Talking with Thomas Dahlman from the Enfo Örebro office, it quickly becomes obvious that he is passionate about the people they work with. “It might sound like a cliché, but we do believe in the Richard Branson mindset: invest in people and people will take care of the business,” Dahlman, a Site Manager, says. Enfo Örebro, which focuses on full-stack developing and managing applications together with cloud care, consists of some 50 strong team of developers and system integrators, many of whom have an international background.
One factor behind the diverse team is Enfo’s purchase of local company e-man two years ago, whose startup section, e-man Connect, had since 2014 been collaborating with a group of 30 experts based in the Philippines. For many, the idea of working with a foreign subcontractor thousands of miles away still feels daunting today. Despite the physical distance, the Enfonians in Örebro and the Philippineans feel they work together closely as colleagues. Dahlman and Philippinean Software Developer Milcah Penetrante both talk about the clear practical business benefits derived from this setup: a team located on the other side of the world provides the flexibility of 24/7 support coverage, in addition to helping the company open up to potential new markets and customers. Penetrante also brings up the benefits of both parties being able to communicate fluently in English, avoiding the misunderstandings many international companies dread. Another key factor behind successful cooperation over countries and continents is a shared emphasis on ambition and drive.
Although it’s an often-repeated phrase, much of the advantage of having a culturally varied team really does come from the different perspectives all its members bring to the table. Aaron Wicker, originally from the US, now lives in Örebro and works as a Senior Information Security Consultant at Enfo. “We are able to compare experiences and use what we have learned to create quality solutions for our customers. I believe that being a member of a diverse team is key to our success,” he says, when I ask him about his work. Consultant Tatiana Kiseleva joined the office from Radis Ltd in Russia, via Ericsson Sweden, and echoes this sentiment: “We have small but frequent discussions together when working on different projects. Overall, I think it is very useful to have several opinions on the same problem. This allows for finding the most optimal solution.”
Culture-wise, Dahlman appreciates getting a friendly push out of “our Swedish bubble”. “Typical Swedish office culture entails a certain indirectness in communication, whereas if you come from somewhere else, you might want a lot more direct feedback, for example,” they said. Kiseleva mentions that she is particularly happy about the culture of “openness, desire to help,” at Enfo – you really can approach all your colleagues and managers. Wicker also credits his colleagues for facilitating the transition to a new country and job and providing him with the tools he needs to succeed. “The mentorship program, where all new employees are assigned a coworker as a mentor, has helped me hit the ground running.”
At the end of the day, of course, it’s all about bringing individuals and their skills together. “Our international setup is not yet that typical in heavy IT, but we hope and believe it will become increasingly common,” Dahlman says. He has no problem with stepping up to “take the lead” and being a role model for a positive, diverse and human workplace. When a new expert joins the team at Enfo Örebro, he or she often receives spontaneous congratulations – and that’s exactly the way Dahlman likes it.
(Image, left to right: Aaron Wicker, Thomas Dahlman and Tatiana Kiseleva at the Örebro office)
What to keep in mind when building an international team
- Make sure all parties communicate regularly and well. If you do not share a common language, it’s even more important to establish a framework within which you cooperate.
- Be ready to step out of your comfort zone. Openness, positivity and the willingness to be challenged will help you get the most out of an international collaboration.
- It’s all about the people. Aim to encounter people as individuals rather than as representatives of a certain culture. Make sure everyone feels supported and able to approach the other team members.