Day in the Life of a GPM
latest addition to the Ccaps team, Cassius Figueiredo shares
his industry experience in this interview-style article.
How would you define Global Project Management (GPM)?
How does it differ from Local Project Management?
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
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!
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.
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 me to come and work for Ccaps
and here I am now.
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
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
In this edition of the Ccaps Newsletter, we
are publishing an article by Andre Barcaui. He
believes that project management is both art and
discipline. Would you agree with him and if so,
how do you apply this concept to your daily work?
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).
CCAPS: As a GPM, you interact with
people from all over the world and from a range of different
cultures. Can you recall a humorous or challenging experience
that resulted from cultural or language barriers?
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?
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
CCAPS: Any special tips to share with our
readers, a group that includes project managers like
you and those interested in starting a career?
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?
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.
Figueiredo is a Senior Project Manager and has been
working in the localization industry for 11 years.
He also worked at the US Library of Congress for
two years as head of the IT department. Currently,
he manages localization projects at Ccaps.
Juggling with the daily work and the studies for
the PMI exam, Cassius sometimes has to play with
his kids until late for them to fall asleep.