Confessions of a Data Manager Working on an International Team
From the East Coast of the US
Working on global teams in an international organization is rewarding, interesting and FUN! Prior to starting my first assignment to an international team, I was prepared by being sent to a "Working on Cross-Cultural Teams" training course. I remember leaving the training prepared to speak very slowly and not to use too many idioms so my colleagues would be able to understand me. Imagine my surprise (and disappointment) to find the "global" team to be comprised of many American ex-pats!
It contrasted interestingly to a "local" team I was on at the time whose membership included natives from India, China, Germany and Ireland!
A major challenge for global teams is scheduling teleconferences, videoconferences and even telephone calls! That cross-cultural training course briefly mentioned time differences, but nothing they said could prepare me for time zones, let alone the International Date Line! (Did you know that the whole world does not "Spring Ahead" and "Fall back" on the same dates?)
A major challenge for global teams is scheduling teleconferences, videoconferences and even telephone calls!
Happily, in that area, the East Coast of the US is about the best place to be when working on a team with members located on the West Coast of the US, in the UK, Switzerland and Australia. The "central" location assures that no teleconference or videoconference will be earlier than 9:00 (which is 6:00 on the West Coast) or later than 17:30 (which is 23:30 in Switzerland).
Since that first "global team" experience, I have been privileged to work with people from every continent except Antarctica! And now, after spending many years on both diverse local and global project teams, I have to conclude that the differences in the ways teams function are due more to differences among people than cultural differences.
Members of teams also need to care about each other (for global teams that can mean caring about the amount of sleep someone may be deprived of in order to participate in a teleconference). I am also convinced of the importance to teams of a good sense of humor and the destructiveness of taking oneself too seriously.
Jean Cowburn
New Jersey, USA