Her work has continued to be recognised since joining Bolt. One project was among the 2022 Localisation Hall of Fame: Top Localised Assets of the Year; and she was also named the 2023 Top Localisation professional by Lokalise. 

With such drive and passion, we can expect to see Sälli’s name on more awards in the near future. 

Sälli speaking at a conference

Living in a world filled with music  

“I’m a single, full-time working mum of two”, Sälli shares. “The kids take up most of my free time — we like weekend getaways at spa centres or other bonding activities.”

Luckily, Sälli has strong support from her parents, which allows her to make time for her hobby — singing. 

She’s been singing in choirs since she was six. Initially, with the Estonian TV Girls’ Choir, and when Sälli moved to the Netherlands, she joined the Estonian choir in the Netherlands. 

“Now I sing in Vikerlased, the LGBT+ choir in Tallinn — the only one in the Baltics,” says Sälli. “I’m happy I found this choir — everyone is accepted for who they are, and I enjoy this supportive environment,” she says.

Music and languages play a significant role in Sälli’s life. “I like to combine languages and music — I listen to the music of different genres in languages I don’t speak. My top songs on Spotify can be in Hindi or any other language,” Sälli laughs. 

You don’t have to be ‘traditional’ to be successful

Sälli’s career path may not fit the ‘traditional’ mould, but maybe that’s something we can all learn from. You don’t have to ‘fit’ to be happy and successful. 

“Not everything has to be 100% planned,” says Sälli. “Sometimes, it’s enough to be in the right place at the right time for unexpected things to start happening. Life has gifted me wonderful surprises, and I’m grateful for all of them!”

“Just stay true to yourself — you never know who you’ll inspire with your story.”

Interested in joining Bolt? 

Working at Bolt allows you to develop professionally and create a real impact on a global scale. 

We’re on a mission to make cities for people, not for cars. 

If this speaks to you and you want to make it your reality, head to our careers page and find a role that suits you. 

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