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Ever wonder what's going on inside your Project Manager's mind?


What your Project Manager is (probably) thinking
by Kimberlee Thorne-Waintraub (Owner of Small World Language Services, moderator of Quality Translation on Facebook, and wearer of many other hats)

Before I create any false expectations on this article, I want to make my own disclaimer before you read this. There is no way that my thoughts may be completely representative of any other Project Manager (hereafter "PM" or “PMs” in the plural form). However, based on my own experience doing this as my professional activity for many years, I would dare say that my opinion is not too far off from a fairly good view of what many other PMs think from time to time...

So here we go, in our attempt to get inside a PM's brain! Wish me luck…

Unless your direct client list is beating a well-trodden path from their location to yours, often breaking your door down, begging you to do language services for them that should have been delivered yesterday, chances you could use some of this helpful advice.

However, if your door has been ripped apart and resembles your client's silhouette on it (like an episode from Cartoon Network), by all means, write ME back ASAP and give me your advice, which I will gladly take and run with it, not mentioning your name, for confidentiality sake!

Imagine this - if your path looks covered with snow (or leaves (plural of leaf) like mine), well then, let’s face it - your main income sources most likely come from at least one or two PMs (hopefully more) who represent a translation agency or another similar organization, or surprise, surprise, other translators like you…

And you are most likely considered one of their “resources”, meaning you are one of their “worker bees” or “soldiers”, as I prefer to call members of my wonderful linguist team, or as I am often found telling my people, “Carry on faithful soldier”, while encouraging someone to keep going at an odd hour of the morning, when most of the world in my parts of the Americas should be sleeping… After all, I'm the "queen bee” cracking that whip and the one who will be sending out their payment in the end, right?

Wrong! My collaborators are my partners, an extension of my own self and of the services I have to offer, and form a powerful fusion and force that when in action, is pretty unstoppable!

First of all, let me tell you who I am, and that means revealing myself at the personal level. I'm the owner of a small niche agency called Small World Language Services, whose services specialize in just 3 languages, English, Spanish and Portuguese. I’m originally from the United States, but I have lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina enough to say that my breakfast regularly consists of an Argentine drink called 'mate’ and ‘medialunas’ (croissants in English) and ‘dulce de leche’ (milk jam, coined by exporters from Argentina).

Another thing – I don’t have enough work to give everyone who reads this, simply due to the fact that my organization is still small, but we’re powerful because we work hard, believe in what we do and have great potential to grow more than what we have done in a year (200%)! We are currently among the top 5 on proz.com this year (2011), but it’s not because we’re the biggest agency out there. We’re just focusing on what we do best in the languages we can handle and aren’t interested in offering all the world’s languages and services that the others do.

Nevertheless, just because we won’t always get the chance to work together doesn’t make you any less valuable to me. On the contrary – my organization also does research on multicultural people, which guess what? If you’re a translator, project manager, traveler, expat, or similar, you fit the mold, and I want to get to know you too! Chances are your story could be on our “YouTube” channel someday if we’re able to establish a relationship of trust and make it happen.

I have learned some ways to keep clients coming back over the long-term, and believe me, I want and need my clients and if possible (which I know it is), I want and need more of them...

Nonetheless, I consider myself a dedicated linguist, project manager and excellent reviewer in English. I care about quality and I want anything entrusted to us to come out as impeccable as possible, and I try to do everything it takes to get the job done, and believe me, you don’t want to know what that has required so far…

This is what I’ve learned over the years about PMs, who, by the way, are perfectly normal people like any of us, but who have the role of being responsible for all the aspects of a project, which usually means it has been sold by a sales person, confirmed and accepted, handed over to a PM, who will then decide who gets put on each step of the project, what requirements are needed, within the budget constraints and deadline requested, oh, while pleasing the client along the way until the end, crossing their fingers and often praying that things will turn out well, meaning everyone will still have their hair and hasn’t killed anyone in the process...

Geez, that whole mini job description was exhausting in itself! And believe me, it is. A PM’s job is not easy at best. To the contrary, it’s a high stress job that few are capable of doing well and one that requires an attention to detail, good communication and you know what else? A good sense of humor! Yes, folks, can I tell you how important that has become? You have no idea how much...

