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Monday, August 1, 2011

"Old school" communication styles


I recently communicated with a newly hired colleague, who had just completed his Master's degree. After inviting me to contact him primarily by email or instant message, he remarked upon how he found teleconferences "old school". His comment gave me pause to think about my experience with globally distributed teamwork.

While in my prior role at the software research lab, our team was distributed across CDT (UTC - 5 hours) through GMT and all the way to JST (UTC + 9 hours). Email was definitely the main form of having complex discussions, and as the centrally located team, we primarily conversed via instant messaging (where accents and bad audio quality couldn't interfere with comprehension) with the Japanese, UK and Egyptian colleagues in our mornings, and the American and Canadian ones in our mid afternoons. There were regular teleconferences (from which the Japanese were mostly exempt due to them being late in their nighttime typically), but those tended to serve as team socialization aids, since in-person visits were infrequent and costly to arrange. 

When I joined my current organization, I found that teleconferences were far more frequently held, and used for information transfer as well as the aforementioned socialization, since despite the majority of participants being based in the US, they're still scattered geographically. As the majority is along the East coast and a smattering of central and west coast folks, the latter have definitely expressed some discomfort with very early morning phone calls. 

Anecdotally, I've experienced a much higher prevalence of loquacity amongst these Sales and Marketing folks, which has necessitated an adjustment on my part. The effort to do so, will apparently be a lengthy one.

About Mayo

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Professional: As "Senior Enterprise SEO Strategist" in IBM's Digital Marketing division, I provide consulting and training services for both internal and external clients. Formerly I was involved in Natural Language Processing, software localization, quality assurance and documentation authoring.
Personal: INTJ Nikkei Nisei ex-patriated Canadian who takes photographs and enjoys Baroque through late Classical music. The G+ page shares some of the "best of" photos.