Inside Aperian Global: Claire DiDonato
In our monthly interview series, Inside Aperian Global, you will get to know the passionate people that drive Aperian Global’s mission, values, and day-to-day operations. Aperian Global’s employees will provide you with a sneak peek into their work lives and share stories about themselves. This month, we asked Claire DiDonato, one of our alumni and former Manager, Web Tools Marketing Group based in Boston, MA USA, a few questions.
Claire, looking back at your first month with Aperian Global, what led you to the cross-cultural consulting world?
Prior to coming to Aperian Global, I worked for a translation company and was fascinated by the diverse group of linguists I worked with from all over the world. As a project/product manager constantly working on tight deadlines, building relationships with linguists was crucial to my success, and I quickly learned how best to work with each individual based on his or her own unique work style. Having been inspired by working with these linguists, after four years I decided to leave the company and move to China to travel, study Mandarin and immerse myself in the Chinese culture.
Upon my return to the States a year later, I stumbled upon a job posting by Aperian Global and instantly knew this was where I wanted to be; it was a perfect blend of my own professional experience and passion for learning about other work styles and cultures.
Your team is dispersed across different continents and cultures. What has been the most challenging part for you to influence them as their leader without being present all the time?
This is definitely a challenging part of my role, as I really do believe in the importance of face-to-face interactions. I love being able to swing by someone’s desk to ask a quick question or pop into a side office for a meeting. However, I feel I have been successful in influencing my team members virtually by fostering an atmosphere of respect, open communication, and appreciation.
In addition to communicating regularly via ad hoc meetings and emails, I set up weekly one-on-one meetings with my team members where we are able to connect both on a professional and personal level; discussing current responsibilities, bouncing ideas around, and just getting to know one another better. My team members know they can come to me at any time and that they are never “bothering” me.
I work hard in my own role and like to think I set both a strong example of work ethic as well as high expectations for performance. My team members all know that I trust them to do their best work, and am always appreciative of the high level of quality I consistently see in terms of performance.
Even though technically only reporting to one manager, you are part of several project teams and interact with different departments within the organization on a weekly basis. What are your 3 biggest tips to manage these competing priorities?
The first is effective time management. I not only block off time in my calendar for calls and meetings, but also for project work. I find this essential for organizing my day and ensuring work actually gets done, and can always reprioritize if an urgent matter arises.
The second is setting realistic expectations. It is important to me that my work is completed with a high level of quality, so I will let my client, whether internal or external, know if a deadline is not sufficient to ensure that quality, and will instead offer a more reasonable one based on my current workload.
And finally, I’m not afraid to ask clarifying questions. The first step I take when starting any project is to ask a lot of questions so that the final deliverable is exactly as desired. I’d much rather jump on a quick call up front rather than produce an insufficient deliverable.
In your position, you work on our industry-leading tool GlobeSmart®. How can this tool be utilized to work across distances and cultures?
I could talk about this one for hours as there are so many ways. GlobeSmart has over 50 topics of information for over 90 countries, including business, cultural and travel advice. However, my own favorite use of GlobeSmart is utilizing the GlobeSmart Profile as a team-building tool. With the GlobeSmart Profile, not only can you compare country average profiles to your own and get advice for working more effectively with people from different cultures, but you can even get down to the individual level and see the unique work styles of your team members. My own team recently did a GlobeSmart Profile Debrief, and it was so helpful to see one another’s work styles plotted out along the chart and to discuss how these affect the dynamics of the team. We analyzed our team strengths, potential blind spots (i.e. we are all very indirect!), and shared examples of ways in which, despite our differences, we have been able to build solid and trusting relationships with one another, to the betterment of the entire team’s performance. We also discussed areas of opportunity, and ways in which we could be even more effective working both with one another, as well as with our internal and external clients, moving forward.
Finally, if you don’t mind, share something we don’t know about you yet!
Let’s see… I’m recently engaged so that’s currently the newest adventure in my life!
Is your team challenged by a matrixed organizational structure? Be sure to check out our latest, game-based eLearning, Managing Competing Priorities.