Archives For Cultural differences

Millions of people living here, but no highrise to disturb this hard working city

Monday evening Yonathan and I arrived in the City of Jaipur. We had just come from Mumbai, from a meeting with Ravan Boddu, CEO of a partner who wants to do sales with us in UK. Upon arriving we found Jaipur to be very tranquil and well organized. Kumar and Naren, the two directors of our Jaipur unit, were there to pick us up and drove us back to the apartment.

Back to basic
On our way back Kumar started to manage our expectations and warned us that the appartment might not be to our liking. But we insured him that we would agree quite easily after having staid at a very small double room at the Kamran Residency in Mumbai. The appartment turned out to be very spacious and had 4 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1 living room and a kitchen. Kumar was kind of nervous showing us the 2 bathrooms, 1 toilet and the 4 beds that were ready.

Kumar was happy to see us again as we were happy to see him again

Just after we said that the appartment was really fine for the tenth time, Kumar announced us that there was no warm water, but that it would be there by tomorrow. So the next morning I could experience a cold wash, with water from the bucket. The last time I had an unwanted cold shower was in Lviv, Ukraine about 3 years ago. The breakfast was simple, the next day I was all fresh and ready for a hot day at work 🙂

Good results from the team
Of course Kumar was proud to show that he had grown to practically double the amount of people working at the office. The additional office space was painted with the same orange / blueish style to match Componence colors.

New office space was added to fit the 100% growth since March 2008

In the coming days we would find ourselves in different meetings that resulted some clear lessons learned that showed that we in the Netherlands would sometimes behave the same towards our Indian colleagues, like our clients do. And other talks would show that they had the same issue as ourselves; the developers who were not getting the right information on time from our Dutch team also showed the same behavior towards their internal QA team.

Another exiting meeting was the kickoff session for a new product, a caching layer that will allow portals to perform much faster than it is now. This time it was not just a technical talk, but the complete picture was discussed starting from the businesscase. This new product is really exciting, as it’s results can really improve the throughput of any Weblogic or Websphere portal with at least 10 times. That’s solution thinking! The team was really excited about this development, as the whole project will lie in their hands, from requirements to delivery. Of course we’ll help out, but it’s exciting to see if our Indian unit can do total job like this.

Naren and Abhay are discussing if it's possible to implement the page cache as a separate application

And as the week ended we were able to win back some time on a crucial project, I guess we could expect nothing less as most of the days were from 10:00 – 21:00. Yonathan was very pleased to see all the progress and Krishan seemed to be happy too.

Yonathan and Krishan seem to be satisfied after a week of hard work

Great vegetarian at Urban Bistro


Urban Bistro made sure that we were well served every time, trying out their complete menu by the end of the week

Since last March a small restaurant had settled in the Anchor mall at Jaipur, Urban Bistro. Upon first sight it looked like a small diner, with just a few simple fast food dishes. But after returning for the 3rd time it became apparent to us that the owner knew our unit quite well, we had custom menu’s made for us every time we got in. So after 5 days of vegetarian food we have tasted many delicious dishes from different regions of India. Indian cuisine has a strong vegetarian side and is quite satisfying in this climate. Personally I thought I would crave for at least 1 piece of meat during my stay, but none of such … The place was even so good that we went out to celebrate the birthday of Coen, the support coordinator who is working closely with our Indian unit 🙂

Urban Bistro serves food good enough for a birthday party

It’s Componence time!

Just a few reasons why working at Componence is so cool

And of course the week could not end without a presentation and a company diner. As 18:00 was approaching I could just see every one standing and waiting for Naren, Kumar, Yonathan and me to leave to office towards Hotel Hawa Mahal (wind palace). In March we also had the presentation here and for Yonathan it was a trip down memory lane as he was staying at this hotel last time. This time the group was bigger, no more U-shaped conference setup, but just straight rows to give enough space.

Almost 40 people were sitting in the conference room waiting for my presentation to start.

And this time I was acquainted with the surrounding and gave a presentation with some new slides about Componence, why we’re so cool, about Portletsuite 1.x and 2.x and some slides about why we need our Jaipur unit to increase their quality and individual capacity.

This time I was better prepared and the people are more familliar

And probably Yonathan and I performed a good job as this time more hands were shown and there were definitely some people standing up to give some discussion. That´s what we´re aiming for, more initiative! One of the persons that I´ve met during this trip showed me that this unit is really going in the right direction. Sudesh, our system administration, turned out to be a powerful personality who really wants to contribute to this world through his work.

