Friday, June 6, 2014

Thinking Globally...Acting Locally...

[Today is the first Friday of the month... so time for another guest blogger to join us...

Sam Yankelevitch is a long-time reader of the OptiFuse blog who has taken on the challenge to write this week’s segment.

Although born and raised abroad, Sam is an American who again brings an interesting viewpoint to the readers as someone who has spent a considerable amount of his life living outside of the United States.

Sam is a published author by his own right and has an interesting take on American culture... and what it takes to succeed]

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People say it’s a small world... but I wouldn’t want to paint it...
~  Steven Wright

In 1977, I finished high school in Tel Aviv. That year I moved to the US and in 1981 I graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington as an Industrial Engineer.
I returned to my native country of Colombia to work for the business my grandfather had established there after World War II. 

I grew into my role as a manager and leader, spending a good portion of my time improving our processes, mentoring my associates, developing new international markets and sourcing new technologies and equipment from every corner of the world.

In the mid 1980’s I found myself traveling, on a regular basis, to Europe, Canada, and throughout the United States negotiating and buying machinery, tooling and raw materials to import into Colombia. 

Then in the 1990’s, Asia became one of our focal points and sourcing from that continent was kicked off.

In 1988, because of the socio-political situation in Colombia, I was forced to leave and moved to Florida with my family.  This self-imposed exile lasted for about 6 years after which time, we then returned to Colombia, only to have to exit again in the year 2000.

We once again found ourselves on U.S. soil and have been here for the past 14 years. 

My children have had the opportunity to grow up in what I believe is a healthy and safe environment.  Each morning they are picked up by a yellow bus to go to and from school.  They regularly participate in athletics such as competitive swimming as well as being involved with many social neighborhood activities.

I used to see this in TV shows while I was living abroad.

As the VP of a German based automotive supplier in the Carolinas, I was exposed to excellent cross-cultural learning and gained a higher level of insight on how to deal with issues arising from the exchanges between Americans, Germans, Mexicans and Asians. I now speak a few languages and am comfortable in dealing effectively with several cultures.

I have a deep appreciation for this country and feel that I am very fortunate to be here. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving... even though I am a vegetarian.

A recent contributor to Jim’s blog, Mr. Siyamak Khorrami, follows my same belief... that while the U.S. does have its flaws... it stands alone at the top in so many ways.

In the past 35 years, which is relatively a very short time, there have been many important shifts in the American cultural landscape and there is one in particular that I wanted to share from my own perspective.  My intention is to only bring more awareness to the important things I see affecting our great country and to which I believe can be easily resolved.

Because of the tremendous globalization of business, there has been an exponential rise in the interdependence of people, cultures and countries to provide the products and services we all need or want.

This "interdependence" requires close collaboration between people with different backgrounds and upbringing as well as different education, beliefs and values.
There is also the matter of communication and language which I believe is the key to effective interactions between people.

Over the past several years I have seen jobs taken away from American professionals because they lacked cross-cultural and language skills to effectively communicate with others.  Ex-pats from around the globe are able to snatch some of those jobs merely because the balance of skills has shifted.

The daily news often repeats how Americans trail other countries in Math or Engineering knowledge and skills.  

The curricula in schools and the basic proficiency tests are designed for classical mathematical computations, literary skills and written composition.  Problem solving, communication and team collaboration do not appear to be a top priority for schools and cross-cultural or effective language training are still provided with a very low emphasis.

America was once protected by two large oceans and because of its size, resources and incredibly intelligent, motivated and innovative population.  For many years it was able to survive and thrive on its own merits.

But in our own incessant search to grow our markets and source cheaper materials and goods, we also chose to be highly interdependent on the rest of the world.  This means we are no longer as independent as we once were.

In my most recent role as VP, I experienced how a Mexican national took over as our NAFTA purchasing director and a German national took over as a business unit manager.  Both these professionals were excellent people. But so were the Americans they displaced.

The main gap in skills was not intelligence, experience or technical knowhow.  It was more related to the ability of the Mexican and German to speak a language and interact in a cross-cultural environment in a very effective manner.

So my contribution today is to bring to light, not only for our children, but for any professional that is currently employed and to determine what level of interdependence is associated with the business they are in?

How is the organization they work with related to the global scene? What products or services do not have any influence from other countries?

I am thoroughly convinced that if it is your desire to advance your career or in some cases, just remain employed, it is imperative that you gain additional skills that include multi-language and cross-cultural training.  Whereas you might think that this is America and in America we only speak English, like it or not, America is now an integral part of the world’s economy. 

Today, more than ever, there are extraordinary competitive pressures to successfully gain and maintain employment.  If you want your resume to stand above the others, it is imperative that you have a competitive advantage over your peers. 

Recruiters are constantly on the look-out for those candidates who possess multi-language and cross-cultural capabilities.  Waiting for someone to change the curricula might only ensure your resume will be passed on. 

Having access to the internet today prevents us from any excuse as to why we should not know and understand how other people around the world think and behave and even learn other languages... and it’s all free.

While it is true that English is considered the business language of the world, for many reasons theory doesn’t always mirror reality.

As active and still well respected members of the global community, we Americans should be wide awake now to the reality of needing to interact with every culture of the world in a respectful and effective way. 

We do have a choice...

We can be proactive and acquire the skills needed to participate and thrive in today’s global work place or we can do nothing with the hope that we will long retire before we become underemployed or worse unemployed.

Like it or not... we are a part of the global community... and there is no going back...

We need to embrace the role of America’s leadership in the world and find ways to lead by example... embracing other cultures and finding ways to better communicate and work together...
Sam Yankelevitch   
Author Biography
Sam Yankelevitch has successfully championed lean thinking for most of his 30 years in manufacturing and operations management. 

Thanks to a diverse education and a career spanning Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and the USA, Sam is fluent in several languages, and excels at driving cross-cultural understanding in corporate settings.

He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and an Executive Masters in Finance. 

Sam is the author of a recently published book called:  Lean Potion #9 - Communication: the next lean frontier, which exposes new wastes due to globalization and adopts lean, continuous improvement methodologies into workable solutions for our complex communication processes.

Sam has lived in Greenville, SC with his wife and family for the past 13 years.

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