Starting Your Global Career

It is the one question I am often asked, “how did you start your global career?”

After university, I was lucky to work for a firm that invested in building global leadership skills among its staff. It is a great way to get started and many companies, like Alibaba, are actively training young employees on global leadership skills as part of their overseas expansion strategy.

Here are several skills that I have found invaluable working globally that will help you standout in a competitive global landscape:

Communication skills. An ability to speak clearly, write clearly and to listen intently will be the key to your success. Remember to slow down and be much more clear in your use of your native language than you would normally be to ensure all of your colleagues understand your message. Work to acquire a common second language at working proficiency (French, Spanish, Mandarin).

Critical thinking. An ability to analyze different scenarios, data and research as well as patterns in behaviors or systems is vital. You will constantly be assessing projects, goals and expectations across many countries; an ability to identify trends or outliers will enable you to be more efficient.

Cultural dexterity. This one takes practice and it is what I call “leaving your country behind on the tarmac.” You must be able to step outside of cultural constructs. A great tip for doing so is by telling yourself – constantly if needed – that you may be the only Canadian, Singaporean, South African that your colleagues and/or clients ever work with, so leave them with a positive experience.

Ethics. You may be surprised by the standard code of ethics in the countries you will work in and some of the conduct you encounter may be considered unethical or corrupt in your country of origin. My advice is to stay true to your moral compass and remain calm when faced with such conduct. Acting outraged and indigent will make you look somewhat dramatic and will get you nowhere. Use it as a way to start educating your team on other ways they may consider achieving their goals.

Global mindset. Being open to new ways of working and seeing the world is essential as well as being able to view challenges and opportunities through a global lens. It will also make your day-to-day interactions with your colleagues more pleasant; however, do not expect to be a pro at this from the outset. That comes with practice.

Team adaptability. Having a team mindset and experience leading teams is a must. Your management style may need to adjust depending on the business culture. Mastering an ability to be patient – observe and listen when in meetings and in your daily interactions with your team – will help you decipher expectations, cultural understandings and ways of working.

 

Global Perspectives: Building an Online Community

Welcome to the fifth edition of Global Perspectives featuring Elenice Tamashiro.

Elenice TamashiroBased in São Paulo, Brazil, Elenice Tamashiro has worked in the social entrepreneurship and innovation fields over the last 13 years. A Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy graduate, she is currently working as a consultant for international businesses, organizations, and foundations focusing on technology and innovation initiatives. Follow her at @elenicett_cm.

Six years ago, I embarked on a new journey named the online global community. Everything I knew when I said, “yes, I accept the challenge”, was something related to technology that could boost the roles of individuals, foundations and businesses as social change agents. It could not have been more compelling for me . . . help build an online community to engage innovators around the globe to tackle the world’s most pressing social issues.

There are four foundational components that are essential to build an online community: purpose, people, content, and structure.

Purpose: The organization must have a purpose as well as clear internal goals – what does the organization want to achieve with the established purpose? It has to resonate with people, nurture their sense of belonging, and touch their heart! Without a purpose, it will be hard to reach out to the constituency that matters to the organization.

People: Who are you primary targets? Do you want to increase the audience or community members? Other than common interests, community members are enthusiastic about offering contributions, exchanging ideas and experiences. People are the driving force of a community and empowering them will inspire others, multiplying their actions to an expanded group of people both online and offline. The important point is to identify and attract the group of people who are most important to you.

Content: Community members-focused content – either inspirational or calls to action – usually reverberate better to the constituency while also strengthening your organization/company brand. Consistent and continuous content fosters community members’ engagement and accelerates change on the ground.

Structure: The technological structure must be as friendly as possible. Reducing “pain points” for the user is crucial to an online community. Do not be afraid of making mistakes but listening to the users (community members) and addressing glitches in a fast manner will ensure a good online experience and an enjoyable journey to them.

Certainly there are many other elements to take into account but the lack of any of the above four will prevent the online community from pursuing its goals.

Despite named as global, the majority of online communities have language constraints. It is just fine if the platform features one language. But the decision of taking the initiative to other geographies must be as planned as possible. Becoming multilingual unfolds into a myriad of concurrent and customized processes, strategies and tactics. The purpose, rules and technological structure can be one but the initiative expansion cannot be a mere replication of the original language setting. Therefore, giving a regional flair to an online global community requires redoubled energy.

Here are my lessons learned from developing multilingual platforms:

Be empathetic to local context: Be humble, listen to locals, and adapt the strategy and tactics as much as possible. Leveraging other geographies’ participation in an online community is not an easy task. Getting the buy-in from the local constituency is a good start to create a solid initiative for the long run.

Pay attention to content customization: It goes way beyond translation. Each region requires special attention to content and terminologies. Hard content (e.g. institutional texts) can be adapted but local content development is key.

