by Francesca Miglietta
“How is it possible for such a messy, systematically late and constantly undecided person like you to become a Project Manager?”. This was the most frequently asked question made by friends and family when I was offered an internship as a PM about one year ago. To be honest, I was asking the same thing to myself (of course, I “accidentally” forgot to mention this unimportant detail during the job interview). I had never considered this particular career path before, but in the end, I decided to take up the challenge. Here is what I have learnt in just one year, and I think my experience can be useful for someone who wants to start off as a Localization Project Manager. Enjoy!
1. Time management, aka stop procrastinating!
I have always been that kind of person who believes waiting until the very last second to do their work is the way of doing things, simply because you will have become older and wiser by then. In a world where everything seems to be urgent, this immediately stopped being an option. To be honest with you, this has been the toughest aspect to learn, because I had to completely change my mindset: this definitely delivered positive outcomes not only on my job, but on my whole life and… on my mental health as well.
Typical examples of this in a PM’s workday are those small tasks that would require just two minutes of your attention, but that you immediately categorize as non-urgent because “It won’t take long, I can do them later”. Big mistake! “Later” you might have to take care of many two-minutes tasks while dealing with all other largest and more urgent projects. Stop procrastinating and get down to it!
2. Multitasking: the art of messing up several things at once
I used to think that multitasking inevitably lead a person to lose track of every single activity they are dealing with. I quickly discovered that in this job being able to manage more than one thing at a time can definitely save your life.
BUT be honest to yourself (and to others) and know your limits. Accept the fact that you cannot take care of everything: there are tasks that you simply cannot squeeze in. So, when you feel things are getting overwhelming, take a deep breath and start setting your priorities. Make lists and do not be afraid of asking for help. You do not have to do it all on your own.
Some months ago, we took care of a huge post-editing project with very tight turnaround times. After spending a whole weekend sending HOs, writing e-mails and calling people, I had to accept the reality: I could not take care of everything (and everyone) at the same time. Multitasking can save your life, but you need to take it slow sometimes, or it can ruin everything you’ve done.
3. With great power comes great responsibility
One of the most important things I had to learn since my very first day as a Project Manager was to make decisions and take charge. Is that job affordable for your Company? Will you be able to deliver on time? Which are the best resources for that specific task? All of this is up to you, and choosing not to choose is never an option. This came with experience, of course, but I quickly had to learn that there are some decisions that I cannot delegate. I am in charge of the projects I take care of, so I cannot wait for someone else to face issues on my behalf. The good thing is that when everything goes right, you can take credit for it!
Which directly leads to my following point.
4. Believe in yourself and magic will happen
I have always been that kind of person that does not want to be noticed, but I had to start facing the fact that I simply could not remain in the backstage. People HAVE to know that you exist. This is the main reason why Project Managers are there: clients may decide to turn to your translation agency because they want someone to coordinate all the steps of the job they assigned you (and someone they can blame if something goes wrong), while freelancers may opt for working with your Company because they know there will be a trusted person they can rely on in case of issues. In short, you are the one in charge of the whole process and YOU are supposed to make sure that everyone gets what they need when they need it. And this cannot be done by remaining in the shadow.
After all, if someone else believed in you, why shouldn’t you do the same?
5. Let bad choices make good stories
Managing a process where many people with different roles are involved also means that you need to learn how to predict troubles. When something goes wrong (and it probably will 90% of the times), do not waste your time and energies blaming yourself or others. Instead, try to understand why this happened and learn from yours and others’ mistakes.
Instead of considering this as a failure, take it as a great chance to adopt a different approach and plot a new course.
6. …And remember: don’t panic!
Things are not turning out as expected? Don’t panic! Instead, think of a solution: there is always one, but you will not be able to figure it out if you just focus on the problem. Flexibility and open-mindedness are the most useful skills that you can apply to this job.
7. Don’t promise the moon if you don’t have the Space Shuttle
A project manager is a person who thinks nine women can deliver a baby in one month.
I bumped into this funny quote some days ago and it made me smile. But it also made me think and promise myself I would at least try not to be that kind of a PM who sends ridiculous requests just to please their clients.
Actually, another smart way of preventing problems is to avoid falling into the temptation of accepting every request your clients may come up with. I strongly believe the most exciting part of this job comes when you are about to face big challenges: learning how to distinguish them from absurd situations is what really makes the difference.
You may think that taking on a job nobody else wanted because, for example, it needs to be accomplished within an unreasonable deadline will lead your Company to be the first choice for all the upcoming projects. However, delivering a bad translation due to lack of time could turn out to be the main reason why that client decides not to address you ever again. Also, this could lead your team to lose confidence in you and in your Company, which will make them feel frustrated by the lack of value placed on the work they do.
So, let’s go back to my friends’ reactions to the funny idea of me making decisions or being in charge of something. How can I answer that question one year later? Well, apart from… Take that!
You would be amazed by how things can change if you only take up the chance to reinvent yourself and let life surprise you. In such a short time, I have learnt so many things about a world which was completely new to me and – even more important – I have found out many aspects of myself I could not even imagine just a few months ago.
Francesca Miglietta – With her head in the clouds since the day she was born, she discoverd her rational side thanks to the role of PM. She lived for a few years in Spain, where she left a piece of her heart and where she goes back from time to time to find comfort in tapas and sangria. In Italy, she finds her vital source of energy in coffee and focaccia.
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." Nelson Mandela