Breaking Through Cultural Barriers to Improve Business Interactions
Technology has brought the business world closer. We are all within reach of each other, regardless of location, with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Time zones have become irrelevant. Work days have pushed all boundaries. There are no longer standard business hours between 9 and 5, but rather the reality for global business to be conducted 24 hours a day.
Technology has enabled us to overcome restrictions due to location but has brought new challenges to the forefront—language and, sometimes most importantly, cultural barriers. Mason alumnus, Seth C. Pickett, MS Technology Management ’05, has first-hand experience with this. Pickett, the senior director of Americas ITO Portfolio at Hewlett-Packard, says he interacts with various cultures on a daily basis.
“Understanding cultures helps regarding approaches to strategy discussions as well as things like negotiations. Many times all things being equal it is the little things, understanding the nuances, that makes the difference,” says Pickett.
Pickett’s career has taken him around the globe, conducting business in India, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Singapore to name a few. In his current role, he focuses on business in North, Central, and South America.
Having a father in the US Navy, Pickett became a world traveller at an early age. Pickett says, “This became something very important to me at an early age and has stayed with me throughout my personal and professional life. India through Mason was a new experience for me.”
Pickett first visited India as part of Mason’s required global residency in the MS in Technology Management program.
“Mason prides itself on being relevant in today’s world,” says Pickett. “It is one thing to read cultural differences in a book verses experiencing those differences in real life both from a personal and professional perspective.”
At Mason, the global residency program allows students to gain a global perspective and insights into other business cultures, as well as to examine the world economy and the risks and opportunities that exist in global business. Students meet with prominent business leaders and serve as consultants, developing solutions to real-time global business challenges to help teach students about the new global economy. Residencies rotate every year, among South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
For Pickett, going to India had a lasting effect on him.
“India plays a huge role in the technology business today from R&D to service delivery,” Pickett says. “The excursion to India to meet with business and government leaders provided me with a very important international context to the business I am in. India was the example but that solidified the fact that our market is the world and not all markets are the same.”
Since the global residency, Pickett has worked with HP team members based in India. He says that understanding their culture and the things that are important to them has helped tremendously in terms of a positive mutual working relationship.
In his current position, Pickett meets with leaders of global enterprises regarding business topics such as operations, strategy, business process and technology trends, and technical and business transformation planning. Pickett has on-going direct contact with Fortune 1000 businesses as well as federal government organizations.
Pickett says he found his way into technology because he wanted to have a global, dynamic, and fast-paced career that made an impact on people’s lives.
“The global aspect of what I do is actually one of the most important parts of my job to me personally. I need to be in a role that allows me the opportunity to be exposed to and work with different cultures on a regular basis. If not, I feel a bit like I am in a cage. It is a big and fascinating world out there!”