Meeting and working with a team of people from various different cultures poses many challenges but with increasing globalization it is something that most individuals will undergo at some point in careers. I am fortunate enough to be able to learn how to function as an effective group member and adapt to solve challenges that cultural differences present with a driven and motivated team coming from all different backgrounds. With a team being so diverse their are many different points of views and everyone has different ways of communicating. By taking the time to learn about their workstyle and more about them personally an effective route of communication can be established. This allows for everyone to remain on the same page and to be able to work freely while still having the ability to reach out for fellow group members thoughts. This type of communication and work process is different than anything I have undertaken in the past.
My first “job” was as an intern for the mayor of my local city. The day to day of this job was mostly sitting through meetings and figuring out what it was like to work in a professional environment. While working under the mayor I was tasked with planning some events and doing data entry which required me to communicate with individuals from different departments. This communication was much simpler and only required me to walk down the hall for what I needed. Sometimes I would have to reach out by email but it was extremely formal and only for information that I needed. Being an intern I was also not in a place where my voice really mattered to those working around me. I had to carry out and complete the objectives that were laid out for me. There was not any group collaboration between any peers because I was the only one carrying out the role of being the mayors intern. Everyone else in the office had years of experience and served as more of a mentor to me than a college. This provided me with valuable experience on professionalism but not much on group collaboration.
Coming to the Plus3 zoom meetings every morning and hearing a variety of music that represents everyone’s cultures is a sharp contrast to what I was expecting and experienced. Everything was much more welcoming and engaging. People were there to learn about each other but also work to solve the problem that Senior Concierge presented to us. This goes to show that the differences in how cultures work and communicate really do exist. Back in the office I came from no one seemed too interested in being good friends with their co workers but instead merely worked with them to complete their jobs and that was the end of most of their relationships. But by working with my group members who come from Brazil, Peru, and Columbia I see that they work and build trust in a different way. From simply spending one week working with and getting to know them I can say that I know more about what they like to do for fun and about where they are from than most people I spent an entire summer with. While my old co workers were amazing people I never felt the need to make a personal connection with them in order to work effectively. This is not the case with my team members from CampusB.
Unlike most U.S. workers those in South America generally like more of a personal connection and trust between those they are working with. So now instead of just showing up and talking about work I have to get used to talking more about myself as well as listening to what others are saying. This is a particular challenge for me because it is such a sharp contrast to what I am used to. I feel that I am still working to break the mold I was in before and get comfortable showing up and having friendly conversation with those in my team. While it is a bit out of my comfort zone and I am far from great at making small talk, I do find it to be a refreshing change of pace. But, it does take a little more than just getting to know each other in order to work and communicate effectively together while being scattered across different time zones as well as being located in different countries.
One big hurdle we had to overcome together in the beginning was figuring out an effective way to communicate. We felt that emails would have taken too long to get a response and seemed a bit too formal for the type of discussion we were looking to have. Sending an email for every small question would not really make sense and would discourage people from asking the smaller questions that others might be wondering. So in order to create a chat where any question could be ask and ideas could be discussed we just decided to create a WhatsApp for the members of our group since most of the team had already used it before. While this might seem like a simple and easy solution (which it was), it does come with a bit of a learning curve. This is because I was never on WhatsApp before this program and it took some adjusting to get used to. So while the software was foreign to me it did allow for the gears to start turning and for everyone to voice and discuss opinions’. However, my group also values conversation through more than just messaging and tries to set up meeting times to the best of our abilities.
Since some are still in classes, have jobs, or are taking finals it is difficult to find a time where everyone can meet to discuss. But, we try to find even the smallest bit of time to discuss our thought process and ensure that we are all on the same page. This allows for us to continue working on our own but still have the peace of mind that we are working to fulfill the same objective. It also ensures that everyone’s voice is heard and the shots aren’t just being called by the first person the send a text or email. I personally feel like the collaboration is allowing us to more quicker and more concisely than if we only communicated during class time or through text. This is helping us overcome our cultural differences and giving everyone a new perspective to consider.
Through these frequent meetings we are beginning to learn how all of us think and work which allows for us to start spending less time overcoming our differences and more time on task. But, I also learned from these meetings that not everything has to be about completing the project and it’s okay to take some time to talk about what your up to. So by having friendly chatter mixed in with the work it makes having so many meetings not only bearable but I would say enjoyable. I like meeting with my group because everytime I feel like I walk away having learned something. Whether that be about our project or just that my team member has three cats there is always something new to keep things interesting and stimulating.