This week’s “Life as a…” segment sees us drop in on Industrial Project Manager Ewelina Pobędza.
What are the daily challenges you experience as a Project Manager?
Ewelina Pobędza: One of the biggest challenges in a Project Manager’s daily activities is being able to multi-task. I’m managing multiple projects in multiple languages, dealing with people, different priorities, deadlines, technologies and various aspects of a project all at once. Therefore, I need to be well-organized and aware of the critical project steps in order to prevent any missteps that can ruin my project. As a consequence, I need to go into project details and know the ins and outs of each project. This will help me be as flexible as possible about unexpected changes as each item within a translation project is prone to change. I have to be open-minded and adapt to changing schedules, new instructions from clients or even technology drawbacks.
Another challenge is to cope with stress that results from facing the demands from clients and coworkers, internal or external. It seems that I found my golden means to stay sane which is being honest with clients, linguists and coworkers as well as being an effective communicator to all parties involved in a project. Any problems with information may have a negative impact on a project and timely delivery. It is vital to ensure that the right people receive the right information and that nobody is overloaded with irrelevant information. For example, linguists should get clear instructions and quick answers to their questions to help them to stay on track. Queries from linguists have to be filtered by a Project Manager before sending to the client.
All in all, I have to take up daily challenges, feel comfortable doing many things at a time and prepare myself for unknown and unexpected changes.
What makes the translation process for technical documentation so different to other content?
EP: Technical documentation encompasses technical manuals, user manuals, operation instructions, technical websites and many, many others. We all come across them on a daily basis as product users. If you want to use a new device, you will probably refer to instructions first. The translation process for technical documentation has some general and specific aspects.
In general, technical documentation conveys much more than just uncomplicated instructions. The goal of technical translation is to fit the source text perfectly in the target audience. The linguists need to have specialist technical expertise to create high quality translations that frequently have to comply with relevant standards. In order to localize them successfully, it is necessary to have a good understanding of the sector-specific terminology and language as well as the general understanding of the brand. The choice of an appropriate linguist for a given translation project is half of the success.
Glossaries play an important role in technical translations. Terms need to be used in the most natural way and in their appropriate context in the given sector or industry. Words can have several and various meanings depending on the context. There might be a significant difference in using “a wire” and/or “a cable” from a client’s perspective. Preparing a terminology list, which is developed by translation team and in-country reviewer, is key to accuracy in technical translations as well as a vital quality component. Glossaries prove terminology consistency within a document and avoid terms misusage which may sometimes results in hurting somebody if there are mistakes in for example, a user manual.
At last, a Project Manager has to take into account various stages of the translation process for technical documentation and set realistic deadlines for each part to meet the final deadline. The process may include source review, glossary preparation, translation and revision stages, internal quality checking, SME review, DTP if applicable, proofreading and files finalization. All these stages may be applied to a single technical document and they help to ensure that the translation is correct from the linguistic point of view, and the final product sends the correct message to the target audience.
In your experience, what factors ensure a smooth translation process?
EP: Project Managers do their best to make sure every stage of translation process runs smoothly. There are certain aspects to be considered at the beginning of a project that could have an impact on the project workflow, for example, how will product references, key terminology, source file format or images/graphics be handled. As many details as possible should be scoped at the beginning of the project, e.g. during a pre-processing stage we could encounter missing graphics or fonts, at a source review stage a language lead could find potential linguistic queries. These will certainly ensure a smooth translation process and may reduce time spent on post-processing stage, especially if there is a multi-language project. It is simply better to invest some time on the source files, rather than fixing issues on multiple target files. By having resolved linguistic queries or potential doubts to the source content at the beginning, we would reduce time spent on exchanging emails between the linguist, Project Manager (PM) and the client. It frequently happens that linguists, PMs and their clients live in different time zones so there might be delays in answers. Moreover, clear guidelines and well established glossary at the start of the project can support project ease. They are frequently used in technical documentation to establish correct usage of terminology.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
EP: Diversity – this is the word that fully describes my work. I never get bored and there is no typical day. Projects are always varied, unexpected things or surprises happen, the daily schedule is rarely ever the same. In addition, I need to be flexible and adapt to new situations, resolve issues effectively and proactively. My job is satisfying and rewarding, especially when the client is happy with the final project output. Moreover, there is always an educational element involved, either from my colleagues or daily challenges which test and improve my skills, like for instance, negotiating, forecasting, problem solving or delegating tasks.
…But there is the one thing that always happens – a morning cup of coffee and small chat with colleagues – this is certainly the order of the day which gives me positive energy for the whole day!
What is one piece of advice you could give to clients when starting their translation journey?
EP: To be honest, there is no one, or universal piece of advice for a client who is starting a translation journey. Translating a simple document involves a lot of effort and experience as the final output needs to meet the linguistic, cultural and other elements of a specific target audience or market. If you would like to start a translation journey, make sure you are in the hands of a good Language Servicer Provider (LSP).
LSPs usually offer a wide range of services and you could entrust your document to professionals. A Project Manager can help you get acquainted with best practices or advise the best project workflow for your documentation. However, it is crucial to set clear objectives at the beginning so the LSP knows what you want to achieve as the final output. In order to be consistent in multiple languages and within one document, it is good to develop a terminology list that is approved by subject matter experts or in-country revisers. By providing final and editable source files it helps to make an estimate in a timely manner.
What is more, be prepared that linguists may ask questions about the source file during the translation process. Every reference, answer or picture you could provide about a product will make the final text more accurate and understandable to the target reader. The purpose of a technical document is to give a clear picture of a product and understandable content to the end-user.The other crucial thing is planning document updates in advance. Usually, a service manual is not a document published only once as documentation needs to be updated as soon as a new version of a product is released. It is essential to version documents properly so the correct documentation can be found easily. A Project Manager can advise you on the most cost and time effective way to do this.
You should think of translation as a channel of communication into another language and culture. This translation journey is undoubtedly fascinating and a Language Service Provider can help you to join this journey and provide necessary guidance along the way.