What does a project manager do in a translation agency? (interview)Lexika 20.02.2019 About Lexika Reading time: 4 min.
Project managers are the cornerstone of a translation company. So what is a PM and what do they do?
You’ll learn about that in this interview with our PM Denisa Kytová.
Deni, a project manager’s job is really interesting and dynamic, so we were really looking forward to this interview with you. Now we can get first-hand information about your job. 😉
Many people think that a project manager is actually an in-house translator in a translation agency. Is that true? Does your job include translating?
No, that’s a misconception. Although everyone here in Lexika has a degree in translation studies or another linguistic specialism, it’s not our job to translate. At least not during our working hours. If we did translate at work, we would have to work for at least 16 hours a day. 🙂
So what are your duties?
Simply put, my task, or the task of a project manager, is to coordinate projects, whether translation, interpreting or other translation-related services (e. g. graphics, subtitling etc.)
Tell us about your typical working day.
My work begins when a client contacts us and requests a specialised or certified translation. Firstly, I accept and analyse the request. Before I can draw up a quotation, I need to establish the word count, the text subject area, the language combination, the deadline (when the client needs the translation) and also what the translation will be used for. When I have agreed terms with the client, I prepare the text for translation. That means I format it, or rather prepare a translation project in a translation software. Then I can assign the text to a translator.
How do you choose a translator? Do you pick the first who is available?
Definitely not. It’s important to select the translator carefully so the translation is really high-quality. In Lexika, we work only with the best translators, whose expertise we verify thoroughly. That is the job of my colleagues, the vendor managers. I use all the information from the initial analysis, not only to prepare the quotation, but also to choose the right translator, who has to be a specialist in the field and, of course, the language combination.
When assigning the translation, I have to set the deadline for the translator, or reviewer, so that I can deliver the final translation to the client in time.
This already sounds interesting. But that’s not all there is to your job, is it?
You’re right. At this point, we still haven’t delivered the translation to our client. 🙂 After receiving the translation from the translator or reviewer, we do an internal check. Now that is our job – the project managers’. My task is to check the formal aspect of the translation, like spelling and grammar, and whether the whole text is translated. Only after this final check can I send the translation to our client.
So is that everything a project manager does?
We’re not done just yet. 🙂 In this dynamic job we have to progress all the time, that’s why we don’t just coordinate projects, but also take part in other activities. We follow new trends, we test various systems and software packages, so we are working with what is most recent and most effective. We also create guides, e.g., for our translators, so we can work together smoothly. From time to time we also write articles for our blog. That way we can advise our clients and translators, or share news from the world of translation.
Communication plays a significant role in a PM’s job. How do you communicate with clients and translators?
I communicate with our clients either via e-mail or phone, or in person. Our approach to our clients is professional, but we always try to communicate with them in a friendly manner, that is, we don’t just use the phrases we learn by rote. What I like about this job is that I use foreign languages, since we have clients and translators from abroad too. Most of the time I use English and very often also German. My colleague Olena even speaks fluent Ukrainian and Russian, so really nothing is impossible for us. 🙂
Communication with translators is often less formal. We have been working with some translators ever since Lexika was founded, so we have a friendly relationship with them. We are on first-name terms with many of them. Some are happy to drop by in person when they have time. I like that a lot, because it really brightens our day as well as strengthens our relationship with them.
What do you think is the most demanding thing about a PM’s job?
As a project manager I have to expect the unexpected. Not all projects go the way I planned them. When this happens, I have to react swiftly to the situation and sort it out so that it does not affect the client, or affects them minimally. But the more you experience such situations, the easier it gets to deal with them. If I can’t manage the problem, I can always rely on other project managers. We’ll discuss the situation and come up with a suitable solution together. On the other hand, every exacting situation is a challenge, and for us at Lexika it’s a pleasure to accept them.
What do you like the most about a PM’s job?
What I like the most about the project manager job is the variety in every field, be it the clients, vendors or the projects themselves. I like that every project I work on is unique – some of them demand more work and some less. It seems paradoxical, but personally, I like the more demanding projects, those that take more time and are more complex. I always take them as a challenge and an opportunity to learn something new, and I enjoy that.
I’d also like to mention our team buildings and other off-the-job activities. Although these are not a part of our duties in the strict sense or the word, they are a part of Lexika. Our team buildings are always creative and their main purpose is to bring out the team spirit that Lexika has in spades. The thing about our team building exercises is that we don’t know where we’re going or what’s about to happen until the last moment. We have to be prepared for everything. Just like a great project manager! 🙂
Can you recall an interesting project or situation?
There are many interesting situations, but the best are the ones resulting from communication with our clients or translators. Of all the interesting projects, there is one that’s stuck in my mind. It was a large certified translation (approx. 200 standard pages), that had to be done in an extremely short time. This project really gave me a hard time. But in the end it was a great feeling after we delivered it. Of the specialised translations, the most interesting are certainly software localisations.