Localization Project Managers: The Glue of the Localization Process

Localization project managers hold the entire localization process together. In this post, we’ll talk about what makes them so amazing, what skills define the best localization PMs, and what a day in their life looks like.


“Who owns this?”

It’s a common question when it comes to new roles and responsibilities, especially as businesses grow. As you expand your operations internationally, investing in localization adds several more steps to launching new software, content, or app refreshes.

The truth is, everyone on your team owns a piece of the localization process:

  • Product managers create a new webpage or feature.
  • Designers create a layout and choose images.
  • Copywriters craft the version in your native language.
  • Translators deliver versions in target languages.
  • Developers implement the new designs.
  • Editors proof the copy, designs, translations, and perform quality assurance for the final implementation.
  • Marketing and Sales promote the new feature, page, or design.

...that’s a lot of moving parts. And that’s exactly why localization teams hire localization project managers.

What Does a Localization Project Manager Do?

Localization project managers (PMs) manage every step of the localization process, facilitating handoffs between stakeholders and keeping various requests on track and on budget.

With careful project management, they work hand-in-hand with product owners to define and optimize the process, measure quality and performance based on KPIs, and fine-tune the tech stack that makes translation happen. Depending on your localization strategy, you may need PMs to coordinate with high-quality linguists or freelance translators, be the go-between with vendors like Smartling (hi!), or work with internal resources.

Simply put, localization PMs get it done.

Why Do Companies Hire a Localization Project Manager?

If you’ve ever worked with a project manager before—for localization or otherwise—you know they have the magic touch. The best localization project managers keep translation projects humming on time, working tirelessly in the background to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Companies hire localization PMs because they bring a specific set of skills to the team, like:

  • Detail-oriented and process-driven: PMs know what it takes to get complex projects done, from project kick-offs to final reporting, and can mitigate risks with problem-solving skills to make sure they’re done successfully.
  • Professional multi-taskers: By definition, localization PMs have their hand in every stage of the localization workflow. They’ve got impressive communication skills and are comfortable working with marketers, product folks, designers, translators, developers, and vendors.
  • Natural leaders: The PM is at the center of the action. They coach, train, and lead the team, effectively communicating to all internal and external stakeholders.
  • Tech-savvy: Traditional localization processes used to be full of spreadsheets—but they don’t have to be. PMs bring experience and knowledge of industry-standard localization tools and can help teams choose the best options for their organization, whether that’s a translation management software (TMS), CAT tool, or an AI-powered software like Smartling.
  • Multi-lingual: Great PMs don’t need to be fluent in multiple languages to be successful, but it’s always a plus. Either way, they’re globally minded and comfortable working remotely or across time zones and cultures.

A Day in the Life of a Localization PM

For a localization program manager, no two days are exactly the same. Day-to-day tasks like drafting internal communications, leading status update meetings or sprint planning, preparing deliverables for translation, or pulling reports change based on how many projects you have going at any one time, and what language services you need.

PMs are part of every stage of the translation workflow. Here’s how this process works with Smartling:

  1. A localization PM fields a request for new translations or updates through a project management tool like JIRA. They receive and input new copy in their native language and mark the foreign languages requested for translation.
  2. Smartling integrates with your content management system and design systems, so anytime there’s new or updated content, it’s automatically parsed into strings and sent to the translators for those languages.
  3. Your assigned translators complete the work, tracking their progress and communicating directly with you throughout in case there are any questions.
  4. When the translations are all set, they automatically goes back into your CMS, and you click Publish.
  5. Localization PMs monitor the translation, overall performance, and work with Smartling to build out translation memory, machine translation, and the glossary, documenting the process.

Localization PMs may be superhuman, but they’re only one person. Combining the power of an organized, good project manager and a streamlined localization workflow with tools like Smartling accelerates your entire process.

How to Become a Localization Project Manager

Localization project manager jobs are in demand, and that’s no surprise. As more companies embrace globalization—and the fact that 75% of the population will choose whichever service provides them with information in their native language or preferred language—full-time program managers make the entire process easier.

Job titles may specify localization or stay general, like “Project Manager II.” Generally, before you can specialize in a given subject matter like translation, you need a few years of project management experience or certifications like the PMP©, an e-learning course well-respected in the project management community that covers stakeholder management, how to create a project plan, hiring the right project team for your organization, and more.

Here’s what a job description looks like for a full-time role at Amazon:

As a Localization Project Manager, you will be responsible for managing projects within the end-to-end localization workflow. You will be responsible for working with source deliverable teams, project stakeholders, and customers to deliver quality, localized deliverables including employee self-service content, knowledge base content, UI strings, communications, and training. You will be responsible for assessing the scope, providing timelines, and communicating risks. You will build relationships with translation service providers and resources to ensure timely, high-quality global content. You will be responsible for educating our internal stakeholders on the benefits of a systematic localization workflow and providing guidance to development teams to successfully onboard new tools and systems to Amazon’s localization workflows.

Key Responsibilities

  • Effectively manage concurrent deadline-driven tasks from early scope to final delivery.
  • Work successfully with project partners and stakeholders across various locations and time zones.
  • Adhere to established localization standards, systems, and best practices.
  • Partner with technology teams to drive the globalization of internal tools and systems.
  • Maintain clear and consistent project status reporting for project partners and leadership.
  • Work closely with external and internal language service providers to ensure on-time, high-quality translation delivery.

Basic Qualifications

  • Bachelor's Degree
  • 2+ years experience in program or project management
  • Demonstrated experience in l10n, i18n, and g11n best practices.
  • Successful project management of concurrent small to medium-sized projects.
  • Demonstrated experience with in-house or third-party translation management and content management systems.
  • Must be comfortable in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment and able to manage multiple priorities well.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Ability to work within ambiguity with little guidance.
  • Great verbal and written communication skills.
  • Proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English.
  • Project management certification.
  • Experience as a client-side localization PM.
  • Experience in localization engineering.
  • Experience with UI localization management and success onboarding development teams to localization workflows.

If becoming a localization project manager interests you, work on building your project management skills and taking on more organizational roles within your team.

Lead your next translation project, or reflect on team processes and work to optimize them. A quick LinkedIn search shows plenty of open localization project management roles at companies from Uber to Netflix—so if you’re detail-oriented and passionate about translation, why not apply?

Need a Localization PM for Your Team? Try Smarting’s Professional Services

Localization project management doesn’t have to be challenging. Smartling Professional Services implements and manages Smartling solutions to seamlessly connect your content platforms with our Translation Cloud.

Whether onboarding with Smartling for the first time, adding a new content source, or fine-tuning your current solution for evolving needs, our team is available to provide expertise on strategy and execution.

That’s valuable time back in your pocket, so you can focus on the bigger picture.

Learn more: https://www.smartling.com/professional-services/