The role of the translation project manager is mainly overseen when thinking about the translation industry, probably because it is not fully understood. In fact, when first approaching translation studies, I didn’t even know that this position existed. For this reason, I thought of writing about what I actually do at work, giving an insight into this role. A blog post like this would have helped me a lot when I was starting out as PM, so I thought that it may help any other translation students to understand if that’s something that they may see themselves doing at the end of their studies.
During a normal day at work, I start checking my emails to see if there are any requests or if any freelance translators have delivered pending translations that were due over the weekend or on Monday morning. After that I usually prepare quote requests – in most of the cases this involves setting up a project in a CAT tool (mostly Trados) and checking if there are any Translation Memories available to attach to the project in order to obtain a word count to quote on, however this step is not always needed as subtitles or transcreation may be requested. For regular clients, for which the quote is likely to ahead, it is also useful to start contacting the regular or suitable translators for the project. This will save time for the turnaround of the project, when the quote goes ahead.
Writing emails takes a big part of the day, given that they are used to communicate both with clients, translators and revisers. They are in fact essential to be able to make a project workflow fast and effective. They are the main, if not only, mean of communication in translation projects and they allow PMs to be able to multitask in the most efficient way. How to word difficult emails is a sort of skill that most of the people develop with practice; they have the power to change an entire relationship with a specific client. As a PM, I need to make sure that I am polite enough (being Italian, I need to make sure I add a decent number of please :/) and that I phrase sentences in a neat and clear way, trying to get to the point.
During the day, it may also be the case that I need to check translations, depending on the ISO standard that the translation project needs to comply with, this may involve using Quality Assurance tools. Chances are that some files will need to be finalised and possibly be put back together to be able to deliver them to the client in the original format or maybe in the format that the client requested. Therefore, it is interesting to experiment with file formats such as XMLs, HTMLs, CVSs, InDesign files (blog post to come regarding this important file format that is a big number of translation project that I manage :)), etc.
Finally, team work among PMs and also between PMs and translators is key. It is very important to understand how to work as a team, as this will allow the best possible result, however when working in a foreign country, knowing how to approach people and what is okay and what’s not can make your life easier. In England, for example, saying “No, this is wrong” can be perceived as rude, however in Italy it could be perfectly acceptable, given that you are just expressing your opinion and that this may be in contrast with something else. Nonetheless, I believe that in different situations that same “No” could have saved time and money. Having said that, being flexible, communicative and understanding is key – in many situations customer care skills will prove to be extremely important not only when facing a client, but also when debating with a colleague.
I hope this will be useful for anyone interested in translation project management! :)
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