The Localization Project Manager’s Cookbook
If you were alive in the Western world (and good part of the Eastern) in the late 90s and early 2000s, you must have heard of the TV show Friends. If so, you may remember Chandler, played by Matthew Perry. Through the 10 seasons the series lasted, one of the ongoing jokes was that no one could describe Chandler’s job. I’ve realized lately that I am the Chandler of my family and friends: many people do not know what being a Localization Project Manager means. But most people do have a favorite restaurant. I worked in restaurants most of my college years, and I’ve found that being a waiter is a great metaphor for project management. So here is a quick taste of what a Localization Project Manager is, and the menu of things that we can do for you.
We all have one or two favorite restaurants, and we start going to them for the quality of the food (and maybe the price). After a while, though, we keep going there because the waiter there knows what we want to eat and how we like to be treated. We love it when we can go to our usual coffee shop and the barista is already pulling the soymilk out for us, or when we can go to the bar and say: “I’ll have the usual”.
But when you’re new to a restaurant, you need to rely on the waiter for advice. A good waiter will ask you what kind of food you like, and with that knowledge can provide advice about the dishes that will suit your taste or dietary needs. A really good waiter can even propose something you would not have dared to eat without a push, because their experience of people’s tastes and habits helps them understand you. If you don’t feel adventurous, the waiter will make sure to instruct the kitchen, so you can eat exactly what you want. And those are the sort of interactions that turn first-time customers into restaurant regulars.
The job of a Localization Project Manager is not so different. When you first come to the Project Manager (PM) with a localization need, the PM will make sure they understand what kind of tone, audience, and file types you need. Based on their experience, they can recommend the best approach for your project. They adapt to your preferences and explain why a particular strategy is best suited for your kind of project. Once you agree, the PM will send the instructions to the “localization kitchen” and keep an eye on it to make sure your food gets to you on time and hot, and ensure that the linguists cook it just like you ordered it. In addition, the PM will be well aware of your “localization meal” needs and will find the right cook for each dish.
A starter HR contract will be cooked by a specialized cook, and that marketing video “dessert” for New Years’ Eve will be prepared by their best media specialist. Also, if your training suite translated into 3 languages gets overdone, the PM will be the person in charge to get you a new one from the kitchen/linguists, or to bring you some web filter “salt” so you get it exactly the way you like it. After a few projects or steps in a longer project, your PM will know your needs and preferences, so you will just have to order “the usual” when you arrive.
And when the restaurant closes after you’ve finished your localization, the PM will be the one making sure everything is ready for your next meal. They update your project’s translation memories and glossaries, leveraging part of the previously-translated work for the next file, so the next translation will be not only cheaper and faster but it will be also consistent with previous ones. Sometimes the restaurant gets a new cook, and your PM takes care to remind them that you like your Portuguese with a touch of tarragon or your German with no salt. Your PM will make sure you enjoy the experience of the localization every time.
So, next time you have a localization need, you know that the person that will take care of making sure you get your order on time and to your taste will be your assigned Project Manager. And next time anyone asks me what my job is, I can explain to my friends that I am the one who brings the translations to the table right after you have ordered your drinks.