On November 13th, ABSA & AIESEC hosted a collaboration event that featured guest speakers with a variety of international career experiences. Students gained insights on what employment abroad is like, elements of working with a global company, and tips on becoming a global citizen in the world of business. Meet the Panelists!
Current Position: Senior Associate (Strategy Advisory) at KPMG
Graduated UW with a bachelor's degree in political science & entrepreneurship, and earned an MBA degree in 2022
Gained global experience in China & United States
Current Position: Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Operations Management at UW Foster
Earned Master of Science in Applied Mathematics & Bachelor of Engineering from École Centrale Paris
Earned PhD in Machine Learning from MIT
Gained global experience in France, Boston, Seattle
Current Position: President at Sound Logistics LLC (Delivery Service Provider for Amazon)
Previously worked at Starbucks
30 years of experience in IT field
Gained global experience in Shanghai, China
Current Position: Head of People Analytics at Skyminyr
Gained global experience working in Malaysia during college
Current Position: Senior Product Manager – Global Logistics at Amazon
Gained global experience through internships in China and Taiwan
Q&A: Can you describe your journey toward international work and how your career aspirations evolved over time? Kris: His journey toward international work was gaining expertise by circumstance. Kris's boss approached him about working in China, and he decided to pursue that opportunity which lasted for 15 months. His advice is to look for global offices, do well in your role, and express interest in relocating. People will eventually approach you for opportunities. He also loves to travel around the world with family, a travel memory of his was taking his 2-year-old son skiing in Austria. Shivan: It was an obvious yes for him to work internationally. He was born in Fiji Islands and is ethnically Indian. Shivan wanted to work internationally to further his professional career and search for his identity. He realized that travelling is a new type of learning, and he encourages people to challenge their own assumptions and biases in a new environment. Léonard: Léonard came to the United States for study and work because he was seeking a place to work with enthusiastic and similar-minded people. He is originally from France, moved to Boston first and then recently moved to Seattle to explore a new ecosystem. His advice is to follow your heart and energy because that is always within you. Doing this will help guide you and take you to where you belong. Jeff: The definition of international work has evolved over time, and it is also unique for each person. At the beginning of your career, going international would be more exploratory, but later in your career after building your expertise, your organization would want you to move abroad. His dad moved from Taiwan to US and then worked in China as well. Jeff knew he wanted to work with a company with a global reputation, and now he is in a position where senior leadership asks him for suggestions on how to expand Amazon’s global footprint. Jenny: Jenny was a F1 student from China and found her first job in Seattle. Currently, one of her projects is working with a private client from China which involves dealing with international transactions. This project is also special because the client is from China, so it connects Jenny back to her Chinese ethnical background. It’s difficult to intentionally choose where you want to work, so she suggests setting a goal first and adapting your knowledge accordingly. When it comes to achieving professional success, what personal qualities and strategies have been essential in your international career? Jenny: Expressing interest will bring you somewhere. For her personally, she is not shy in stating that she is an international student and is able provide valuable information about her home country and experiences in China to her team. Jeff: An important personal strategy is evaluating the transferability of your skills and knowledge from an international perspective. Identify your areas of expertise where it is an easy plug and play in various situations. The second personal quality is being confident and speaking your mind. It differs by culture but in the United States, being able to articulate your opinion to your manager will lead you in the right path. Léonard: Humility is an important personal quality to have. This includes being able to listen, discuss, and speak to what you believe while being respectful. We are a community, and being a part of it is your superpower, and use it to bond with diverse people. The second aspect is the value of your skills. If people need your skills, they will want to work with you. He encourages people to look outside the box, showcase their creativity, and leverage their own roots to create new ideas. Shivan: Be intentional and go after it. There is so much opportunity in the world in terms of AI and technology, so find what your version of international work is that is fun and interesting to you. He suggests studying labor demand reports to understand macro trends since real companies understand that the future of talent and labor is evolving. Be intentional with who you work for because it also demonstrates the values that you align with. Kris: Develop relationships with teams, supplier, customer, etc. Building relationships works wherever you go. When he used to work at Starbucks, he developed meaningful relationships with people at the Amsterdam roasting plant, and established trust with them. People will talk, and it is successful. Work-life balance can vary widely across countries and cultures. Could you share your observations on this, and how having diverse cultural experiences has impacted your worldview, both personally and professionally? Kris: His takeaway from working in Shanghai was the cultural difference. In the U.S., Starbucks valued empowerment to make decisions. As a leader, he cannot be an expert at everything, which is why he relies on his teams to help make decisions that meet the plan. The leadership style in China was the opposite where the team heavily relied on the leader for directions on exactly what to do. After lots of time and efforts to build relationships with the China team, he was able to integrate the team members more in the decision-making process. It is impossible to change the culture of a company, but he was able to help individuals break through a little and create an environment where people can freely share ideas. Shivan: One of the key observations is cultivating cultural intelligence. If you can learn about a person and their background in a respectful way, it makes the relationship smoother, and you can better understand world views. Try to use empathy and meet people from where they are from, and most importantly be open to understanding the diverse differences in our world. Léonard: Communication is important. It takes bravery. It is not easy to talk about fears or emotions. Some cultures will talk about your heart while others will force people to conceal your emotions. Learn the power of saying no and know yourself and express what you wish to say. If you have an open heart and open mind, communication can resolve everything. Understand who you are. Jeff: Finding a balance of integrating to the cultural norm of that country to make relationships. When he used to work in AIESEC, he had a peer who was always late, but that was a norm from where they came from. Having empathy and understanding how people act helps to build workable relationships with people. The second observation is aligning oneself with corporate values. These values help empower people to make decisions, which can ground you and your team to become a collaborative and successful team. Jenny: Her biggest observation was the cultural differences. For instance, raising money differs between U.S. and China. The differences are neither good nor bad, but having the skillset to adapt is important. She had an experience where KPMG did a background check on her and could not reach her former employer through email because China only used WeChat. Communication is so different in various places, and you cannot fight it, it is just reality.
Share your personal journey of initiating and building your international career. What challenges and opportunities did you encounter along the way, and how can others learn from your experience? Léonard: One of Léonard’s challenges when coming to the US was the language barrier. English isn’t his first language, and every place you go people use words in different ways. Facing imposter syndrome is another challenge, and he believes that everyone should keep trying and believing in yourself. It takes lots of bravery to master. Kris: Decision-making is not black and white. If something does not feel right and you need to look into it more, do not hesitate to reach out and ask for more time or resources. You should feel good before doing something, and if you do not feel comfortable doing it yourself, avoid giving it to another team member to do it. Shivan: Being vulnerable with others. It can be a challenge to ask questions about different cultures and learn how to ask it without making it offensive. Have the willingness to engage with topics that might make you uncomfortable as doing so will result in tremendous personal growth. Jeff: Ability to navigate ambiguity in one’s career is important. A lot of problems do not have clear data, and being able to find root causes is helpful to grow your career and succeed domestically or internationally. Another lesson is understanding what you have control over. Do not stress over things you cannot control, and instead understand what you can do and do it right. Jenny: Cultivating your own unique personality. She would do quality work and present innovative ideas to win people’s trust, which also helps with building meaningful relationships in one’s international career. Thanks for reading this event recap! We hope to see you at our meeting next Monday on 11/20!