Understand the local community members’ needs: Do not think about babysitting or micromanaging! This means stepping back. Just make sure you can provide an enjoyable experience to your constituency so all of them can walk on their on feet.

Keep the plates spinning: Once you decide to embrace new locations and languages, you cannot run away from matrix management. Additional human resource capacity may be added to handle all demands yielded by localization. Never underestimate the volume of work because it is an online thing and always remember to keep your sense of humor in difficult times, be witty ☺.

Lastly, here are a couple of inspiring examples of online community building: love.fútbol (football for social change online and offline community) and patagonia (check out their customer-focused content, it attracts the group of people they want without mentioning the brand).

Global Perspectives: Lessons from a journalist

Welcome to the fourth edition of Global Perspectives featuring Cindy Shiner.

Cindy Shiner
Cindy Shiner, United States

Cindy Shiner has worked as a journalist for more than 20 years with a focus mainly on Africa. She reported from there for six years, contributing stories to The Washington Post, The Guardian, Time magazine, National Public Radio and the United Nations. Cindy is currently an editor at AllAfrica.com.

During my time as a freelance journalist in Africa I would have accomplished little without the help of numerous local reporters. They provided contact names, perspective, translation, story tips and great company over the years that I reported from West and Central Africa.

But things with the local press didn’t always run smoothly. As a desk editor for the Associated Press and the Integrated Regional Information Networks in West Africa, I often had to work with local reporters in a different capacity. They were contributing stories that we would translate (if in French) and edit (if in English) and turn into stories that met the standards of mainstream Western media.

This was rarely as straightforward as it might seem.

Few of the reporters have sufficient training. We needed to constantly double check for sourcing, accurate name spellings, accuracy of statistics and additional details to round out an anecdote to be able to turn a story around.

With the arrival of the Internet additional challenges arose. Unless a reporter was tried and trusted over a long period of time we needed to cut and paste parts of the stories they submitted to us into Google to make sure the article, or a part of it, wasn’t plagiarized. Discovery of plagiarism once warranted a warning, and twice would mean the reporter lost us as one of their “strings.” Few of them write for only one news outlet.

And nowadays it isn’t just Western journalists seeking contact with African reporters. It’s also PR firms, the communications departments of non-governmental organizations, and other groups seeking to get a message across to a wide African audience. Companies that rarely thought of reaching out to their audiences in Africa through newspapers and radio can now do so easily. It’s as easy as an email or Skype call away. Almost gone are the days of redialing, hoping it wasn’t a rainy day and the phone cables were dry, and that a call would go through.

But whether representing the Western press, an NGO or a private company, there are a few rules that apply across the board when dealing with members of Africa’s media. Here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned over the years:

Make sure you can trust the contact. If you call a newspaper, for example, ask for someone specific that has been recommended. Just because someone is a managing editor doesn’t mean they’re the best person to talk to. If you want a reporter to cover a story to publicize the launch of a vaccination campaign, for example, do some initial research. Check out the local newspapers online and see whose reporting you like. Pick a couple of reporters. Then try to find out if they’re reliable, which brings me to my next point.

Ask your local embassy press attaché. They follow the local press pretty closely and have a good idea about who is good and reliable and who is not. Of course, like anything, some press attachés are better than others.

Maintain contact. Once you find a reporter whose work you like, and whose work has been verified as accurate, give them a call and tell them what you have coming up that you would like for them to cover. Tell them you like their work. Point out something specific.

Financial clarification. This is really important. Make sure they know that you are not going to be paying them if you’re not – that you’re trying to publicize something. If you are going to pay them for something, make sure you negotiate the terms of the deal up front. And get it in writing.

Above all, get to know the people you are working with. Have a friendly conversation. We often have no idea what sort of pressure an individual may be under. A relative might be sick, their child might be sick, they might be struggling for school fees, their spouse may have lost their job. Don’t make it all business.

Global Perspectives: Communicating Donor-Funded Projects

Welcome to the second edition of Global Perspectives featuring Samar Roy, CEO of Media Professionals Group in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Samar Roy, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Samar Roy is the CEO of Media Professionals Group, a media research, management and marketing company based in Bangladesh. With over two-decades of experience in journalism, media advocacy, and social communication, he maintains day-to-day relationship with media outlets and media practitioners both nationally in Bangladesh and regionally in Southeast Asia. He has worked on media-related projects funded by a variety of donors, including USAID, UNDP, World Bank, DANIDA, SIDA. Samar started his career in financial and economic news reporting, and has gradually shifted to media sector capacity building, media research, communication activities, and market research. Samar can be reached at: mediaprofessionals@gmail.com

In Bangladesh, my media and communications firm works with international agencies including donor-funded projects in the country along with corporate. Donor-funded projects are usually those supported by international agencies such as USAID, DANIDA, SIDA, CIDA, The World Bank, ADB, EU, and UN organizations. In this edition of Global Perspectives, I would like to share some communications lessons we have learned.