A new shining personality within our Jaipur team, an system administrator with good potential

So talks and foods followed, giving me some chance to speak with more of young team members. It was definitely a big releaf to see that here India women do IT!

Last time I think we only had Megha, now we have 7 Componence ladies in Jaipur

Ok … that’s all for now, time to go to bed (it’s already 02:23). Tomorrow we’ll hit the road to New Delhi, as Mumbai would not allow our relatives to be at ease. Anyhow, terrorism is a part of life in India and it can happen anywhere. Hopefully just not tomorrow in New Delhi 🙂

The Netherlands is ranked 8th in the Global Competitiveness Report. But at the same time the Dutch seem to complain more and care less about their collective well begin. Is this true? Is it necessary? Do they feel the urgency of action? Are there enough Dutch people who are strong enough to really take action instead of just complaining? I trust that there is enough spirit amongst this reasonable folk, they just have to find their drive …

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So what is the English way to treat customers? My quest to find an answer for this question starts in London, where immigrants do most of the serving. London is a huge service-economy, done often with a decent smile. And when you find the right places, London can be cheap for your wallet, even for Americans.

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3,5 weeks for me was maybe slightly to long to take a vacation, but I for my honenymoon it was really great. This is something we in the Netherlands, and in other European countries, are lucky enough to be able to do. Yeah, in Holland the standard minimum is to get 25 vacation days a year based on 40 hours work per week, as many sick days as you need to be really sick and some companies add 5 – 10 more days for their most dedicated team members. And some companies also register overwork, making it possible to even have 5-6 weeks of vacation. I guess the amount of vacation days also shows a certain level of prosperity. The Dutch governmental bodies have all this and to top it they have a standard 36 hour workweek. I’m not sure how long they can keep this up though, as also in Holland it’s hard for the working class to pay for all the elders who have their pensions.

‘Old Europe’ knows how to care and relax, but have forgotten how to be strong …
In generally I believe in a good work / private balance where we work hard and have enough time to enjoy life. The latter is something I think the Europeans do best, compared with all other continents. In America and Canada, both strong economies, you start with having approximately 10 vacation days. There you really see that people ‘live to work’ where in the Netherlands and the richer countries of Europe people ‘work to live’. I do believe that we should work to live, but I think that because of prosperity many people in the old Europe take things for granted and forget that sometimes suffering and sacrifices are needed to keep the things we value. But imho this attitude is induced by decades of social governments, who rightfully wanted to get the whole country out of the ashes of WOII. The result are ‘care-states’ that have rules and regulations to sustain all the weak and poor, while strong people are stimulate NOT to make LOTS of money (60% taxes over the higher incomes). This is leading to a trend where many stronger professionals and enterpreneurs are moving abroad to countries like Canada, Asia, Australia, America where hard work is still appreciated. How to change it, I don’t think it’s easy. I think it’s about time Old Europe has to become ‘poor’ again to really learn how to be ‘strong’ again.

‘New Europe’ will save Europe’s position in the world
I personally think Old Europe is blessed with the new Europeans as these new economies will eventually keep the whole of Europe strong! We should not be afraid to take more new countries like Ukraine and Turkey into the EU. The ‘Old Europeans’ are just to short-sighted when they complain about how the EU is investing millions into these new EU members. But Europe MUST invest, to preserve their position in the world. These new Europeans have the background that Europe is old and great (remember the great empires of the past), but because of lack of democracy have been kept ‘asleep’ for such a long while. Now with democracy into their lives again, they can see and take chances again. And here in Old Europe we are just lucky enough that they remember the old times when Europe was the strongest in the world.

