Saturday, 31 January 2015

In praise of the translation project manager

Swan paddling furiously underneath like a project manager

Based on my past experiences as a client, I would like to see the translation community treat its project managers better. Many translation companies treat their project managers as little more than reactive mailboxes. Others train them well. There is a noticeable difference in client service as a result.

The best translation project managers are linguists. (I can think of only one notable exception that I  worked with). Many translation project managers have trained as translators. They have either found that project management suits their characters better or that it is a good first career step. Some turn freelance translator after gaining work experience or when they start a family.

A translation project manager has the ability to make or break a project. Good communication is key. Asking questions is critical. Accurate briefing is paramount. Pursuing translator or client queries is important. Assumptions can spell disaster - even in changing punctuation. Cultural knowledge is extremely important, even if the project manager does not speak every language on a multilingual project.

The best project managers plan projects well. They schedule, chase copy and make sure all the elements are in place - copy, style guides, glossaries, etc. They make sure that everyone in the production line knows what is expected of him/her and when. They watch both budget and timeline closely. They escalate issues as early as possible. They keep the client informed and happy.

Prevention better than cure
The best project managers anticipate problems and prevent them. Preventing problems is far easier than trying to bring a project back on track. In our increasingly digital and multiple device world, careful, upfront planning is even more critical.

A good project manager is like a swan: gliding seemingly effortlessly along the water, but paddling furiously underneath.

Project management is not an easy job. When something goes wrong, project managers are in the firing line from all sides. A calm head is indispensable. 

Who'd be a project manager? I was for many years and enjoyed the busy role immensely. As a translator today, I can bring that experience, skill and knowledge to managing my own freelance projects for direct clients. And if I work with an agency project manager, I can respect and appreciate how difficult their role often is and their expectations of a translator.

If you would like to work directly with a freelance translator and experienced project manager, contact
Karen Andrews runs
Anglicity Ltd. She is a
French to English
translator. In this blog, 
Karen draws
upon her experiences of
working with agencies
and freelancers as a client
and project manager.

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