ND Focus – Let’s Talk about Project Managers!


At the beginning of December, the beautiful city of Barcelona was home to ND Focus – Elia's focus on Project Management – another installment in the ND Focus series created by the European Language Industry Association (ELIA). As the name aptly indicates, the focus was, for the first time ever, on language industry project and production managers. The aim of the conference was to develop and enhance the vital skills that people who coordinate translation projects for a living need in their everyday work. More than 120 project managers came together from 32 different countries, some arriving from as far as the Republic of South Africa, Canada and Saudi Arabia. Grata was also present at the conference as the event presented a good opportunity to draw some attention to the indispensable role of project managers in language service companies. 

The two-day conference was preceded by a pre-conference technology day, where the attendees got a chance to get better acquainted with various project management platforms and translation tools, such as GliderPath, MateCat, memoQ, Plunet, Protemos and SDL Trados Studio. Advanced training sessions allowed everyone to get a more in-depth overview of the tool of their choice, receive tips from specialists and hold constructive dialogues with software developers. 

The first day of the conference was centered around presentations on the topics of time management, project managers and sales work, negotiation tactics, intercultural communication and paradigm shifts. On the second day, the same topics were discussed in more detail in smaller groups formed based on company profiles. This promoted active participation and allowed to go more into depth with some project management related problems. 

The most resounding thought from the sessions was that as the central support system for both the translation team as well as the client, a good project manager really has to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of them all – an ideal project manager should be as good of a communicator as a salesman, as smart of a technician as the IT guy, as competent of a linguist as the translator, etc., because their job requires them to think along with everyone at every stage of the project, understand everyone’s concerns and complaints, and always think on their feet. Giovanna Draghi introduced a nice analogue, comparing the role of the project manager to that of a conductor. Project manager is given a piece of music, which is the text to be translated, and an audience, which is the client and the target group. Then it is up to the project manager to assemble the orchestra. First they have to determine the instruments to play with, which are the CAT tools, translation memories, termbases, styles guides, etc. Then they have to select the right musicians to play with, which are the translators, reviewers, DTP people, etc.  The quality of the final result depends very much on these choices and on how well the project manager coordinates the whole process. 

The responsibilities of a project manager can be quite overwhelming at times indeed, but a motivated client, a trustworthy translation team as well as optimized systems and workflows help to ease the workload greatly. Therefore, a big thank you to ELIA for their effort to gather the representatives of the profession together to brainstorm for optimized solutions and strive towards a world where the emails wouldn’t dictate the project manager, but the project manager would dictate their emails and projects. 

You can find out more about the event here.

Kadri Pultsin,
Project Manager

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