Friday, February 09, 2007

My eddy in the global economy

Recently I’ve been attending to my own eddy into the global economy. I was given the job at my work of “mentoring” a new doc team in India, charged with supporting and documenting Adobe products that are being engineered there. Unfortunately we didn’t have a stellar beginning. Too late. Every decision tactical--and a bit late at that. Never quite got ahead of the curve. . .

For the past week (and this continues next week), we’re hosting our new writing manager (pretty much “all” of the doc team in India) from Bangalore. Welcome to Adobe, our group, corporate America.

I just did a google search on Bangalore. I’ve been hearing all week from Guru of the virtues of Bangalore. He’s definitely a home boy. Grew up there. Proud. Silicon Valley of India. Educaton. English spoken in the home (an important point for a writer writing in English for an American audience. Interestingly, he couldn’t tell me the population of Bangalore. The internet tells me it’s somewhere between 5 and 6 million--a pretty big city by American standards. Certainly he finds our mild 50 degrees of the past week cold. He did let me know that my love of driving would be difficult to maintain in India.

I’ve been putting off making a judgment about Guru. He arrived in the middest--never a comfortable moment. A minor crisis on his first day. Perhaps his name is a harbinger?

It’s an interesting puzzle to put together a picture of a person conjured up from a time zone discrepancy of 13.5 hours. I’ve learned that folks in Bangalore work late. That means that if I’m on e-mail by 7 in the morning, I have perhaps 30 minutes of real-time e-mail with my colleagues in India. If I send an e-mail at 7:00 a.m., they’re answering my message at 8:30 p.m. These global conversations demand patience. I send a message in the morning. I get my answer (if my friends in India are attentive) 24 hours later. In this world of instant messaging, an abberration, a frustration, a chance to contemplate.

I have been working with two folks in India--I realized with chagrin today that I’m not even sure both work in Bangalore. Does one work in Noida? A female project manager who knows almost nothing about writing. But she’s clearly competent, proactive, fearless. She is always pressing at the edges, moving folks forward, forging into a space with a meeting, a suggestion, an action item. Since she knows nothing about docs, I’m as often dismayed by what i face when i fire up my e-mail in the morning as I cheer. But I do cheer. She is smart, active, accessible, flexible. No matter how often I have to pull her back, press her in another direction, I find her a pleasure to work with.

And then there’s Guru. After a week, I’m left cautious in my estimation of his prospects in the company, and a bit sad. I like him. He’s clearly accomplished in the world he inhabitants. I’ve learned that competent tech writers are far scarcer in India than engineers (and pretty much all competent tech writers, and even more editors, aspire to management). He has some six years of experience with such tech companies as HP. I do believe, after a week in discussion with him, that he is well informed, competent in his sphere. But I fear he is too accommodating, too deferential, too cautious to succeed in the situation he’s in.

And I’m left contemplating questions I can’t answer. How much of this is Guru? Why do I respond to Bhavna, despite her innocence of my profession? Why do I worry about him? How much of this is cultural? How much of this has to do with gender? How much is simply transactional, tactical?

I’m far too tired this Friday night to answer this question. But these are clearly questions that are in the center of my work life going forward. Do I have the tools to do a good job here? I am an Idaho girl after all? How did I end up here on this frontier? Never knew this is what I was preparing for. . . .

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