The project manager role is one of the most important ones in the IT industry.
Without a highly skilled and adaptable person who will lead a localization workflow and manage deliverables, deadlines, and budget, it would be easy to lose time and money.
In the localization department, that valuable person has the job title: localization project manager or localization program manager. Sometimes they just go short: localization manager.
This key role can help a business to improve processes and productivity during localization and to accelerate expansion to new markets.
A localization project manager is a regular project manager specializing in localization.
IT project managers usually come from a developing background in the IT industry. They usually do extra training to improve their management skills. Typically they're improving skills like organization, prioritization, communication, etc.
Besides the development of soft skills, they should be familiar with at least one of the following methodologies:
☞ Kanban, or
When it comes to the localization industry, a project manager can come from a development background or transfer from the content side. It's not unusual to see localization specialists moving to project management.
The important thing is the ability to
☞ plan the project efficiently,
☞ set priorities and boundaries, and
☞ lead your team to the delivery.
Localization departments are cross-functional teams. They always work on multiple projects at once, so you need to be ready for the next level.
A localization project manager oversees the whole process of a company entering new markets.
They do the research, coordinate, and set up the environment for the deployment of the translated product to happen.
Considering that the localization manager is a translation project manager, you'll be required to approve the translation in smaller teams.
You'll be held accountable for everything around the localization process. And you'll also need to write job descriptions and hire team members and localization vendors.
The localization manager is responsible for implementing and executing the localization strategy. If there’s no senior localization manager in the localization department - like the head or director of localization - a manager is also responsible for strategy.
As a localization manager, you’ll be the one who leads the internal team. You'll coach them, do one on ones, and do reports not only on the project but on people’s performance as well.
However, if you’re entering a smaller company or a start-up, be ready to be a localization specialist, project manager, and probably a localization engineer at once. Or to manage outsourced professionals like translation agencies, freelance translators, and other external vendors.
Localization of the software is not a set-and-forget practice. On the contrary, it’s a continuous process. So, to help yourself and the localization team, you'll need to choose the best translation management system.
Dedicate yourself to thorough research before you tie the knot with one provider.
Choose the one with
☞ vocabulary creation options,
☞ stakeholders management,
☞ in-context editors, and
☞ needed integrations.
If you manage to find all that, you can forget MS Office once and for all.
Luckily, Localizely has all of that. Plus, reports and statistics of everything your team members have done. So you can manage localization projects in multiple languages more easily than ever.
Payscale reports $57k as an average annual salary, while Glassdoor reports an average of $76k.
Yet the truth is your salary will depend on various factors.
The type of your contract plays a significant role. Whether you're a full-time or associate project manager, and of course of the industry you're working in.
Geolocation plays a significant role here as well. The highest payment is offered when you reside in the United States or the United Kingdom.
An additional influence on pay range is whether you're solely working as a project manager or your job description includes some tasks that overlap with the localization specialist and product manager.
As mentioned above, excellent project management and communication skills are required for this job. Still, you’ll have to mix up a few more things into your list of capabilities.
We went through a few dozen of job ads for localization project managers, and here are some of the requirements that are repeating themselves for this job title:
Working knowledge of industry-standard localization tools
Strong analytical problem-solving skills
Strong attention to detail
Full professional fluency in English (additional languages are a plus)
Proven track record of localization project management
Previous experience with Language System Protocols
BA/BS degree or equal practical experience in localization, administration or international studies
Excellent organizational, time management, and communication skills
Cross-functional collaboration experience
Being multilingual can be a huge advantage in this industry more than in any other. Especially if you have work proficiency in any of these languages: Japanese, Thai, French, and Spanish. Of course, in combination with English.
As a localization manager, you should be:
☞ globally minded,
☞ culturally aware, and
☞ comfortable working remotely or across time zones and cultures.
As we’ve mentioned, you need to gain general project management experience before you specialize in localization.
To get a job as a localization PM, you’ll need
☞ exceptional organizational skills you can prove,
☞ a bachelor's degree in related fields (like international studies), or
☞ any of the recommended certification programs.
Project Management Professional by Project Management Institute
Project Management Certification by Google
Project Management Principles and Practices Specialization by the University of California, Irvine
Additionally, consider one of the following methodology certifications:
SCRUM: this one has multiple levels, and it depends on which position you want to take next in your career - do you want to be a product owner, project manager, or something else?
AGILE: agility may be the most used term in the IT industry in the last few years, so you won’t make a mistake with this one.
LEAN: believe it or not, this one comes from the automotive industry, and we at Localizely actually prefer it the most. It’s slowly penetrating digital industries, and we hope it’ll cut all unnecessary noise and tasks soon.
If this is a role you are interested in, learn and work on project management skills. You can also take the initiative in your current company in organizational roles. In this way, you can start small and end big while realizing in practice if this is the thing you actually want.
The most successful localization experts (as well as any expert) always ask the right questions while making realistic and attainable projections.
They have good prioritization and output (visual, linguistic, technical) and remain within the predicted budget for the project.
A thorough understanding of the local market and habits will make you one of the most reputable. This can be researched or gained by experience (tip: a mix of both would be the most effective).
Many localization project managers can speak multiple foreign languages. That helps establish correct communication with every stakeholder in the localization process, which will be a huge deal breaker for better estimating the project's time frame.
Localization managers should also understand the translation services market to negotiate better terms and the realistic requirements of hiring local team members or localization vendors.
If you're starting as an associate project manager, ensure you have client-facing experience before you enter the localization market, as things can get pretty hectic.
Knowing the localization tool market, what they offer and how to adapt them to the needs of every stakeholder will be a huge advantage at any niche or company, and it'll help you tremendously.
As we already mentioned, proper certification can play a significant and distinctive role in making you an expert.
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article - the terms localization specialist and localization project manager are often used interchangeably like synonyms. They’re not. On the other hand, a localization program manager is the same as a localization pm.
Anyways, let's clear this out.
As a localization project manager, you’ll be a highly cross-functional person. You’ll be responsible for budget, suppliers, delivery, and deployment.
This means you’ll need to recruit and contract employees and outsource LSPs. So, as an LPM, you’re a people manager as well.
You’ll need to create workflows and briefs and determine deliverables and delivery dates.
As time goes by and you gain experience with certain geolocations, you'll need to create particular guidelines for those regions in collaboration with different localization specialists.
On the other hand, a localization specialist is more like a translator/editor/interpreter with a solid knowledge of product development and marketing processes. They're in charge of the product and responsible for its final translated version. They're often required to have high levels of multiple languages or finished language studies as they're held accountable for every piece of translation.
The key to growing your business internationally is to enter new markets. To enter new markets, you need to prepare your product for the brand-new launch. This preparation is coordinated by the localization manager.
Statistics show that this job title is showing in more job ads than ever - the position is in high demand.
Take your chance, and step into a developing industry.
No matter your starting point, working knowledge of translation management software can help you thrive as a localization PM. The good news is that Localizely offers a free plan, so you can learn on the go and start with your new job prepared.
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Bojana is a Content Marketing Consultant at Localizely. She is interested in languages and marketing. Also, she is a big fan of tech products.
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