The question “What do you do?” often pops up in conversations among friends or family. The answer is not straightforward. What does a project manager in the localization industry do? And first of all, what is localization?

To make it short, the localization industry deals with translation – but not just so. For example, to localize a software product, we would translate the user interface, the online help and related user guide documentation, and we would make sure that the terminology, the shortcuts and help topics are adapted to the target users’ culture. In our industry, we may also work on multimedia documentations, e-learning modules, or games… Localization is translation, with an IT and DTP side to it.

In the localization industry, the project manager is the conductor of the orchestra which may include translators, L10N engineers, DTP specialists, voice talents… depending on the opera work to be played . Localizing a user guide created in a usual MS Office format from English into French is one thing. Having the same user guide, this time in XML format, with non-editable images, localized in 12 languages (including double-byte languages like Chinese, and right-to-left writings like Arabic) requires a thorough study of the musical score, precise collaboration between the language and technical teams and extended preparation in order to make a flawless performance.

The project manager chooses the right people for each project. He’s also in direct contact with the audience – here, the client. The project manager and the client define together the scope of the project (source and target languages, formats, tools, process and planning). Furthermore, the project manager answers the client’s most important questions: “how much?” and “when”?

The project manager ensures that the translated resources match the client and target audience’s expectations. So he must be able to spot any false note – and have it corrected. He must implement the necessary quality controls before handing the deliverables to the client.

Being a project manager requires varied skills: translation, expertise in many software tools (from CAT tools to text editors), communication. He is a conductor and a “one-man band”!