Over the duration of this month, working with a cross cultural team has proved to have a few challenges along the way. The initial challenge was getting to know my teammates over such an isolating setting. Sometimes through Zoom I have found that it is hard to get to know someone’s personality and what they are really like. This led to a few awkward encounters as we got to know each other. Normally we would have a lot of events in the country we are located in to bond and interact with each other, but over the virtual setting there were only a few short workshops in which we got to know each other. I was initially pretty deflated by this but I have found that I have really come around to adapting to a virtual setting. It really has not been much different to learning virtually in my regular classes over my first two semesters at Pitt. I found that the “tell me about yourself presentations” particularly helped with this problem quite a bit. After those presentations we all seemed to be a bit more comfortable around each other. It is fascinating how just a short background and some fun facts can give a good look into each other’s lives. I really appreciate the company of my teammates and I have found that they have really added to my enjoyment of this program, as it is really helpful to constantly talk to people in the exact same boat has me. I remember in particular my teammate Gabriel revealed he did not know how to treat us at the beginning of the program. He said that his friends in Brazil like to joke around and get to know each other when they do team projects, but he didn’t know if this approach would work with our group. I found that we caught onto each other fairly fast and quickly developed a rhythm of how our breakout rooms are conducted. Like I stated in my last entry it also took us a few days to work through some of the barriers of a cross cultural team. After figuring out the differences in time zones and our weekly schedules, I found that we were all on the same page.
However, there are some positives to working in a virtual environment. Although it was awkward at first, I found that working in breakout rooms with so few people forced us to really adapt to each other and truly get to know one another and function efficiently as a team. I think it has led to a unique feeling of comfort within the group, as I find we commonly discuss what happened in class every day when we go to the breakout rooms. I feel like the pressure of having just the five of us in a breakout room helped us to faster get through the awkward stage of getting to know each other and really get down to working as a team. It also helps use to be more efficient, as we have such a limited window in our breakout room. I am truly impressed with how much my group has managed to come up with in so little time. This has been especially true during the days set aside for our group to work together and brainstorm.
I think an important way to actively build trust with people outside of your home culture is to find a common ground. Even though we come from all different backgrounds, I have found that my team and I have really used the pressure of the upcoming deadlines to work together. It is important to focus on the common goals of the team or organization you are working with, and let the differences be the creative ideas everyone can bring to the table. Particularly over an isolating setting, it can be difficult to do this at first, but I believe that your work will turn out all the better for it. Working with people from other cultures allows for new and fresh ideas that I may have that I have never thought of to come into the project.
I think it also really helps to get to know people on a more personal level. Even if it is things that seem inconsequential like who likes to sleep the latest or everyone’s favorite TV show, they have made it a lot easier to connect with each other. Even though we come from completely different walks of life, I was surprised to see how much we have in common. I really do believe that some of the more light hearted and funny conversations we have had has really led to an increase in productivity in the long run. I think it is important to not be afraid to ask questions and really step outside of your comfort zone. Opportunities like this are not very common, so I really tried to make the most of it.
While working in a team it is important that everyone brings something unique to the table. I think that over a virtual setting it can sometimes be a little difficult to speak up and provide ideas to group discussions. Unmuting yourself and talking to a silenced breakout room will never be the same as holding a regular conversation. This is just the norm we have all had to accept through this program and we have learned to deal with it. Especially as we enter the final week and really have to assemble all our best ideas into a final presentation, it is really important that everyone’s voice is being heard. I have found that taking notes of some of our important group decisions helps me to prioritize my recommendations. I find it helpful to jot down notes just to keep a sense of the direction of our presentation. We always receive new feedback from the mentors, so we are always making changes to the flow and focus of our presentation. It can sometimes be hard to keep track of so I always like to highlight the current focal points and deliverables of our recommendation. I have been fortunate enough to have a great team who is receptive to any input for its members. I have found that as an individual it is very easy to get my teammates to focus on my ideas as we all take turns assessing whatever challenge we are up against. My team usually develops our strategies in a very collaborative fashion. Someone will suggest something and every one will give their opinion and add on to the idea until we come to something that we all believe will work. I know that I personally have suggested ideas for our approach that my teammates have only strengthened through their own ideas and suggestions. It also helps to have each individual member of the team play into their own strengths or areas of knowledge. This will led to the best version of the project your team can possibly produce. I know that a teammate of mine has particular knowledge in Information systems like Excel, while another has great insight into the healthcare industry. They have both contributed tons of interesting info into their parts of the project that only the could have provided.