The Translation Project Manager’s Balancing Act

How To Effectively Employ Both Soft and Hard Skills

Translation Project Managers (PMs) are the industry’s behind-the-scenes masterminds and the single-points of contact, taking every project from the starting point to the finish line.

 

TRANSLATION PROJECT MANAGEMENT

If you work within the language services industry, chances are you are no stranger to translation project management (TPM). Whether you work as, for, or with a project manager (PM), you are likely aware of the vast array of responsibilities that land squarely on the shoulders of these professionals.

Often considered to be the ties that bind, PMs play a critical role in the day-to-day operations within the language services industry. But what exactly is their role? If you ask some of your colleagues to define translation project management, you’ll likely get a different answer every time. And although all would surely agree that “effective leadership” is one of the core skills of all successful project managers, what exactly does that mean? Let’s take a closer look at what TPM is, and what skills are found in an effective project manager’s toolbelt.

Translation project management isn’t for the faint of heart

A project manager’s role goes well beyond exceptional leadership and organizational skills. PMs are catalysts who effect change when and where needed. With an uncanny ability to survey the land and see the whole picture, they measure risks both up and downstream. These skilled professionals manage client expectations and translator expertise while also balancing time and budget constraints – all this while keeping quality and service at the forefront.

‘Project management is the balancing act of using both interpersonal and acquired skills – and “balance” is the key word here.’ The language services industry requires individuals who can meet the demands of a fast-paced, multicultural, and global  environment. This requires much more than just staying abreast of the latest technologies or touting yourself as an expert who builds lasting, personal connections.Translation project management requires a strong foundation in communication and cultural awareness coupled with a commitment to ongoing industry-specific education. In other words, it’s the perfect blend of both soft and hard skills, of both art and science. Celeste Broder, a Certified Localization Project Manager with delsurtranslations refers to project management as “the balancing act of using both interpersonal and acquired skills – and ‘balance’ is the key word here.”

CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE & SENSITIVITY (CIS)

The term “soft skills” has been used time and again in the field of project management, almost to the point of exhaustion. And although soft skills are critical to success, this is much too general a term for language services. It just doesn’t strike at the very heart of what it means to be a PM in our industry – but “cultural intelligence and sensitivity” (CIS) does. So, we’re shaking things up a bit. We’re challenging old terms and injecting something new into the mix. 

Effective Communication Within Language Services

Across the vast ecosystem of all-things-project-management, PMs encourage, inspire, and motivate. They are regarded as team builders with expert skills in negotiating, decision making, and conflict resolution. ‘Being aware of sensitive topics within each society … informs our approach to our customers and vendors, and helps to ensure the success of each and every project.’ It is through their leadership that trust is built and strengthened. But in the world of language services, project managers must go a few steps further. After all, they are dealing with both a domestic and international audience. In fact, they often work with cross-cultural teams, spanning several countries – it doesn’t get more global than that.

Effective communication within language services requires an intimate understanding of multicultural clients and team members, from how they respond to authority to how they handle constructive criticism. PMs must devise innovative ways to bridge any communication gaps that exist in this unique environment. They must learn to turn unexpected issues into opportunities in order to improve processes and create the best possible solutions for both clients and team members alike. 

Certified Localization Project Manager, Belen Barbeito, describes cultural intelligence and sensitivity as “being aware of sensitive topics within each society (including religion, politics, habits, and a list of endless small – yet very important – details) informs our approach to our customers and vendors, and helps to ensure the success of each and every project.”

DIVERSE ACQUIRED INTELLIGENCE (DAI)

Although jobs in project management are widespread across many industries, each sector requires a unique set of hard skills to meet the demands of their clients and team members. This is certainly evident in language services due in large part to the global nature of the industry. “Diverse Acquired Intelligence” (DAI) then, paints a much clearer picture of the hard skills needed to become a successful PM.

To understand just how wide-ranging these acquired skills are, consider a bird’s eye view of just one translation project. From kickoff to completion, each project requires full contract compliance. PMs must acquire expertise in contract management and procurement, risk management, project performance monitoring, budgeting and scheduling, planning, execution, and delivery. In order to meet these demands, technology that caters to translation project management plays a central role.

New Technologies and Project Management Tools

New technological advancements drive innovation and oftentimes change the very way translation and localization projects are initiated, managed, and delivered. Technology facilitates the bidding process and provides intelligent project workflows. Real-time status updates coupled with powerful analytics help to make informed decisions, increase overall productivity, and streamline global projects, greatly facilitating a PM’s job. By continually advancing their technological knowledge, project managers help teams – and companies – remain both relevant to the industry and desirable to their growing clientele

Part and parcel with technology are the tools that every effective project manager keeps in their toolbelt. From TMS systems, CAT tools, and QA software, to task management and communication systems, these specialized programs are becoming as varied as the global industry we serve. Some provide performance metrics data and work breakdown structures, while others offer project reporting and tracking, the balancing of budgets, billing and invoicing, task delegation, scheduling, and more. The challenge then, isn’t in finding the necessary tools, but in choosing the appropriate ones.

HOW TO SUCCEED AS A TRANSLATION PROJECT MANAGER

‘Flexibility and an eagerness to learn about our clients and about industry advancements have helped us acquire new and diverse intelligence for the benefit of all.’

Certified Localization Project Manager, Cecilia Cañete, points out that “the acquisition of new, more effective communication channels and advanced process automation, along with new techniques and technologies help us remain relevant and desirable in the industry. Flexibility and an eagerness to learn about our clients and about industry advancements have helped us acquire new and diverse intelligence for the benefit of all.”

Let’s face it – translation project management is a complex and daunting field. It involves the highest level of coordination of — and control over — a multitude of tasks. Project Managers are not only responsible for the smooth operation of an entire team of linguists and other professionals (engineers, DTPers, content creators, etc), but they must also keep their clients happy. While effectively overseeing each stage of a translation and localization project, PMs must also maintain an environment conducive to teamwork and cooperation. It’s the quintessential balancing act.

Successful project managers certainly require proficiency in any number of hard skills, but they equally require diplomacy, tact, and effective, global communication skills. In other words, effective TPM boils down to cultural intelligence and sensitivity (CIS) coupled with diverse-acquired intelligence (DAI). Delsurtranslations PMs have mastered both. Not only have they succeeded in managing their teams in a global setting, but they have also helped to build trust and loyalty across the board.

If you are looking for strategic partners with decades of experience in translation project management, contact delsurtranslations.

 

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