Staff Interview

March 2017

Staff Interview: Takahide Hoshi

In October 2016, Takahide Hoshi became the manager of Arc Communications' Translation Project Management Team. From this new position at the helm of the team, he looks back at his career, and at how much translators taught him as he struggled in this field when he first joined Arc Communications as an inexperienced project manager. His reliability at work has consequently earned him the deep trust of his co-workers, partners and customers. Now, he tells us about his strong feelings for his department (and the translators).


Coming to Grips with a New Profession: PM

− Can you tell us about your current work?

I currently work with the Project Management Team as manager of the "Production" segment of the Translation & Localization Division. The project managers (PMs) start working on a project after a translation order has been received. Their tasks include scheduling and assigning a translator, but also ensuring the quality control, delivery dates and cost management on a project. My job is to supervise the work of all six of our PMs, and considering that one PM usually handles 30 to 40 projects on a monthly basis, the team is fairly busy. So it's important to set up an action plan in order to always effectively leverage our human resources.

In addition, regular contact with our translators is also indispensable. Plus, we are working at improving our information systems, such as our translator database. It's a tool used by PMs upon assigning a translator, as it allows them to search our database in order to find translators using keywords like a translators' areas of expertise, etc.

− How did you come to assume your current position?

I started working at Arc Communications and directly became a PM. But to tell you the truth, I had no experience whatsoever as a PM back then. (Laughs) So I owe a lot to people who assisted me when I was fumbling through this work - in particular translators who helped me a lot. I guess we could say that, at the beginning, they helped me out more times than I presented them with projects.

Then, as I continued working as a PM, my second child was born and I started thinking about taking a childcare leave. So I discussed it with our CEO, Ms. Ohsato, and she gladly went with it. But I didn't want my absence to be a nuisance and wanted to contribute to the company in some way or another, so I suggested taking a new full-time position in sales upon returning to work. That way, I could embark on my childcare leave after having prepared myself a position for when I got back.

In the end, some changes to the arrangement were made at the company, and I came back as a PM, like before, rather than taking up a position in sales. Then in 2013, I started holding a double position as a translation resource manager. This post was developed with an aim to enhance our capacities, by increasing the number of translators while improving PM productivity and the quality of our services. I was chosen because of my longevity in the company, my acquaintances with translators and my understanding of projects. Finally, after my appraisal interview in October 2016, I took this position as Manager of the Project Management Team.

Time-consuming Though it May Be, Feedback is Essential to Honing a Translator's Skills

− What is the most important element in your work in the translation field?

I think the most important thing is to fully grasp what customers require from translations. Because if we only vaguely understand their intentions - or have no idea for lack of asking -, then the delivered content might not match their expectations.

That's why once we have grasped their intended use of the translation, we endeavor to assign a translator who is suitable for the project. And after making sure that a translator's skills match the customer's request, we explain and discuss the project with the translator; and if the translator seems suitable for it, we proceed with the translation process.

− How do you maintain Arc Communications' characteristically high standards of quality?

Basically, Arc Communications' translation process requires a review of the translated work by a second translator. After that check, we send back the reviewed version to the initial translator. Then, the process requires the initial translator to examine this feedback, finalize the translation and deliver it to us. This method has remained unchanged since the company's establishment in 2005.

Back then, very few translation companies sent back feedback to their translators: the usual process for the translator was to translate the material, deliver the translated material to the translation company, and that was it. Yet by proceeding that way, translators can't be sure of the validity of their work. So adopting our method allows the translators to identify their idiosyncrasies, the customers' expectations and also have a better understanding of what makes a good translation.

This is just a small example of this process but, in our messages, we sometimes ask translators not to change the e-mail titles. As a matter of fact, it seems that the translators who immediately take this request into account tend to deliver us increasingly good translations.

− Can you tell us about a typically "Arc Communications-like" anecdote?

Recently, we implemented an intricate system to manage the workload of our most in demand translators. We did this to avoid situations where these translators - who constantly receive new projects due to the excellence of their output and because they rarely turn down our offers - end up being drowned in work and having to capitulate.

So we carefully examined our past orders, and noticed that we gave them extremely large amounts of small projects (small number characters to translate). To alleviate their intense workload, we came up with a measure to increase the number of larger projects with higher character counts, and cut down on the small projects. This way, rather than merely reducing their working hours, we reviewed our terms while managing their projects and delivering work assignments in a healthier manner. We did all this while striving to maintain their usual revenue. This initiative proved a success, and I am very proud to have pulled it off. Plus, it had the added bonus of strengthening our relation with translators.

Arc Communications' First Childcare Leave Under the Media and Universities' Limelight

− Can you tell us more about the childcare leave you mentioned earlier?

It was in 2009 that I considered taking a childcare leave. Ms. Ohsato's reaction was positive: "why not make a project out of it?!" So we prepared this on the spot, and immediately started looking for a replacement for me.

During that period, I wrote a blog that caught the eye of a journalist at The Asahi Shimbun. This article, in turn, raised the interest of a teacher at Waseda University, and I gave lectures at a Waseda University seminar. It was still extremely rare for a man to take a childcare leave at the time, so it just makes me happy when I think that I might have made a small contribution to society.

− What are your future plans as a manager?

Well, among the tasks at hand, my biggest goal is to increase the number of translators, our resources. Then, there is this parallel task to increase our PMs' productivity. I think that the ideal method for Arc Communication is for the Project Management Team to manage projects efficiently and safely, and for the PMs to enthusiastically see these projects through, and I would like to focus all of my experience and expertise in that direction.

Profile

Takahide Hoshi
Hobbies: bicycle. Likes riding his bike through town. Usually enjoys reading manga, and watching movies. A fan of shōnen manga (comics aimed at a young male audience), every week he buys several prepublication comic books which he then leaves for everyone at work to read - which Arc Communications' manga lovers are particularly grateful for.

My favorite movie

The Usual Suspects (1995), America, directed by Bryan Singer
It's a suspense mystery movie that revolves around an investigation of a mysterious figure in relation to five robbers. It's shot in an elaborate, dramatic way, and just pulls you in. The cast members are all shady but really cool. And that twist ending is amazing!