Thursday, December 1, 2011

Working La Vida Lanka

One of the things last year that was a source of anxiety for me was if I will be able to work in Sri Lanka.  The thought of being “stuck” at home was scary – even if I have wanted to be an “expat’s wife” I didn’t really think much of being a housewife.  But my 3 months of being a housewife was quite blissful!  I was able to continue learning and expand my network of friends, not only in Sri Lanka but all over the world!  I attended Sinhala class here and enrolled in a Certified Professional Coach Program which I do online.  I delved deeper into yoga.  I got a lot of rest and was able to make a simple home for hubby and myself.

At the start of the year however, after getting my much needed rest, I was lucky enough to be granted a work visa.  You see it’s quite difficult to get one especially for someone in my field.  So a new life started for me in Sri Lanka’s biggest FMCG company (which is where hubby works as well).  So what did I learn from the experience?
  • Culturally there are many adjustments you really have to make – I have worked in the Philippine office of the same company for most of my working life and in as much as it is the same organization, the organizational culture is very different.  Which I believe is driven by the local / country culture as well.  How is it different from the Philippines?
    • When it comes to gatherings (townhall, meetings, etc.) they are really very serious.  It is so quiet that you can even hear a pin drop.  For us Pinoys, we can’t help but talk to our seatmates, right?
    • Related to that – things presented in a serious manner is taken seriously as well.  If not, it will not be perceived seriously.  Whereas in the Philippines, if you give it some comedic twists here and there – you will still be taken seriously and the audience will appreciate you keeping them awake.
    • They are still very rooted in tradition – in a sense that for example for field jobs, these are mostly occupied by males.  Not for any reason but because ladies won’t be “allowed” by their parents / family to have that kind of role.  In the Philippines, we have a lot of female field employees. 
  • It is such a different experience working in the biggest company in town!  They are the biggest FMCG company for a reason. 
    • The standards are just world-class.  I came to the plant in 2008 as part of a conference agenda (even before we moved here) and I was impressed that their plant was very similar to the one we visited in New Zealand.  As the company values Health and Safety, the H&S score for our plant in Sri Lanka is even THE BEST in the company’s GLOBAL collection of manufacturing facility for the number of employees it has (which is around 400!). 
    • The way people work or people’s attitude to work is also exemplary.  We have a value of “Make it Happen” and truly the team makes everything happen!  Even the seemingly impossible.  The driver is pure passion and the belief that there is no option than to make it happen. 
    • At the end of the day, it is really exemplary leadership that steers this organization to unprecedented growth.  The strategy is clear and very attuned to the dynamics of doing this kind of business in La Lanka.  The ambitiousness is also there – which permeates to the other levels of leadership in the organization. 
  • People make the difference.  I have met the most amazing bunch of people from all over the organization.  Amazing in the way they work, but more so for the persons they are.  I am lucky to be part of such a team where I can be myself (even if I’m the “foreign lady”) and feel at home.  In as much as we’re different in beliefs, nationality, looks and what not, I’ve felt more similar to them than different.  And I will treasure forever their friendship.

Yesterday, that phase ended.  I am now into the final stages of my pregnancy.  It is bitter-sweet.  After almost a year, I have grown to love this workplace.  But for our circumstances here and the thought of giving the best possible care for our baby, I will not go back after my “maternity leave.”  I am excited for what is to come next, our baby!  Career-wise, I’m also going through something a lot different – more on this later!  As a friend said, exciting times are ahead.  But for a moment there, I would just like to stay with this feeling, this experience of Working La Vida Lanka.   

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