Interview with Jérémy, project manager at VI for over four years

Can you describe your daily working routine?

I don’t have a typical workday, beyond my morning and afternoon coffees, which are a must! Since anything can come in at any time, I work on a bit of everything at the same time – including new requests, ongoing projects, deliveries or queries from people I work with, to help them solve their problems, which can be complex.

How do you process your clients’ requests?

It depends on the request, but it usually involves several steps. First, I examine the request and the files to make sure that I have all of the information needed for translators to work in the best possible conditions down the line. Then, once I have all the necessary information, I launch the project and keep a close watch as it unfolds to ensure that everything is delivered in a timely manner and that nothing gets held up along the way. Once the linguistic work has been completed, I check that the document is flawless and can be used as-is by the client.

What are the most complex issues to address?

Overall, I think there are two complex situations to manage: the first is helping our clients understand the needs of our profession, and the second is finding a compromise between the client’s requested delivery time and the time that translators need to complete the task.

We often receive requests along the lines of “I need a translation”.  But to do our work, we need some key information, for instance the language we are translating into, a source file that can be processed by our translation software, and a precise description of the elements to be translated (e.g. images). All of these may seem like details, but they are essential to us. These are the details that help us meet the clients’ real needs.

It can also be challenging to strike a balance between the requested delivery date and the time needed for the translation. Of course, clients expect the best quality as quickly as possible, but it can sometimes be very challenging to meet both of these demands. Although we have a vast array of solutions at our disposal, it can sometimes be outpaced by demand. In such cases, we do our very best to offer what we believe to be the best solution based on the client’s requirements and our own high standards.

What do you like about your profession?

In just one sentence, I would say, ‘It’s all about meeting new people.’ I love my work because although I spend my days on a computer, I interact with many people who are all very different. The professional relationships we build, both with our clients and translators can sometimes grow into more informal relationships, reminding us that while we are working with professionals, they are also people first and foremost. It’s all about teamwork, and everyone brings their own contribution.

Why did you choose this career? How did you get here?

It was actually somewhat down to chance. My original plan was to be an interpreter, then a translator, but I very quickly turned to project management! During my Master’s degree in Applied Foreign Languages, I chose a work placement related to language management. I attended a forum, where I learned that these two fields could be brought together, which is what led me to a project management work placement at a translation agency. It was very challenging, but also fascinating. The fact that I am still working in project management 5 years after my Master’s degree is proof that I love it!

What qualities must a good project manager demonstrate?

I believe there are number of necessary qualities. First, you need a sharp analytical mind and decision-making skills. A project manager makes decisions all day, each one will have an impact on the projects. To make the right decisions, the manager needs to be able to very quickly analyse the information at hand based on their own experience, (their knowledge of the client and translators, and awareness of common problems on some types of projects) to be sure the projects will run smoothly. They also need to be quite organised, to say the least. Since there is no such thing as a typical day, they need to be able to constantly reorganise the day based on what comes in. I also believe a project manager should have a vast skill set and know how to think outside the box, whether when processing a new request that is very different from what they usually deal with or when addressing a brand new challenge (especially with software!). Ultimately, I believe in perseverance – there is no such thing as an unsolvable problem and a solution can always be found, even if it requires a lot of digging!

What was your most satisfying victory?

I think mainly they are everyday victories. Nothing makes me happier than successfully solving a software problem, even if it means editing file code, or finalising a translation project with an impossible deadline that, in the end, can actually be met.

What has been your most memorable project at VI?

A few years ago, when I was just barely getting acquainted with a project, the client announced that they were launching a new project with a completely different process and very tight turnaround times. This was my first large-scale project, with nearly a million words to be translated. There was no time to prepare for it, it was unrelenting work… but in the end, the project was delivered on time and the client was pleased that we pulled it off!

How do you imagine your profession in 10 years?

I expect (and I hope!) that project managers will still be needed. While more and more tasks are being automated, like the management of repetitive projects, customers will more than ever need someone to support, advise, and guide them in this world that is changing at breakneck speed. I can see my role as being a sort of ‘Swiss army knife’ advisor, with in-depth knowledge of the stakes of translation and its technical aspects, always able to find the best solutions.

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