Ask the Expert: A Day in The Life of A Localization Project Manager
The opening of Project Management positions has been growing steadily in the past few years and this trend will not likely go down. There is virtually no project, task or client, regardless of their size, that can live without the benefits only a PM can bring to the table.
According to PMI, the Project Management Institute, over the next 5 years the demand for project managers will grow faster than the demand for workers in other areas. It is estimated that by 2027, companies will need nearly 88 million individuals in project management-oriented roles.
Localization projects require constant excellence from the PM. From the client to the translator and back, Project Managers are the link that connects everything.
OXO relies on a very reliable Project Management workforce. Na Li is a distinguished member of this team. A Chinese native who has been living in Montreal since 2011, Na received her Master’s Degree in Linguistics in 2017 and joined OXO in 2020.
1. What are the main aspects of your work as a Project Manager?
As a project manager, my primary responsibilities include:
- Managing relationships and communications with different accounts rigorously and productively, with a view to maximum efficiency, harmony and long-term trust
- Communicating effectively with various resources assigned to the projects to ensure that their work meets the client’s requirements
- Establishing deadlines for projects sent by clients to meet their specific needs
- Ensuring the allocation of project team members follows the established criteria while taking into account client priorities.
- Managing budgets and expenses related to translation projects to ensure profitability for the business
- Preparing reports detailing project timelines and costs for internal use by management and for external use by clients
2. How do you think the work of a Localization PM differs from Project Managers in other industries?
Nature of the work and responsibilities:
- Localization PMs manage the translation and adaptation of products, services or content into different languages. They work with various stakeholders to ensure that everything is appropriately translated and ready for distribution in their target markets.
- The job requires a localization PM to speak two or more languages.
- Localization PMs work in a fast-paced environment with tight deadlines. They often work on multiple projects simultaneously and need to be able to juggle numerous tasks, so they need to work well under pressure and handle stress.
- The clients come from all different parts of the world.
- Localization PMs are familiar with the customs and traditions of different areas and have the experience and knowledge needed to ensure that products are appropriately localized. In addition, they can also provide valuable insight into the preferences of different cultures, which can be helpful for marketing purposes.
Use of Technology:
- Technology plays an increasingly important role in localization projects, and Localization PMs need to know how to use these tools to their advantage to accelerate the work process.
3. What was the most challenging project you had to manage?
As a project manager, I face many challenges and must deal with various problems. One of the most challenging projects was a request from a client for whom we translated a marketing video into 18 languages and prepared the corresponding voice-over and subtitles within a tight deadline. Due to the time zone difference, I needed to adjust my working hours to communicate with the resources from different parts of the world so we could deliver everything to the client on time. Fortunately, the client was delighted and we won more and better contracts.
4. What makes you happy when managing a project?
The position of a translation project manager is a gratifying job. It’s fantastic to see the projects come to life. The satisfaction we get from fostering creativity in your team will make all the hard work worth it.
Besides, the project manager enjoys interacting with new people from all over the world most of the time, as it is a job requirement to coordinate an extensive multinational and multicultural network. You will also inevitably pick up some additional skills — as you will notice that your social skills, time management skills and intercultural understanding improve as a result of the job.
5. Translation, engineering, desktop publishing, quoting, invoicing and client relationship: If you could pick one, which one would you say is the most important aspect of your work?
All of those mentioned above are very critical for project management. If I had to pick one, I would put the client relationship first because all other aspects are based on this factor.
6. How do you deal with unrealistic expectations from the client, such as impossible deadlines or strict budget limitations?
The whole point of the project is to deliver what was agreed. You need to take responsibility for what you accept. For me, it’s essential not to get my team into trouble. If the client proposes an impossible deadline, I will try to negotiate with them to see if there’s any flexibility. Sometimes, there are many factors affecting a project’s timeline. By communicating with the client, we can find the most pressing issues based on which the deadline has been established, and then we can analyze it further to see if it’s possible to find a solution. For example, break the project down into manageable chunks, split the document and engage several resources to make staggered deliveries. Before doing so, it’s important to get input from team members and stakeholders on how long it will take to complete a specific task or how long it will take to review and approve a particular deliverable.
When there are budget constraints, you need to limit the use of some resources and implement a strict cost management structure to prevent delays and, consequently, higher costs. In such a case, we need to check if we can buy better or if the client accepts a different work approach, such as MTPE (machine translation post-editing), with reduced rates.
7. How different are Canadian clients from your clients worldwide? Is there any particular culture or geography that is easier to handle? And does that apply to translators as well?
Due to the different time zones, language barriers and cultural differences, it’s more complex to manage clients and translators outside Canada, especially when the project’s timeline is very tight. It’s essential to understand that some cultures don’t work on certain days while others spend parts of their day practicing their religious beliefs or spending time at home. In some instances, using resources based in other countries may increase your costs.
To work effectively with clients and translators in different time zones, you need to put in effort to build strong relationships across time zones, among which:
- Know which clients have daylight savings and which don’t
- Be mindful when scheduling meetings
- Be cognizant of client’s and translators’ national or local holidays
- Understand cultural differences
“I’m a music lover. I believe that music has a soul and it speaks more than words. Except for being a source of inspiration, music allows you to express yourself. Like different genres of music, I always find different ways to express myself or to communicate with others.”