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Two weeks and four countries: I have witnessed beautiful people, inspiring cultures and all of it in 14 days

 

I recently had the chance to travel to four countries within the APAC region to visit our teams. I do this about every nine months or so. But each time I travel abroad, I learn and experience new and amazing things about the people, the cultures and the foods.

Off to India, Singapore, the Philippines and Japan…

Travel takes time. And it takes a LONG time to travel from the east coast of the U.S. (where I live) across the globe. For a little perspective, I left my house at 10:00 am on Saturday, April 15th and arrived in Bangalore, (India) at 2:00 am on Monday, April 17th. Yes, that is a lot of time in planes, trains and automobiles, about 40 hours to be exact, but it is so very worth it.

Upon arrival to the hotel Monday morning, I unpacked the bare minimum and rested up before Pontoon’s “big day” and the grand opening of our new office.

At the first stop, Lydia Wilson, Rishi Kapoor and I had a quick interview with a reporter from The Economic Times and then travelled to our new facility where we were met by a pujari for a traditional blessing ceremony. A pujari is a Hindu temple priest and the word comes from the Sanskrit/Hindi word “puja” meaning worship. Upon arrival to the hotel Monday morning, I unpacked the bare minimum and rested up before Pontoon’s “big day” and the grand opening of our new office.

What a wonderful experience to witness this ceremony. Our pujari chanted mantras, burned incense sticks and made offerings to the Gods. At the end, he swept camphor smoke over everyone to cleanse us and then passed out sweet candies. I don’t claim to understand everything he did, but I certainly consider it a privilege to have been a participant and observer. That evening the team celebrated over Indian barbeque (YUM!). I wore my traditional Indian kurta to dinner and felt inspired! On Tuesday and after a motivating start to the week, I spent the day in learning sessions with our team and rounded off the day logging kilometers for our Win4Youth charitable foundation.

After a memorable trip to India, I was off to visit Singapore. With a huge expat population, Singapore blends a host of cultures and religions (Malay, Chinese, Aussie, Arab, Indian and English to name a few) for a dynamic community that begs the questions– should I offer a nod, a bow, or two or three kisses? Research and preparation are vital. And I have learned one valuable lesson before setting off to a new locale – arm myself with the knowledge to acclimate to the culture. When I met with the Singapore team we explored topics such as ‘how to best coach employees’, ‘understanding the Pontoon performance review and calibration processes’ and Pontoon’s Six Strategic Priorities’. With two days of educational sessions, one Win4Youth scavenger hunt and a great team dinner/happy hour on Friday, I could see that Saturday was peaking up over the horizon.

Now it was time to enjoy a little downtime. What is a Singapore weekend without exploring shopping?!? It is everywhere. Every time I turned around I was in another shopping center. There were high-end brands, the ones we’ve all heard (and drooled) over as well as amazing local stores. That was a visually exhausting Saturday! For Sunday, I took a nice walk in the Gardens by the Bay and viewed the conservatory displays. The tulips looked like a sea of vibrant colors, and I happily soaked in the beauty.

Leaving the shops and flowers behind, Monday I took an early flight to the Philippines office in Manila for a two-day visit with the team. Interpersonal relationships are key here and I start every presentation with an overview about my family and me. In Manila, business and personal relationships are one in the same and that means I must be authentic and demonstrate to them who I am and what I value to create trust. To encourage communication we engaged in a bit of fun and a very competitive game of HeadsUp! We also held several roundtable discussions to talk about Pontoon’s strategy, our overall view and growth (in the region and Manila). After an early morning visit to an onsite team on the overnight shift, we managed to fit in some candidate interviews for our growing Manila team!

Wednesday it was time to head for Japan where the weather was much cooler than Manila, Singapore and Bangalore, but our time there was equally as exciting and productive. In Japan, credibility is valued. And to create that credibility I understand that I should wait for their lead – in terms of handshakes, eye contact, etc. Offering these in a forward and aggressive manner would be seen negatively and less credible. All greetings aside, in the Tokyo office we talked operations, hosted team roundtables and completed some kilometers for Win4Youth. We ended the day with a wonderful dinner served family style with our Pontoon team and Adecco partners.

On Friday, with a little extra time to spare, Lydia and I decided to visit the Tsukiji fish market. This trip is ranked #1 on several Tokyo lists of things to do, and was a quick 15-minute drive from the hotel. To see the inner market and watch the tuna auctions, we arrived at 3:00 am to ensure we would get two of only 120 spots available daily. We capped the trip off with a fresh sushi breakfast at one of the top, five sushi restaurants in Japan. Hands down, chopsticks up, a memorable breakfast.

Finally, it was time to head home. And I was definitely ready to see my family, my friends and sleep in my own bed! But, during my time with our APAC teams, I have gained much from the incredible people, inherent cultures and delicious food (two pounds). You are kind hosts and I am already looking forward to my next visit!

At the end of this trip and the day, I know having a worldview expands my awareness of what it means to be a global citizen working for a global organization. And as a working mom, I know that my mindfulness contributes positively to raising a better human.

Author: Terri Lewis

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