If you are a translator or translation agency customer you might have had contact with a Project Manager. Have you ever though what a Project Manager is responsible for? Do you think it’s just sending files and responding to emails? Or do you think the Translation Project Manager will translate your document? If you think so, you are totally wrong?

The Project Manager’s responsibilities might vary in different translation agencies, but the main tasks are in common. The Project Manager’s primary responsibility is daily contact with the clients and translators. The main aim of this position is to manage the translation project effectively. Since most of the translators are freelancers located somewhere around the world, the PM’s task is to connect all parts of translation project effectively to meet the client’s needs.

Starting with a quotation for the client, cost and income control, project acceptance, setting the delivery date and on time delivery. Moreover, the Project Manager is to ensure every translator, proofreader, etc. has appropriate instructions and a deadline provided. Their responsibility is to archive the most important communication with the client, financial aspects for future invoicing as well as the files for translation.         

In most agencies the PM is also in charge of updating translation memories for each client or project and very often must be a great negotiator. Starting with negotiating the delivery conditions with the client, and ending with negotiations with all the language providers. Tight time and cost control are the main factors that need to be negotiated.

What kind of skills should a good PM have? We must be great at both customer service, but also have a great focus on details. Every PM must be very good at multitasking – imagine talking with the client on the phone, taking notes, thinking about upcoming projects to be delivered and assigning projects to translators in the system at the same time? A great PM must be well organised and be a ball of fire to manage different activities simultaneously.

The Translation Project Manager should be stress resistant, as the deadlines in the translation industry are usually tight and we should not forget this position is the first contact for most people to express their discontent – angry clients, frustrated translators, etc.

A person in charge of projects must be creative and definitely be a quick solution finder. The PM never gives up and always finds the best solution for any problem.

It would be great if the PM has some IT skills, starting with working in project management applications, computer assisted translation tools, as well as working at solving translator’s IT issues (like: “I can’t log into XTM”, “Why do I get this error?”, “How to deliver the job”, etc.).

In the majority of translation companies the Project Manager is not at all responsible for translating the texts for clients, as mentioned before – language freelancers provide those services and are professionally trained to do this. The role’s responsibility is to run a spot check on the ready translation before delivery to the client. It would be awesome if the PM is MS Word-, Excel- and Power Point-skilled to amend any formatting issues for the client. Nevertheless, big translation companies have special dedicated positions to take care of it for the Project Manager.

The last, but not least clue to the PM’s responsibility is to build and maintain good relations with customers and translators for the company’s benefit. This is the person who explains to the client, for example, why the translator can’t translate 99 pages in 5 hours or why there is no translator available for the language pair Georgian into Hungarian?

Talking about Translation PM-desired education I would say it can be a Language or Project Management Faculty graduate, but not necessarily. I personally know great Project Managers with higher education in molecular biology or in journalism for example. Education is not a key for success in this role as far as my experience is concerned. Of course, English is a real must to be able to communicate with clients and translators all over the word. Knowing any additional foreign language is definitely a plus as it helps to check many things for the client much quicker.

This position is by no means a piece of cake as you can see and requires many very different hard and soft skills. It’s often very demanding and stressful, but very challenging too. The projects are usually very varied so there is no time to get bored ? (M.K.)

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