Combating the Culture-Vulture

Overview

“This is how things get done here”. How often have we come across this phrase at the office? This one simple statement opens up a can of worms for many organizations regardless of size and structure. In the contemporary work setting more and more companies are focusing on something called finding the “cultural fit” when recruiting or evaluating a candidate’s performance. This terminology covers a gambit of themes ranging from hiring decisions to firing decisions. To help me establish my point better, I would like to quote from Schein (p.17 2004) who defines organizational culture as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems ” Keyton, J. (2011).

In theory, this definition conveys that organizations, nowadays, prefer having someone on board who is like them. Over a significant period of time, defining organizational culture has become essential for organizations in not just sourcing talent but also for its very existence!

Elements

Every organization is established on certain principles and values that it wishes to find in its workforce. If they don’t find it during their search the companies will try to instill the same principles by driving the narrative throughout the organization. Apple; a large organization with a diverse workforce is a wonderful example of this. The company focused on Steve Jobs interest in calligraphy in the early part of his career. This shaped his company and pushed their limits to be more aesthetically pleasing. From product designs and features to product innovations, Apple products are always ahead of the learning curve.

In order to drive this narrative, it is vital that companies realize their own ethos which is central to the very existence of the organization. This in turn can be channelized through various methods to reach the end users, the employees. An employee will more likely be encouraged to try and perform the same function using a new method in organizations that focus on innovation and encourage free flow of ideas throughout the organization.

When Nokia was at its zenith, the company focused on making phones that were push-button, robust and had a great battery life. However, by the turn of 2010, the company couldn’t match up to the smart phones manufactured by Apple and Samsung and Nokia fell apart. This saga brought to light the conservative and reserved culture that existed at Nokia, where senior leadership refused to question the status quo. On the flip side companies like Google are built on not just questioning the status quo but even changing the existing dynamics. The Google Innovation Lab and other research centers are delegated with the responsibility to try, fail, learn, and innovate path-breaking products and its results are inimitable such as google glass, project loon-X, and the self-driving car.

The factor that sets the tone for the narrative in the organization are its people. People define, execute, transform, and establish how things get done at any organization. As a new employee in any organization, I’m curious to understand the work environment in the office. It’s not just about having friendly co-workers or having casual Friday’s. It’s much more whether or not I’m allowed to work independently, what are my decision making powers and most importantly how easily can I get my grievances resolved without ruffling too many feathers. These are various factors one needs to consider when assessing the culture. In my experience there aren’t any textbooks available that can teach potential and even current employees about grasping the work culture. I believe that only experience will allow you to understand it. Although portals like Glassdoor and Linkedin do a splendid job in giving candidates a clearer picture, but it is only so much that these portals can do.

Cultural Alignment

More often than not even factors external to the organization play a vital role in defining the organizational culture. A company faced with competition may re-define its policies and change the entire method of the climate. Managing the change is where most employees and the organization face a steep task because many employees resist change. Even if the change may be beneficial to the organization as a whole in the long run, managers and leaders aren’t able to align company objectives with the individual goals of the employees. Whatever may be the principles of an organization, it is imperative that the company propagates adaptability and flexibility as major components of the organizational culture.

So as companies wade through industry trends, market demands and customer preferences, it is essential for employees and potential candidates to ‘culturally-fit’ in the work setting. Doing so, enhances job satisfaction, increases growth potential and paves the way for a long-standing association with the organization. Also by rewarding, monetarily and otherwise, a workforce that accepts and embraces the company’s vision, organizations have a greater control in retaining their best talent. The only method that this can be attained is by recognizing the objectives of both the stakeholders and jointly planning to establish an inclusive, ethical, and stimulating environment in the organization.

References:
Keyton, J. (2011). Communication & Organizational Culture: a key to understand work experience (2nd ed.). California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

ASIA: A RETROSPECTIVE

THAILAND 

Making the most

An examination of industry growth sectors, student surveys and a budding Alumni Community, led me to begin my fall trip in Thailand.  I kicked off the week co-presenting to a full house of alumni/ae, prospective students, co-ops and parents, overlooking the hustle and bustle of Bangkok city.

Asia: A Retrospective by Alane De Luca, Director Global Employer Relations (Halong Bay, Vietnam)

The room was abuzz recalling the past decade trajectory that Northeastern has enjoyed, as it has positioned itself as a global leader in experiential learning, attributable to our visionary leader, President Joseph Aoun.

Alane De Luca, Director of Global Employer Relations, in Bangkok, Thailand

What followed were many meetings with new employer partners, as showcased here where I met with the Taskworld management team, in what resulted in two new co-op opportunities – one in marketing and one computer science. Invited to Taskworld by the serial entrepreneur (as he commonly referred), Fred Mouawad, Chairman and CEO of Synergia One Group of Companies, was an honor to say the very least!

People along the way 

At the conclusion of a full day of meetings in Northern Thailand, I came upon some new friends at a local Buddhist temple just outside the city of Chiang Mai.

