A Day in the Life of a GPM
latest addition to the Ccaps team, Cassius Figueiredo
shares his industry experience in this interview-style
CASSIUS: The GPM’s work in project management involves production centers in different countries. One of the main differences between the work of a GPM and that of an LPM is that the GPM is in direct contact with the end client. Therefore, it is his or her responsibility to define all procedures, ensuring that the client’s needs and expectations are fully met upon project finalization. He or she is also responsible for sharing project information with all the parties involved, serving as the focal point for communication and guaranteeing the consistency of the information used for all languages.
CCAPS: What is involved in a classic GPM process and what are the pitfalls that one should avoid?
CASSIUS: Participating in global project management means having knowledge of several areas of project management. From the assessment of client needs to project completion, the process involves time, cost and risk planning, understanding of quality requirements, procurement and communication. This is true for each of the projects managed – and don’t forget the manager is frequently managing several projects at the same time!
I believe that the main pitfalls are related to communication and direct contact with the client. In a project like this, there is daily contact with people of cultures far different from your own, and this requires a certain degree of adaptability on the manager’s behalf. When it comes to contacting the client, besides the culturally motivated adaptation, one must take extra care because the manager is responsible for representing the company -- and he or she must represent it well! What also makes communication and organization extremely important is that any mistake made by the GPM quickly contaminates the work of the LPMs in charge of production, and this may lead to serious time and money losses.
CCAPS: We understand that you started working with localization back in 1994. Tell us a bit about your background as an engineer and how it influenced your management skills.
CASSIUS: I began working with localization in 1994 as a “Software Engineer,” which was what this position was called at the time. Today, it is known as “Localization Engineer.” Between 1994 and 1998, I worked on several highly interesting projects, including two versions of Microsoft Office — for the MS Office 95 and 97 versions, I was always the engineer in charge of MS Word —, Lotus Notes, Microsoft Encarta [that’s right, the Microsoft encyclopedia], to mention just a few. At that time, we did not have access to any of the translation tools that exist today, and the entire localization process was essentially manual. After working for some time in the Engineering Department, I left Bowne Global Solutions (BGS) to work for the US Library of Congress Office at the American Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, where I was responsible for the whole IT department. I worked there for two years. In 2000, I returned to BGS as a Project Manager until 2006. Then Lionbridge acquired BGS and the office in Rio de Janeiro was closed. I was invited to come and work for Ccaps and here I am now.
All the experience I gained as an engineer has helped me immensely in the daily management of projects because it facilitates the identification of risks inherent to the process and makes communication with clients more effective.
CCAPS: How was your first experience as a GPM?
It was with small-scale projects at BGS. Basically,
minor Microsoft projects for languages such as German,
French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Simplified
and Traditional Chinese.
I most certainly agree. Perhaps the most difficult
thing is identifying the proper balance between art
and discipline that should be applied to each project.
Project managers work with people and that makes my
activity one of the most challenging in terms of personal
and professional growth. Besides, a project is a unique
effort that demands maximum creativity and the use
of techniques suited for the different project phases.
This leads me to the conclusion that, among other
things, a project manager must combine his or her
interpersonal abilities (the ART) with knowledge of
project management techniques (the DISCIPLINE).
CASSIUS: I can remember mainly the complicated ones. Working with Easterners, for example, is always challenging for us in the West, requiring a high level of adaptation. The cultural differences are enormous, and Easterners’ way of handling problems is very different from ours. I always avoid sending feedback on a particular job when there are people in the Cc field of a message. This is because Easterners are very sensitive to criticism being shared with people who they consider “strangers.”
CCAPS: Between you and me, are localization-savvy clients more demanding than those who have less knowledge of how the industry works?
CASSIUS: Well now... Clients are always demanding, whether or not they know what they are buying. It is our job to define the limits as to what is possible and what is not in order to reach an agreement that meets their expectations. Perhaps the big difference between localization-savvy clients and those who are not is the fact that the former often have projects that are more realistic. Those clients who are not knowledgeable about our processes create virtually impossible challenges, so it is up to us to mold or “educate” them so that they accept something more realistic, using our experience in the area.
CCAPS: Any special tips to share with our readers, a group that includes project managers like you and those interested in starting a career?
CASSIUS: Learn to deal with people because they are the most valuable asset of a project. Study hard and keep up with existing techniques because, as familiar as it may seem, you never know how messy the next project can be. As I said earlier, projects are UNIQUE by definition. I always like to use a metaphor to explain that even though project management is not a box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re gonna get.”
CCAPS: Finally, in a few words, how is a day in the life of a GPM like?
CASSIUS: Good question! The day starts with massive e-mails, and almost all of them contain issues to solve. When you get close to lunchtime, you’ve probably solved half of the issues, yet accumulated another bunch that arrived that very same morning. Closer to the end of the day, you will have solved many issues, but some remain pending. These will be transferred to the following day, when the process starts all over again.
Whether this is a joke or the truth, I leave it for the reader’s imagination – or to an experienced project manager to discover. A day in the life of a GPM (or project manager of any kind) is an immense challenge, one that turns your career into an object of hate or passion. I always say that, like many other colleagues, I became a project manager by chance, but now I love my profession and what I learn from it on a daily basis is simply priceless.
This article was also published in Сcaps Newsletter (http://www.ccaps.net)
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