Inside Aperian Global: Freeda Fernandes
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 Freeda Fernandes, our Web Tools Marketing and Global Account Manager in Singapore a few questions.
Freeda, looking back to when you first joined Aperian Global, what led you to the cross-cultural consulting world?
Luck! I was on a short career break after being impacted by an organizational restructuring but that came with a silver lining, as Aperian Global picked my resume that I had posted online. At my previous jobs, I had been through numerous situations that desperately called for cross-cultural interventions but they were never identified or attributed to intercultural miscommunication but rather to individuals. When I got to know that a firm like Aperian Global existed and could help people understand themselves and work more effectively with each other, I was delighted! I was looking for the perfect role related to marketing and technology and as a Web Tools Marketing Manager at Aperian Global I had the added benefit of knowing more about culture.
Many Non-Asians talk about “Asia”, but often have only China or Japan in mind. You are Indian yourself, having moved to Singapore recently. What do you see as the main differences and similarities between India (particularly Bangalore) and Singapore?
The two countries seem quite similar mainly in being very family-oriented and relationship focused. Back in India, I was never surprised when clients I knew well would call me on a holiday or late evening if it was something urgent, and that remains the same here. There is high value placed on maintaining “face” in society and in front of others, and the group-focus or interdependence is similar to India.
Having said that, the most striking difference relates to the infrastructure, government efficiency, and demographics that have such a huge impact on distinguishing the two countries. There is a world of difference in how efficient and developed Singapore is compared to India. Things such as good roads, clean drinking water, clean air among others, that we long for back in India are a given here. I really enjoy the convenience of knowing that I can plan my commute and actually be at a client’s place on time, if not before!
The diversity of India, as well as Singapore, is extensive. Different ethnic and religious groups work together, different languages are spoken, and yet teams have to collaborate efficiently and successfully. What have been your best practices to make daily diversity work on the job?
I have been fortunate to apply my knowledge of the cross-cultural world and GlobeSmart to my daily work. To begin with, recognizing how I operate and what my preferences have really helped. In becoming more self-aware by using the GlobeSmart Profile, I have been able to recognize how my behavior impacts those that I work with.
On any given day, I work with my colleagues in the US, Denmark, France, India, and China. I work with clients from Switzerland, Germany, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Australia. Every email and call is with someone from another cultural background and often it is difficult to style switch, but I try to follow some global best practices. I tend to send out an agenda before a call, taking detailed notes and sharing them after a call (internally or with a client), and this helps overcome cultural miscommunication as people can read and clarify their action items and can share comments. I also get to know the person before and while working with them.
You are in contact with our clients and customers in the Southeast Asian region. If you had to give one piece of advice for building relationships with clients in Singapore, what would that be?
Listen carefully. It is easy to misinterpret and start forming perceptions and conclusions as someone is speaking, and I have found that this is incorrectly amplified when trying to work with someone from another culture. I try to listen to the person carefully and then repeat my understanding of what they are trying to communicate.
Tell us something we don’t know about you yet.
If I wasn’t at Aperian Global and didn’t love my job, I might have been pursuing my dream of being a professional dancer.
If you are interested in learning more about working with Singapore, China, India or other Asian cultures, ask us about our country-specific learning programs, Working With Country X.