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What is a Project Manager?
Thread poster: Judy Rojas

Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 20:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jul 1, 2005

Hi folks:
Since I work mainly for translation agencies, I have to deal mostly with Project Managers. Here is a question that has been on my mind for some time.
What is really a PM?

In my organization, Project Managers are translators who, because of their knowledge and commitment, are promoted to PM status and are put in general control of projects. The problem is that I do not know if this is the case with translation agencies elsewhere.

When I correspond with some of my client's PMs, it seems like some of them have very little knowledge of the translation process.

In some cases, they do not know my language pair. Likewise, they have very little, if any, knowledge of CAT tools, average outputs, etc.

I'm not complaining, mind you. I have worked with some excellent PMs, who seem to know their business, but these generally are the owners of the agencies, themselves.

I would just like to know what are the general backgrounds of people who become PMs. Are they sales people, translators, linguists, etc?

I really would appreciate any answers from my more learned colleagues.

Cheers,

Ricardo


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vorloff
Bosnian to English
+ ...
It varies with the agency, and experience of the person Jul 2, 2005

Hi Ricardo,

I worked as a PM at an agency in San Francisco, and am now a freelance translator, so I can give you my take on it from my experience on both sides. This agency where I worked as a PM had high-profile clients, and pretty good standards of quality (everything was first translated, then edited, then proofread, then proofread again after layout, and there were other services provided besides translation of text), and sometimes there was back-translation for ad copy, then revisions with the original translators, or several translated version options, and even surveys by several native speakers to gauge effectiveness of the message. At every step, the goal was to have native speakers of the target language do the translation/review. Rates were somewhat of a consideration, but ultimately we would go with the most reliable translators (those that would produce the best and most consistent work), and always paid on time.

That being said, I don't think that everyone works that way. Just as there are translators who have different skill levels and produce different levels of quality in their work (and have different rates), there are also different quality standards (and prices, and client types) that agencies have. As a result, there are also PMs that follow different standards (or don't have many to follow), and have appropriate training (or not).

Now that I'm a freelancer, I see that many agencies don't follow these same steps, and are much more cost-conscious. It all depends on what level of clients they generally have, it seems to me. If they are billing many clients a sizeable sum every month, and have other services that they offer, they are much less willing to cut corners with translations and risk making a mistake and losing that client. If it is an agency that works with many small-time clients (which is the case in my language pair, unfortunately) they are much more likely to try to get the lowest rate on translation and hope for the best.

In the agency I worked with, the PMs were not translators, but project managers who had some background knowledge of languages. Most of the translations were done by freelancers, although we did have some in-house translators, but they were not PMs, and did not want to be, nor had the time, because they had another skill set that was different and valuable in another way.

In my experience, PMs have a knowledge of another language, and then the rest is dependent on their experience as a PM or translator (but, just because you can translate another language doesn't mean that you're an experienced or good PM, although it does give you a good base), and the standards set by the agency that the PM has to follow.

My advice is just to be patient, and get to know your PMs and gauge their experience and levels of standards, so that you will know how much information (or education) you need to give them for your language pair, or translation in general. This is also good practice for when you work with direct clients, who more than likely, don't know much about pricing, quality, or translation in general.

Basically, every situation is different, depending on the PM and agency. I'm not sure that this helps answer your questions, but hopefully it's some useful information.

Regards,

Vera




Ricardo Martinez de la Torre wrote:

Hi folks:
Since I work mainly for translation agencies, I have to deal mostly with Project Managers. Here is a question that has been on my mind for some time.
What is really a PM?

In my organization, Project Managers are translators who, because of their knowledge and commitment, are promoted to PM status and are put in general control of projects. The problem is that I do not know if this is the case with translation agencies elsewhere.

When I correspond with some of my client's PMs, it seems like some of them have very little knowledge of the translation process.

In some cases, they do not know my language pair. Likewise, they have very little, if any, knowledge of CAT tools, average outputs, etc.

I'm not complaining, mind you. I have worked with some excellent PMs, who seem to know their business, but these generally are the owners of the agencies, themselves.

I would just like to know what are the general backgrounds of people who become PMs. Are they sales people, translators, linguists, etc?

I really would appreciate any answers from my more learned colleagues.