Alane De Luca, Director of Global Employer Relations in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I love this photo because it is one moment frozen in time that brought together two distinctly different worlds – in one lens.  The vibrant contrasting colors uniformly focused in orange, green, and blue metaphorically reveal balance and warmth – a perfect stage on which to build new partnerships in Thailand!

INDONESIA

Full circle

When I learned was that a partnership I developed one year ago, placed third in “Northeastern’s Coolest Co-op” contest, I was needless to say ecstatic and proud.  I hope you will take a minute to watch this brief Coolest Co-op award winning video, that was developed by our first-ever co-op student at East Bali Cashews.

Twist my arm 

When I made my first trip to Bali in 2016, I visited two new companies – one a cashew producer (winning video) and the other a world-class green-energy solutions company, as seen in the photo here with requisite office setting, complete with pool and ocean view.

Alane De Luca, Director of Global Employer Relations in Bali, Indonesia

Both partnerships resulted in students co-op’ing there last year, and expanded offerings to Northeastern students for 2017 and beyond.  There is a reason Bali is called a travelers paradise, couple that with gaining critical global experience and students would be hard-pressed to turn down these once-in-a-lifetime tropical island paradise..I mean.. professional opportunities!

VIETNAM

Giving back

I had the honor of meeting with the president of the largest construction company in Ho Chi Minh City, who also happens to be the parent of one Northeastern alumnus and one current Husky (photo below).  It is through this loyalty to Northeastern and belief in experiential education that can make my job that more enjoyable.

Alane De Luca, Director of Global Employer Relations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Positioned well, Vietnam’s economy is an emerging market standout – second to India. The recent leadership transition in Vietnam has set the tone for economic growth and reform, positioning Northeastern nicely for future co-op and full-time opportunities here.

SINGAPORE

The Garden City

If you are not already convinced that Asia should be next on your travel bucket list, then let me tell you about Singapore.  I think of this beautiful garden city akin to a ‘soft landing’ for westerners.  My visits to several multinational companies included Novartis, NBC Universal and Young and Rubicam/Wunderman, to name a few, were very well received.

Alane De Luca, Director of Global Employer Relations at F+G in Singapore

The concept of co-op and six month work rotations was set in motion prior to my meetings, and the goal was to firm up our agreements and move forward with a mutually-beneficial partnership.  Pictured with me here is our esteemed alumna, Jacquelyn Koh and the management team of Faithful + Gould, a world-leading integrated project and program management consultancy firm.  F+G has offered six NU co-ops for the fall 2017 cycle.

University partners

Alane De Luca, Director of Global Employer Relations in Singapore

Our university exchange agreement with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has also proved to be a fantastic mutually rewarding collaboration.  NTU hires between five and ten research co-ops each year.  Photographed with me here is a co-op student along with NTU’s accomplished engineering faculty.  Singapore can pass for a surrogate-city to Boston, for those students keen on the local market with added benefit of a global experience. High performing sectors include aerospace, clean energy, healthcare, financial services and biotechnology.  I would encourage any student to step out of their comfort zone and co-op in Singapore!

INDIA

The boardroom

Alane De Luca, Director of Global Employer Relations in Mumbai, India

My most recent trip took me to India.  Our largest student population on the homecampus is made up of Indian students.  As part of our over-arching strategy to penetrate this market for both co-op and full-time opportunities, I took the opportunity to meet with local institutions to better understand the recruiting landscape.  While there, I visited three universities, IIT-New Delhi, IIT-Bombay and IIM-Bangalore, and met with various deans, directors and professors.  Photographed with me here at the Indian Institute of Management- Bangalore are the Director of International Affairs, Dean of Programs, and Dean & Professor of IIM.  This was a profitable meeting to learning more about IIM’s entrepreneurial center and discuss possible collaborations.  A visit to IIT-Bombay resulted in a new partnership centered around their new Research Park, which houses companies on their campus and provide co-op opportunities.  I should note that our first student to co-op at IIT-Bombay started in January 2017.

Entrepreneurship at its best

Alane De Luca with esteemed Young Global Leader, Aashray Thatai in New Delhi, India

Wrapping up my visit in India, led me to one of our Young Global Leaders and newly-minted entrepreneurs (photographed below).  Having the distinct honor to meet with our alumni/ae and help them develop ways they can give back to NU, through co-op, is extremely rewarding.  As Young Global Leaders, these  passionately committed Northeastern alumni/ae strive to be a catalyst in furthering Northeastern’s global footprint.  This fortuitous meeting in New Delhi resulted in new co-op positions being developed at PostFold, a start-up that embraces the motto that every idea starts with a problem.

We are all very proud to see another Northeastern alum reach for the stars and achieve success in their career passion.  PostFold was featured in Business Insider IndiaVogue India and Economic Times India.