This is something I learned from a very valued collaborator located on a sunny island located in the middle of the Caribbean. He knows who he is, but since he’s so good, I'm keeping his name top secret or he’ll get so many job offers that he’ll never be available for me ... But we have grown professionally together throughout the last few years, and he has been the perfect collaborator: trustworthy, good communicator, excellent team member, and does all this with an extremely eccentric sense of humor, even when he sends his invoices. He, along with his wonderful and loving partner in crime (his wife), who is also a great translator, make a great partnership and are people who I have learned to love and appreciate so much…

My wonderful collaborators have taught me how to be a more effective PM, better person and have blessed my life greatly in so many ways, gotten me some cool gifts from other places and some very delicious meals, by following these pieces of advice:

1) Create a relationship of trust from the beginning. This goes for both sides. Can you yourself do the job well or not? You need to tell me the truth of what's going on with the project, any questions you may have, and if anything goes less than perfect, let's work together to try and make it better. Don't lie to me and tell me that you can do a job when you're lying in a hammock in the middle of the Bahamas, or put one of your substandard colleagues on the project instead of you. That creates mistrust and makes me think you’re only in this for the money, which by the way cannot be hidden once we do the Quality Assurance step… On the other hand, if you do a great job, you'll not only get paid for the first job, but you'll get repeat work from me, and probably lots of it...

2) Respond quickly to job offerings. The saying, “The early bird gets the worm" is so true. If you need to, invest in a mobile device that allows you to communicate quickly. Then be communicative throughout the project until the end. Please, don’t leave me hanging in the middle of a project wondering whether you’ve either been checked into the hospital or your private jet has been hijacked to the middle of some unnamed island that’s not even on the world or local map. Which leads me to my next point…

3) Communicate! Though an email, a phone call, a public computer, text message, mobile device, through someone else or smoke signals if necessary. As long as you can breathe, you can communicate somehow to me and let me know what’s going on with the project I've entrusted to you. I as a PM cannot fathom how you can just disappear off the face of the earth, unless you really did get sucked into the inner bowels of the earth, due to some natural disaster, i.e., an unforeseen circumstance has truly happened, which does happen once in a blue moon anyway, and those circumstances do happen. I just hope it doesn't happen while you're committed to one of my projects!

4) Make me remember you, but for good things. I've worked with so many people over the years, but unless we do a few successful projects together, I probably won't remember you and you'll get lost in the database. It's not on purpose! I'm probably the one missing out on your great services.

5) Be a flexible team player. We aren't always given the best budgets or deadlines to work with, and sometimes the jobs come trickling in instead of steady volume on a regular basis. We need people who can understand our clients’ needs. On the other hand, when better budgets are given to us, we'll be glad to pass that onto you since you're a real team player and we can count on you, and choose to reward you with a higher rate whenever possible.

6) When things go wrong, as they will at times, admit when you were wrong and the work wasn’t up to standard. This shows a PM maturity and responsibility on your part and demonstrates that you care about the quality of the work you’re delivering, and it can oftentimes recover a lost client. Ask them for the reviewed file, so you can check it yourself. You don’t prove anything to a PM by arguing that you were right and the work was in good shape, when it wasn’t… Help me resolve what’s not going right. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

7) Be nice and don’t forget your manners. This is something I shouldn’t have to tell you, but as the world is getting more and more competitive and resources of all kind (food, money, oil, etc.) are getting scarcer, I cannot emphasize this enough. Be grateful for the work you get, and thank the people who give you work. After all, those people are our treasures and a means to make our dreams come true. They deserve to be treated well and yes, loved and pampered

8) Show gratitude for the work received. I know what you’re thinking. She just said that, so why is she saying that again? This means thanking the person who gives you work, offering your services from time to time by saying you’re available and offering new services that can be in demand, and saying thank you for the payment. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Yes folks, this gesture can go a long way, believe me.

9) Be ethical and don’t contact or steal my clients. As a linguist, you are often entrusted with confidential or sensitive information. Do not betray this trust. Sooner or later, this will come back to haunt you. The Golden Rule: Do unto others what you'd have them do until you. and the reverse, Don't do unto others what you don’t want them to do until you. Enough said…

10) Find humor while doing work. Just this last weekend, while working on a very large rush job, a colleague of mine and I came up with the term "Vatman", which means “Very Accurate Translator” and "Vatmobile", which means my translator’s laptop. These are ways that I encourage my people to keep doing a good job and that also make them want to keep working with me while making a normally stressful job a bit more enjoyable…

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and a bit amusing. I welcome your comments and hope to get to know all of you over time through this group.

For more info, see our website at www.smallworldlanguages.net

Proz.com profile - http://www.proz.com/profile/77598

Join our active linguist group on FB called "Quality Translation”
http://tinyurl.com/3onx2kl

or Like us at our Facebook company page at http://tinyurl.com/4v3upb4


Small World Language Services is a corporate member of the ATA (American Translators Association).









ProZ.com - http://www.proz.com/translation-articles
What your Project Manager is (probably) thinking
http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/articles/3331/1/What-your-Project-Manager-is-%28probably%29-thinking
Author: Kimberlee Thorne
United States
Spanish to English translator
http://proz.com/pro/77598 
By Kimberlee Thorne
Published on 08/16/2011
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