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Jobs in a translation company: what does a translation project manager do?

How do modern translation companies actually operate? Do they even still exist? The question is a fair one. You might say it is hard enough already keeping pace with the breakneck changes in everyday life. Of course, these changes have left their mark on translation agencies in Switzerland as well.

So what does working in a translation company today look like? What exactly does a translation project manager do? Let’s take a glimpse into this constantly changing profession.

Jobs in a translation company: not just for translators

Translators work in a translation company. Although this statement is not technically false, it does not reflect the conventional situation. An estimated 75% of all translators work on a freelance basis. This means they do not sit physically in a translation company as an employee and in-house translator; instead, they work as independent contractors from their home office, a co-working space or even on the road, as ‘digital nomads’. Many, however, have a client portfolio that includes translation agencies or firms that regularly work with one and the same translator. These partnerships with agencies and firms give freelance translators a certain degree of stability as well as regular work. But if translators do not work in a translation company, who does? Which services are on offer and who handles which tasks?

One-stop shop for language services

Which professions are there in a translation company? Good question! Of course, translation agencies are all structured slightly differently from each other. Medium-sized to large companies that offer a range of other language services in addition to translation will therefore often refer to themselves as language service providers, or ‘LSP’s for short. The services they offer can include editing and proofreading, transcription und transcreation, copywriting or all the technological services like machine translation or terminology services.

A wide service offering needs competent professionals with specific abilities. Alongside the conventional roles like CEO, COO, accountants, HR and marketing specialists, a translation company needs ‘translation project managers’, who are sometimes also called ‘language managers’.

They are responsible for carrying out translation projects without a hitch from A to Z.

But just which processes and responsibilities fall within the role of translation project manager?

What does a translation project manager do?

A translation project manager mostly acts in a coordinating capacity. They are also professionals who act as intermediaries between two sides: clients and translators.

They are the first point of contact for any clients needing a translation or any other language services. They provide advice tailored to the situation where required. For more complex projects such as website or app translations, the technical phases usually need to be discussed in advance: On which CMS is a website based? What is the easiest and most secure way to export the text and then reimport it? Can the layout be reproduced 1:1 in all the target languages. How is the app programmed? Do UX texts need to be localised?

These are all important points and need to be taken into consideration. Depending on the medium, the type of text and the language combination, drawing up an offer can be simple or more complex.

Once the client has given the go-ahead for a translation, the project manager creates the corresponding language project in the order system. Translations are usually handled using the RWS Trados Studio software package. The project manager selects the appropriate specialist translator for each language project from the translator database. 

When the finished and corrected translation comes back, a final quality assurance is performed. The project manager is usually responsible for this as well, before they finally deliver the verified translation to the client and remain on hand to answer any questions.

Which qualifications do you need to become a translation project manager?

Anyone looking to work as a translation project manager will need one thing in any event: an above-average flair for languages. Does that sound pretty generic and vague to begin with? Let us explain in a bit more detail.

Although translation project managers do not carry out translations themselves, they still need to have a certain command of languages. This helps when planning an order and checking the quality. In many cases, a degree in translation forms the professional basis, but qualifications in linguistics or multilingual communication also provide a sturdy foundation for the job. 

In Switzerland, you will need to speak at least two and ideally three of the national languages. In addition to a basic linguistic education and an affinity for languages, the following qualities can prove useful: 

  • The ability to grasp things quickly and to work in an independent, structured and precise manner
  • Familiarity with CAT tools and proficient in the MS Office palette
  • Success- and solution-orientated
  • Good soft skills and a keen team player
  • Approachable and with a good sense of responsibility
  • Excellent customer focus

Dream job: translation project manager

Today, there are a number of innovative language solutions alongside human translation: machine translation, language recognition software and artificial intelligence are just a few of the many keywords.

But the profession of translator has far from died out, as technology is a long way from being able to hold a candle to expert human knowledge.

And wherever there is a demand for translations, there will also be a demand for articular project managers.

You can find information on the potential qualifications available from the ZHAW School of Applied Linguistics.

Here is an overview of positions open at SwissGlobal.