 

 

Alane De Luca, Director of Global Employer Relations, Northeastern University

Alane De Luca oversees the Global Employer Relations team and global lead-generation initiatives within Career Development and Cooperative Education.  She comes to Northeastern with 25+ years of experience working in the international education arena.  Alane’s passion for global experiential learning began when she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, where she worked alongside NGO’s and native Senegalese in rural parts of northern Senegal.  Upon returning to the states, she assumed a position funded by the United States Agency for International Development focusing on initiatives set forth by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation and administered at Northeastern.  She also has experience directing global and experiential learning programs within academia at Merrimack College, Salem State University, Suffolk University Law School, and Saint Anselm College.  She is a dual citizen of Italy, holds an M.Ed. from Northeastern University and a B.A. from The College of the Holy Cross. www.linkedin.com/in/alanedeluca

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

 

PR Executives…. Superheros Without A Cape

The Agency Life

In the summer of 2013, I embarked upon a path that eventually led me to Northeastern University. I had just graduated with an M.B.A. in Marketing from Mumbai University and I was eager to commence my professional career. Having found my greatest ally in words and everything related to content, I joined Edelman a PR agency located in India, Mumbai as an Account Executive. Thus began my journey into the uncharted territory of a PR agency.

As the world’s largest PR agency, Edelman, offered me probably the steepest learning curve. I was reporting to not one but four supervisors heading different practice areas in the agency. The term ‘matrix structure’ which was until now just a textbook phenomenon had turned into a rather scary reality. In my year long stint with Edelman, my experiences ranged from rewarding to reprimanding. It was here that I witnessed first-hand the cut-throat competition, unrealistic client expectations, deadlines, journalist tantrums, and team conflicts. However, by the time I moved on to my next stint, I knew for sure that the day of a PR executive was no less than that of any super hero who was worthy of being the face of any ensemble cast. From saving distressed clients from the blushes to finding new allies in colleagues and fellow media persons, we did it all in a day’s time and were ready to take on new challenges the next day.

Super powers: disciplined, systematized and innovative

I joined Adfactors PR, India’s largest communications and PR consultancy after my year-long association with Edelman. It was here that I really understood the role and influence that a PR person can exude over clients and media alike.

Most working days of a PR executive starts with something known as a ‘to-do list’. This is generally e-mailed to you by the supervisor and you’re expected to tick-off all the enlisted tasks. But it only gets more intriguing from here on out because by the end of the day you’ve done something entirely different from what had been planned for you in the morning. No two days are similar in this industry and the term, ‘dynamic environment’ is only an understatement to describe the situation.

In order to keep on top of these ever-changing assignments, it is imperative for PR professional to be disciplined. Many-a-time, one is advised to develop the skill of multi-tasking, which is true but only to a certain extent. I say this with such conviction simply because without discipline in multi-tasking, you’re only going to wreck the multiple tasks at hand. One such instance that comes to mind is when a PR executive has more than one deliverable with the same deadline. Now, he can either focus on each task separately and deliver them on time or fall short of keeping all the commitments.

Another key aspect that I learned at Adfactors PR was that bringing structure to my work even basic mannerisms of reaching the office on time, decluttering the work area, and taking refreshment breaks at regular intervals, play a vital role in smoothly tackling even the most challenging work situations. When the work is organized it fosters in gaining composure in the midst of chaotic work schedules. Systematized work leads to innovation and creativity. Most PR professionals get to hear the phrase ‘think out-of-the-box’ from clients and supervisors. I believe that you can come up with creative campaign ideas and coherent communication strategies when they’re able to convincingly cope up with an array of tasks.

Reaping benefits and rewards

Although there are numerous challenges for a PR executive, so are the rewards. The euphoria of observing the success of a campaign or the elation of monitoring the growth of a brand can be best described only by being part of such PR teams. It is no less than breathing new life into something that was until now just a name or a symbol. But by implementing strategies and putting your super powers to optimum use, these names and symbols swiftly metamorphose into gigantic brands, envied and aspired by markets across geographies. Having garnered three years of PR agency experience in India, I came to Northeastern University last fall to learn, share and hone on my communication abilities with the brightest minds in the industry.

As I interact with my professors and peers in class, I recognize how PR is so much more than just gaining media footprints for client organizations. In fact, the function of communications departments within organizations only helps in strengthening relationships with an array of stakeholders. In conclusion, if it is in an agency or in an in-house communications department the PR executive needs to practice his super powers judiciously because as we all know by now, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility.

About our blogger: Sanjeet Chowdhury is a graduate student at Northeastern University pursuing a MS in Project Management. He has been a PR professional in Mumbai, India and was working with Edelman and Adfactors PR. With a strong background in content writing, media management and communications strategy development, he has been an integral part of communications teams for start-ups and conglomerates. Sanjeet is accomplished in martial arts and holds a Black belt in Karate. In his leisure time, Sanjeet enjoys swimming, tennis, writing, and traveling. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram (@sanjeet2198).