Inside Aperian Global: Celeste Kruse
In our monthly interview series, Inside Aperian Global, you will get to know the passionate people that drive Aperian Global’s mission and values in our day-to-day operations. You’ll find out more about their background and what their typical day looks like, and— through revealing stories and surprising facts— get a sneak peek into their work lives.
In this inaugural interview, we heard from Celeste Kruse, one of our alumni and former Aperian Global Project Manager.
Q: Celeste, you are one of Aperian Global’s Project Managers, handling large customized consulting projects for our biggest global clients. What led you to this particular position in the cross-cultural consulting field?
A: I started working at Aperian Global in 2010 in a hybrid role (Administrative Assistant / Client Relations Associate). This role allowed me to have broad exposure to the various parts of our organization and build strong relationships throughout the company. This role also provided me with exposure to many small internal projects. With this broader view of the organization, I developed a holistic approach to how our company conducts business and I created a network of colleagues to collaborate with and by result, developed a strong reputation.
After a year in my role, I was working on several small projects with our Managing Director of Global Talent Development. At that time, some of our clients were reaching out to us for more consultative type engagements, rather than our standard training program requests. The Project Manager role was never really an official role within the company, so as we became more consultative in our interactions with some of our clients, I was able to develop the role as one which supported customized engagements. I often describe my role as an air traffic control position that works collaboratively with our Global Account Managers, Directors of Consulting, Program Managers, Web Tools Development and others to deliver unique and innovative solutions to clients. At the end of the day, I enjoy working collaboratively with colleagues and act like the glue that holds everything together.
Q: In your opinion, what challenges does a global project pose to someone in your role?
A: Today’s global economy is more interconnected and complex than ever before. To manage projects in this VUCA environment, it has been critical to have an adaptive skill set and a global mindset in approaching projects. Many people are surprised to know this about me, but as my GlobeSmart Profile reflects, I am an extremely risk-averse individual, which makes navigating this environment all the more difficult for me. Managing global projects has forced me outside of my comfort zone and requires me to ensure I plan for the unexpected. Additionally, when managing global projects, often I will have several client stakeholders from around the globe who often have competing priorities.
Q: Surely, you must have thousands of stories of culturally-challenging project situations to tell. Could you pick one and let us know how you were able to successfully manage it in the end?
A: Last year I was assigned to a 4-month assignment in our Shanghai, China office. I was tasked with organizing and rolling out a customized leadership workshop. This was a series of firsts for me: my first time in China, first time working with Chinese colleagues/clients, and the first time working on a leadership-focused project. (Oh, and not to mention, I had less than a month to prepare for my trip and assignment!).
As we tell our clients during our training, when individuals move to a new country and work in a new culture, the biggest faux pas one can make is to assume that what determines success in one’s home country will be the same no matter the country they work in. Because I had a short amount of time for the project, I could have easily adopted familiar habits and ways of working. However, I was sure to carve out time to adjust to my surroundings and observe the work environment and working relationship of our clients and colleagues. I think it is critical for individuals who work globally to take time to understand the inner workings of the new culture they are in to understand how the “system” works and to then plan how to complete your goals with this in mind. Additionally, it is critical to take the time to leverage the networks that you have to assist you through this process: my Shanghai office colleagues taught me so much professionally and personally and were a key factor to my success. I was able to build synergies off of how I typically manage projects and I learned a whole lot about working in a fast growth market.
Q: If someone were to recruit for a global project manager, what traits/characteristics should they be looking for?
A: From my perspective, they should look for individuals who have strong interpersonal skills, can think holistically and have a flexible skill set. Interpersonal skills are highly important… it is critical that project managers build solid relationships with colleagues and clients in order to move the project team through deliverables. Holistic thinking is also crucial because it is important that Project Managers try to prepare for the unexpected and think two steps ahead of everyone in order to plan and guarantee success. Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, the global environment is constantly changing and as a result, no one project I work on is the same! Therefore, it is critical that Project Managers have a flexible skill set which allows them to adapt to different situations and leverage results. It is important that they look for individuals who are keen to constantly develop themselves in this regard, as this will allow them to add value to different elements of the project.
Q: Finally, if you don’t mind, share something we don’t know about you yet!
A: I can proudly say, I once played ice hockey against a now-Olympian!
To learn more about effective multicultural project management, please visit this link to download our book chapter on “Cultural Competency in International Health Program Collaboration” by Aperian Global’s Director of Consulting, Christie Caldwell.