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Project Managers Need More Hugs – An Interview with Jo Zhang

Happy International Project Management Day! According to internationalpmday.org, the purpose of International Project Management Day is to encourage project-based organizations to demonstrate appreciation for—and recognize the achievements of—project managers and their teams. In celebration of this annual event, we want to highlight the achievements of one of our very own, very motivated project managers, Jo Zhang.

In this featured interview, Jo (shown on the left) talks with Melissa Taing (right) about the challenges of managing localization projects, how to overcome them, and then makes some suggestions on how we can all better express appreciation to the PMs that we work with every day in our industry.

Jo Zhang

Born and raised in Beijing, Jo Zhang has lived in the capital of China most of her life. After graduating from university in Qingdao, where she majored in English, Jo worked in client and account management for Apple before joining CSOFT as a project manager, where she has provided exemplary service for the past three years.

When not playing e-mail tag with translators, Jo enjoys hiking and traveling. She also loves trying out new cuisine, but will always return to an unwavering love for spicy food. Her positive energy and optimistic outlook on life is nothing short of infectious. Enjoy!

From a project manager’s point of view, what skill do you think is most overlooked but essential in your line of work?

Jo: Most overlooked… well, I know a lot of people focus on the ability to be organized and to connect well with people, etc., and these are important. But I think one of the most important overlooked aspects of project management is having the ability to help the client improve their localization process. This ability comes from overall experience. It’s important to have a lot of experience as a PM. There are many different types of localization projects, and there aren’t any one-size-fits-all solutions when dealing with them. You have to know the client—know what they want—and, based on that, you have to know what to do for each different type of project in order to achieve the client’s goals and improve on them.

If you have the experience, you can help the client improve their process and also save some costs beyond just good TM leverage.

So would you consider experience to be the most important quality for a project manager to have?

Jo: Yes. But to go deeper, I think that, as project manager, the most important skill is to use this experience to lead better. You have to drive the project to completion. Just like our MedL10N director Tammy said in her post on the company blog recently, we are like the pilots of airplanes. You have to reach your destination in the most efficient way possible.

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While minimizing casualties, right?

Jo: (laughs) Yes, that’s always a good thing.

So what do you find is the most challenging thing about, as you say, driving projects?

Jo: Well, for projects in fields that you’ve never worked with before, you need to learn about the field and also lead that project at the same time. This is very challenging. And also, if the schedule is tight (and it usually is), you have to think quickly and get the entire process finished within a limited time. You can’t stop for even a minute.

If the project is in a new field, how do you deal with that?

Jo: In a perfect situation, any new information you need should be available already, or you should at least have the time to go to the client for that information. This is not always possible, though. One way of dealing with projects in new fields is by asking questions to supervisors or other PMs who have similar experience. For PMs, we have to talk to people regularly to find out what exactly needs to get done and what the specific requirements are for the project.

And sometimes requirements are not specific or clear enough. That’s when this job gets difficult. Ideally, the requirements should be settled and crystal-clear first; otherwise, when you proceed to the translation and localization phase, it will cost money and time to fix mistakes.

Do you have any time-management tricks to share?

Jo: All PMs have tricks (smiles). For me, when I am working with US clients, for example, we receive a lot of emails during the night and I’ll get them when I first get to work. It’s a matter of balancing your time. After 3 pm, I’ll be really busy, because all the translators are finally getting up (laughs). I need to be able to communicate very actively with them, but at the same time, I need to communicate with all of the clients. I guess it’s just important to have priorities, but be flexible with them. If that makes sense.

Sometimes it’s hard to adjust to a time schedule—especially if you have a tight schedule—and sometimes we do have to work overtime. It’s the last option, but you just have to do it.

How do you keep your team members motivated?

Jo: For PMs, all we need are clear responsibilities; I think that’s enough to be motivated. For my team, though, I think it’s always helpful and encouraging to share good news with the whole team, translators and engineers included. Good feedback from clients and translators can definitely make your day happy and keep you motivated. I think people need to be encouraged; me too as well! (laughs)

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Well, I think you’re doing a great job!

Jo: Thank you!

So what do you think is the most valuable thing you’ve learned in this position?

Jo: To pay attention to details and to make sure you are able to walk in your client’s shoes. We have to pay attention to details because localization work is not a general industry. We need to be very aware of every single small detail. We have to constantly be watching out for issues that create less efficiency so we can solve them.

At CSOFT, clients always come first. From the client’s side, sometimes they want to get work done very quickly, but they also want to save cost. In this situation, we need to think from their point of view and try to help them. Also we need to work like a team. As a PM, you’re not working alone. You are working with a team, so team spirit is very important. And also experience. I’ve learned a lot from the company culture and our supervisors. The great thing about the work environment here is that people are very approachable.

Well, because this is International Project Management day, what do you think we can do, including your clients and team members, to best show our appreciation to project managers?

Jo: Maybe a hug! (laughs) That’s simple right?

I’m quite satisfied with the current situation.

I think we can definitely manage a hug (laughs). That’s great to hear! So do you have any last comments before we wrap things up?

Jo: Well, maybe a little advice for other project managers, no matter the industry: As project managers, we need to be positive all the time, even if things are challenging or if we get complaints from clients. Because we’re leading the team, if we feel negative, this will affect others. And everyone is under pressure so we don’t need to put more pressure on anyone else. Just make sure everyone is happy. You work better if you’re happy.

Aww. I’m totally ready for that hug now.

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  1. “Walk in the client’s shoes”, Jo says. She’s hit the nail on the head. Internalizing the perspective of the client is such an art that requires the sharpest skills + diligence. Way to go project managers the world over. Keep on it!

  2. I am forever in awe of the ability of project managers to keep dates and details in their heads for tens of projects running simultaneously. I don’t know how you guys do it. Keep up the good work!

  3. Jo, Angie, Hattie, Samantha, Sally, Nga, Jayki, Donna, Terrence, Jack.. and all the cute/handsome and hardworking PMs at CSOFT: Thanks so much for your dedication! Hugs for you from Boston~~:-) Cheers to a even more successful year ahead~

  4. how interesting. happy international project management day to all~

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