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What's it like being a translation project manager?

What's it like being a translation project manager?

Language students and some of our clients sometimes wonder what it’s like to be a project manager in a translation company – so here’s a brief overview of a typical day at MTT HQ.

Arrive at the office bright and early and get the kettle on!

Look through the emails, classifying them into jobs to be quoted, jobs needing placing with translators, queries, translations needing checking, applications from new translators and “other stuff”.

Check the jobs board to see what projects are due in today and make sure they are either in or on target.

Confirm receipt of emails for clients who have requested a quote, letting them know their files have been safely received and that we will look at them quickly.

Check our social media (Twitter @MTTUK, LinkedIn, Facebook) to pick up any jobs requested there.  Updates will be posted throughout the day as time allows.

Allocate quotes between project managers. These tasks take up the majority of our time and for a typical quote we’d need to do the following;

  • look at each of the files sent, check it opens OK and displays correctly,
  • analyse the number of words in each file, checking to see if there are any graphics or other text which is not editable and asses the need for typesetting or other special formatting,
  • check if we have handled  anything similar from the client before that we can use as reference material / check the file against an existing CAT tool memory,
  • talk to specific language suppliers if the language or subject matter is unusual to confirm delivery deadlines and competencies,
  • check with the client for any special instructions and deadline required,
  • prepare the quote based on number of words and any special formatting,
  • send the quote and any additional information which would help the client understand the best way to proceed with this project.

We sometimes have to help clients identify the language of a particular document, or offer help with the best language to choose for a particular country. We also offer advice on translation certification for legal purposes. 

Jobs returned to us are checked in-house or allocated to external proofreaders depending on language and what the client requires.  We check the files display correctly, ensure any localisation eg of measurements or currencies has been done and that the translation is complete before returning the files to the client and checking they are safely received.

A project manager will also handle any queries – sending answers or amendments to other translators involved in the same project so each language version is up to date. Some of our engineering translators are well known for spotting technical errors in the original text and we often find typos or other errors that have been missed in the original. Having a document translated is a great way to ensure your text is accurate, clearly written and unambiguous.

When jobs are returned to clients, a selected few are called to collect feedback, particularly if they are a new client so we can make sure our service is tailored exactly to their needs. This feedback is used for our Monthly Team Meetings where we look at how we can improve our processes.

Part of our day involves looking at CVs sent in by prospective translators – a potentially mammoth task looking at the sheer volume of emails we receive, but thankfully once we have removed all the scams and poor quality applications, there are just a few to process through our application system. Part of the project manager’s job involves finding out more about each applicant, checking their credentials and getting references – it’s often fascinating looking at what people have done in their life on their journey to become a translator.

Some of our project managers do translations in-house too, so part of their day will be spent reviewing and revising translations done the previous day and starting new projects. Like our external linguists, our in-house translators only work into their mother tongue and in their specialist fields. They will often share an interesting new word they have discovered with the rest of the team!

Other jobs we fit in might include chasing jobs we have quoted for to see if they are ready to proceed, preparing for workshops that we run in local schools to encourage students to progress with their languages or getting ready for the next Export Meeting where we offer advice to local companies on how to deal with language issues for a wide range of target markets.

Our day finishes when all our projects are back with their clients and everything is running smoothly for the following day.

Best bits – speaking to customers and linguists from across the world on a daily basis, seeing a wide range of documents on fascinating topics and helping people communicate.

Worst bits – non-editable pdf files!

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