Professions Within the Translation Industry

By Ray S
June 29, 2017

Who is it that’s completing your translation project when you hire a Language Service Provider? A translator, right?

Well, not exactly:

There are a large number of different roles in a translation project. Translation and localisation are detailed processes, with many different steps involved in the workflow and many different professionals called upon for input. It’s not just a case of a single person sitting down with your document and a blank piece of paper. There are also…

The operations and production team

Operations and Production Managers

Operations and production managers normally lead a team or teams of project managers. As the most experienced members of any team, they’re the escalation point for any particularly challenging projects and will handle client meetings and phone calls. They can sometimes take charge of production teams of engineers, typesetters, Quality Assurance specialists, or vendor management at critical stages of the project.

To be an operations or production manager, you’ll need to:

• Have excellent organisational and time management skills
• Own the ability to work well under pressure
• Be a good people person
• Be very process-oriented

Project management

In descending order of seniority, these are project directors, project managers, and project coordinators. They oversee all aspects of productions for projects, usually taking on the role of the client’s main point of contact.
When a project is first offered or being bid upon, they’ll analyse the files – often using Translation Memories – in order to provide an accurate quote to the client. After this, they’ll produce the production plans and schedules. Finally, they’ll often undertake some basic QA work and issue invoices to the client once a project is completed.
In short, if there’s a question relating to a particular project – whether from the client, or in-house from the translators, editors, or engineers – the project manager will be the one who gets consulted, because s/he has oversight of the entire process.

As a project director, manager, or coordinator you will:

• Often come from a languages background yourself
• Be ready to face a highly stressful job
• Need top-tier organisational and time management skills
• Be highly skilled at identifying and managing all risks
• Need to follow processes to the letter while thinking creatively to find solutions to the inevitable late deliveries from suppliers, compressed timelines from clients, power cuts, lightning strikes – whatever could delay a project!
• May be certified or hold a project management qualification such as PMP or PRINCE

Vendor managers

Vendor managers are usually in charge of recruiting new talent, most often translators, but also engineers, typesetters, interpreters, graphic designers – whatever the project needs.

They’re responsible for identifying recruitment channels such as the company website, advertisements, LinkedIn, and referrals. They then screen applicants and weed out those who are obviously unqualified.

Applicants who pass the first stage are then tested by the vendor manager, who’ll usually have the applicant complete a specific test translation linked to their specialism (at Asian Absolute every translator needs to be qualified or highly experienced in a certain industry sector, for example, finance or the medical field).
If an applicant scores highly, the vendor manager will then negotiate rates and walk them through the registration process. This will normally involve signing Non-Disclosure Agreements and training on the company’s in-house systems.

As well as initial recruitment, as a vendor manager you would be responsible for:

1. Ongoing performance assessment of recruited specialists – it’s not enough to recruit individuals with the best profiles and test results, you need to make sure they continue performing on every project, and to measure this performance objectively.
2. Select linguists or specialists for specific projects – some translation companies rely on project managers to do this, while in others selection is the responsibility of the vendor managers. This is because of their in-depth knowledge of each individual in-house staff member, and of any external suppliers the company uses.

If they’re expected to fulfil this latter role, being a vendor manager can easily be as stressful as other project management-based positions. That’s because they’ll need to source suppliers or staff for diverse projects under tight time constraints. The ability to develop strong personal relationships with suppliers then comes to the fore, enabling the best vendor managers to elbow their way to the front of the queue to get a project completed by the strongest, most in-demand translators!

Localisation engineers, and DTP or typesetting specialists 

These specialists work on translation projects which involve a lot of file engineering. In any one day they could be:

1. Exporting translatable text from a wide range of file formats, from simple Word documents through HTML/XML, desktop publishing applications such as InDesign and Quark, through to files containing text for software applications, such as resx
2. Importing translations back into the original file format
3. Testing and bug fixing
4. Repairing text which overruns the edge of boxes in a brochure, or other formatting problems
5. Deep functional testing of e-learning packages and software applications
6. Working out solutions to seemingly impossible bugs which defy all logic

That’s in addition to developing any in-house tools or applications that a localisation company might produce for their own internal use. These could be relatively simple, like add-ons to Computer Aided Translation tools or widgets which link one system to another, automating time-consuming tasks. Or they could be fully integrated Translation Management Systems or Enterprise Resource Planning applications.

