Expanding My Mind

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When I was in graduate school at NMSU, I was required to take an International Management class.

This was the early 90’s in Las Cruces. “International Management” meant discussing NAFTA and the Maquiladoras on the border.

Don’t get me wrong, that was very valuable learning, especially when NAFTA was in its infancy and no one was certain the impact it would create.

In the final analysis, I find that no matter how wonderful the professor or how much I enjoyed the class, the “international” portion of my education class was seriously lacking.

We might have discussed Japan but only very briefly, and mainly it was topic of fear as Japan was kicking our butt in manufacturing (they still are).

But that was it. Conversations about EMEA (and the Euro), the technology boom in India and vast low cost production from China were all still a long way off.

So they taught what they knew at the time and the rest I’ve had to figure out for myself.

Over the past two days, I’ve had telephone meetings with my employees located in Sydney, Sao Paulo and London.

These are three very different countries and cultures. How I speak with and manage my team varies widely. The concerns, the attention to detail, the speed of work is all over the board. I have to figure it out for each person individually so I can be the best and most effective manager possible.

Today after chatting with London, then Sao Paulo, I needed to speak with a supplier representative. I thought he was in the US until I looked at his business card. Nope, Hong Kong.

“What the hell time is it in Hong Kong?!” I wailed aloud as I’d already calculated too many time zones for the day.

For the record, 10:15am is 1:15 tomorrow morning in Hong Kong. So glad I didn’t just ring up his cell phone.

But that one moment of frustration aside, I honestly love it. Every minute of these calls and building the relationships with my team is a learning experience. I’ve worked for companies that touted themselves to be a global company. My current employer truly is.

The other day I walked to the cafeteria and as people walked past me, I heard Italian, Spanish, what I believe was Cantonese (my ear for the various Asian languages is not strong) and many, many central Asia languages spoken amongst my coworkers.

We are truly a multicultural company filled with profoundly intelligent people. I know there are many people who fear the vast influx of people from other countries of the world to the US.

Me, I love it. I feel more a part of the world than I ever did before (heck, my own brother lives in Kuala Lumpur!).

Each day my mind expands and I grow and I love every minute of that.

Last week, when I was in New Mexico, a buddy of mine from back in the day asked me what my job was these days.

I told him about the job and he’d heard of my employer (it’s a biggie).

He shook his head, spit out some Copenhagen, looked me square in the eye and said, “That’s pretty good for a little girl from New Mexico.”

Yeah. Not too bad.

(My phone lines are, indeed, humming)

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Comments

  • Anonymous

    Karen,

    I was there once.

    Don't forget. When you're not there the person you're visiting is the boss. Make sure you convey that.

    One of the best things about your kind of job is that you get to travel to exotic, far away places. Arrange to get there on a Friday so you can recover from the trip before you have to go to work. Use the extra time to build your own memories.

    Regards,
    EFM
    "El Pontificador"

  • Elise

    I have to agree with your friend. Not bad at all, woman. :-)

  • Karen Fayeth

    Ephraim – Unfortunately, part of the deal when I signed on was that "due to cost savings programs, travel is to be limited and most business conducted via phone and online."

    So not much traveling expected for me…which makes managing people at a distance that much harder.

    But your comments are good and well heeded!

  • Karen Fayeth

    Elise – Thanks! Some days I weary of remembering which ways I need to observe which cultures.

    Sometime I just want to drop a "Ya'll just do the damn thing!" and be done with it. lol!

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