Package Insert 38
Interesting facts and figures for customers and partners of mt-g.
September 2016
mt-g's fields of expertise
Project managers – More than just a voice on the phone
Project managers are usually the first person whom outsiders encounter when they contact mt-g. They attend to matters skilfully, plan and calculate projects, select suitable translators, work with CAT tools and are usually fluent not only in English, but also in another foreign language. “The demands made of our project managers are very high”, says Bernd Mayer, Member of Management and Head of Customer and Project Management at mt-g. “Working in this profession requires not only the necessary multilingual skills and intercultural expertise but also, and mainly, the ability to work swiftly and reliably under time pressure. Short-notice changes during projects are not unusual”.

Translations are documents which often come at the end of a development and production process or whose urgency is due to other factors. In medical technology, for example, regulatory and official regulations require comprehensive operating instructions to be enclosed with the product in the official language of the destination country in the majority of cases. In order not to delay the supply of a piece of equipment, translations therefore have to be of top quality but nevertheless produced swiftly. It is therefore the norm for workflows to be reorganised at short notice and in most cases this will already have been factored in before the translation process starts.

By the time a translation gets under way, the project will already have passed through several stages. Each document is examined on arrival to ensure that the content of the files is readable and that the customer’s requirements tally with the properties of the document. For example, the project managers (PMs) check whether the source language is correct, whether any of the document content is not to be translated and whether there is any text in graphics which needs to be extracted prior to the translation process. File processing is not limited to the Microsoft Office suite but extends across proprietary Adobe formats to the XML standard, which is particularly popular with customers who have editing systems.

To prepare such projects thoroughly and conscientiously therefore takes some background technical knowledge and familiarity with the relevant procedures. To gain this knowledge, our employees attend in-house courses focusing on the handling of specific formats. In this way, the project managers learn how to process these files and to prepare them as cost-effectively as possible. This knowledge comes in particularly handy when the data are imported into CAT tools.

This is where project planning, background technical knowledge and communication skills come together. There is a close connection between file preparation and file processing in CAT tools – Trados Studio or Across – because these programs draw directly on the file content and each project manager therefore has to know how the data will look subsequently in the CAT tool. Only by this pre-emptive thinking can potential problems be anticipated and avoided in advance. If our project managers hit a brick wall in this area, they can contact our experts in the Translation & Localisation Engineering team. These colleagues always help whenever unusual file formats have to be processed and complex technical workflows have to be safeguarded. They draw on a wealth of experience in the technical processing of translations and also lend our project managers a helping hand when a new macro has to be written or project processes need to be automated.

Once the technical side has been clarified, the project manager focuses on the calculations and deadline setting involved in the project and informs the customer’s contacts of the anticipated delivery date. During this coordination phase, complicated matters frequently have to be presented in simplified form to ensure that the customer has received all the relevant information and that there are no misunderstandings. Bernd Mayer adds: “When we are selecting potential employees, we place great importance right at the recruitment stage not only on professional skills but also on the ability to work as a team and on strong communication behaviour.” After all, PMs have to be able to communicate. Although this might at first sight read like a truism, it is actually very complex. What has to be communicated is often subject-specific and first has to be analysed in detail, thought through and simplified before it can be conveyed – when specialists throw around jargon it is helpful to have someone who speaks the language of those experts and can interpret for them.

Once the course has been set and the project has received the go-ahead, our project managers get going. Suitable technical translators are selected from the pool of translators and contacted, deadlines are agreed and time windows reserved for Internal Quality Assurance. Once the translations have been delivered and all the individual wishes and deadlines of the translator have been met, the texts are then checked for formal quality assurance requirements. Sometimes, there is an overlap between several revision processes involving different projects and this reduces the availability of the internal quality checkers. At such times, the project managers’ ability to work as a team and to communicate pay off: they never leave anyone in the lurch, and assist wherever help is needed most urgently, including with quality assurance. The demands made of the PMs here are no different from those made of the quality checkers. Whether Chinese, Swedish or Hungarian – it is always about an eye for detail, for the correctness of logical aspects such as figures, punctuation marks or text structure. These can even be checked in foreign script systems and it’s amazing how many terms our project managers have already internalised in the various languages. Final delivery to the customer does not yet mean the end of the project as far as the project manager is concerned. Some organisational matters will, of course, remain to be sorted out; post-calculations will have to be prepared and passed to the finance department.

The extensive remit of the job, the responsibility that this entails and the juggling of dates, time frames and agreements are the spice of life for our PMs – it is the special allure of tying up untold numbers of loose ends into a successful conclusion to a project that drives the project managers to do their best afresh every day. They are the universal linchpin that is there for everyone and is always willing to help.
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