How we work together for a prosperous future

An intercultural, international working environment is a key factor to success. Therefore we are keen to make progress in this field and secure our position as a strong competitor on the market. Olga Rosa (Head of HR Management & Services) and Rafael Navajo (Head of Software Delivery Center Barcelona) have both been working in this kind of environment for a long time. They share their experiences and talk about different cultures, mindsets and working remotely.

Olga Rosa and Rafael Navajo at our Ypsomed offices.

Olga: Which experiences showed you, what you need to adjust in order to be successful in international collaboration?

Rafael: In different positions I led several teams worldwide. Since the beginning of my career I have been working in multicultural environments – it is a good way of working. Working remotely, for me, is also something that has always been possible. The pandemic added a new dimension to this topic: I had to travel a lot for my job, but when the pandemic hit, it stopped immediately. However, people continued working and everything continued forward – we need to change our perception and finally realise, that productivity must not be influenced negatively when working remotely.

Olga: For me it has always been important to be able to build relationships. Building a relationship by working remotely is maybe not as easy as if you work in the same country or work location. So I needed to understand how my counterpart builds a relationship with me and try to accommodate. Nowadays we have many possibilities and tools to get in touch with each other – we simply need to use them. Early in my career I was traveling a lot as it seemed to be the only way to build a relationship with colleagues. During the pandemic we have learned that you can build up even a new company like our new offices in Barcelona by practically never having been there once. When it comes to topics like welcoming new employees or teambuilding, the personal interaction is essential as it shows respect and esteem. I am looking forward to build up our China manufacturing site as I will learn how to go a step further in international collaboration – because travelling during the pandemic will be more difficult or even impossible. So to conclude, building relationships is key to working internationally as it opens up many doors.

Rafael: I totally agree with that, the pandemic changed the way how teams can work, also in a multicultural environment. In my opinion, it is a question of trust: we have to be more precise defining objectives when working remotely, we do not have the possibility to feel emotions – but we have to gain trust by working remotely with our colleagues. We must establish a relationship and make sure that people can trust you, and you can trust them. By doing this, we create a friendship, which is key for a successful time of working together.

Olga: Another topic with great importance for me is communication. Working internationally often means that we are talking in a foreign language and with colleagues or partners with a different cultural frame work. Some time ago, while working with a German colleague, I had the impression that we were using the same word but what she was saying was not aligned with my understanding of a particular word. I suggested to stop our conversation and to review the topic the next day. Luckily the next day I had the idea to share with her what my understanding was of that “critical word”. I will never forget her expression. First she had very big eyes and then smiled. Her definition of that particular word was a lot different. I was so grateful for this experience. Today, if I feel a conversation is not going well, I try to review and try to find out whether we have a miscommunication because we do not talk about the same.

Rafael: The cultural factor is very important. For example, if you organise a meeting in the early afternoon in Spain, you have to understand that people have different times for lunch. Or if you schedule a meeting in February in Switzerland you can be sure that somebody is not available to attend because they went skiing. Jokes aside, we have to make sure that people understand the different ways of doing things, we are different but also similar, so we have to combine the best. Diversity is the origin of the job: for example in Barcelona, we have over 50 people from 13 different nationalities. I really like multicultural environments, more important than nationalities are the people skills and together we make the best out of each other.

Olga: The cultural aspect is indeed very important. Always make sure that the other person is aware of what you mean and if not iterate what you mean. It was a key element from my experiences, we are also different in terms of how we argue and discuss.

Rafael: Exactly, this creates an empathy between us, we can do an intro for a certain topic. This is super important, other we need to understand each other in order to move forward smoothly. When we are face to face it is easier but in this environment this needs to be managed.

Olga: What is more successful in your view: local or international collaboration?

Rafael: We have to admit that unfortunately we cannot survive in an isolated manner. The reality is that if we want to be successful we need to work internationally. There is no other way to be competitive in the market, we have to accept that.

Olga: I agree, we work for a global business, so we must take the advantage to use global skills. In the beginning it takes a bit more energy and investment, we need to understand each other, people speak other languages and they have another cultural background. Once we figured this out the collaboration can be more successful and the output may be richer. Different ways of thinking may bring better solutions.

Rafael: It is definitely our responsibility as leaders to communicate about these advantages. It is not about replacing or moving, it is about enriching, only in this setup we can be competitive tomorrow. No fighting, no replacing, collaborating as a team – we make the best to be competitive.

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