Awakening the Translation Project Manager Within

Awakening the Translation Project Manager Within

You are in a theatre full of people. Lights are out. Something is about to happen. The Show. The Show is about to happen. With capital S. Beam of light points to the stage. You see a very tall, charismatic man standing there. Suddenly he speaks: "Gooood evening!" and you got chills. They're multiplying. It's the crispy, striking voice of Tony Robbins.

Can you feel him "yelling" at you? Good.

I'm not too big on his "teachings", but recently I watched that documentary of his (I am not your guru) where he says Foock one too many times. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing I have against swearing. It's kind of cool. Ah, fuck it, it's great. Sometimes.

It's just that when you use it too much, it becomes a little "meh".

That being said, I respect Tony's power, I really do. Who doesn't? He's not an ordinary men, and most of us are not even good enough to touch his shoes. He helped so many people in the past years, that there's no other way to think of him but with utmost respect. 

And he built all that up from nothing, which just makes it more credible.​

And he's a guy who most certainly knows how to yell.

For some reason, the yelling, be it fake or sincere and real... kind of reminded me of the constant "fight" between (some) translators and (some) project managers within a company, or you know, with external colleagues.

When everybody tries to teach their own way, like Tony does, and to "awaken" the PM or the Translator in the other person. Or in You. Like if there was no other way. As they would never understand the other party without that "awakening".

Maybe I'm just being overdramatic and the situation is not so bad.​ But I still see it as too much drama.

Because, what experience is teaching us, is that there's a really thin line between a translator, and a translator project manager. It is something that most translators and editors won't ever accept. But that doesn't make it less true.

Goes the other way around too: project managers don't want to accept that they should be listening to the translators just as much as the translators should be listening to them.

Some PM's think all translators are prima donnas. Some translators think all project managers are idiots. It's a beautiful world out there. The translation industry. And we act like there is only one truth.

What we are forgetting, is that on the other side of that 23" LCD screen a real person sits and tries to cope with us.

Someone just trying to get the job done, to go home in time to tuck their kids in bed. 

It's not that translators think they're too "good" to be PMs. At least the majority of them doesn't think so. But some really do, and what's more crazy, those are the ones thinking Project Managers are all a products of an Evil Translation Agency Plans of World Domination (or ETAPOWD).

Doesn't matter whether they are in-house or external people, there is always that gut feeling that the PM is there to screw you over.​

Are PM's Not Ordinary, Mortal People?

The epiphany comes when the situation changes. For some translators, it's when they start outsourcing some of the jobs. Call it as you like, but that's already pretty much the business circle of Project Management. Suddenly they can't accept they don't know how to even choose the best translator for the job.

Or they get promoted to Junior Project Managers. Ooor hey, check this crazy idea, they get promoted to evil, devil-spawn Project Managers of the ETAPOWD translation agency.

This is usually the time people realize there's more to the story, more to the job, than just chasing the freelancers for a project to be done on time. It's not all slave-drivin' like crazy 24/7.

Suddenly there's a completely new world full of responsibility, client requests and contacts and relationships. Suddenly there are client and vendor deadlines and semi-deadlines (whatever that means, right?) and on top of that price negotiations and quality assurance... the list goes on, and on, and on. All our newly appointed PM wants to do is to be over with it asap.

AT This Moment You Start Thinking About Systems

Systems that help organize the chaos so that your brain doesn't explode.

Systems that can overview the  process in a simple and understandable way. Manage errors and risks. And of course, since there is constant nick of time, systems that increase productivity on some level. ​

When you start thinking like that you realize You wish there was a system that would do all those things: 

  • ​organize your projects, finances,
  • help you find the resources, and
  • send mails, inform parties involved,
  • maybe even send the appropriate files,
  • easily show the appropriate special instructions,
  • and all the other basic important information like deadlines etc.

Good news is, systems like this exist.

Bad news is, most of them are complicated and overcomplicated and way overpriced. If you don't believe me, try doing a search and see what you come up with.

The ones that don't look like it's still 1998 cost like a yearly revenue​ of my small company, and those that look like it's 1998 are only 10% cheaper.

So it's no wonder that there are so many translation agency owners or project managers who are completely lost. They run a company with 2, 3, ... or even 7 or 9 people and can't find a good system to document their daily operations. Or at least, not in a way that is financially and visually acceptable.

Because maybe it can help with project tracking, but the invoicing is a nightmare. Or there is no good way to show past, present, and future money (read: cash-flow). Or, there is no good way to create customisable reports and send them to your vendors, translators, clients, mother in law, whoever... 

Heck, there's no way for the software to send the e-mail at all. Or if there is, they are sad and pathetic automated messages written by rusty and drunk C3P0. (Sorry, Star Wars fans who think C3PO is the lord and savior).

When People Automate But Do It Badly​

Sad part is, I know that even some of our clients don't do that. I mean, they don't care enough to personalize instructions. They send robot-like, raw, badly written, annoying e-mails calling out to bid for a new project. Hate that shit.

And I'm willing to bet You hate that crap too.

The mails that start with "Dear all" or even worse: "Dear vendor". Ufff...

But what if your Project Managers could send more personalized e-mails. More to the point, and not so impersonal. Maybe with an additional message that is added to only that person they are sending it to (think of it as semi-automatic mails).

Maybe if that was the case, even freelancers wouldn't think every PM is obnoxious (and also ETAPOWD).

You know the best teams are those that stay work closely together. Talk to each other. And after work they go to a bar and gossip about the new boss. Or the old one.

A lot of translation company owners preach about changing the translators on a certain project from time to time, but I don't think it's a good idea. Strike that. I think it's a terrible idea to switch your translators just to increase margins. Those are the bosses who get really bad gossips.

Good bosses create better teams with better communication.​

Establish a Good Team of Closely Working Colleagues​

What you want to do is to have a good, established team within your company. The doers, the magicians. Add to that maybe 1-2 external resources (of course, depends on the magnitude of your project) and have them also know the work inside out.

They are the one's who will remember a similar project from before 2 years. They are the one's who will re-use an older Translation Memory and speed up the process of Translation. They are the ones who can help you accept more jobs because time slots just got freed. 

This is what needs to be made easier for your colleagues.​

You should give your PMs a magic tool. Tool that organizes all the mentioned stuff in an easy-to-understand way. Give them the power to create better teams, to stay in touch, and later assess the whole process...

Then you could be the Patron Saint of both PMs and Translators and Editors at the same time, and, because you are freeing their time, they will be able to gossip a little during coffee break.

It's the only reason for some people to go into the office each morning anyway...

Don't take gossip away from your team.

Make Work Easier For Everybody on the Production Line​

There should be no distinction whether who receives more out of the system. The company managers, the finance department, the PMs or the translators and editors. They are all equally important. They are doing different things, but none of these people is unnecessary.

Contrary to popular belief, there's no such thing as "I could do this without you" unless you are having a hobby and not a translation business. ​

If you have a real business, you need real things. ​

And this is exactly, among other things, why we're implementing a possibility to personalize e-mails, a possibility to comment within the system and we're generally working on improving communication between all the parties involved in the translation process.

All while reducing - or completely removing (future will show us) - the necessity to send 50Mb emails 50 times a day. Makes you feel warm and cozy, right?

There's no other way to put it, it's gonna take some serious planning, but it is going to be exceptionally awesome.

Just as we are plannin' on making the miniTPMS exceptionally awesome for You. And warm and cozy for everybody involved with us.

Want to know more? Click right here.​

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