Communications is an important aspect of any donor-funded project. It is critical for keeping target audiences informed of progress, particularly during the duration of the project. However, making communications impactful and effective is necessary. Every initiative should be approached from a long-term perspective and should be results-oriented.

However, communications is now usually limited to getting media coverage of project activities and progress updates, rather than issue-based communication. Issue-based communication involves informing audiences of the actual issue the donor is attempting to impact. For example, eradicating disease and why the disease is harmful to people and communities as a whole.

This short-term public relations push and singular focus has directly impacted the ability of donors to make progress on the ground. Let me explain.

In Bangladesh, most of the communications initiatives are implemented through donor funding. Donor-funded programs are usually short-term in nature. Such projects are designed for a specific period and for a very specific purpose. And funding agencies do not always concern themselves with the impact of the program beyond the project period. Implementing agencies, usually local agencies hired to implement the project, also limit their activities around these short-term goals.

We all know that the donor is committed to making a positive difference in people’s lives through its funding activity. And to ensure not only effective use of funds and resources, but to ensure effective communications, there needs to be a commitment to communicating effectively by all parties.

How can they achieve that?

  1. Changing the focus from project communications to issue communications. There are many different implementing agencies in Bangladesh that work towards solving the same problems, targeting the same audience – be it poverty, nutrition, living standards, workers’ rights, education, technical skills, improving agricultural productivity, and various other social and economic issues. Collaborating together, they can target their communications towards increasing awareness of the issue/s they are trying to solve/eradicate.
  2. Unifying communications strategies through building relationships with like-minded agencies. Each agency working in the same field has identified the same problems, but each has its own strategy. This creates confusion among target audiences and creates duplicity in work. Funds can be better utilized if the implementing agencies find a common platform to work from, and unite their communications efforts around that platform.
  3. Changing from a short-term to long-term focus. There is a critical need to change the current approach to donor-funded projects. The donor must focus on suitable solutions, rather than spending money within a stipulated period of time. It would be more effective to redesign the project approach taking into consideration sustainability issues and long-term perspectives along with an increased focus on the ultimate benefits to the target audience.

Global Perspectives: To ‘rear’ or to ‘raise’, that is the question!

Welcome to the Global Perspectives series! Over the next several Wednesdays, communications professionals from around the world will be providing their advice on communicating internationally and in their country/region.

Jenan
Jenan Al-haddad, Cardiff, Wales

Today’s guest blog is from Jenan Al-haddad. Jenan has spent 16 years working in the area of communications and marketing specialising in the not-for-profit, in the international sector. Most recently Jenan held the role of Senior Communications and Marketing Manager for the International Baccalaureate. She also volunteers as a Justice of the Peace for Cardiff and the Vale bench in South Wales where she lives with her husband and two sons.

I found myself recently being asked to review a press release that was destined for an international audience. By the time it hit my desk, it had been written, re-rewritten and written again by at least 7 different people ranging from board members, directors and communications staff. It required approval by 10 different people but more about bureaucracy in international organizations at a later date!!

As I read the release, I made some minor changes; always considering how it would be received across the 100 plus countries it was headed. I reached a section that talked about where a particular person had grown up. It was written ‘Dr. X was raised in Country Y…’ This phrase had been highlighted with a comment amending the sentence to ‘Dr. X was reared in Country Y’. The comment had been made by a colleague in the US. I considered my understanding of the phrase ‘to rear’ and thought of some farmer friends of mine who do pretty well rearing pigs. Hang on! Am I really now thinking about pigs?! Surely farm animals are reared and children are raised? A number of different dictionaries provided no help whatsoever. ‘Rear, verb: to care for young animals or children until they are able to care for themselves’. It struck me that this was a perfect example of the idiosyncrasies of writing for a number of different countries, even those where English is the native tongue as was the case here. My colleague’s phrase was grammatically correct but the sentence didn’t sound right. So considering how this phrase would be received across a number of the audiences I decided to remove the controversial item altogether. Conveniently, the press release was far too long anyway.

This relatively minor issue served to remind me of how critical it is to consider how information is received across continents. In John Kohl’s book, ‘The Global English Style Guide’ the author states that the cardinal rule of Global English is “Don’t make any change that will sound unnatural to native speakers of English.” Furthermore “There is almost always a natural-sounding alternative if you are creative enough (and if you have enough time) to find it!” Therefore, when writing for an international audience I always try to keep my sentences short and concise. Always avoid colloquialisms and then apply Coyle Communications top tips for dealing with the media in an international context! Follow these rules and you will have a recipe for success!