Americans are used to fall and climb, but they might fall too far …
I guess the Americans possess the spirit to sacrifice more to get more, as it’s quite normal to see elder people (60+) still at work and to see how many people have 2 or 3 jobs at the same time. But then again their confidence of their capacity to continuously work more to get more, makes it less necessary for them to manage everything to have a steady foundation and a good balance. This is quite obvious now with the extreme situations related to the credit crisis, where banks that were just not managed decently are now saved by the governments at any cause. A new American acquaintance of mine, Jonathan Locke, is very worried about the current situation and is now asking questions about the American financial system that he has never thought to ask before. Although I love the ‘American way’, I do hope that this time they will not fall too far this time. But maybe America need this freefall now, to make them really change their self centered policy to have more and more for themselves …

Dutch advisors for America and American advisors for the Netherlands
I believe in situational management, different leadership for different situations. And as America is trying to have more financial stability and a more decent financial policy for the next decades, I think they should ask former Minister of Finance Mr. Gerrit Zalm for advice. The Dutch have always delivered good managers who are well known for their ability to achieve consensus and to save money for bad times. I think America would really benefit from such management styles to build a stronger foundation. Maybe then they can build new GM’s that will STAY THE BIGGEST for more centuries.

But vice versa, as the Netherlands are saying they want to stimulate and support entrepreneurship, they might have a better chance of really doing it when they take in real BIG entrepreneurs like Donald Trump as advisors. Hmm, maybe it’s just better to swap the Ministry of Finance and Economics between countries for a few years :). Then the Dutch might really have a chance to still be a country that counts in the world. Maybe then we can build new ABN AMRO’s or Corporate Expresses again and keep Unilever and Heineken from falling in foreign hands.

It’s good to balance, Australia is doing a good thing here …
In Australia the trend is that everything is going faster and faster, the economy is becoming more like ‘America’. It was actually quite a surprise for me to see the vast amount of American fastfood chains in Australia and how stores are open untill really late. I think on average Australian professionals work at least 50 hours per week. But then again, they have 20 days vacation each year and they can easily travel to nice places like Whitsunday Islands or Daintree to really relax and enjoy the real beaties of mother nature. A comforting thought for me was also to see that Australians value their entrepreneurs and really give different benefits for self-made people, probably something they also have taken from America.

I guess it’s logic as the whole continent only has 22 mln people, only 40% than in the Netherlands, while they have hundreds of times more space. So there is still enough space for Australians to develop, I just hope they are strong enough to preserve their beautiful landscapes like the Daintree rainforest. Especially with the rising level of seawater endangering a lot of natural wildlife habitats, where there is a delicate balance between fresh and salt water.

Componence is blessed, we get the chance to really mix
At Componence we are lucky to have Old (Dutch, German, Swedish), New Europeans (Polish, Romanian, Ukrainian), Asian (India, Vietnamese) and Americans in our network. We have the ability to mix and match:

  • Dutch for Ukrainians -> Decent management, where we try to create awareness for ‘long-term’ development;
  • Dutch for Indians -> Fair leadership, where we see that India needs new opportunities from us so that they will return the favor in 5-10 years from now;
  • Ukrainian for Dutch -> Boldness and strength, where we see that young people always think they can do a lot more than just standard;
  • Indian for Ukraine -> Willingness to learn and do any job, where we see that young people are thankful for any opportunity of work and appreciate the chance to learn;
  • Indian for Dutch -> Obedience and dedication, where we see that team members will listen and follow their leaders with practically no hesitation;
  • American & German for Dutch, Ukrainian & Indian -> Inspiration and confidence, where we see that expert architects show us the way to realize the technologies and solutions we want to deliver in our Enterprise vision;

For me personally, having 30 vacation days a year would be cool when you combine it with an average working week between 50-60 hours. I think I more support the ideas behind the book ‘The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works‘ by Ricardo Semler.

I believe in the statement in Covey’s book of 7 habits: “Treat your people like you want them to treat your best clients”. This way you can get any person of any culture to understand how you want them to treat your clients. This blog tells how I see the Dutch, American and Ukrainian culture make their people treat their clients in a certain way.

I hope the blog will help managers to deal better with issues related to offshoring units in the Ukraine. At the same time I hope that Dutch politicians will see my worries for the Dutch society. Btw, the blog is long, sorry for that.

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I always have fun in the US, so much to do, so much to eat, so much to see …

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Maybe it’s because the conditions of cheap transportation, food and drinks allow the Germans to have more real social contacts and have less time for online contacts. If that’s the case imho many of us should visit Germany more …

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Enjoy the blogs of your colleagues and do not fear the honesty, but rather try to understand what your colleagues are saying and figure out what you need to do to really fix the underlying issue.

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Willing people of different cultures, who want to have success together, can be more open towards each other as the lack of similar background brings up the necessity of communication. Working and living in multi cultural environments can really boost up social and communication skills.

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