Over the course of the past month, I’ve been fortunate enough to have done quite a bit of traveling, both for work and in my own personal capacity.
While this blog post is long overdue, I’ve been meaning to share some insights from a) working in New York and b) visiting Tokyo.
New York: I attended Google’s “Navigate” conference in Chelsea.
There were a range of young Googlers from across the globe in attendance with a conference agenda that was very much centred around how to best Navigate a career as a member of a minority group in Google.
A key takeaway for me was a particular discussion on “finding your why” and aligning it with your work. Fortunately, I was able to reflect on ”my why” and reaffirm to myself that all what I am doing is inline with my greater focus.
What is my why?
I want to have a positive impact on the lives of South Africans.
While it may appear to the average bystander that I have left South Africa for “greener pastures”, anyone who really knows me will know that this is far from the truth.
In fact, a huge motivating factor in me taking on my role in Dublin was the fact that I could work in the Sub-Saharan African Market. My day-to-day job is focused on growing South African SMEs while leveraging the knowledge and resources from our other teams and markets based in our European Headquarters.
And if it isn’t in my core role, I see everything I do as an opportunity to learn and share back to people back home.
In fact, to further reaffirm “my why”, a colleague and I have been fortunate enough to be working with Maxhosa Africa on their digital strategy as a passion project.
Now here is an example of an incredible South African story:
A home-grown, black-owned and run South African clothing brand, now employing 30 people and taking African fashion to the world. And if you didn’t know, they just had their debut at the New York Fashion Week. (We attended, of course!)
For me, just the thought of having an impact in helping a business like this grow gets me incredibly motivated.
Over and above the conference, we spent some time working out of the New York office in Chelsea – The views are amazing and the buildings are so well located. Something that was really apparent to me was the real New York “hustle” and competitiveness that we could sense in the air.
Tokyo: while this holiday was intended for the Rugby World Cup, I ended up learning a whole lot more.
Just when I thought the hustle of working in New York was impressive, Tokyo took things to a whole new level ( I have visited a number of major cities in Asia before and none can quite compare to Tokyo!)
A few things which stood out for me:
- English is not a thing. To find a proficient English speaking local in Tokyo is incredibly hard, and had it not been for Google Maps/Google Translate, I probably would still be stuck in Tokyo today. While this may seem strange to some, I actually think it’s really cool. You get the sense that the people aren’t really too concerned about what the Western world thinks/does.
- While English isn’t a thing, people are incredibly friendly. Interestingly though, you often have to initiate the conversation, as people in public areas tend to keep to themselves and mind their own business (out of respect). Once you are able to break down that initial wall, I found that everyone was willing to help, even if it was in broken English.
- The public transport system is incredibly complex, yet works like clockwork. For the majority of our time there, we used the train system. And given that I have recently used the New York Subway and London Underground, I thought this would be a piece of cake – only to realise that there are about 193729 variations of the same train and that private and public train companies share the same stations, platforms and even railways!
- The new Google office in Shibuya (Tokyo’s Times Square) is amazing.
I’d strongly recommend visiting Tokyo if you haven’t considered it before. The experience really is a sensory overload and no picture nor description I could give you would ever be able to do it justice.
Ps. They’re hosting the Olympics there next year!
Stay tuned for more on my trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley…