Working in a Multicultural Environment with Gautham Girish (Employee Profile)

Life at Orbium January 17, 2018

Working in a Multicultural Environment with Gautham Girish (Employee Profile)

Culture is central to everything we do, influencing our views and behaviour. It is a powerful force that deeply shapes us and the people around us – and has a huge impact on our increasingly interconnected world of business. Many teams, transactions and organisational structures are already multi-cultural and it is vital to be able to work in such an environment.

For most young people, it can be difficult to understand what this means, never having been in a truly multicultural environment. For Orbium’s Gautham Girish, multiculturalism has been part of his life for a long time.

“I have lived and worked in three countries. India, followed by Singapore for nearly eight years and the Philippines for more than two,” he says.

“These days, I coach and manage remote delivery projects out of Manila.”

His work requires him to deal with and manage people from different backgrounds. One of his current projects has 11 different nationalities. “I’ve had many opportunities to learn about cultural differences and the various perspectives that come with them. I can see these differences in how we handle issues. It is usually good to have diverse perspectives!”

For Gautham, what’s important is working as a team, not where you’re from. People accomplish better as a homogenous entity where cultures assimilate and work together towards a common goal.

“I have built many relationships over time and mostly at Orbium I work in close teams. A big part of Orbium is consulting and when we go to a client, we represent Orbium and are not individuals. Irrespective of how good an individual performs, it will not help if the unit is not performing as a whole. Although we have different backgrounds, the need to represent Orbium and not act as an individual diminishes any differences.”

Workplaces succeed better when we move from ‘multi-culturalism’ to a ‘melting pot of cultures’, While the former is an attempt to accept various cultures for the sake of diversity, the latter is where all the people blend to form one basic cultural norm driven by the dominant culture. The dominant culture here would be the Orbium culture.

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Of course, this comes with its ups and downs. Differences will surface, but that is where things also become interesting. Gautham, for example, had to deal with stereotyping, which he has learnt to dismiss as “a way to justify our failed communication”.

He also admits people tend to relate certain characteristics to a person depending on their race but that these don’t always hold true. “With an open-minded approach, if we look for a win-win outcome, working with diverse cultures becomes more fruitful,” he says.

He believes exposure to other cultures brings more opportunities and is easier than ever, thanks to technology. You can easily connect to people you’re working with remotely and even see them, helping to get to know them better.

For Gautham, one of the best perks of working in a global environment is getting to understand other cultures.

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Our office has a constant stream of visitors, giving us a continuous opportunity to learn more about other people. And I would never miss our annual summer events where staff from different locations get together – they’re a perfect reminder of how beautifully diverse we are.

Orbium recently held a summer event in Thailand’s Phuket for staff from Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila and Australia. Their colleagues from the UK and Europe met in Cannes in the South of France.

As for his advice to people about to start working for the first time in a multi-cultural environment, Gautham says: “Stay curious about other cultures, but know about yours – both negatives and positives. Communicate – communicate – communicate: open up, socialise and watch out for assumptions. Do not get drawn into the comfort of your clique.” All good advice.

As he gets up to leave he adds:

Be the best representation of your culture; treat everyone with respect and accept the differences. And make sure you always have some fun!