domingo, julio 01, 2012

“Hasta La Vista ...” Note of thanks and farewell* to my friends from Europe

(En Español en el Post anterior)

Today ended six years of work in Europe. Although it was my decision, motivated by the move to the United States with my family, I must admit it was a farewell that moved me greatly. There was no farewell party, because I decided so, but there were many words and expressions of affection that I will never forget.

*I will continue working on projects in the distance for the area and there are several travels planed for work (and pleasure) but I will not be there any more for full time
6 years ago I received a call from Brussels from a person (who had received good references about me) offering a consulting contract that would extend for six months. The six months turned into nearly six years working in Belgium, Italy, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Romania, Ukraine, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and China. I also worked for projects in Russia and Turkey but did not travel to those countries directly

The simple fact of having had the good fortune to meet these countries and their people (not as a tourist but in the workplace), the contact with cultures, religions and traditions so different to what I am used to, made these years really rewarding. I learned how important it is the respect for diversity as a basic principle of success. Whether a person is white, black, yellow, Jewish, Christian, Islamic or atheist does not matter while the religious or political beliefs do not reach the extremes preventing them developing relations with others and the company. Extremes always finish in failure, segregation and intolerance.

During the first 15 years of my professional life as an independent consultant I worked mainly in countries of "Western culture" and in these six years I worked and met other countries with different tendencies and styles.

Perhaps the most important lesson of this last period was the contact with the "ex-communist" countries or former Soviet countries. When I was in countries that were dictatorships 16 years ago with absolute control of the economy and could chat with people who lived there in the past during the communism era and in the present democratic my heart wrinkled while listening what life was like and recognized how in my country, Venezuela, things are on the wrong track.

Much of my work dealt with the conversion of industrial plants with styles and technology of the times of communism to the times of capitalism in Eastern European countries. The easiest part was the technology, the most complex was the human ... The lack of initiative, responsibility and sense of urgency can stop any attempt of technological change. The worst enemy of productivity and business success is the employee who only work the hours assigned, and that its sole function is to follow orders and no possibility to give opinions or suggest improvements, his work is only limited to what he is assigned to do and if it depends on something someone else has to finish, he just wait. If case of claim he only "blames" the other. The second worst enemy is the boss used to that type of employee. Change is a very difficult but not impossible.

In these 6 years I could see the impressive change of Czech Republic. This small country was under communist Soviet domain in 1989, by mid-2004 was a member of the European Union, in 2009 was declared as "developed country" and now in 2012, despite the European crisis remains a country with vibrant and growing economy. I saw Prague transform from a sad and dirty city into a bright city, cheerful and full of tourists. I watched as how roads and highways, shopping centers and hotels appeared. I witness the successful industrial restructuring of a large company in that country.

When I see countries like Czech Republic, Romania and Poland I am hopeful to think that perhaps my country will be able to return to the path of prosperity...

The other impact for me was the direct contact and work in Muslim Arab countries. Saudi Arabia was an unforgettable experience:

First, the religious and education contrast: I as a Judeo-Christian person in a totally opposite environment. It's a real culture shock to see the women covered up to the eyes with their burkas, the total absence of women in business and seeing men doing the work than in other parts are normally performed by women. A country that moves around a religion where loudspeakers in the streets announce the time for pray and a religious police verify that the shops are closed to public access at the time of prayer.

Second was to see that these Muslim men are as human as anyone else. Apart from their beliefs, which I respect although many I do not share, I met exceptional people with huge heart, rich culture and exemplary professionalism. All projects I did in Saudi Arabia were successfully completed thanks to these so special people.

My work also took me to a "light" Muslim country as Morocco. I discovered that the Muslim woman is also bright and capable. But I also saw how a city that could be very beautiful as Casablanca has fallen into poverty and neglect typical of countries "third world". I wholeheartedly hope that Morocco will continue the path of social and economic growth while maintaining such beautiful architectural, cuisine and human culture that is so special.

Perhaps the most difficult experience of my professional life was during my work in Ukraine a divided country that in my opinion should be two countries. Ukraine is a country in which women are the majority. It should be a happy and prosperous country but unfortunately the cultural, political uncertainty and the deep internal cultural differences make the immediate future uncertain and complex. Corruption, organized crime, alcohol and work style inherited from Soviet times heavily impact their development. I met very special people in Ukraine and I really wish with all my heart a better future for them and their country.

In these six years I had the opportunity to work with Romanians, Turkish, Polish, Macedonians, Hungarians, Indians, Filipinos and Russians, all wonderful people from whom I learned and enjoyed their culture and style. And I cannot forget to mention the Belgians, Dutch, French, German, Swiss, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, English, and Austrians. With each of them I enriched my spirit and I learned a lot.

A special mention to a group of Latino and American that as I ventured to work in a culture so different from ours. North Americans, Canadians,  Brazilians, Chileans, Colombians, Mexicans and Venezuelans, all of them exceptional individuals and first class professionals. It was more than a pleasure to work with them.

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