How we managed a project during a pandemic
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
We write this as we finish ticking the last folders as “Final - Delivered”: five partial deliveries of about 30 folders, 108,536 words, 1339 pages of a project that took us three months to complete. In these three months, while we managed this project, humankind has endured a pandemic. For us, this work experience was a huge learning opportunity for many reasons, and we want to share this with you.
Back in March, we started talking about this project with Mary Jane McCullough, our client and friend from Global Wordsmiths. At the time, all we knew was that there was a chance we could work together on a big project on school materials. By the end of that month, and all through April, we kept mentioning it occasionally, while we talked about other projects. But this potential job kept coming up. By the end of April, we had a more definitive idea of what the actual need was, we had already fallen in love with the texts, and we could not help but wonder how we could do this during a pandemic. Could we possibly ensure the team’s continuity in the midst of a health emergency? This time, the optimal result—the one we always strive for—depended on many people and it seemed far from our desired level of control.
Our key is interdisciplinary mindset
At Tradoctas, one of our ruling premises is to always consider the importance of synergy in interdisciplinary work. From the very beginning, we work with consultants expert in different areas (economy, finance, marketing, design, community management, legal affairs, professional development) based on our needs and ideas. In order to assess the project’s feasibility, we designed a work plan with our head of administration: we thought about how many people we would need in our team, and who could be a part of that project. Then we ironed out some of the plan’s details with our client. As it is commonly the case, a project’s ideal time frames are considerably different when they meet real life and expectations, so the next step meant tweaking and rethinking the schedule. We quantified new deadlines and did some reshuffling, but always bearing in mind how we would manage risk. The technical and financial proposal came to light after several conversations. And it was approved! We were now in charge of a massive project in times of a pandemic. The tough part began—to realize our plans and hope for the best.
The project’s whole team was made up of seven people who translated, three people who did the proofreading, three people who assessed the design (which eventually came down to only one person), and two people who did the final quality control. At all times, both partners were in charge of project management and operations. The whole team worked remotely all through the project.
The obstacles we overcame
In the beginning, we realized that the working method and the translation tool we were using were not appropriate. This was the first obstacle that we had to overcome. Around that time, we also finalized an acquisition process: we purchased an online translation software for the whole team. This happened after we had an internal survey among our team and after we talked to colleagues abroad who specialize in IT tools. Once we had this software up and running and we had improved the design process, we were able to further streamline partial delivery deadlines and to make it easier to compare the online file (no design and no layout) to the original one.
Of course, no project is free from complications. The second obstacle occurred when, for different reasons, some translations failed to meet the expected standard. An initial substandard translation triggers alarms throughout the process: those of us who do this job know that it can take longer to retranslate and proofread, longer to tweak the design, and longer to do a final control, knowing how difficult the previous steps were. In the face of these situations, risk management helps us understand that this can happen, and that it is best to be prepared in advance. In Tradoctas, we work to have increasingly larger control over our human and artificial quality, not only to have great results but also to be able to better explain mistakes internally and to learn from them. Thus, our first decision was to talk between the partners, with the translator and a general mention with the team, and to provide detailed feedback that could clearly pinpoint the corrections and the rationale behind them. When something like this happens in such a particular project, it is paramount for us — as project leaders — to keep open lines of communication in order to achieve results without bringing the team’s morale down.
At Tradoctas, it is also essential to be aware of our team’s wellbeing, all the more so during a pandemic. We have regularly taken the time to inquire about our colleagues and clients’ personal situations, because we are convinced that these tiny gestures make a difference, perhaps imperceptible for some, but vital for us. As partners, we also took care of each other and discussed our feelings; being able to have each other’s support was key to preserving the synergy and, thus, to keeping a calm and balanced work environment.
As we approached the final delivery, we started to feel that we would miss the project — and we do. Slowly but surely, the shared sheets had a dwindling number of online users at a time; we were fewer and fewer as time went by. We had hoped for the best, and that belief had become a reality. Part of the initial feasibility assessment made it possible for us to have reasonable time to do a final and thorough proofreading of each delivery. As partners, we were able to finish the project and do a wrap-up assessment of the whole experience. This gives us the necessary confidence to move forward onto our next adventure.
We would like to thank the whole team and, particularly, Global Wordsmiths. It is time to celebrate!
Some thoughts from our team
"Professionally, this project was a challenge in terms of the creativity of what I wrote; it demanded considerable teamwork to find adequate solutions that would maintain the quality of the original and still be inclusive in Spanish, without losing the English language’s word economy, since we also had to adapt to the original design, sometimes with little space available for text. I would like to thank Tradoctas for making me a part of this assignment, in which I experienced the best teamwork; for their dedication to coordinate the workflow, making sure I had enough time to focus on the translation with the necessary level of detail and professionalism that it required; and for making it possible to exchange doubts and suggestions with first-class colleagues.”
María Paz Mariñas
"It was an extremely pleasant surprise to be a member of the Tradoctas’ team. I immediately felt like we were completely synced in terms of what is expected from a quality, sensitive, and sensible translation. It was a pleasure to be given clear instructions about what was expected of me, to find dynamic work tools that fostered teamwork and to feel that the professionals in charge of the project cared about my contributions. Moreover, in a time when professionals must balance work responsibilities with home chores, in this uncertain and distressful context, it was extremely valuable to feel that Tradoctas cared about my availability and my needs.”
"Tradoctas’ team gave me carte blanche to work and trusted me to suggest how to deal with the process of preparing the files for editing. Once the first stage of the project was over, we set a schedule for partial deliveries of the translated documents, with well-defined dates so that the whole editing, proofreading and delivery process would flow as seamlessly as possible.
The truth is, it was a long and quite demanding process, but thanks to the excellent working environment that we enjoyed, and to the responsibility and professionalism of every party, it turned out to be a very pleasant and gratifying experience. That is why I cannot help but feel extremely grateful to Tradoctas’ people for choosing me for this project and for making me feel an important part of the team. I am sure that the future will bring new challenges and we will be there to face them!"