Over the International Date Line - Australia
When today is truly tomorrow....
6AM Monday: Stumble out of bed, splash my face with water. The water is draining counter clockwise - yup, still in Australia. What am I saying - the kookaburras woke me up at 5:30 and the cockatoos have been going mad ever since. Of course I'm in Oz!
The kookaburras woke me at 5.30 and the cockatoos have been going mad since. Of course I'm in Oz!
Head to Manly beach for a quick 'burn' through the sand before work, power walking maybe 45 minutes if I'm lucky. Shouldn't have stayed up 'til midnight laughing at the Europeans doing the Eurovision song contest! The sunrise is stunning, the dozen or so surfers bobbing in the waves think so too. And once again I'm reminded why I love and why I live and work in this paradise literally half a world away from my colleagues in our other biometrics sites of California, New Jersey, Switzerland, Mannheim, Welwyn and Japan.
Swing into the parking area by 8:30 (ish). Could have been sooner but someone at the Swiss head office decided that the little access gate closest to our building needed to be under lock and key 24/7. No one has told them yet that we are well protected 'au naturel', our site being a former botanic garden reserve and home to many happy families of deadly funnel web spiders and deadly ugly, huge, Huntsman spiders. Strangers attempting to tiptoe through our tulips would soon regret it!
I inhale a big lungfull of the wonderful lemon gum tree perfume as I approach the front doors. I'm at my desk, logging in. Do I open my Email software or get my cup of tea first? Depends how busy the rest of the world was on Friday as we finished the day, shutting up shop, just as the others got going.
To say we use Email a lot is such an understatement. Telephone calls are not always convenient with the Americas or Europe due to the differences in time zones. Time zones are not really an issue with our Asian colleagues but occasionally language is, so communication is often enhanced by each of us taking that extra bit of time to write things out carefully.
I decide that a quick peek at the Email is prudent as it will help me decide how strong to make the tea. Hmm, there was a bit of E chatter back and forth between Data Managers in Switzerland and the US on a study that we share.
It's fascinating to watch the cultures at work. The Swiss love a good high quality finished product, something showing their expert craftsmanship (i.e., manual work is good work). The Americans love a good smooth process with people's roles clearly defined, like a well oiled machine that also wants you to feel good about what it's doing.
And a decision is relatively quickly made, neatly incorporating both the best and not quite the best of all cultures involved.
This decision is made without the Aussies because, quite simply, we were cooking/out for dinner, watching tele or at the movies, and then snug in our little beds. It is a fact of life that if we are not online at the right time we tend not to get heard. This of course can work both for and against. I'm happy a decision has been made without me having to take the time to E everyone else, wait for overnight replies etc. It's not a big issue that was being worked on and I'm happy to follow established routine. Australians are flexible this way. We are a new department and very happy to learn from the wisdom and experience of the longer established sites. On the other hand, if you've got something to say then you've got to shout that little bit louder or say it live: stay up until the midnight teleconference; or have a nap then get up for the 3AM teleconference; or go to bed early, hope that you actually fall asleep early and say it at the 5:30 AM teleconference. Any way you choose (if you get to choose) you learn pretty quickly to take as many notes as humanly possible because you invariably fall asleep soon afterwards (only once during!) and would forget the lot by the time you wake up.
As our department grows (we are now 20 in data management), and we take on the responsibility for more and increasingly complex studies I've noticed a definite shift in attitude by our distant colleagues to adjust their hours so that at least the 1-5 AM timeslot is much more sleep friendly. And I certainly commend the ability of many of my colleagues to run to a nice tight meeting schedule.
Of course the other method of communication is the face-to-face. I love to meet the people that I work with. And I happen to enjoy air travel which is a pretty darned good thing. Suffice it to say that, when based in Australia, part of working for a global company requires the ability to declare seat 12B 'home sweet home', think dreamy spacious thoughts while melding your bottom to the seat and employing the fine art of self deception in convincing yourself that someone else doing the cooking is certainly more important to one's quality of life than the actual taste of the food served which, by the way, will be the highlight of your life over the next 20 odd hours.
Back to the daily Email. But what's this? I was supposed to have written part of an article for Jacqui by Monday! But wait. That's Monday her time which is Tuesday our time and the tyranny of distance has just bought me more time! Ah, it's not so bad being the first biometrics site transported over the international dateline!
Renee Gauthier
Dee Why, Australia