Day: May 27, 2018

How to become a localization project manager

How to become a localization project manager

Excerpts from an article with the same title, written by Olga Melnikova in Multilingual Magazine.  Olga Melnikova is a project manager at Moravia and an adjunct professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. She has ten years of experience in the language industry. She holds an MA in translation and localization management and two degrees in language studies.

I decided to talk to people who have been in the industry for a while, who have seen it evolve and know where it’s going. My main question was: what should a person do to start a localization project manager career? I interviewed several experts who shared their vision and perspectives — academics, industry professionals and recruiters. I spoke with Mimi Moore, account manager at Anzu Global, a recruiting company for the localization industry; Tucker Johnson, managing director of Nimdzi Insights; Max Troyer, translation and localization management program coordinator at MIIS, and Jon Ritzdorf, senior solution architect at Moravia and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and at MIIS. All of them are industry veterans and have extensive knowledge and understanding of its processes.

Why localization project management?

The first question is: Why localization project management? Why is this considered a move upwards compared to the work of linguists who are the industry lifeblood? According to Renato Beninatto and Tucker Johnson’s The General Theory of the Translation Company, “project
management is the most crucial function of the LSP. Project management has the potential to most powerfully impact an LSP’s ability to add value to the language services value chain.” “Project managers are absolutely the core function in a localization company,” said Johnson. “It is important to keep in mind that language services providers do not sell translation, they sell services. Project managers are responsible for coordinating and managing all of the resources that need to be coordinated in order to deliver to the client: they are managing time, money, people and technology.


Nine times out of ten, Johnson added, the project manager is the face of the company to the client. “Face-to-face contact and building the relationship are extremely important.” This is why The General Theory of the Translation Company regards project management to be one of the core functions of any language service provider (LSP). This in no way undermines the value of all the other industry players, especially
linguists who do the actual translation work. However, the industry cannot do without PMs because “total value is much higher than the original translations. This added value is at the heart of the language services industry.” This is why clients are happy to pay higher prices to work with massive multiple services providers instead of working directly with translators.

Who are they?

The next question is, how have current project managers become project managers? “From the beginning, when the industry started 20 years
ago, there were no specialized training programs for project managers,” Troyer recounted. “So there were two ways. One is you were a translator, but wanted to do something else — become an editor, for example, or start to manage translators. The other route was people working in a business that goes global. So there were two types of people who would become project managers — former translators or people who were assigned localization as a job task.”

According to Ritzdorf, this is still the case in many companies. “I am working with project managers from three prospective clients right now, all of whom do not have a localization degree and are all in localization positions. Did they end up there because they wanted to? Maybe not. They did not end up there because they said ‘Wow, I really want to become a head of localization.’ They just ended up there by accident, like a lot of people do.”

“There are a lot of people who work in a company and who have never heard of localization, but guess what? It is their job now to do localization, and they have to figure it out all by themselves,” Moore confirmed. “When the company decides to go international, they have to find somebody to manage that,” said Ritzdorf.

Regionalization


The first to mention regionalization was Ritzdorf, and then other interviewees confrmed it exists. Ritzdorf lives on the East Coast of the
United States, but comes to the West Coast to teach at MIIS, so he sees the differences. “There are areas where localization is a thing, which means when you walk into a company, they actually know about localization. Since there are enough people who understand what localization is, they want someone with a background in it.” Silicon Valley is a great example, said Ritzdorf. MIIS is close; there is a

localization community that includes organizations like Women in Localization; and there are networking events like IMUG. “People live and
breathe localization. However, there is a totally different culture in other regions, which is very fragmented. There are tons of little companies in other parts of the US, and the situation there is different. If I am a small LSP owner in Wisconsin or Ohio, what are my chances of finding someone with a degree or experience to fill a localization position for a project manager? Extremely low. This is why I may hire a candidate who has an undergraduate degree in French literature, for example. Or in linguistics, languages — at least something.”

