Yusen: Welcome and thank you for listening to ROAR: Speedbumps. I’m Yusen!
Nathaniel: And I’m Nathaniel.
Yusen: And we are currently graduate students at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. We both study translation and localization management.
Nathaniel: If you are unfamiliar with ROAR, we are a student led podcast designed to address “speedbumps” or challenges that exist in the localization industry. We speak with industry students, professionals, and educators to learn about these speedbumps and discuss possible solutions.
Yusen: Today we have Thomas Huang with us here, he is currently working as a production manager at MediaLocate.
Thomas: Hello, I’m Thomas.
Nathaniel: Thank you so much for being here with us today. We appreciate your time. And could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thomas: Sure, so I’m Thomas Huang, and I’m currently working at MediaLocate as the Project Management Lead at West coast operations. So, my main responsibilities is to oversee the project management over here at the pacific grove office. And most of that includes overseeing their capacity and overseeing their workflow and processes are efficient and optimized and also working in different departments in the company to make sure that interdepartmental concerns or issues are addressed. And I started at MediaLocate about 10 years ago as a project manager and slowly moved up the ranks to senior project management and eventually to project management lead on the west coast.
Nathaniel: That’s really interesting, and I wanted to ask you; what would you say the qualifications are for being a production manager? I mean you have a lot of experience but what other aspects are involved in being a production manager?
Thomas: I think as a production manager you have to be able to see the big picture. Working with project managers and different departments, and take a look from a macro level on projects or accounts and see what the problem is and how to address it and to definitely have problem solving skills I mean you’ll be, as a production manager or project management lead there’s always project management related issues that need to be resolved and there is no one solution to everything a lot of times so you’ll definitely have to be creative about how you approach certain issues or opportunities for improvement.
Nathaniel: Okay thanks.
Yusen: So, Thomas, what kind of speedbump challenges did you experience when you worked as a project manager after graduation?
Thomas: I think, as a project manager, one of the challenges I had to deal with was with certain clients. We do deal with various companies and various clients and sometimes we have clients that are more on the less supportive side. So essentially, we get the file and they expect us to just get it done without giving us much of the project specs, source files we needed, and the support that we needed in terms of answering queries and so on. So essentially it becomes difficult for us to help them achieve the quality output that they need in their delivery. So, I find these to be the most difficult challenges as a project manager. I mean obviously we have other common issues in project management as well, such as dealing with restrained timeline or restrained budget with some of the clients we work with because we deal with many different accounts so these are common issues that I’m pretty sure that many project managers face in their career.
Yusen: Yea. So, Thomas, how did you deal with these kinds of difficult clients?
Thomas: I think, so I think it’s important to think in other people’s shoes and approach it from the other persons perspective, so when we approach such problems, we list out the things we need help on, or basically, how they can help us to help them essentially. And how we can create a win-win situation at the end. And typically, when you present the issue that way most of the people are open minded to resolving the situation because they see the benefit on their end in resolving the situation itself as well.
Yusen: Okay thank you Thomas.
Nathaniel: Yea, so I wanted to ask you, how those challenges as a project manager compare to the challenges you face as a production manager now?
Thomas: I mean there are definitely some similarities, but there are also, as a production manager or project management lead, since it’s more of a managerial role, it is more of, more of the issues are on the macro level, rather than on a specific project level. A lot of what I deal with on a day-to-day basis are taking a look at the departmental capacity or taking a look at processes that’s currently going on and account relationships that I need to address and so on. And if there are any opportunities for improvement with other departments, I meet with other departments to see if there is anything that can be changed in the way we work to improve our processes.
Nathaniel: So, you basically act as a representative for the production team when talking to the other internal stakeholders for the company?
Thomas: Right, that is definitely a part of the responsibilities.
Nathaniel: Yea, I get that.
Yusen: So, Thomas, can you tell us how your mentality changed when you were promoted from senior project manager to production manager? Do you feel you had more responsibilities on your shoulders?
Thomas: Yes, because the responsibilities are no longer only on the accounts per say, but the running of the entire department, so there is definitely a sense of bigger responsibility in terms of the well being of the staff and how the department is run and in a bigger picture how the company is run, when I was switched from a project manager to a project management lead.
Yusen: So, we do hear a lot of good reviews from your project managers that were under you. So, what do you think of managing people as a production manager? Do you think it’s a hard task, or it’s not a challenge to you?
Thomas: I think it will be a constant challenge for me. I mean there’s still a lot of things I learn as I go, and there’s still things I think is definitely… I mean at the end of the day we’re dealing with people there’s not exactly a sort of textbook on how you deal with, work with different types of people from all kinds of backgrounds, so there’s, I would definitely say there’s still a challenge out of my everyday job that I still try to address every day.
Nathaniel: Yea, and on kind of a final follow-up, if you’d have any advice for somebody getting into the localization industry, especially production side who might aspire to be a production manager, what advice would you give to them if they are just starting out?
Thomas: Well definitely be linguistically sensitive. Sort of not being confined to the mentality of one language. And definitely being at MIIS, they definitely make sure you break out of that thinking. So that’s definitely a good start. And I think people need to understand unfortuNathanielly, especially localization project managers since we do deal with people from all time zones, in your beginning of your career it’s very unlikely it’s going to be a 9 to 5-sharp job so there may be times you have to talk to somebody in Asia or somebody in Europe to get your projects done. And another thing, try to constantly learn different tools as much as you can, because the localization field is constantly changing, and there are always new tools out there to make your process more efficient, and your client will always come back to you on “hey I need to use this new platform or new tools, what can you do?”, so it never hurts to set aside some time to keep learning like what’s the newest CAT tools out there, what kind of bug tracking software is out there, or platforms out there and what’s the newest content management systems that clients are using. And when the client finds out that you can sort of speak the same language and use the same tools it’s much easier to build a relationship down the line.
Nathaniel: Great, thank you.
Yusen: And Thomas, I have one final question: Tell us one thing you wish you had known before you started working as a production manager.
Thomas: I think definitely improve my people skills that’s for sure, because a lot of the responsibility as a production manager or a department lead is to negotiate and come up with solutions together, as I mentioned earlier, so knowing how to work with different kinds of people and whether it’s across departments or within your own departments, I mean that has become something that is very crucial for this role, understanding what people are looking for, and understanding what people need as you negotiate will definitely give you an edge in achieving the negotiation results that you want, I believe.
Yusen: Thank you Thomas for coming in and discussing your experience and speedbumps with us today.
Thomas: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Nathaniel: Yea, thanks Thomas we appreciate your time and have a great day and watch out for more speedbumps!
Yusen: And thank you to the audience for listening to our episode of Speedbumps and have a great day.