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Hence, we did not hesitate for a second when it came to attending the Elia PM workshop organised in Prague in December 2017. We were curious whether we could honestly share knowledge and experience among one another. What could we return and surprise our colleagues with besides beer mats and some chocolate?


Although project management is something you can learn, it makes all the difference what each of us bring from home, from school, from life. Some compare this profession to that of a Chinese plate spinner, a psychologist, a clairvoyant, a wizard or a camel driver. Everybody should decide for themselves whether this is a compliment or not.


Processes and procedures become part of our knowledge trough experiences, we train ourselves in-house, the capital of a good project manager is their knowledge, that certain know-how. Who’s skilled at what is a sensitive issue, and as such it’s rather difficult to gain new knowledge, since everybody is keen on protecting theirs.

The ELIA PM focus, on the other hand, is a professional forum dealing with the biggest challenges of a PM’s work, such as time management, stress management, constantly developing technologies, modernisation and human relations.


In Prague, external and professional trainers helped us become familiar with new and innovative methods, that can help us through more stressful periods in the day-to day and also to have a better understanding of client expectations. It was inspiring to stand shoulder to shoulder with colleagues from various countries, and realise that all of us are moved by the same issues and challenges, albeit to varying degrees on account of cultural and economic differences.


During the presentation on stress management, for example, the presenter drew our attention to a breathing exercise which is so obvious and we are generally aware of its beneficial effects, yet we still react rashly and convulsively instead of taking a deep breath. Love yourself – a cliché that has been repeated ad nauseam. Yet everyday stress makes us forget this in a second, and it is hard to recognise that we tend to be stricter with ourselves than we are with others.


We cannot talk enough about how we can meet our clients’ expectations. Therefore, the words of the localisation project manager of GoPro, a real Silicon-valley company, were truly illuminating: his presentation made it clear that the basis of successful project management is the thorough knowledge and understanding of our clients: whose expectations do we actually need to meet? The client? The client’s client? In-house reviewers perhaps?  The end-user? What does quality mean? Not to mention that the suppliers also have their own expectations as well, and we can only successfully cooperate if these levels of expectation are the same.


Along technical lines, we gained deeper insight into integration and automation through a presentation, followed by a workshop on the two topics. We got to know the evolution of project managers: a few years ago, project managers were driving the plane, delivering files to their destination. Today their work resembles that of a traffic controller who supervises the projects and guarantees safe landing on a pre-planner route. The future, however, belongs to automated processes, which the project manager only checks if an imaginary red light turns on at some point. Each process that relates to production, software programming, information technology, etc. has an impact in some way or other on the composition of translations, the types of orders and the content of texts. These changes continuously shape the project management of translation jobs – think of the rapid growth of agile software development and the results of artificial intelligence development.


The life of project managers, as we see, is not easy: while they are taking care of the delivery of an urgent Chinese-English translation, they are looking for English-Norwegian professionals for another localisation job, and try to set up the software of another colleague over-the-phone. In the meantime, a Greek interpreting service needs to be organised for the next day. What makes a good project manager? Somebody who is calm and confident enough to organise and harmonise all these tasks, while applying current industry know-how and being thoroughly familiar with clients. In addition, a great sense of humour is also much needed. It cannot be done without that.

Most of the time project managers work independently, but they still need to feel that they are part of a team, where they are appreciated. We need to learn to ask for help and also provide help. We need to support one another, join in on a project if it’s too much for the other, we need to learn to be brave enough to ask questions if we feel that certain parts of the project are beyond our capabilities. It’s not embarrassing. The same applies to learning how to pass on knowledge, provide help effectively, to be supportive without being a smart-ass. Moreover, we have to learn how to fail, and lead by example in managing failure as well. Tension must not be projected on to colleagues, but we should all learn how to let off steam, something joint coffee breaks, lunches combined with walks, an out-of-office project from time to time or honest conversations are ideal for. And above all, we need to learn to be happy for both individual and mutual successes.


Marianna Nagy

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