In conclusion, the role that the project manager plays is essential, particularly in large-scale projects and in projects involving many components. Those who hold this role are unlikely to have all of the special knowledge necessary for all of the stages mentioned here, but they must have enough skills to correctly identify the fundamental tasks via a proper analysis, establish a budget with a respectable margin, plan the proper steps, select adequate resources, monitor the project, and deliver the necessary components to their client.
Of course, communication skills are also essential. One of the main objectives of a project manager is to act as an inside contact for the client and to serve as an intermediary between the many people involved. A project manager must also exercise great care in communicating instructions and transferring information between everyone involved.
Presenting the work of a project manager to future translators
As we have said before, a large portion of independent professional translators work for translation agencies. They are generally in contact with one or several project managers. In some cases, they are the only translator assigned to a project; in other cases, they work within a larger team. These teams are typically "virtual" teams, meaning that their different members never physically meet and that they are even unaware of the number, names, and details of other people working on a project.
Within such projects, the translator's position can quickly become relatively unclear. Mainly for the translator himself, who can experience some difficulties in positioning himself within the process toward completing the overall project.
Typically working from home, the translator remains mainly "isolated" from the overall process. It is often difficult, or even impossible, for the translator to get a sense of his exact role and to understand the impact of some instructions or requirements imposed by the project manager. Why is the use and compliance with this or that file format so important? What specific machine setup is required to carry out a given piece of translation? Is it truly necessary to respect deadlines, which are sometimes defined to the hour? Primarily assigned a linguistic role, the translator can from time to time ask such questions without so much as grasping the importance of specific points in the success of the project as a whole.
An introduction to project management within targeted courses in translation schools allows future translators to understand the professional world they are entering and the importance of their involvement in large-scale projects.
Besides, understanding the many reasons for a project manager is far from useless for an freelance translator. Demonstrating precision and professionalism, especially in preparing an estimate or in establishing a rate schedule, can easily play in favour of a freelancer. Understanding how project management works can also persuade future translators to broaden their professional activities, networking for example with other translators, and even technical consultants, with the intention of closely collaborating on large projects that they would not be able to complete alone. And why not, in such cases, acquire "as a team" some juicy contracts with direct clients...
Project management is a very prominent concept in the translation industry. In client companies or in translation agencies, those who serve as the main point of contact for the market are more and more often called "project managers." Within the translation industry, they are a true asset, though not necessarily a vital condition. Targeted training, allowing translators to grow within the translation industry through a better understanding of the processes in which they will take part, can undoubtedly prove to be a major advantage for their future careers.
Publication: Matis, Nancy. 2005. La gestion de projets de traduction et sa place dans la formation de traducteurs, Équivalences, number 32/1 2005 - "La traduction à l'heure de la localisation" HEB, Haute École de Bruxelles, 47-62.