On the night that a Kenyan was elected President of America, this Ugandan was hunched over his Chinese assembled computer at home in the northern German city of Hamburg, engaged in a mild discussion with a Mexican, a Hungarian and two Indian fellows over e-marketing strategies, and running two chats with a couple of Britons who started out life as Ugandans.
My meal that night consisted of a Turkish Durum filled with German pork and a smattering of Mexican Chillis. I would have killed to have a pile of Ugandan plantain to go with it but was looking forward to closing off the culinary event with a nice ripe banana with a small sticker on it that pronounced its origins to be the soils of Ecuador.
In any event, I only got round to the Ecuadorian the next morning, since the Belgian ice cream in my fridge offered far stronger temptation in the dark surroundings of my little abode.
And so on and so forth.
Everybody can tell a story like that, but only people such as ourselves, working for a multi-national like ours, can actively relate to it on a daily basis at work.
Even before I came to Germany, my ordinary work day had me speaking with at least three nationalities other than Ugandans on any given day (naturally including my Nigerian HR Manager, the Zimbabwean Head of Department or the Brazilian Managing Director). With a little bit more heck thrown in, that number could shoot up to eight with a mere “issue” arising out of a wrongly-issued Bill of Lading whose resolution roped in the occasional Dutch secondee to the data processing centre based in India…
And this is one of the reasons I happily joined the company back in 2005.
“What?” a then-colleague asked when I told him of my impending career change.
“Yep,” I confirmed, “I’m going to engage in arguments with 80,000 workmates spread across the globe…in God-knows how many languages.”
The arguments have not been so heated, but the experiences have been fun: starting with the first time I found myself gathering information from a number of Africa Middle East markets and realising that with a couple of internet screens open I could translate my questions and their answers back and forth and so complete data collection from Angola (Portugese) through Rwanda (French) with a bit of fun.
And the experiences include quite unquestionably a recent out-of-office event involving two Germans, a Brazilian, a Ukranian, some Russian blood (in veins) and spirit (in bottle…and then veins) and of course, yours truly, at which we toasted in our various languages so vivaciously that at one point a three-minute conversation ensued in Runyoro, Spanish, Portugese and Russian.
No, none of the conversation made sense, but that’s besides the point.
What struck me later on, besides those small men with hammers to my cranium, was the reality of the world we live in and the opportunities we have as employees of this multinational. What are the advantages? Myriad – including the exposure we get without even having to apply for a visa; the open-mindedness we achieve by dealing with so many different people and issues; the multi-cultural learnings and the fact that just by being employed here we are actually on the world stage of globalisation.
But all this only if we harness the tools available – like the use of Interact for learning and socialisation (yes, that harmless, apparently time-wasting exercise!); and the acquisition of friends from colleagues by way of Lotus Notes and Sametime connect.
The reality of globalisation for some other people, mostly not with the company or any other like it was captured last week in an sms chat group I am part of:
“”Dammit,” wrote one pal light-heartedly to the entire group, “China is the next world superpower? Now my grandkids have to learn Chinese as well?!”
“Forget Chinese,” replied another, in Uganda, “Your children might have to learn Rwandese pretty soon if General Nkunda’s plans go through!”
(See http://www.voanews.com/english/Africa/2008-11-17-voa4.cfm for a bit of what this fellow is all about)