I have been working as a translator for over seven years now and as soon as I finished my Masters in Translation I was hired and then promoted to Language Team Leader in an online travel agency.
Translating into your language and coordinating translation projects for different languages is not the same thing, obviously. However, there are many questions you do not even think about until you sit on your desk and start your new role. How do you become that ideal Project Manager that is reliable but at the same time flexible? How do you navigate between corporate relationships and your translation team? What are the top five skills you need to work on to make sure you are fair to your team, your company and last but not least yourself?
This is what I learnt when I became a Linguistic Project Manager.
Do not agree or commit to deadlines that seem difficult to meet without previously doing a risk assessment. I understand the translation industry is a very competitive market but we have to think about being professionals that know how to manage people as well. Sometimes the best skill is knowing how to say ‘NO’. My best advice is to talk about deadlines and potential issues from the beginning of the project. Deadlines could be your best friends if you are honest with yourself and what your team can achieve, prepare a detailed project calendar and are ready for unexpected issues to arise. If you do not do this, well, you can be lucky and meet deadlines or experience very stressful situations.
The quality of your multilingual project depends on the amount of time you put into discussing translation concerns with your team. When briefing your team about a new translation project make a point to understand what is confusing or what needs more clarification for each language. Get this information as soon as possible and deliver it to your translators with enough time to ask further questions. The idea behind this is to open a communication channel where everyone feels valuable when contributing to clarifying information. It is, in fact, a bonding experience and makes everyone feel part of the team.
There is a fine line between being cautious and being a worrier. Find the balance in your project management skills, work on your plan B way in advance and add a buffer when you negotiate deadlines with the parties involved (translators, clients and third parties). Check periodically with them so you are aware of how the project is progressing at all times.
Translators are not responsible for what the client is saying in the documents but all of us have previously encountered difficult situations where being impartial is hard due to the source language’s message. As a project manager you should discuss this openly with your translators and offer them your assistance to reach a professional solution for the problem. Nevertheless, when this poses an ethical dilemma trust yourself and remove the translator or yourself from the project at the same time you disclose the problem to your client, always taking into account confidentiality. One of the best things about working with different people is to understand that different cultures have different perspectives about current issues. You are always learning, which takes me to the next point.
Continue your work in the translation field and make time to be a translator when possible. Only when you experience those issues you know how to be the best language team leader your team will have. Dedicate time for your professional development and when the budget allows it, treat your team to a course that is valuable for their work and their professional careers. Investing in education will always pay off.
Everybody makes mistakes and whoever says they don’t is lying. For that reason we need to make sure we are patient during learning processes and cooperate to get the best result for our translation project. As a team leader, be firm when the same mistake is done multiple times but also be helpful and investigate why is that happening and how can you help the person that is failing repeatedly. Measure your words and try to be fair. If you feel too stressed or too upset wait until you clear your head before being the one that makes the biggest mistake.
What about you? Share your thoughts on the topic in the comments below, and share with friends and colleagues.