“Coming out of your comfort zone is tough in the beginning but great in the end,” said my manager at the end of my first day at work and I realized that the next 8 months of my internship at SAP might be way more challenging than I thought. Doing something that I had never done before, and starting with a totally new team in an unfamiliar environment sounded truly overwhelming.
One of the biggest fears I encountered in this position was being isolated from the team as my colleagues are all over the world and we mostly collaborated online. Moreover, due to the time differences, my usual workday would be nighttime for my colleagues. At first, I felt a bit lost. I had to figure out a strategy to make sure I wasn’t falling behind and how to do my best for efficient teamwork across distance. Eventually, I realized that I could thrive in such an environment and having flex hours became one of the key advantages of SAP.
Time management is essential when you work with a global team and this was a great skill to learn while working with people in different time zones. The best strategy that worked for me was planning for the whole week and sticking to the schedule. There always might be surprises but knowing the general idea of your ‘to-do list’ or in my case ‘to talk to’ list was a great way of keeping everything under control. My golden rule - if anything can be done today, do it today.
During my first month, I worked with more than 50 people in over 10 different countries and I would bet Skype for Business was the most used app on my phone. This was my first experience of being involved in such a global network and I would never have thought that this format would work so well for me. Working with colleagues that are based somewhere 7000 km away gave me a great opportunity to explore different work styles and understand a different culture. We all know that people from various backgrounds tend to have their own work approaches and mindsets. So, collaborating in a multinational team opened up a totally new world of unique habits, lifestyles and work approaches.
Another important advantage of being part of the multicultural team was the ability to sustain positiveness about diversity and become aware of your own biases. Diversity exposed us to new perspectives, open communication and eventually lead us to more efficient teamwork. When we mixed different languages, values and ideas, we came up with unprecedented decisions and unique projects.
When talking about biases, we could underestimate how they might affect our work. But once we became aware of them, we were able to remove any prejudice power over us and allowed the work process to be filled by deliberate decisions and facts, not perceptions.
After only a short time in my position, I already saw huge changes in my collaborative and time management skills, open-mindedness and most importantly – self-confidence. You never know what the limits of your capabilities until you try! And in most cases, you will be surprised by your strengths and adaptability and what value you can bring to your team and the company.
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