Inside Aperian Global: Stine Fehmerling
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. In September, we spoke to our Senior Client Relations Manager & Director of Operations, Kris Schorno, based in Kansas City, USA. This month, we are taking you back to the European continent to hear from Stine Fehmerling, our Director of Consulting, based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
1) Stine, you started your career at Aperian Global as an Associate Senior Consultant before becoming a full time staff member and our Director of Consulting in Denmark. If you think back to the beginning, what led you to the cross-cultural field and this company?
Many things led me to the cross-cultural field. On a personal level, I traveled as a young woman in central America for a long period of time and it was there that I fell in love with an Israeli man. Therefore, I worked and studied in Israel over a period of 5 years. After a couple a years in Israel and listening to one side of the conflict I decided to explore the Palestinian life. Hence as part of my bachelor project in sociology I did a 6 month field work in Ramallah where I investigated Palestinian National Identity in the school system in cooperation with a Palestinian NGO. I lived in Ramallah with a Palestinian family who hosted me during the week (doing fieldwork and research) and on Fridays, I took my backpack and passed the two check points – walking the 10 min in no-man’s-land – to the Israeli side where my former boyfriend would pick me up in his car. Everyone thought I was crazy, but to me it was so obvious that the Palestinians and Israelis were so alike in many ways (they just did not want to see that) and still they created such a strong “us vs. them” identity. That outside perspective intrigued my interest in cultural encounters and the fine balance between similarities and differences and how we construct cultural identities.
2) You previously taught Cultural Encounters courses to Danish and international university students. Why do you think it is important to start developing an understanding of the need for cultural competence when you are still in university?
I was an adjunct at “Kultur- og Sprogmøde Studier” Cultural Encounters at Roskilde University. Cultural Encounters focuses on the study of cultural identities and symbolic representational and interpretational forms through an international, cross-cultural and global perspective. It is particularly concerned with problems related to processes where cultural identities and representations interact and are exchanged. It is a master program so I had several lectures, but I also supervised master thesis. My field of expertise was diversity and inclusion, majority and minority issues in modern societies and then of course cross cultural communication in global corporations and how to create inclusive global teams. I think it is super important to develop cultural competencies in the university both theoretically and personally in order for the new generation to benefit from globalization. We observed a lot of excluding mechanisms among the Danish and international students when forming study groups. I often used those personal experiences of being excluded in the study team work and related that to the theoretical points on diversity and inclusion. That was where they really understood the impact of negative unconscious bias and micro-inequities.
3) Would you say that the challenges for academic research teams and academic staff are comparable to the corporate environment when it comes to managing multicultural, virtual teams? Do you have any tips for university staff to improve their cross-cultural team communication?
Yes, indeed. My tip for university staff is to take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and the GlobeSmart ProfileSM. The thing with university staff – or the researchers at least – is that they have a very strong critical tradition. In my view (at least in a Danish academic context), academia is less open to cultural profiles like the ones mentioned. I don’t think self reflection is practiced a lot in an academic research setting. (My husband is an Associate Professor so I am allowed to say this!)
4) Academia, research, and education is often coined as “too dry, too theoretical.” How can we build a better bridge between the research that is being conducted (be it neuroscience, cultural anthropology, cross-cultural psychology) and our practical knowledge on learning and training to develop the most applicable and relevant content?
I believe that the university and business world should approach each other much more.
“There should be more collaboration between the academic world and us. Why are we not being invited for lectures at the universities once or twice a year? How could we incorporate a professor in Chinese culture into some of our solutions?”
Additionally, I think that the university staff should learn how to make their sessions/lectures more interactive, collaborative and facilitative. Unfortunately, we see too many 2-hour, one way communication lectures with 3 minute “interactive” Q&A from the audience in the end. I don’t think that this approach will really change people to develop intercultural skills.
5) Finally, if you don’t mind, share something we don’t know about you yet!
One thing people do not know about me is that I am a winter swimmer. That means that from October-May I swim in the sea once a week in water where the temperature drops to 0 degrees. When I do that I really feel that I follow my ancestors Viking legacy.