Quality assurance (QA) specialists

The QA team are the “gate-keepers” of quality. They ensure all documents which are delivered to a client are spotless and ready for publication.

For most QA specialists, this means they’ll often be checking translated files in languages which they themselves don’t understand. They’ll be looking for issues ranging from correct numerals and acronyms, through to counting the number of bullet points in a list, correct use of file names, and file sanitisation issues such as removing the translator’s name from the properties of a Word document

As a Quality Assurance specialist, you’ll need to:

• Have tremendous attention to detail (you’ll often see QA specialists holding rulers up to their screens, assessing the layout of a document)
• Own extreme powers of concentration
• Possess the ability to stare at a computer screen or printouts for 8 hours a day or more without losing perspective

Sales and account managers

The sales and account management team are client-facing. They advise the client and negotiate the best deals. In some translation companies they’ll work with existing clients only, while in others they’ll also be tasked with finding new clients.

Much like any industry sector, salespeople will tell you they have the hardest job of all. It’s certainly true that successful salespeople can make or break a translation company just as much as production people can.

As a salesperson you’ll be usually be expected to handle:

1. Acting as the client’s eyes and ears within the Language Service Provider, harassing the production teams to ensure high quality, on-time delivery at all costs.
2. Cold calling
3. Email campaigns
4. Mailshots
5. Attending conferences and events
6. Public speaking
7. Informal networking
8. Other dark arts which will never be revealed by successful salespeople

Some salespeople prefer not to be trained in too much of the minutiae of how the translation production process works, so that they can sell the “magic” of the service to prospective clients. Account managers or relationship managers working with existing clients, on the other hand, will require a deep understanding of the production process so that they can discuss it with any client on demand.

The IT department

Depending on the size of any given Language Services Provider, they might rely on an external contractor to carry out day-to-day IT tasks, update antivirus software, manage software licenses, and so on. No real localisation expertise is required to do this job.

Larger localisation agencies, however, might have entire in-house IT teams. For these teams, there’s some critical work to be done. This can require an extremely specialist skill-set, combining deep IT and software expertise with extensive understanding of localisation processes. That’s because their work can involve:

Managing and developing extremely complex software applications and cloud computing solutions
Working with the IT teams of clients to integrate client-side systems. This could mean integrating client’s Content Management Systems with the localisation agency’s production systems, enabling – for example – continuous localisation solutions, whereby translation of segments of text begins as soon as they have been approved within the client-side application

The marketing team

The marketing team are responsible for the company’s image, and all external and internal communications. This can include:

1. Company website
2. Brochures
3. Business cards
4. Blogs
5. Social media
6. Newsletters
7. Exhibition stands
8. Networking at events
9. Public Relations
10. Internal communications – newsletters, intranet, physical notice boards, and so on

The finance and administration team

Sometimes these will be separate teams, while other LSPs prefer to combine their functions.

Much like most of the other groups mentioned here, finance and admin team know that they’re the ones who are really running the company. They’re responsible for making sure that:

1. Clients are invoiced correctly, with the credit controller ensuring clients pay on time
2. Suppliers are paid promptly
3. Salaries are paid on time
4. There is regular management reporting
5. Annual accounts are prepared, and all aspects of compliance handled
6. The office premises runs smoothly, including everything from negotiating with landlords through to making sure there is paper in the printer
7. And, critically from the point of view of all other departments, organising the office party and other social events

That’s probably enough for one post so we won’t even try to go into the editors, proofreaders, and reviewers involved in the translation process (you can find our article about their job roles by following the link), the transcribers and interpreters who are sometimes needed, or the voiceover talents who lend their voices to audio and video files.

One thing’s for sure then:

If you’re interested in getting a job in a translation agency, no matter what skill-set you have you might still have something to offer.

What have we missed?

Every Language Service Provider is different and whether you’re a client, supplier, or employee you’re likely to have come across different ways to organise the various functions and tasks within the translation and localisation process. Please take a moment to add a comment and let us know whether or not this post matches your experience in the industry.