The recruiters’ perspective


Nimdzi Insights conducted an interesting study about hiring criteria for localization project manager positions (Figure 1). Some 75 respondents (both LSPs and clients) were asked how important on a scale of 1 to 5 a variety of qualifications are for project management positions. Te responses show a few trends. Top priorities for clients are previous localization experience and a college degree, followed by years of experience and proficiency in more than one language. Top criteria for LSPs are reputation and a college degree, also followed
by experience and proficiency in more than one language.

Moore said that when clients want to hire a localization project manager, the skills they are looking for are familiarity with computer assisted translation (CAT) tools “and an understanding of issues that can arise during localization — like quality issues, for example. Compared to
previous years, more technical skills are required by both clients and vendors: CAT tools, WorldServer, machine translation knowledge, sometimes WordPress or basic engineering. When I started, they were nice-to-haves, but certainly not mandatory.”

Technical skill is not enough, however. “Both hard and soft skills are important. You need hard skills because the industry has become a lot more technical as far as software, tools and automation are concerned. You need soft skills to deal with external and internal stakeholders, and one of the main things is working under pressure because you are juggling so many things.

Moore also mentioned some red flags that would cause Anzu not to hire a candidate. “Sometimes an applicant does not demonstrate good English skills in phone interviews. Having good communication skills is important for a client-facing position. Also, people sometimes exaggerate their skills or experience. Another red flag is if the person has a bad track record (if they change jobs every nine months, for example).” ‘

Anzu often hires for project management contract positions in large companies. “Clients usually come to us when they need a steady stream of contractors (three or six months), then in three or six months there will be other contractors. Te positions are usually project managers or testers. If you already work fulltime, a contract position may not be that attractive. However, if you are a newcomer or have just graduated, and you want to get some experience, then it is a great opportunity. You would spend three, six or 12 months at a company, and it is a very good line on the résumé.”

Do you need a localization degree? 

There is no firm answer to the question of whether or not you need a degree. If you don’t know what you should do, it can certainly help. Troyer discussed how the localization program at MIIS has evolved to ft current real-world pressures. “The program was first started in 2004, and it started small. We were first giving CAT tools, localization project management and software localization courses. This is
the core you need to become a project manager. Ten the program evolved and we introduced the introduction and then advanced levels to many courses. There are currently four or five courses focusing on translation
technology.” Recent additions to the curriculum include advanced JavaScript classes, advanced project management and program management. Natural language processing and computational linguistics will be added down the road. “The industry is driving this move because students will need skills to go in and localize Siri into many languages,” said Troyer.

The program at MIIS is a two-year master’s. It can be reduced to one year for those who already have experience. There are other degrees
available, as well as certification programs offered by institutions such as the University of Washington and The Localization Institute.

Moore said that though a localization degree is not a must, it has a distinct advantage. A lot of students have internships that give them experience. They also know tools, which makes their résumés better fit clients’ job descriptions.

However, both Troyer and Ritzdorf said you don’t necessarily need a degree. “If you have passion for languages and technology, you can get the training on your own,” said Troyer. “Just teach yourself these skills, network on your own and try to break into the industry.”

The future of localization project management

Automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning are affecting all industries, and localization is not an exception. However, all the interviewees forecast that there will be more localization jobs in the future.

According to Johnson, there is high project management turnover on the vendor side because if a person is a good manager, they never stay in this position for more than five years. “After that, they either get a job on the client’s side to make twice as much money and have a much easier job, or their LSP has to promote them to senior positions such as group manager or program director.”

“There is a huge opportunity to stop doing things that are annoying,” said Troyer. “Automation will let professionals work on the human side
of things and let the machines run 
day-to-day tasks. Letting the machine send files back and forth will allow humans to spend more time looking at texts and thinking about what questions a translator can ask. This will give them more time for building a personal relationship with the client. We are taking these innovations into consideration for the curriculum, and I often spend time during classes asking, ‘How can you automate this?’”

Moore stated that “we have seen automation change workflows over the last ten years and reduce the project manager’s workload, with files being automatically moved through each step in the localization process. Also, automation and machine translation go hand-in-hand to make the process faster, more efficient and cost-effective.”