• Dec 13, 2017
  • 1 Comment


by Diego Cresceri


Last week I took part in the ND Focus on Project Management, organized by the European Language Industry Association in Prague. It was my first Elia event ever, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to write a few lines about it.

As it is well understandable from the name, the 2-day event focused on Project Management, with the declared aim of developing and enhancing essential language industry project management skills, to deliver projects successfully and create a competitive edge.


- DAY 1 -

Industry trends

On the first day of the event, the first lecturer to take stage was Hélène Pielmeier, Director of Industry Providers Service at Common Sense Advisory, the well-known Massachussets-based research company. She gave a full, detailed, yet pleasant representation of the language industry. We all know, this is a crowded industry, with more than 18,500 language service providers (in her words: to be honest, I personally think it’s much more than that, and this does not include translators). Besides being crowded, the language industry is also very fragmented, with a multitude of small agencies and just few very big players. For instance, only 6% of all LSPs have more than 50 employees, while 59% of them have 2 to 5 employees.

Of course this also means that the organization maturity of LSPs also varies a lot, with 5 different stages (according to Hélène and CSA) and no LSP having reached the top level yet.

Good news is that there’s a growing request for language services, with the market growing by an outstanding 7% every year, which is why it’s attracting more and more private equities that are interested in investing in rapid-growing markets.

Hélène then identified 7 industry trends that we all need to look at:

  • the importance of CX (or customer experience);
  • the changing nature of projects;
  • need for speed;
  • ubiquity in technology;
  • augmented translator;
  • artificial intelligence in Vendor Management;
  • artificial intelligence in Project Management.

I liked very much the metaphor of the project manager first being the pilot (this is the past), then becoming the air traffic controller (current situation), and doomed at becoming, with the help of AI, the flight planner.

In her last slide Hélène left us with some takeaways and suggestions, the most interesting in my opinion being to:

  • embrace changes and evolve with them;
  • rethink the boundaries of the PM role;
  • keep evolving and learning, particularly in the fields of technology, customer experience and programming.


Meeting expectations

Hélène left the stage to Martino Prada Diaz, Localization Manager at GoPro (I do not think his company needs any introduction), who gave us a presentation on  how to manage expectations. Being the localization manager of a big-spend buyer, his point of view is really interesting, the more so because he’s gained a lot of experience in the industry, starting as a freelance translator, becoming a PM and a Production Manager in a LSP, till his current role.

It’s quite difficult to summarize in a few lines the many aspects Martino has talked about in his lively presentation, starting from the subjects who usually have expectations (not only the customer, but also the client of the client, the internal reviewers or even the end users), how these expectations are established, and how quality is measured. Martino also talked about technology as a way to free up time for Project Managers and allow them to implement those small and big actions that make the difference between an average PM and a champion.

According to Martino, PMs should only have 80% of their time busy with projects, in order to have some time left to satisfy customers’ expectations.

Martino also listed the characteristics he considers essential for an outstanding PM, and I am happy to share his opinion with you:

  • transparency;
  • honesty;
  • curiosity;
  • interest;
  • passion for the job/industry/languages.

I am sure we all need to improve at least some of them!


Operational Excellence

After Martino’s speech and regenerating lunch where I had the pleasure to talk with Françoise Bajon, Elia’s President, the stage was left to Leen Temmerman and Thijs Senten, respectively Vendor Manager and Language Technology Manager at Attached Language Services, that gave us a presentation on how to reach operational excellence.

Thijs, which I then met and with whom I had an interesting conversation on the gap between Academia and the real world in the industry, talked about the importance of not letting limits stop you. Of course limits are to be acknowledged, but baby steps (to use his words) can get us closer to our objetives.

He also talked about his Company’s growth patch, leaving us with some questions and closing his presentation by discussing the different roles that a PM can have, i.e.:

  • Salesperson
  • Linguist
  • IT specialist
  • HR manager
  • Communication and relationship manager
  • Vendor Manager

I unfortunately missed most of Leen’s part due to an unexpected call, and I am looking forward to receiving her slides and learn from them J


Working under pressure

Working under pressure is absolutely something each PM needs to manage, which is why I think it was a great idea to invite Joanne O’Malley to talk about how we can learn to manage each situation with less stress and in a more proactive way. Besides being a great speaker, Joanne is a mindfulness facilitator at Mindfulness at Work.

Mindfulness is more and more finding its way in business, so it was interesting to learn how we can leverage it to avoid any over-reaction and master stress.

Regardless of someone’s skeptical reaction (main doubt is probably how to be able to bring mindfulness to the office), Joanne’s presentation gave me some food for thought. Nobody can disagree on the fact that any result is the sum of an event and our reaction to the same. This means that, since we cannot control events, we can limit their impact on us by controlling our reaction. And, while it’s not always possible (or it’s nearly impossible) to practice meditation when something stressful happens, learning how to control our breathing and put a space between a given situation and ourselves can be of huge help. Well done Joanne.


As you can see, it’s been an intense day, and this is why everybody enjoyed the dinner, perfectly organized by Elia at Letenský zámeček, with a wonderful view on the city. Wonderful food, good wine and a lot of networking. Kudos to my dinner companions for staying till the staff gently asked us to leave. This is a clear sign of interesting conversations going on.

from left to right: Talida Magheti, Ana Maria Nichita, myself, Katalin Vas, Andreas Groenendaal, Nienke Castelein, Nansija Lībiete


- DAY 2 -


The second day was a bit different, yet extremely enlightening and interesting.

Participants were split into 3 groups and could attend three workshops in parallel, organized by Martino, Leen/Thijs and Joanne and facilitated by Elia.


Those workshops have been the perfect way for attendees to further look into the topics discussed during the first day, and both the speakers and Elia’s members have been great in facilitating conversation and idea-exchange in each group.

This is why I think all of us went home with a full list of good intentions and items to work on.



Before I close this post I’d very much like to thank Elia for organizing such an interesting event in one of most beautiful cities in Europe (Prague is absolutely charming in this season, with all Christmas markets and everything). I cannot think of a way they could make it more engaging, enlightening and powerful. As far as I know, this is one-of-the-kind event, and Elia’s aim of contributing to developing and enhancing essential project management skills in the language industry has been definitely reached. This is why I am looking forward to the next focus on Project Management next year in Lisbon.



Diego Cresceri - Founder and CEO of Creative Words, he does not deny his past but never looks back. An absolute lover of languages, he's an incurable optimist and cannot wait to see what the future holds.



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