Cheers,

Ricardo


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Peony
German to Romanian
PM are not translators... Jul 2, 2005

I know what PM do in other fields, I even worked in such a position.
Certainly they have to know the field they are working in, but they have to have some other skills.
A PM is a person who (as the name sais) manages a project, that means:
- organisation of the work (from the aquisition of the project, to its end), including meetings, travels, documentation a.s.o
- planning the resources: financial, equipment, time, staff
- planning and checking every step of the project

I think a PM has to have some economical (even financial and personal management) and organisatoric skills.
In an agency a PM must not be a translator and not translate, but manage the projects, which are in fact the translations to be done for the clients: receiving them, finding translators to do them, follow the submitting terms (both for the translator and the client); eventually submit the translation to be proofed, edited,evaluate the costs and the prices a.s.o, provide printer, paper, other equipment and materials.
This is the job of a PM, as far as I know.
Of course in small agencies and companies one has to do more things, so translators may also work as PM-s.Vice-versa it is not compulsory.

Have a pleasant week-end


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Sarah Steiner  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:35
Spanish to German
+ ...
a ver si te cuento... Jul 2, 2005

Hi Ricardo,

I know both sides of the industry (take the well known image of "modern times", and you will know what I mean with "industry"). I worked for a medium size company with multilingual projects. And I know other PMs working in different companies (some smaller, some bigger, some much bigger), and I have arrived at the conclusion that, the bigger a company is, the work related to the whole translation process - and well done, there are many many steps until you get to a final product - is distributed to different areas within the company. Normally, in big companies a PM has to (and is instructed to) do exclusively PM related jobs, technical issues have to be passed on to the engineering team, HHRR issues to another department etc., etc. In one word: pure management.

I used to handle translations of manuals into up to 18 languages at the same time, of several manuals at the same time. On the one hand, obviously, I am far away from speaking 18 languages) - so it was impossible to advise my freelancers on their part of the job (and I would have loved to, take that for sure). And on the other hand, for working as PM - apart from being really busy - you do not necessarily have to know very much of the process steps in detail. You need absolute control on the sequence of steps, but not profound knowledge on the exact procedure of each step. Of course you should know the CAT and DTP tools used, but you definitely do not have to be an expert. In fact, you simply do NOT have time to get an expert in these areas.

My conclusion: being PM has - I would say - NOTHING to do
with the translators´ work. That is, among other reasons, why I quit as PM.

Be patient with all PMs around there, you might never know if they are very near to colapsing)

Regards
Sarah


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:35
Member (2011)
Multiplelanguages
+ ...
reading refs for Translation/Localization PM Jul 2, 2005

A key reference document concerning Project Management for the translation/localization fields is:

"Guide to Project Management" published by MultiLingual Computing & Technology, Supplement guide to Number 63. April/May 2004.

Available online for free at:
https://216.18.156.115/multilingual/downloads/screenSupp63.pdf
(Screen optimized)
File size: 2-3 Mb

https://216.18.156.115/multilingual/downloads/printSupp63.pdf
(Print optimized)
File size: 25-30 Mb

In my experience as a Project Manager and Program Manager for the past decade in different fields, I consider that it is important to know the profession well (that is, how the employees and collaborators work), know the tools and processes well enough to discuss and resolve issues with these people, and have good, solid project management and reporting skills.

The problem is that this kind of training does not exist publicly for the Translation industry and is simply learned, often ad-hoc, by most (or all) in painful real-life contexts.

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/


[Edited at 2005-07-03 20:31]


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 23:35
people skills Jul 3, 2005

Basically PMs act as the contact point for the client and the translator. They've got to be very organised, have a good knowledge of at least one foreign language and be a very good multi-tasker.

They have to select translators, negotiate rates and delivery times, handle the translators' and client's queries, deliver a top-quality translation on time.

It is hard work being the liaison person between demanding clients and the freelancers, you spend a lot of time ringing up translators and doing e-mail "ping-pong". They have to be on the ball when it comes to following up invoice queries, sales quotes, word counts, project allocation etc.

Orla
(ex- assistant PM)


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Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 20:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, everyone! Jul 3, 2005

Thanks to all.

Your contributions have given me a very good idea of what a PM is in other parts of the world.
I really apreciate it.
Cheers,
Ricardo


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